Year 2: How do I start selling my art? | 8 More Things I have Learned
About a year ago I made about post titled “Starting to Sell Your Art – Five Things I Have Learned”, this post has been written as a follow-up to that article.
Get after it.
From my experience this is probably the single most important piece of advice I could give, you have to get after it. It is a mistake to passively sit by and wait for things to happen. I believe much of what has brought me to the point I am at today has been driven by passion along with a willingness to do whatever it takes to get to where I want to be. If you are a young artist reading this wondering how to start selling your artwork I recommend starting out with these thoughts:
First, create what you are passionate about with the best of your ability and don’t worry about what will sell and what will not. I don’t like it when people say “hey if you paint this it will sell” what they don’t get is that I am not painting to sell, rather I happen to sell what I paint and I am very lucky to do so. Also, if you are creating what you are passionate about, I am guessing that you are putting everything you have into your work. This is key, take a huge amount of pride in what you create and do not cut corners on craftsmanship, people WILL respond to this. Whether or not this is a big demographic or small just depends on what you are creating.
Second, find the people who will appreciate your work and do whatever it takes to get it in front of their eyes and subsequently on their walls. Whether this is through local coffee shops, galleries, retail shops, online via Facebook or other websites, find a way to make it happen and yes this takes lots and lots and lots of work usually coupled with lots and lots and lots of rejection.
Sell your work for as cheap as you can for as long as you can.
Many will disagree with this point for a lot of different reasons. I get push back all the time that my prices are too “low” and I am “under selling” or “under valuing” myself. There is certainly some truth to their concerns but I choose to disagree with them and let me tell you why.
Back in 2007 when I was trying to figure out which way was up, I read a blog article that argued this very same notion. For whatever reason it struck a cord with me and through the years to come I have stuck by it with success. In, 2008 alone I sold over 200 pieces (originals and prints) by the time I graduated law school in 2010 I had sold over 400 worldwide. Already in 2012, I have sold 104 pieces. I share these numbers to emphasize that this equals a LOT of art in a LOT of places. I look at is as planting seeds while investing in my future. At this point in my career I do not focus on building an inventory rather I sell everything and have continued to price so my work to do so. Personally, I see more value in becoming more prolific with artwork everywhere rather than having a huge inventory of paintings in my studio sitting at prices that it will take months, even years to sell at. I could go on and on with more detailed explanations and examples about how moving a lot of work has helped but I think I will save that for a separate post in the future.
Believe in Yourself
When I first started putting my art out into the world I couldn’t help but have this vulnerable feeling and I still get it sometimes. This is natural and often reinforced by the rejection that young artists often get. Also, there are so many talented artists out there, it is hard not to compare, be envious of others skills and just think that there is no way that I can compete at their level. To think like this is a mistake, we all start somewhere. It is those who persevere that succeed and I believe what drives this perseverance for me has to be an underlying belief in myself. When this belief is honest, it shows and I guarantee that people will see and buy into it. Once they have bought into it, they will more than likely become a loyal follower and perhaps even a future investor.
Network With Everyone
This is pretty self-explanatory but almost every door that has opened in my career has been because I knew someone or knew someone who knew someone. You know how it works. I would encourage you to purposefully put yourself in positions to network. For example, in 2010, I donated a lot of pieces to charitable causes and with that came many events, banquets and dinners to attend. I went to them all in a tie, with a smile, and with business cards in my pockets. Even today some of my most loyal collectors were people I met at these events. I don’t think there are enough artists out there who leverage this kind of exposure and really these types of events are just one example of the type of networking I do.
Put yourself in positions to meet new people and be sure to leave a positive lasting impression. Again my philosophy about selling art has to do with planting seeds and it is hard to plant seeds if you are not standing in the field.
Organization and Planning Promotes Discipline and Efficiency
Before I was painting full time I did not think about this notion very much. I just painted when I could paint and that was that. However now that I make my own schedule there is no one over my head telling me what to do and when to do it. Awesome, but without discipline this can result in a lot of wasted time and an inefficient work schedule. I am not going to share a lot of my secrets in this post about how exactly I am staying organized but I will tell you that I devote a lot of time to making sure that I understand all aspects of my business to the point that through monthly forecasting I know what I need to get done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to keep chasing this dream. It is not by luck that my lights are still on.
Build an Email List
This is a mistake that I had made because only recently have I started doing this. Much of my early success can be directly attributed to Facebook as I invested a lot of time building my business page. This is all well and good but like any other social media platform I fear that it will too fade away. Maybe this is far down the road, maybe not. However, whenever Facebook fades away all of my time and resources I have invested in building a following there will end with it as well. The nice thing about building a solid email list is that even though people’s emails may change with time the odds of everyone on your list changing all at once is probably not that great. Thus it allows for a more stable platform to reach out to investors and others interested in following your career and work. Again, I wish I would have started this years ago.
Listen to others but don’t ignore the feeling in your gut
This idea touches a lot of different areas but I am sure most artists can think of situations where someone is feeding them some solicited advice or many times unsolicited advice, whether it is in the form of a critique, pricing, where to show, etc.. People have opinions about everything and in my experience when these people offer their thoughts it often comes with little thought of their own as to how these ideas will be received. When this advice is coming from someone who is farther in their career I have a tendency to give their advice some pretty good weight as they have obviously done something right to get to where they are. However, if you reference my point #2 above I continue to go against the advice of others as at one point is just didn’t “feel” right but now I can back up that “feeling” with metric driven data and facts that supports my position. In sum, I believe it is very important to continue to learn from those around you but make sure that you do so while staying true to yourself.
Luck favors those who are prepared.
These ideas are quite well know but I totally buy into them. I believe hard work makes luck and luck favors those who are prepared.
Make your own luck.