If you want to create the success you desire and your art deserves, you have to be on the lookout for new opportunities to sell more art. It comes with the territory.
The lifeblood of any business is customers. They are what make the difference between a hobby and a business. Whether you are a dentist, a plumber, a hairdresser, or an artist, you share a common problem. How do I find enough customers to grow my business? If you want to keep the doors open, you must have customers.
Both big and small businesses have to work at finding and keeping customers. Often, how well you market your business is the difference between success, failure, and mediocrity. It’s not just marketing, in your case, you need to make art that people want to buy.
Art Career Success Goes in This Order:
It’s agreed. Every business needs customers. What is cool about the art business is you need fewer buyers to make a successful career than other professions and other arts related businesses. For most artists, a few hundred collectors can make their art career insanely successful. Most other businesses need thousands, even tens of thousands, to get the success they want.
Depending on the type of art you make, your age, how long it takes to complete a finished piece, you might make between 500 and 3,000 originals in a lifetime. It’s estimated the average visual artist makes 1,000 artworks in a career. That’s 33 pieces annually for 30 years.
When you consider the average above, you will probably agree my range of 500 – 3,000 works is on target. If you then apply the logic that a few hundred collectors can make an art career, from a numbers perspective, it makes sense. A collector being a person who appreciates art and artists will likely buy three or more pieces from an artist.
We are talking generalities here because your mileage may vary. Do the math on your career production numbers and come to your own optimal Collector Theory figure. Going on average, I believe an artist who makes 1,000 pieces in a career and who also develops 100 direct buying collectors can lock in his or her success.
It’s not difficult to believe that those 100 collectors will purchase three or more pieces from you over time. Some will be for personal use, perhaps some for gifts. I further contend that some will be influential in your career in ways you could not have planned for or imagined. Here is a quote that eloquently states what I mean about unexpected outcomes from collectors:
“Until one is committed, there is a hesitancy, the chance to draw back; always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would not otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man would have dreamed would come his way.
I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
‘Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.’” – W.H. Murray
What Murray is saying is that committing yourself to action makes things happen that you could not have predicted. Most the artists I know that are not getting the respect, recognition and reward they want are not taking enough action, or they are not acting enough on the right things. As I said above, “The Path Is through the Math.” In a business that hugely depends on emotional sales made with discretionary income, you have to have enough eyeballs on the art to make sales steadily.
Last year, Christine Montague contacted me. She is a successful Canadian artist who is familiar with my work and my 100 Collector Theory. Christine kindly took the time to write me with an email about the theory. The subject line was “Some Canadian Art Statistics That May Relate to Your 100 Collectors Theory.” You can imagine, I was eager to read what she had to say. Here is a verbatim copy of her message:
I am a Canadian artist who, thanks to the internet, has often been able to hear you speak or read your art biz articles. I am an artist who sells my work. I have owned an artist studio in an arts destination and belong to leading art boards. I am a person who sincerely believes in the value visual art contributes to joy and community, I often read items relating to such art issues. Just for your files, I thought you might be interested in the info below.
In Ontario, Canada, there is a company called the www.HillStrategies.com , a research firm that is often commissioned to fact find on the state of culture here for Canada Arts Council, etc. In a recent notification, if one goes to page 33 of http://www.arts.on.ca/assetfactory.aspx?did=7228 it looks at who actually buys art in Canada. One will see 36% buy art once a year (approx.) and 59% never do. That doesn’t leave a lot of buyers in our small population. Then add in those who participate in the arts, it seems it always about the top 10 % who do about 80% of the activity. I find this fits well with the theory of find and cultivate that base of 100 customers, and there will be an art income.
Hill Strategies has also found in Canada, those who label themselves “visual artists” has more than doubled since the early 2000’s. So even more important to carve out a unique identity and establish oneself online.
Anyhow, thank you for all the terrific info I have gleaned from your experience.
(Many thanks to Christine for sharing this valuable, insightful information.)
