After days of suspended animation, we in the U.S., and closely watched around the globe, concluded the long Presidential campaign. It was close for a long time, but the will of the electorate has finally become evident. The presidency’s change signals a shift as monumental as the one we experienced just four years ago.
I’m not writing about politics here. There’s too much perspective of every stripe available too widely and too readily elsewhere, more like everywhere it seems. I’m seeing and feeling shifts in moods and buying habits and business habits of consumers and artists these days. The old ways of doing business have been slipping for years. The newer ways of doing business, such as marketing digitally through email and social media, are also changing.
Globally, we’ve been hit with a pandemic that has not been brought under control. And the response to dealing with it causes as much consternation as the damn virus itself. As if one wasn’t bad enough, we’ve managed to compound it by turning how to handle the virus into a political debate. Whether one person is angry because they are required to wear a mask or angry because others refuse to wear a mask, the knot in the gut, as a result, is the same for both viewpoints.
Fundamental Shifts in Daily Life Are Everywhere
Couple that ongoing battle with fundamental shifts in how we dine, consume goods, and socially interact and worry about finances and jobs, mixed with presidential politics. You’ve got situations on top of situations that cause change. As much as we yearn for a pre-Covid life, I think things will not go back as they were before anyone outside of epidemiological circles ever heard of coronavirus.
We’re meeting by Zoom for school, work, and doctor visits. It’s the new norm, and some of it will stick. Some of it needs to go, and some will make lives easier, more pleasant, and better because of changes that become permanent in a post-Covid world. We miss the easy connections with family, friends, doctors, and others, but we manage to cope and, in some ways, find new means of communicating, getting things done, and staying in touch.
In an ongoing series called The Shape of Tomorrow, Fast Company magazine asks experts and leaders to weigh in on how business is changing forever. And to reveal their struggles, worries, and tentative successes No one knows what the post-COVID world will look like, but maybe we can all figure it out together.
Selling Art Online Is for Real
Artists are finding they can sell work online. That’s not new information to those in the vanguard who have been successfully selling for years that way. But for many others, it’s a revelation borne of necessity. Those who are new to embracing selling art online with success find the fundamentals of selling art have not changed that much despite the maddening changes that seem to come at warp speed.
Whether they instinctively knew or had to figure it out, artists selling work with success today realize it’s done by getting known first and getting sales second. And that dynamic is a fundamental that has not shifted. If you want someone to buy from you, your odds significantly increase when they know you, or at the least know about you, or someone they know and trust knows you.
Is Social Media Broken?
We talked about getting one’s work to market in our interactive Art Marketing Toolkit session this week. Discussing information from the recent and exhaustive Art Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for Visual Artists post, we explored the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) continuum buyers pass through on their way to placing an order to buy art. It began with my mention of how many times I’ve heard an artist say, “I tried advertising on social media, and it didn’t work.”
Really? Is social media to blame? I think it is the opposite. Social media is the scapegoat for a failed attempt at using it. Don’t get me wrong; I have a deep love/hate relationship with most of it. On the one hand, Facebook has made advertising to specific groups of highly targeted people more affordable than before. Bar none. On that point, it’s been a miracle. On the other hand, its ability to deliver such audiences and results is because it can pry into its users’ private lives like nothing that came before it.
The reality is nearly all who fail at advertising on social media have blinders on in some fashion. Usually, it’s one or both of these factors:
- They have not taken the time to learn how the platform works, so they pay what is called a “Google Stupidity Tax” that applies to social media as well as Google.
- They don’t understand there are steps involved in creating relationships with buyers. A gallery owner treats returning visitors and buyers different from first-time visitors. And in both cases, the gallerist knows it will take repeated exposure to the ones with a high probability of buying to get them to make a purchase.
Lack of Social Media Advertising Success Is Not a Buyer Problem
Given that social media, no matter how well run or intended, presents a challenging landscape of changes and potential problems. Facebook, in particular and especially in the late election season, has been a nightmare. Even in a non-election period, navigating the ongoing and sometimes head shaking intentional changes at Facebook are enough to cause artists and casual ad buyers considerable grief.
Message boards and forums around using Facebook have been lately overrun with advertisers and agencies trying to understand ad rejections and account bans that make no sense at all. If it did not represent such tremendous potential to deliver desirable audiences at relatively low cost, I think ad dollars would have fled the platform long ago. Now, they deal with it like a crazy uncle who got put in charge of the family trust. They can’t afford to walk away, so they hang on with grit and determination. And like the crazy uncle, some continue to offer blind allegiance that defies logic.
Art Rarely Sells Itself
What I’m saying is it is naïve to think art is sold spontaneously on the internet. Yes, it can happen, but you cannot build a thriving business or predictable sales on sales that occur magically. Most of the time, it takes time. People still must get to know, like, and trust the artist or gallerist before they buy. That’s human nature, and pandemics and the internet don’t make any fundamental shifts in it.
What is fundamentally changing is that people are becoming more inclined to make purchases online that would have been made exclusively in person in the pre-Covid world. Now that they are conditioning themselves to the idea that the result is the same, but the process is more manageable, I believe they will keep this mindset and fundamental shift in behavior when the virus finally ceases to stalk us whenever that is.
Taking a Clue from the Alcoholic’s Prayer
The way to deal with the shifts is to learn to accept certain things we cannot change, so we take a breath and agree to live with them as they are. And we simultaneously agree we’ll work hard on those things where we have leverage.
Giving and Accepting Permission
On a more personal level, the fundamental shift that artists and others can control is permitting themselves to be themselves. That is not to have to live up to someone else’s ideal of what makes a person or artist successful.
There is already too much angst to add more to ourselves unnecessarily. When you give that permission, it’s a key or first step toward designing and building a life and a profoundly satisfying business. For artists, it often means that listening to their gut and their heart has been the right choice all along. If you have been fighting an internal battle with feelings of inadequacy or lack of accomplishment because you haven’t built a sparkling art marketing system that brings in sales on a steady basis, you need to let those feelings go. Vanquish them like energy vampires they are.
There Are Reasons You Are An Artist
You became an artist partly because you don’t want others telling you how to run your life or your business. When you realize you can make the right choices and feel good about them, it is a freeing experience. If you take the burden off trying to make a living by selling your art, you gain independence from so many nagging thoughts and feelings that drag you down.
Making such a choice is not without cost. You may have to take on work or responsibilities that support your life. The key is to design your life to have a balance where you enjoy your creativity and prosper from it in ways that add to the enjoyment rather than detract from it. The first step toward making such arrangements in your life is recognizing it is possible to have joy, be fulfilled, and creative without angst.
Maybe you are already there, and if so, I applaud you. For those who struggle with balance, which includes me in that category, it is comforting to know that bringing about change and dealing with fundamental shifts is possible, or even better, likely if we find a path and resolve to stay on it.
Breaking Through to Designing and Building a Well-Lived, Joyful Life As An Artist
It is achieving breakthrough realizations for artists and myself that drove me to launch the Art Marketing Toolkit. I sought something more holistic and radically different from other marketing programs that my contemporaries or I have produced for artists and for other business classes, too. There is no intention to best anyone with this program because it’s not necessary. There is only the desire to do good, use my talents, share my knowledge, and create a nurturing community that lifts artists and helps them live their lives more fully and satisfying.
Making sales is part of the equation, but outcomes not driven by them become possible when sales do not measure the end goal. When the ability to design and build an enjoyable, rewarding art business becomes apparent, the phrase, “The best is yet to come” becomes a reality. When that happens, a fundamental shift of the most positive and highest order is also reality… one I sincerely hope you get to experience soon in your life.