In the Art Business, You Are Not Alone

Making it in the art business today is a challenge.

If you work harder to find buyers and get new sales, are not alone.

If you are noticing your art sales are slower, and you seem to work harder to get the ones that do occur, you are not alone. 

Of course, there is not much consolation in knowing you have company in your struggles to take your art career where you want it to go.

Art Business Success Was Never Easy

Likewise, it doesn’t do much for the spirit to understand becoming successful in the art business back in the good old days was never a walk in the park.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

While the obstacles to getting ahead have always been there, it must be said that in no time in memory of anyone I know have the challenges been overlaid with sweeping industry changes and a wrecked, fragile economy.

It Is the Best of Times in Some Ways

For balance, it must also be said that the resources and tools for an artist to take complete control of their art sales have never been available before either.

Take Time to Take Stock of Your Situation – How Appealing Is Your Art?

If your work is not selling and you are doing the same thing you have always done, then you need to take stock of the situation. This is a time to be as brutally and fairly honest with yourself as you possibly can be. Here are some things to consider. Let’s start with talking about the commercial appeal of your art. This can be painful to determine, but unless you know the correct answer, you can waste time and energy trying to fix your marketing to no avail.

  • Do you need a different approach to creating your art? Is your look or genre passé and in need of a new style?
  • Have previously devoted collectors and galleries stopped ordering from you?
  • Have you changed your look or style recently and found it’s not connecting to buyers as your older works?
  • Has your work sold regularly in the past; but not so well now, or have you always had troubles finding willing buyers for your work?

You have to adjust the most basic things before you can address ancillary issues of why your art isn’t selling. It is a business, and you are a creator/manufacturer/supplier. If what you make is not in tune with what your collectors want, then you need to retool what you are creating.

How Effective Is Your Marketing?

If you are confident your art has the commercial appeal it needs to find a market for it, then you can look at some other aspects of what you are doing to get your work to market.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
  • If you are concentrating on the traditional markets, such as using galleries, you should be working at expanding your base. If you haven’t yet read Jason Horejs’ book “Starving” to Successful | The Fine Artist’s Guide to Getting Into Galleries and Selling More Art, it is a most valuable reference to help you fine-tune your approach.
  • Have you embraced social media with confusion, or have you jumped into social media splashing about with no real idea how you intend to make it work for you? Perhaps you are on social media due to pressure from peers and pundits, but have no desire or interest in it?
  • Do you have a website that is fresh in content and professional in appearance? If you would never set out a sub-par painting or print, why would you accept a sub-par website to represent you worldwide?
  • If you have a website, is it optimized for search engines and is it e-commerce enabled.
  • What is the conversion rate on your site? Are you getting traffic, but no buyers?  You may want to delve deeper into web analytics and improve how you drive traffic to your site. You should evaluate how easy it is to make a purchase on your site.
  • Are you coordinating your marketing, so you receive multiple layered exposures for your efforts? Do you time gallery shows with press releases, advertising, email blasts, and social media planning? Are you working with media contacts to generate publicity around your new releases, or other newsworthy activities?

Do you have an active referral network?

More and more, I think an effective referral network is a key to success for artists today. Sure, you can gain recognition and online friends through social media and blogging. I encourage those plans because I believe they support your referral network.

If someone refers you to someone who has already been touched by you through social media, publicity, or other marketing, then your chances of success with them dramatically increase. When is the last time you asked for a referral? If you do not remember, or never have, you need to get started now.  As much as I believe in artists’ websites, online marketing, and social media, none are more powerful than the people around you who love you and help you.

You Are Not Alone

The subject of this post is you are not alone. You have an established market. It begins with your family and extended family, and then it moves on through church, schools, hobbies, children, volunteerism, and business networking. If you commit to asking for at least one referral each day, you will learn to increase sales in your favor more than any other single action you could do.

How to Ask for Referrals and Get More Clients

In this unsure economy, referrals are the best way to grow your business. If you think about it, you will probably agree some of your best sales have come as a result of personal relationships and referrals. By asking for referrals, you exponentially increase your collector base.

I see artists who spend time and money on all kinds of marketing; they put in hours on social media sites trolling for complete strangers to “Like” them, et cetera, but they don’t put any effort into referrals.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

I understand why. Many artists are not natural marketers. Or, perhaps they find requesting referrals a disagreeable task. It can be painful to screw your courage to the sticking point and ask in a confident manner something like, “Your interest in my art is truly appreciated.

“Would you help me let others know about it?   May I give you these business cards or postcards to pass to those you think would also appreciate my art? Or, if there is someone you would like to bring into the studio, or meet me at the gallery, I would be delighted to meet them.”

Of course, your collectors have their own business to attend, which doesn’t involve helping you find new buyers. However, if you have provided quality work and service, some will be inclined to help you, but almost nobody will unless you ask them.

So, put aside whatever is holding you back and make it a point to ask for referrals from every qualified source. You don’t have to make this an obnoxious pitch like those you get from misguided amateurs trying to recruit you on the latest multi-level marketing scheme. Rather, you can make it quite professional in how you present the idea. If you have an interested party, you move on. If you encounter resistance or rejection, you stop on red. There is no pressure. It is either a yes or no. You are right either way.

Those Who Give Are Those Who Get

Start by looking for opportunities to make yourself into a referral machine that routinely refers business to others in your network. Simply, the more business you send to others, the more they will refer to you.

Referrals are and should be a two-way street. Because an art business is not considered a Main Street business, you might consider mingling at the local Chamber of Commerce or other business networking opportunities was not a good use of your time. On the surface, that view is fairly accurate. Most people at Chamber meetings solicit business connections, not particularly artists.

Nevertheless, if your goal is to meet as many people as possible to use the contacts to help those in your referral network, you can have excellent results. You can read body language at meetings and see the backpedaling when an insurance agent or real estate agent is introduced. By observing, you can read the mind of the person who is thinking how long until I hear the pitch?

As an artist, you have a unique product. Art has a certain je ne se quoi sex appeal about it that insurance, financial planning, dentistry, and most other professions lack. So, you can use what should be a non-threatening conversation to learn more about the person you are talking with. Find out what their needs are, then refer them to people in your network.

Read Bob Burg’s Endless Referrals book, and you will realize you don’t have to make building a referral network an entirely selfless task. You should have your elevator speech honed to perfection. Everyone you meet should know you are a visual artist who does (fill in the blank) in originals and fine art prints, that you are available for commissions and enjoy working with designers and architects, or whatever your relevant story might be.

The point is while you look out for others you are looking out for yourself, too. As long as you maintain that fine balance and keep in mind that givers get, then you will find building a referral network the most profitable and productive marketing you do.


Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use


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