Unless you are one of the small group of artists whose work sells in auction houses, or top-tier galleries for tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or more, this post is for you.
Where Do Your Prices Fall?
Are you are one of the many thousands of artists whose originals sell in the thousands? Then pay close attention. If your originals are selling in the hundreds, you need to work on getting your prices up if you want to make a career from selling your art. It’s critical you have decent profit margins to sustain a profitable long-term career.
How Artists Get Their Work to Market Is Changing.
Galleries are in decline. There never was enough to go around in the best of times. I have gallery owner friends, and I appreciate the value they bring to the art community and the local community. But, few, if any, can tell you their artists are making a decent living by selling through galleries. It’s possible, but it’s more likely you’ll win the lottery than building a thriving lengthy career selling art through galleries.
Social Media and Online Art Sales Are the Rages.
And, yes, a few select artists are making a living wage through online art sales. But, they are as rare as purple carrots. The big problem with online art sales is the average selling price. Most online original art sales are priced in the hundreds. That creates a secondary problem which is it takes far too many sales to make a decent living. Plus, all your expenses such as materials, labor, marketing, and shipping are multiplied. Low dollar sales are just too expensive to the seller. So much so they make it near impossible to overcome the problems with volume.
Have You Noticed the Growth in the Number Of Art Shows?
They seem to multiply like rabbits. That’s because promoters and artists see opportunity. And, many are aware of the problems with galleries and online sales mentioned above. So, they flock to shows, but the larger number of venues makes it harder to decide which ones to support. And, it’s a growing challenge to find the ones where you can turn enough art at high prices to make the whole thing worthwhile.
Let’s be honest. Shows are a grind. It is exhilarating when you are there, and good things happen. But, in these situations, there is so much you don’t control. Plus, as the years pile on, they get harder to do. Shows are great, but they don’t make sense for many artists who can’t travel or are plain tired of life on the road. The essential point here is if you are using shows as your primary source of income it is a dicey proposition. One that is hard to project over the course of a career.
There is a better way. It’s called Direct Patronage.
The concept is simple. Artists make building personal relationships with selected potential buyers their primary form of selling art. They may still want to work with galleries, do shows and use social media. But, those things are always secondary to selling art directly to buyers they know.
Direct Patronage Is the Future of Art Sales.
Are there other ways to do it? Of course, but when you start breaking it down and planning for a long, prosperous career, I am confident the other means are not going to work as well, be as profitable, or give you the control over your career like having your source of buyers.
Are You Aware of the Visual Artist’s Advantage?
It’s just math. There is a rule of thumb that the average artist can make 1,000 originals in a lifetime. That’s 33 pieces a year over a 30-year career. Your mileage may and will vary. Your production speed, your age when you start are just a couple of factors that will affect the lifetime number of originals you create. Regardless, there is a finite number, and 1,000 pieces make a good number for reference purposes.
Here’s where your advantage comes into play. By developing just 100 patrons who will buy multiple pieces, you may sell half or more of all your originals to that small group. That’s how you leverage your advantage that is visual artists need fewer buyers than any of the other arts. And, there is nothing but determination to keep you from growing to 200, 300 or more patrons.
You can do the math on your career projections. How many pieces do you make annually now? How many direct buying patrons do you have now? Start there and then work through how many patrons you need to solidify your career. With just ballpark numbers, you can project how many active buyers you need to make selling your work easy.
Active and Targeted Lists Beat Large, Non-responsive Lists.
When you build your list to 100 or more direct patronage buyers they give you security and control. Plus, you get higher margins and lower stress. And, you will be far less desperate to deal with people or situations where you don’t feel good about working with them.
Ultimately, you’ll spend less time and money on marketing and still get excellent results That will allow you to invest in your art and your leisure time more freely. There isn’t a downside to building a list of direct buying patrons.
It’s not easy. But, almost nothing worth having is easy to attain. You instinctively know that trying to sell to total strangers or give up control of your sales to galleries, distributors, publishers, and licensors is no piece of cake. I’ll be blunt. It sucks.
Some Galleries Will Treat You Right, But None Have the Means to Sell All Your Work.
They tie up your inventory, delay payments, discount your artwork, and will always have the gallery’s best interest first. And, that’s dealing with the better ones. The bad ones are just nightmares waiting to happen.
How Do You Build a Base of Direct Buying Patrons?
Anyone can do it. I have broken down what needs to be done to what I call the Three Cs. They are
3. Communication with Context
You can find lots of advice to build a list. Making a concise list of potential buyers most inclined to buy your work is harder, but doable. Making connections with prospective patrons has never been easier. The internet makes it possible to become known to people in ways that will work to your advantage. Communication with context means keeping your contacts in mind. You can’t bore them into buying. You need a plan to keep them entertained, informed, and educated.
While that all sound daunting, I assure it can be done by any determined person. And, I further assure you that however hard it might be that it is still a much smoother path to follow than trying to sell to strangers.
How to Make Selling Art Easier?
Speaking of selling, how would you like it if you didn’t have to make sales anymore? Well, at least no hard closing, desperation move type sales. When you have a large enough base of potential patrons, and you communicate with them frequently and intelligently, your art will sell itself. When they are ready to buy, you will be whom they turn to.
Moreover, if you make it a habit of requesting referrals a magic thing happens… you get them. People who already know and like you don’t need tons of persuasion to refer you to others. All you need to do is ask. If you have given value all along in your relationship, referrals will come to you naturally. By proactively politely asking, you ramp up your results dramatically.
Is This All You Need? Or, Could You Use a Helping Hand?
For the super go-getters, reading this might be all they need to charge out and start applying the principles here. For all others who have a buy-in to these concepts, but need support, encouragement, and guidance, there is help for you.
You are encouraged to check the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop.
The More Time You Invest, the Faster You Will Get Results.
Depending on how much time you invest in working the system, in 90 days you could have dozens of highly qualified buyers on your list. You’ll find working the system can be done by someone you train. You need to stay involved to make your relationships real and authentic. But, most of the research, reports and post-connection communication can be done through automation and virtual assistants.
While you can invest in an assistant to help you add new direct patronage prospects, you don’t have to. If money is tight and time is available, you can get the ball rolling on your own with very little investment beyond your time. You can always add help when your sales start to happen on a frequent basis.
The Art Marketing Mastery Workshop is a lifetime system. Use it for as long as you want to engage new buyer prospects.
This program is evergreen meaning you can continue to use what you learn to find new patronage prospects for as long as you want to sell your art. Since it doesn’t rely on marketing using the latest social media trends, or other such things, it will never go out of style.
Ask yourself what the value of a new buyer is to your art business?
Hopefully, each new addition is in the four-figure range for profit. Even if a new sale falls in the high hundreds profits range, that’s a good start. To find new buyers is your first goal, and your second is to keep them interested, so they buy more of your art over time. It’s easy to see how just adding a handful of patrons who become repeat buyers can bring in tens of thousands of income to your art business.
This system is designed to bring you dozens to hundreds of new potential buyers.
You will have the opportunity to create a relationship with them. Sure, you may not join their country club, but there are plenty of other ways to become known to customers who fit your ideal buyer profile. And, when you do these things good results happen.
You will have the opportunity to create a relationship with them. Sure, you may not join their country club, but there are plenty of other ways to become known to customers who fit your ideal buyer profile. And, when you do only good things can happen.