By Aletta de Wal, Guest Blogger - “Can’t I just hire an agent who will sell whatever I paint and handle the negotiations, details, and paperwork?”  In a word, no.

You are always in charge of your art business so you can hire anyone you want to but you, not they, are ultimately responsible for your art sales results.

There are people who can provide help for artists who want to sell their work and collectors who want to buy art, but they do not “take over,” nor should you want them to do so. Some of their services overlap but most have special talents and distinct specialties. Do your research on the person before you make the first contact to find out if they would be a good fit for you.

To assemble your dream sales team, begin by building a stellar career that indicates that you and your work are worth promoting. You cannot usually “hire” arts professionals; if they notice you enough, they make “take you on.” After all, they only make money if you have saleable art that people want to buy.

Titles can be confusing so here is a brief description of several different types of art sales professionals, as well as explanations of how they typically work and for whom.

Art Advisors

Art advisors, also known as art consultants or art appraisers have in-depth knowledge of art, art history, and the art world.

Corporate Art Consultants

Some art consultants purchase or lease art for government departments, financial institutions, healthcare facilities and other business organizations in the public and private sectors. 

Art Curators

Art curators advise private collectors, museums and sometimes galleries on acquisitions and loans of art. Art curators are similar to art advisors, but (like art appraisers) tend to have formal training and longer résumés.

NoteArt Advisors, Corporate Art Consultants, and Art Curators perform services for art collectors, corporate client, collectors, dealers and museum clients, not for artists, but they are always looking for artists and art that might fit their client base.

Art Licensing Agents

Art licensing agents represent artists whose work is leased by manufacturers for use on products. Art licensing agents may do some or all of the following tasks:

Select work that is appropriate for licensing.

Identify the appropriate retail channels.

Create a sales and marketing plan to promote the artwork.

Promote the art of their contacts in the market.

Negotiate licensing contracts and royalty payments.

Administer contracts for licenses.

Keep up to date on current licensing trends and themes.

Artist Representatives

Artist representatives are private dealers who represent artists (similar to how a music agent would represent a popular singer) by creating opportunities to sell artwork in exchange for a commission from the artist for each sale.

Artist representatives provide the following services for their artist clients and collector base:

Promote the artist to individual collectors and set up meetings where the artist can meet their collectors.

Advise collectors on the suitability of the artist’s work for their collection and on the value (and potential value) of the artist’s work.

Arrange and produce exhibits for the artist.

Work with the artist to place their art in galleries and museums.

Develop relationships with other art professionals, gallery managers, and owners, and use these relationships to promote the artist.

Work with big names in the art industry to sponsor and hold significant events.

Advise the artist on public relations, coordinate public relations for events and ensure that the artist participates in public relations as part of their marketing strategy.

Provide marketing services for the artist, issuing press releases or writing about the artist and their work.

Arrange promotional support and put together promotional materials that feature the artist and their work.

Gallery Dealers

Gallery dealers are retailers who present quality works of art while guaranteeing its authenticity and archival quality. Dealers cultivate collections usually for a particular type of art. Their connections and relationships are as important as the art they collect. Dealers vary widely in how active a role they take in promoting individual artists and helping to develop their careers.

Gallery dealers and their staff provide the following services to their collector clients:

Share their expert knowledge with collectors.

Exhibit and store an inventory of specific artists or art periods.

Seek out and exhibit the work of artists whose art fits a specific niche audience.

Use a fixed exhibit space or a “pop up” temporary space to demonstrate their expertise and exhibit their art inventory in exchange for a commission percentage of each sale (typically 50%).

Promote selected artists’ work in order to attract new collectors to the gallery and increase sales.

Art Agents and Retailers

Be careful of offers to represent your work for a fee. There are many enterprising “vanity representatives” who charge an upfront fee for exhibits, online galleries and collector publications. This is certainly a valid retail business model but is not always guided by an experienced art professional. The value you receive from such an agreement may vary, but remember that most legitimate art professionals make their money through commissions on work sold, not shown.

