By Rodney Laws, Guest Blogger - Every industry was affected heavily by the outbreak of COVID-19, and art is certainly no exception. So much of the art world has typically revolved around in-person demonstrations and sales. Museums and galleries have always worked through bringing in foot traffic, with money made through selling entrance tickets, refreshments, and gift-shop items. Then there are street performers (caricaturists, for instance) who have always made money through tips.
At the moment, the continued need for social distancing (along with the lingering fears concerning travel) means that even those places that can afford to open are finding it hard to attract interest. The artists, though, do have options, and they have drawn upon them (no pun intended) to keep afloat during the past year. By operating online, they can still make money doing what they love.
Trying to succeed exclusively online as an artist presents a very different challenge, though. The tactics required for reaching the right people (and ultimately prospective clients) are largely distinct. In this post, we’re going to look at four solid strategies an artist can use to grow their brand and attract some interest online. Let’s get started.
Use a combination portfolio and store
Taking client work is often the typical way of making a living as an artist, since you have clear creative direction and set terms. It is simply a matter of receiving and fulfilling a brief: you don’t need to worry about the commercial viability of what you are producing. But that doesn’t mean that should be the only way in which you make money. The more routes you have to profit, the more stable your financial situation can become.
Due to this, it is a great idea to build an ecommerce store that’s also your portfolio. You don’t even need web-design skills to create such a store these days. If you already have an art blog in WordPress (the platform that dominates blogging), you can install a free plugin called WooCommerce (take a look at this WooCommerce review) and start selling products.
Whenever you make a sale, promote it through the blog side of the store: this will reinforce your value as an artist in the eyes of prospective clients. In addition, whenever you pick up a notable client, add their testimonial to your store homepage: this will reassure potential buyers that you’re truly as good as they think you are. It’s a win-win situation.
Get into the habit of asking for referrals
You can’t add testimonials to your store if you don’t have any testimonials, and they don’t tend to appear spontaneously. If you don’t ask for them, you won’t get them — so get into the habit of asking for them. Do this carefully, of course: don’t bug people, come across as desperate, or push them to shower you with more praise than they think you deserve. Just ask politely.
It is a good idea to fold the feedback-collection process into your general client-handling sequence. When you’re wrapping up a project and ensuring that all the details have been handled, you can have an automated email go out to provide a survey (HubSpot has some good tips on this process). You can even throw in some kind of basic incentive to prompt a reply: 10% off their next commission and/or purchase, for instance.
Share your process on social media
People who don’t understand what goes into art can easily end up undervaluing it. You are likely familiar with the common effort to “pay” artists in “exposure”. It is commonplace to joke about at times, but it is a sad indication of how little people understand the difficulty of producing high-quality art. They assume (for some reason) that most artists live frivolous lives of luxury — and those who don’t, well, they should just be grateful to get some attention, right?
To help people accept the complexities of what you do, and show just how good you are, you should combine your blogging efforts with social media comments concerning your process. You don’t need to engage with social media in general, just offer some commentary on how long certain pieces of art take you, sharing progress on art you are currently working on, the decisions you need to make along the way, the obstacles you need to overcome, etc.
In addition, when you have a piece you are particularly proud of, you should enter it into some online competitions, both through social media and other sites. It won’t cost much, and the risk is minimal: if you don’t win, it won’t matter, but it will give you something you can talk about it through social media and get even more attention.
Join a forum of like-minded artists
The best artists tend to support one another because they know that great art should be appreciated and supported and the internet is full of fantastic communities that can help you promote your services. This is something that can go unnoticed due to the assumption that artists will all be hyper-competitive, eager to undermine one another. Not so.
In truth, there is plenty of demand for art, and those who produce it often end up spending some of their money on commissioning it as well. Artists can collaborate on pieces through which they can all profit, and expand their audiences through building professional associations. You also need to remember that great artists never stop learning. However much you’ll learn from your new community, the existing members will learn just as much from you.
And when someone out there expresses interest for art in the exact style that you’ve mastered, you’ll find that other artists will often point them in the right direction, knowing that you’ll do the same for them in return. Put your trust in community spirit. You won’t regret it.
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
By Guest Blogger, Dan Duhrkoop - As an artist, almost nothing compares to that feeling you get when someone buys your art. It doesn't matter if you make your living selling art, or you just love to create it - that moment when you realize someone else loves your art enough to purchase it forever is an absolute rush.
Of course, for most artists, sales don't happen nearly as often as we'd like. And yet, for anyone trying to take the plunge into that "professional" or "semi-professional" artist category, dependable sales numbers are incredibly important.
So this year at Foliotwist we decided to learn a bit more about how our most successful artists sell their art, in order to find some tips we could pass along to everyone else and here is what we did;
We created a simple survey and sent it out to nearly 200 artists. Roughly 40% replied. After looking over the responses, we found one HUGE, untapped method for increasing sales and it is incredibly simple and even obvious. But many artists never do it or don't do it very often, and as a result, they're leaving a ton of sales on the table.
What is it? Well, let me ask you a question?
Have you ever walked someone through your art website in person?
I'm talking about sitting down with a friend, new acquaintance, or perfect stranger and saying, "Hey, would you like to see some of my art? Let me show you!"
Maybe you've got a phone or tablet that you can use to pull up your website (at Foliotwist, we make our websites work with mobile devices just for that reason). Or maybe it's on that other person's device—either way, there's something incredibly effective about being present and available to discuss your art with the person who's viewing it, right at that moment.
You see, we found something very interesting when we looked at sales numbers among our artists. All but ONE who sold multiple artworks last year had, at some point, directed another person to their website and talked with them during or immediately before the sale occurred.
When we looked at artists who sold 5+ works in the past year, we got an even clearer picture. The large majority of them (over 85%) said half or more of their sales for the entire year came from those kinds of interactions!
In case it helps, the price of the artwork these artists are selling ranges from under $100 to over $2500. So it's not about price (as far as we could tell). It really seems to be just about making that connection with people, and being available to lead them to the "buy now" button on your website, either in-person, or over the phone, or even by email.
In short, we found that our most successful artists were generally more involved in helping the buyer make the purchase.
So that's my challenge, and tip, for every artist looking to increase sales: Can you find ways to personally direct people to your website, and show them artwork they might be interested in? What would happen if you did?
Obviously, your website needs to have a "buy now" button of some kind for the sale to happen but assuming it does, you could potentially double your sales this coming year!
As Wayne Gretzky famously said, "You miss 100% of the shots you never take." So why not take the shot? And if it works for you, tell another artist friend how to do it too. Let's help each other out and get more great art into the world!
Dan Duhrkoop is the editor of EmptyEasel.com, an online resource for artists at every stage in their artistic journey, and the co-founder of Foliotwist, a simple, effective website solution for artists.