Five Ways to Boost Your Art Career

How to strengthen your art career.

Boost Your Art CareerFive ways to help your art career.

  1. Sell direct to collectors.
  2. Build a network of fans, friends and followers.
  3. Become slightly famous.
  4. Be known for your work.
  5. Maximize your marketing.

Let’s break them down and discover why and how these things are essential to promote your art career.

Sell Direct to Collectors.

Selling direct and building a collector base is a good thing today. In the past, artists were discouraged from selling direct if they hoped to have success working with galleries. Back then, it just was bad form and bad karma to compete with galleries. They had the marketing; they had the collector base and the power. Galleries did not want artists competing with them.

Most artists who chose to buck the gallery system were Sunshine Artists working the show and fair circuits. They didn’t have the resources and tools to build a clientele the way galleries could do. Traditional marketing resources such as advertising and direct mail were too expensive and difficult to get reasonable returns.

In 2014, things have changed. Galleries and virtually all other small businesses have had to deal with a myriad of disruptive forces. These include the ubiquity of the Internet, the rise of e-commerce, the growing influence of social media and noticeable changes in consumer buying habits.

These days, enlightened, and compassionate gallerists not only see it is not a smart thing to stand in the way of artists selling direct. They realize it is necessary for artists to earn a decent living. Moreover, they know artists now have the tools to build their own loyal following, which makes them stronger marketing partners. An artist with faithful fans and a responsive email list can help stimulate gallery sales.

Build a Network Of Fans, Friends and Followers.

Equally important to the success of your art career are the relatively inexpensive and easy to use digital marketing tools available to artists. With them, artists can make an affordable e-commerce enabled website, a blog, an email marketing system, and use effective social media platforms to help drive traffic, grow email lists and appreciation for the artist’s work.

Artists can use these tools to help them find new direct buying prospects and convert them to buyers and collectors. Artists can use online print-on-demand art sales sites such as to be able to expand their product line. Having a place to drive traffic to a one-stop site for selling canvas and paper prints and postcards is a fantastic way to get work in the hands of those fans who love an artist’s work, but do not have the budget for original works. This seems particularly beneficial for converting social media friends and followers into buyers. Another goal for building a network is to foster a residual strong word of mouth effect. Referrals are your best opportunities for making new sales.

Become Slightly Famous.

I have blogged about the many ways there are to become a minor celebrity. Although I appreciate public speaking is not for every artist, it is arguably the quickest way to gain slight celebrity.

While public speaking is powerful, it is not the only way to become well known. In my books and on this blog, I have encouraged artists to use publicity to gain exposure in other ways.

Some suggestions to create slight celebrity are:

  • Becoming the founder and driving force behind an art happening.
  • Writing books.
  • Do something noteworthy, outrageous and effective for a charity you love.
  • Become an expert on your local/regional/state art history.
  • Become an authority on the life of famous artists.

Be Known for Your Work in Your Art Career.

Telling artists they need to stick to a single genre or style sounds understandably confining. It is after all your art career. As such, you are accountable first to yourself. I have been as guilty of offering this advice as have a myriad of other art career advisers.

There is a rationale behind the advice. That is because collectors and galleries have expectations. They need to know if they like your work that they will find more like it as you continue your art career. This situation is never going to go away. For some artists, it is not a problem. They love painting wildlife, for instance, and have no plans to do other genres that would be foreign to their established buyers.

For those of you who chafe at the suggestion of continuing to paint in the same vein, there is hope. You can ditch the genre or style tips and just work on making sure you are known for your work in your art career.

What does that mean? Simply, if you are going to put energy into working your art in new ways that you pay equal energy into being known for making it. The other way to approach making work not recognizable to your collectors and galleries is to think of it as your personal stash. You are making it for your own pleasure. If you are doing well enough with your other work, then there is no pressure to turn other creative forays into commercial success.

Maximize Your Marketing

You only have 168 hours each week to eat, sleep, work, and enjoy your life. In the work component, your time for marketing is both crucial and limited. The only way to make your marketing payoff is to focus it on what is essential and what is effective.

In my Guerrilla Marketing for Artists book, I suggest an artist focus on two or three significant events a year, (More only if you have staff to help.) Then arrange all your marketing around those events. It takes multiple touches to get buyer motivation, even from existing buyers. Coordinated marketing is how you achieve those touches and drive sales.

If you start far enough in advance, you can create an avalanche of marketing messages, all pointed toward one event. Imagine having press releases, publicity, advertising, direct mail, blog posts, guest blog posts, social media and more pouring in the weeks up to an event.

This sounds like a lot of work, and it is. The way to master making this overwhelming is through planning and scheduling. Break your tasks down to the smallest component. Schedule just enough every day to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Working this way, you can do as much as if you had a large marketing staff.

There Is Always More to Make Your Art Career Successful.

Sure, you can do much more than suggested here to promote your art career. That said, I encourage to focus on turning these ideas into actions. When you do, I know you will see improved results in recognition and sales of your work. Unless you are volunteering your art career, those kinds of results are both necessary and rewarding.

Guerrilla Marketing for Artists


  1. says

    I understand the appeal and importance of having a recognizable signature style, but it seems like the best way to guarantee stagnation. When I try to commit to one style, and even enthusiastically, my imagination rebels. Even the best of artists become parodies of themselves when they stick to one style (ex.. Francis Bacon). After a while, they become unable to change. By working in more than one style, one then becomes able to combine the styles and make something new. Rather than try to make a marketable line of product, I think an artist might do better to try to make something new and challenge oneself. Though that can lead to financial stagnation. So, for the artist, it may be a question of what is more important, financial success or artistic success. Do we make a line of products for consumers, or do we use our imagination to explore our universe and make and share new discoveries?

    • says

      Eric, Thanks for your comments. My point was to not be a slave to style. Do whatever you want. Just experiment and change in a way that your work is recognizable. I think there is a distinction. If you want commercial success for your art career, then you have to make some allotments to how you work. That doesn’t mean you can’t create totally different work. Just don’t expect your loyal following will go with you on the change. I’m not interested in The Rolling Stones switch to rap, or Bruce Springsteen switch to jazz. If that is where they must go, they will do it without me.

      • says

        All good points, and I think you are giving wise advice. Though, for some, like Picasso or Gerhard Richter, there was a need to switch up styles and explore new terrain. And in the musical world, the Beatles evolved by trying new things, such as incorporating the sitar, to doing radically experimental pieces (Revolution #9), themed albums, psychedelic music, and harder political stuff. That experimentation made for greater music, though a lot of the individual pieces that were far off from the mainstream of their music leave me a bit cold. Nevertheless they were able to integrate it all into new styles.So, I supposed it depends on the type of artist. Pollock did drip paintings, Hockney skipped around a lot.

  2. says

    Ambitious suggestions, but they presume a high level of quality work. I have been moderately fortunate with my photo-art, but sometimes just luckier than others whose work I admire & respect. – but they just don’t seem to sell, regardless of their efforts & quality.
    I include my website address should you be curious about what I do – and are willing to venture a prognosis on the likelihood, or lack thereof, of my attaining the success of which you write.

    • says

      Rodger, Don’t short change your work, ever! You are not just lucky. No one is. There has to be qualities to your work that touches your buyers. Whether your work meets the highest level of artistic expression, or that of those you admire the most, does not matter. Finding buyers is not always about buyers seeking the highest quality. They buy on emotion, not on the opinions of muckety-mucks who set the standards.

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