It’s always easier to comprehend doing something than doing it. I can visualize taking on Black Diamond ski runs, but I’m not in shape to take them on safely now. The good thing is I have committed to hitting the slopes in Tahoe in 2016 with enough vim, vigor and technique to ski some Blacks. It is a powerful motivation for me to join a fitness club and stay with a diet and exercise regimen that will allow me to fulfill that vision.
You may have some ideas what you need to do with your career to get it revved up where sales pop out of the pipeline on a regular basis. Or, you may be floundering with indecision or inaction. If you are, you don’t need to feel bad, you just need a plan and commitment to do something about it.
If what you have been doing is not working, or you just aren’t doing enough, you need to make changes. You have to commit to putting together a system that consistently gets your message in front of your best prospects. It’s as simple as that and as hard as that. We all know if it were easy you and everybody else would already be doing it.
Odds are you are doing some things right, and some not so well. There are bigger odds that there are things you could and should be doing, but you’re not. Here again, you are not alone. What I just described is a common malady among artists and small businesses of all kinds.
I’m going out on a limb with a wild guess to say the prime reason most businesses fail is because they don’t have enough customers. Maybe being underfunded kept them from doing the proper marketing to get the customers, but not having them is what drove the business under.
Just as artists have an advantage in that they require a relatively small number of collectors to build a successful career, they have other benefits as well. Artists have access to the same tools as all other businesses, and if they use them efficiently, they can have a greater advantage at lower costs than other companies.
The bottom line is it takes less effort and fewer dollars to round up a few hundred customers as opposed to 10,000 customers. Further, you can utilize most of the marketing tools you need to succeed at a very low cost.
Very efficient techniques such as doing research to identify your best prospects only require your time. Networking to reach out to those prospects whether personally in your local, warm market, or through strategic associations in online communities are also primarily at the cost of your time.
Digital marketing tools such as websites, blogs, email marketing and social media have costs, but they are inexpensive and scalable so you don’t pay for more than you need. Other traditional tools including publicity and press releases are low cost or free. Direct mail and advertising can be pricey by comparison, but neither are necessary to get the ball rolling towards a successful career. When cash flow allows it, you may want to layer in the appropriate use of them.
In marketing terms, when you send a message to a potential buyer, it is a touch. An email, a social media post, a press release, a postcard, an introduction, a referral, a phone call are types of “touches” you can make on your prospect list. When you have a product customers will buy when you show it to enough of them, it comes down to “touching” them with enough frequency and variety to move them through the AIDA continuum.
Every buyer, whether on an impulse, spontaneous buy, or a carefully considered purchase months or years later, passes through these steps. Since you can’t be there at every step, you have to have a marketing system that does the job for you. Your marketing is much more powerful when it is delivered as a branded message. Branding is consistency in message, logo, color schemes and business profile.
You are a brand. Agreed, you are not an iconic brand like Nike, Apple or Lexus, but you nevertheless are a brand. By realizing this and acting on it, you can strengthen your marketing and give it impact and apply the repeated, focused touches that helps you keep your buyer’s interest keen. That is all you are trying to do with your marketing – make a dent in your prospect’s consciousness and move them from attention to interest to desire and finally, action.
Everything is a remix. It’s all been said and done. When you realize we all come from only 180 chromosomes or that all the music we love to listen to comes from a twelve-tone musical scale, it’s true everything you need to use is at your disposal. Someone has already figured out how to do it. Your job is to take what’s there to create new opportunities to sell more art.
The amount of very useful and free information on the subject or art marketing is staggering. For instance, Art Marketing News has more than 600 posts with a rough estimate of 750,000 words packed into it, which is the equivalent of more than eight 300-page books. Additionally, there are dozens of art marketing coaches, gurus, and experts who are also offering lots of free advice.
Some of you may want to start using the abbreviated outline presented for art career success in this post. You’ll just need to plug in the right tools and techniques, make suitable plans and meaningful projects subdivided into easy to accomplish tasks, and you can create your successful career. If this is you, I have three words for you. “Go for it!”