And, while it is sometimes difficult to hold back (especially when you are enthusiastic about building your art career) next develop a relationship and get to know people you’d like to work with on a personal basis.

"If an artist is really ambitious, they have to ask themselves 'What is going to make me stand out?' The answer is always the same: great work.

The Internet hasn't changed everything. To have a real career as an artist you still need to find your way into the very intense hierarchy of the art world, and critics, curators, and collectors are still the gatekeepers of that world. They are going to find you if your work is outstanding.”

~John Seed, art explainer

So, show up at their events, but do not approach them as an artist who wants representation or introductions to their clients. Be part of the audience so you can understand whom they serve and whether their audience would be a fit for your art.

[1] This article “Your Dream Art Sales Team” expands content published with permission from “My Real Job is Being An Artist.” http://www.artistcareertraining.com/realjobartist

Aletta de Wal is the author of “My Real Job is Being an Artist”, she is a successful Artist Advisor and a Certified Visual Coach.  Aletta de Wal inspires fine artists to make a better living making art in any economy.

Aletta works with part-time, emerging and full-time artists who are serious about a career in fine arts. Aletta makes make art marketing easier and the business of art simpler. Equal parts artist, educator, and entrepreneur, Aletta has worked with over 4000 artists in groups and 400+ individually.

Through her coaching, seminars, and books, artists in the vibrant online community learn to be focused, organized and confident in all art business matters.  Her clients agree that she inspires them to do the work to be successful, provides the detail to take specific action and supports them through the ups and downs of life as a working artist. Her website is www.comistcareertraining.com

 

By Aletta de Wal, Guest Blogger - There is still a lot of debate among artists about using the word “professional” to describe themselves. For artists who consider themselves “pure artists,” that word often implies commercialism and “selling out.” That’s not how I see it.

I think that there is room for a range of ways to be an artist and that they are all legitimate.

When I feature artists in ArtMatters! and when I talk to dealers, agents, and retail art dealers, I ask them to define what makes an artist professional. They each contribute a different perspective.

Not one of them denies the right of artists to consider themselves professional and to define that term as it suits them.

Every aspiring artist I know would love to achieve all of these things: unlimited financial success, national (or international) recognition and an unshakeable belief in the quality of their work.

Moving from amateur to emerging artist and through mid-career and maybe to being an established artist, requires many small breaks. You need to work hard and smart.

I know that’s not the popular notion. These days, blogs promise 10 tips to anything. Many fail to tell you what it takes to get to and through those ten steps.

We’re surrounded by stories of extraordinarily successful, high-achieving “professionals” in many fields other than art, and what made them that way. Identifying the attitudes, actions, personal characteristics and emotional maturity of professional artists is not as easy.

Public knowledge (and media portrayal) of the sometimes crazed, sometimes tortured, antics of artists like Van Gogh, and Jackson Pollock have led us to expect irrationality, irritability and erratic (if not downright crazy) behavior from artists. Though often glamorized in film, few of us, in reality, would choose to live out our lives like this.

Read the following as though your entire career, respect, and success as an artist depended on this advice — and rest assured that it does. Place a check mark next to the professional behaviors you already practice.

  • Decide to be known as a professional artist.
  • Present yourself professionally everywhere, all the time.
  • Respect everyone you meet regardless of circumstances.
  • Fulfill your promises; be on time; finish what you start and say ‘please and thank you’.
  • React appropriately in all situations.

Sounds pretty much like a good solid list of how to be a professional human being, doesn’t it?

There is no profession where you can leap from the bottom to the top and stay there. Many of you have already been there and done that, so you already know how this works. You “learn the ropes” in an entry-level job, pay your dues for a time and then move up the ranks.

It’s also important to realize that being an emerging, mid-career or established professional artist has nothing to do with age or talent.

