Learn How to Make Referrals the Lifeblood of Your Art Business

If you are a regular reader of this blog or know me IRL (in real life), you probably get I tell it like it is. Or at least how I see it. Here’s a prime example. Selling art is hard to do, and most think getting referrals is too.

If you have been in the art business for any time, then finding ways to sell your art is a preoccupation—a chore most artists would gladly never do if they could. It’s not just art, selling most things come with challenges.

Don’t Be Jealous Because You Can Laugh in August

If your weather is cold this time of year, don’t be too jealous when you read this. It’s January 30, and I can hear the tinkling sounds of the ice cream truck slowly rambling down the streets of my Phoenix subdivision. (The August temps here in Phoenix are 100 at 10 PM all month.) But now in January, kids and parents in shorts and flip-flops are chasing down the ice cream man.

The driver does not have a sales challenge. His customers are clamoring to buy his goods. We should all be so lucky. Besides a highly desirable product, he has scarcity at work because he won’t be back for a week and he’ll be on the next street in a heartbeat.

Root Canal Docs Don’t Need Marketing or a Bedside Manner

Root canals are not hard to sell, even though no one ever wants one. But when you need it, you don’t hesitate because life without it is painful. That procedure is the perfect example of eliminating pain points, which is where most marketing gurus tell their followers to start. Find the pain, figure out the solution, then create an offer as your recipe for success.

How Do Pain Points and Scarcity Apply to Selling Art?

Okay, but how does that apply to selling art? Mostly, it doesn’t unless you take some obtuse concepts to fit art into that equation. Sure, an empty wall or old, ugly, or uninspiring art that could be replaced with something new and beautiful is a problem and solution. So is the need and desire to find and support indie artists.

But the problem for artists is they don’t have the same leverage as the ice cream guy who has the advantage of scarcity as access to his goodies is immediate then gone. And when you need a root canal, you pray it’s not late on Sunday with no emergency appointments available.

Learn how to get referrals
Learn how to get referrals

Buying Art Is a Discretionary Action

Art is discretionary. It’s painful for me to write and recognize this truth. People can go through life without ever buying a piece of art. Many do. A survey by the Professional Picture Framer Association once found that only eight percent of US households have custom framing in them. I extrapolate that the figure is similar for those that purchase original art. That makes for about 10 million households, so chances are better than eight percent sounds.

Don’t be dismayed because 10 million is a macro number. The reality is most artists only need a couple of hundred, and oftentimes much fewer, loyal buyers to make a genuinely nice living selling their art. But back to reality, even finding 100 enthused original art buyers is no walk in the park. It takes dedication and some smart marketing to make such a thing happen.

There Are Reasons to Be Hopeful

The good news is thousands of artists have managed to build their list of collectors and patrons to support them, and you can too. This revelation moves us to the point of discussing this blog post’s title, “FacePalm: Why Knowing How to Develop an Ongoing Referral Program Is Always the Superpower Artists Should Never Fear.”

I’ve been helping artists find ways to market their work since 1988. In 2005, I stepped up my activities by include writing books and launching the Art Marketing News blog you are reading now.

How to Help Artists Thrive and Enjoy a Well-lived Artist’s Life

Lately, I’ve evolved my efforts into the Art Marketing Toolkit. The concept behind it is I believe your art business should be about you, your creativity, and fulfillment. I believe it’s not too much to ask to make, market, and sell your art your way. I’m committed to helping you make your art business fulfilling on your terms. You can lead a joyful, well-lived artist’s life. And it should not be a huge struggle to do so.

Learn how to get referrals
Learn how to get referrals

Besides encouraging artists to find the work/life/business balance that will bring them joy, I’ve helped them learn art marketing basics. If you understand how to market artworks and know the options you have available, you can choose from them to find what will work best for you.

Impactful Knowledge Delivered Weekly

I deliver a PDF with art marketing knowledge to my followers then present a live Zoom meeting on Friday to discuss the topic. We carry on the conversation in our private Facebook group, where the live sessions’ PDFs and recordings are archived.

Referrals Help Artists Grow Exponentially

This week we talked about the importance of getting referrals. Here is where telling it like it comes in. Artists don’t have the time to find a brand-new buyer for each of the works they make and wish to sell. You’re already busier than most businesspeople because you must design and create your artwork before thinking about how to get it to market. That’s another degree of difficulty only artists face.

Artists Face Unique Challenges

So, with less time for business, you must be efficient in how you sell your art. The best and only way to get the success you want and deserve is to find buyers who will buy multiple pieces, and ta-da, equally, if not more, important, you must get referrals. Referrals are word-of-mouth advertising, which is the most powerful marketing form on the planet. It drives opinions and smashes barriers that marketers must overcome without it.

There Need Not Be Dread In Asking For Referrals

The problem for artists and the public, in general, is that asking for referrals is about as fun as a root canal unless you have useful tips and techniques that will turn a painful task and something that everyone avoids into work that is fun and easy.

What If Getting Referrals Was Fun and Easy?

People will help you if you ask them kindly. They will be more inclined to help you if you pre-condition them through your acts of generosity and human kindness first.

Learn how to get referrals
Learn how to get referrals

Referrals Can Account for Substantial Art Sale

That is what we learned in the PDF download and the hour-long live session this week. I’d love for you to get in on this knowledge and start turning your referral gathering superpower into increased art sales.

You can get the PDF and view the live session at your convenience when you join the Art Marketing Toolkit. It’s only $4.99 per month with no contract. I would be pleased and honored for you to join hundreds of other artists and me in the group.

There are many other PDF downloads and live session combinations archived for members with more coming every week. Many come from my art marketing books while others come from art marketing courses I’ve created over the years.

Learn how to get referrals
Learn how to get referrals


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  • Robert Missale says:

    i think i need a website. but how do i get started?

    • Hi Robert, Thanks for your question The answer depends on your needs. FASO.com, Artspan.com, Squarespace.com, and Shopify.com are worth reviewing. Do you plan to sell from your website? Then you need e-commerce enabled features. If you want to sell prints from your site, choose a plan that offers that option either included as with Artspan or as a plug-in with Shopify. These are not the only options. Take your time to decide, so you don’t have regrets or have to start over with a new service.

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