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Seven Steps for Sales Supremacyby Ellen Million
Marketing art is, in my humble opinion, about ten times as hard as marketing anything else. Anything else is just a thing... but artwork - artwork that you slaved over and invested tears and blisters into - marketing artwork is like marketing your children*. You're attached to them, you spent a lot of time making them what they are, and you see both their qualities and flaws better than anyone just meeting them possibly could.
This can be an asset - you know your art and can therefore 'pitch' it better than anyone else can for you. It can also be a crippling disability, because we are terribly afraid of failure - surely a lack of sales means it's not good. And does that mean that you as an artist aren't any good either? Neither is true, of course, and frequently, it's only a matter of not knowing how to get out there that is holding you back. Here are a few tips to keep in your mind as you progress in selling art**.
1. Money versus Muse.
Ideally, of course, we would all be latent geniuses, and any idea that sprang into our mind would be a marvelous, marketable piece guaranteed to sell for thousands on eBay and snap up big licensing deals with great companies.
Of course, it doesn't always work that way. If you're serious about making money with your art, you'll need to allot a certain amount of time to work on Things that Sell, not just the brainworms that You want to work on.
This can be approached in a number of different ways: find a formulaic theme or topic that sells, and crank them out for fans that collect them. Find a client who will pay you to draw to their muse. Or, find an art director that will tell you what to draw, when to draw it - and will then send you a check for it.
This is the 'work' part of art; doing material and subjects that you probably wouldn't, otherwise.
I do not encourage you to do only this - there is art in each of us that is for and by only ourselves. Find that art and make it, too.
2. Diversify, stretch and improve.
Not everyone who slogs through the knee-deep mudpit that is the Internet to find your site will like fairies. But maybe they'll like dragons! Have a variety of themes and subjects in your work, and you have a better chance of catching the fancy of a person with an open checkbook.
Don't be afraid to show improvement in your work - if a client thinks that you're okay right now, but gosh, you're improving quickly, they may be inclined to purchase something from you with the idea that you're going places, and they'd better snag some work now while it's affordable, or hire you before your rates get too high. People are used to rising prices. Encourage them to buy now, and never be afraid to raise your rates as you gain confidence and skills.
Identify weak areas in your work and improve them. Not only can it be a sign of upward mobility, it can also drastically improve the saleable nature of your work. Anatomy is one of the least-loved and most important factors in figure-based artwork (fairies, mermaids, furries, and even animals!). If your anatomy skills are weak, and it shows, your sales will not be great even if you're a marketing genius. Put the effort in to do the time and practice that is necessary to fix these errors.
3. A sales pitch alone will not fly.
You can talk up your art like the slickest con artist ever, but you can't sell art without actually showing off your art. I can tell you I've got the prettiest drawing of a fairy you've ever seen, and she's so sweet and charming and... it won't make a sale and it won't win me any art job if the client can't see and appreciate exactly how pretty and sweet and charming she is for themselves.
To this end, your art must look its best. Make sure your scan is clean, and if you have to photograph your work, it's not blurry or poorly lit. If you're showing it in person, frame or mat the piece, or display the products with your artwork on them in neat and professional packaging. Bad scans, in particular, or bad photographs, can severely damage an artist's chance at a sale. Remember that most non-artists don't have the ability to look at a greyed scan and imagine it cleaned up they way it may be in real life! You have to show them your art from the very best angle possible. A good scanner is not so much a luxury as it is a necessity.
This extends to the platform on which you display your art! If your webpage is hosted on geocities and cluttered with cheap blinking gifs, obnoxious advertisements and pop-ups, your art may the cats meow - but you still won't sell any, because it will look cheap and unprofessional by association.
Keep your display uncluttered, and flattering to your work, in neutral colors. Design a site so that it's easy to get around and find what you're looking for, and make sure your thumbnails 'read' well - thumbnails that are teensy details out of a big piece are difficult to associate with a full image. Make it as easy as possible for a client to find a particular piece again - it's not often that you'll make a sale on a first view, but people who come back should be able to find what they enjoyed the first time. If they liked it well enough to find again, chances are good that they may wish to buy it - or products with the artwork on it.
4. Advertise everywhere, with class.
Everywhere you can place your art, do. Everywhere you place the art, let people know it's for sale, and in what fashion! Many people cannot - or assume they cannot - afford originals. Have your work available on products, and make sure they know it! (Be sure you follow the rules of the gallery your work is in, if it's not your own site.)
A very, very common marketing error on websites is to have a gallery, and then a separate shopping area. People will go and enjoy the gallery, find a piece they really love, spend some time looking at it there (in the gallery), and then leave. They will rarely say 'I wonder if this is available as a card?' and actively go look for it in a separately hosted giftshop, or find your contact form to request custom artwork. They will look at the pretty picture and notice right above or below it that you are available for commissions, or 'hey, I can get this as a card! And the original is available, too!' Lead them right to the sale from your artwork - never, ever make them go look for it or wonder what their choices are!
Perhaps your very best adverting is yourself. Go and be active in forums, and social, and remember that your artwork, and your marketing are part of you and the image you put forth. Have your webpage in your signature block at forums. Keep a blog, and chat about what you're working on artistically, if you write at all well. People like to buy work from people they feel an association with - encourage that association.
5. Update frequently
It is widely documented that brand recognition (in the case of art - the artist is the brand) takes repetition. That's why there are so many fathomless commercials on TV that seem to have nothing to do with the products they're advertising - they are there simply to burn that brandname or logo into your head so you remember that particular name when you are at the shoe store or beer aisle trying to decide between a selection of virtually identical items.
Keeping your name and work fresh in a potential client's mind is key. Have a mailing list, which you use and use frequently to update your audience to new work, new products, new anything - just make sure you have something fresh regularly. Maintain galleries at some of the popular sites on-line and make sure you put up new work often. Small updates of one or two pieces every few weeks are far, far preferable (marketing wise!) to having an art dump every 6 months. Too many pieces will only blur in a client's mind, but many small updates will make your name stick where others may fade in memory.
If you aren't terribly prolific, make it look like you are. Dredge up an older piece that you still like, if you haven't got anything new. Offer an existing piece in an exciting new format, like t-shirts, or mini-prints. Have sales to encourage bargain-hunters to open that pocketbook! Anything, really, that keeps your name out there. You never know when you'll send out a note to your email list juuuust as someone is looking to go Christmas shopping or has a birthday present to find.
6. Take chances.
Artists, as a rule, are shy and anti-social. I'm certainly no exception. But don't let a fear of failure prevent you from taking a chance. If there's a shop in your town that you think may be interested in carrying your work, take the plunge and bring them some samples to inspect! Go ahead and put together that portfolio for that big publisher. Invest the money in a webpage without ads. Breathe deep and take the steps, even when they're scary and difficult. For every failure waiting for you, there are at least two opportunities. You have to take risks to make progress in this field!
7. Don't be a capitalist at the expense of your craft.
If you do art for the love of art, and these look like terrible, soul-sucking, awful ideas, that's fine! Not everyone has to be in art solely for money.
You should do art for your own reasons, and selling it can be one reason in many! If you can, and you want to, you should. Hopefully these tips will give you a leg up on everyone else out there trying to, also!
* Except legal.
** I use the term 'artwork' with some flexibility - you won't catch me saying that sculpture, or photography, or even most crafts aren't artwork. If you invest creative energy into something, it's art in my book.
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