  • Many artists in their later years have a lifetime of experience making art but are still “emerging” because they haven’t shown or sold their work.
  • Other artists enjoy thriving careers early in life and are considered “established” while still in their twenties.
  • Similarly, I’ve met many very talented artists who have never moved past the “mid-career” stage and some very savvy artists with lesser “gifts” who moved well beyond mid-career because of their business acumen.

In other words, not all artists progress through all three stages — and not all artists want to. It’s up to you to decide how far you want to go, and whether your skills and life circumstances will support that decision.

The above post is an excerpt from Aletta's book “My Real Job is Being an Artist”.  This book is a professional toolkit for emerging, mid-career or established artists.  “My Real Job is Being an Artist” provides a structured approach to creating, analyzing and improving their art business.  www.comistcareertraining.com/realjobartist 

 

Aletta de Wal is the author of “My Real Job is Being an Artist”, she is a successful Artist Advisor and a Certified Visual Coach.  Aletta de Wal inspires fine artists to make a better living making art in any economy.

Aletta works with part-time, emerging and full-time artists who are serious about a career in fine arts. Aletta makes make art marketing easier and the business of art simpler. Equal parts artist, educator, and entrepreneur, Aletta has worked with over 4000 artists in groups and 400+ individually.

Through her coaching, seminars, and books, artists in the vibrant online community learn to be focused, organized and confident in all art business matters.  Her clients agree that she inspires them to do the work to be successful, provides the detail to take specific action and supports them through the ups and downs of life as a working artist. Her website is www.comistcareertraining.com

 

By Aletta de Wal, Guest Blogger  - Summer art fair season is here in the northern hemisphere bringing art, wine, and traffic to a neighborhood near you.  

Lots of tents, lots of artists, lots of people browsing and lots of people at the food trucks paying $5 for a latte. 

I go to a lot of art fairs and I see a lot of great things happening.

I also see a lot of things that make me cringe. I even get embarrassed for the artist.

Luckily none of what I see is life-threatening and all of these miss-takes can be do-overs or do-betters.

For the record, I don’t believe in the fad of “failing forward” or “embracing failure”. The word failure is still highly negatively charged for most people I know. Maybe it’s just semantics but I think language is important and has an impact. So I prefer to talk about “miss-takes. “If Take 1, or Take 100 didn’t work, there are plenty more.

I’m a seasoned fair viewer and an exhibitor so I tend to see art fairs through both perspectives. After each experience, I find myself taking stock of what artists did that worked and what they could do better. (I can’t help it – I’m a coach so it’s what I do to help my clients and to learn for my own practices.)

Here are ten mistakes I’ve recently (and often) experienced first hand and what to do instead:

1.    Yawning and complaining about what a long day it’s been.

Art fairs are just plain hard work and require superhuman stamina. I’d rather not hear how tired you are. I prefer to learn more about your art and life as an artist.

Make sure that you are mentally, physically and emotionally up to the long hours, the crowds and the physical strain of working in noisy, hot/cold/ wet conditions. Or get people who are up to the challenges to help you.

2.    Towering stance with arms crossed, planted behind a three-foot counter and glaring at anyone who dared touch a piece.

I get it. The artist had worked hard to polish the wooden pieces until they gleamed. But if you are selling a hands-on kind of art and saying hands off, you are missing part of the buying process. I wanted to roll the dice on a board game I used to play as a child but I didn’t dare and I felt bad for even wanting to, so I left.

If your art can stand to be touched without damage, let folks touch – it’s part of their exploration. If your art is fragile, then make a sign asking people to ask you before they touch.

3.    Standing expressionless behind the ‘check out’ podium with the credit card machine instead of talking with viewers.

Avoiding eye contact and ignoring buying signals will lose you the sale of a reluctant buyer.  I wasn’t even reluctant. I really wanted a piece, so I talked to the artist and said I’d like to take the one on the top shelf. When she looked at me blankly I asked the price. When she told me the price, I said, “Okay. I’ll take it.” She didn’t move, so I asked if that piece was for sale. Finally, the penny dropped.

If you are going to show your art at an art fair, and your people skills are a little rusty, ask someone who has the gift of the gab to be your ‘front’ person

4.    Crowding the sole visitor in the booth.

Some booths are like a block party where everyone talks to everyone – artist and viewers alike. Then there are the ones with only one person who looks desperate to leave because the artist won’t leave them in peace to view the art. If I feel pressured to make a comment or buy something before I’m ready, I leave so I don't feel cornered.

Greet everyone as they enter your booth or display area. Give people space and let them know you’re there if they want to chat. Meanwhile watch closely for signs of interest and be ready to engage in conversation if they approach you with their eyes.

5.    Crowding the booth with too much art.

If you bring everything you’ve ever made so you can have something for everyone, you risk ‘kitchen sink’ visual overload. If my eyes are bouncing from one piece to the next, it’s like not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Composing a booth design is best when you follow the guidelines of good art composition. Curate your display and use ‘white space” to help make your samples of your best work stand out.

6.    Creating traffic jams.

Art fair booths are like studio apartments. Too much furniture and you feel crammed in.

When you design your ‘pop-up’ display, consider how people will move through your booth, stop to reflect or talk and not feel trapped or afraid they'll knock something over if they turn too quickly.

7.    Chatting with friends instead of fans.

Having your family and friends come to support you is great as long as they don’t interfere with your main reason for being at the art fair – to get exposure for your art and build fans who may buy your art or tell others about it.

Make sure each person feels welcome, has access to you when they want it and gets your full attention when they signal that they want to chat or buy.

8.    Eating or reading in the booth.

Ladies and gentlemen – it’s show time as long as the art fair is open. Show visitors respect by being there to attend to them.

If you need a break to eat or read make sure to have a knowledgeable ‘booth sitter’ who can give you a break so you can come back fresh.

9.   Handing art to buyers without proper packaging.

You took care in making the work, packed it for transport and dusted everything when you set up the booth. Remember that piece I bought? It was heavy, made of metal and had some sharp edges. The artist wrapped one piece of tissue around it and said, “be careful.”

If you sell a piece, and it is fragile or has sharp edges, make sure you have more than tissue paper to send the piece home with a buyer. And if it’s heavy, offer to take the piece to the buyer’s car.

(A friend reminded me of a time when he wanted to buy a garden sculpture at an art fair out of state. The artists said we had to take it that day and deal with the transport ourselves. We fully expected to pay the freight. He said it was too much work. No apology. He lost a $1500 sale that day!)

10.   Forgetting your manners.

While the fair may feel like a marathon to you, each purchase is a step in the direction of you creating an audience of loyal fans and buyers.  I often get a greater show of appreciation from someone who sold me a piece for $25 than $250. That’s just wrong. I’ll be more likely to go back to the artist who appreciates my business next time.

Say please and thank you to everyone. Make them feel welcome and at home. Ask them if there is anything you can do to make their visit more enjoyable.

After each art fair, once you’ve had a chance to put your feet up, take a few minutes and write a list of ten things you did that worked and ten more that you can do better next time. That way you are your own cheering squad and you’ll do even better next time.

Let me know if you could use some help with your art fairs and I’ll share what I’ve learned. Please link to www.comistcareertraining.com/request-a-conversation

Aletta de Wal is the author of “My Real Job is Being an Artist”, she is a successful Artist Advisor and a Certified Visual Coach.  Aletta de Wal inspires fine artists to make a better living making art in any economy. 

Aletta works with part-time, emerging and full-time artists who are serious about a career in fine arts. Aletta makes make art marketing easier and the business of art simpler. Equal parts artist, educator, and entrepreneur, Aletta has worked with over 4000 artists in groups and 400+ individually. 

Through her coaching, seminars, and books, artists in the vibrant online community learn to be focused, organized and confident in all art business matters.  Her clients agree that she inspires them to do the work to be successful, provides the detail to take specific action and supports them through the ups and downs of life as a working artist. Her website is www.comistcareertraining.com

 

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