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How Self-Promotion Helps Artists Boost Business


Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.

— Austin Kleon

For some visual artists, the idea of self-promotion is scary. They would like its result if they only didn’t have to do it. And the simple truth is you self-promote naturally because we all do. So the trick is to find ways to use self-promotion for artists that challenge but doesn’t overwhelm you.

When you get it down on your terms, it will enhance your image, improve your sales, and lengthen your career without dinging your dignity. Self-promotion is a learned skill for nearly everyone except those rare specimens that take to it like a bird-to-flight. It’s an easily recognized gift, and you can learn by watching what they do.

Do Personality Types Matter in Self-Promotion?

Most artists I know are either extroverted, expressive personalities that demand attention or introverts who shy away from it. So it’s easy to believe extroverts have an advantage in this department from the outside. Further, inspection proves this is not the case.

Live Your Best Artist's LIfe
Live Your Best Artist’s LIfe

Many shy people are highly successful in high-profile careers.

The late King of Late Night, Johnny Carson, is a perfect example. He was a quiet private man who eschewed the limelight when not commandeering the Tonight Show desk. Meanwhile, his alter ego Art Fern persona was an always hilarious over-the-top send-up of what a pitchman could be.

I believe some folks have a better knack for self-promotion than others, and they are not always extroverts. This situation is human nature.

We are not all equally blessed in the same ways. However, having the knack for self-promotion is not the key to success in growing awareness for yourself and your art in the art business. It is determination and ambition that drive career success for artists and includes learning to harness the power of self-promotion.

The good news is there are so many ways to do it, and you can find what works for you.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Self-promotion and self-belief are twin traits.

You might want to read my blog post: How Positive Thinking and Taking Action Make Success. Self-belief is a robust quality that can help propel your career and keep it moving when it appears to everyone else that you are against all odds. Your self-belief will help you be genuine in your promotions. Sprinkle in your talent, and add a dash of ambition to take you far.

Self-promotion and success go hand-in-hand.

Most of us don’t mind someone who promotes themselves when we can see it is coming from authentic self-belief instead of bragging. When we find these artists with talent backed up by sincere self-belief, we root for them to succeed. You can become that person who inspires other artists.

Self-Promotion for Artists Tips

Here then are some things that all fall under the area of art marketing that you can begin to do to self-promote your art and your career:

  • Post comments on the blogs of influential folks who can influence your career. Being supportive and friendly with other artists and commenting on their blogs, Instagram, and Facebook accounts is a kind gesture, but keep connecting with people who can buy your work or help your career as your goal. Find influential people and comment on their blogs, write personal notes congratulating them, or offer valuable tips, insights, or ideas. Lather, rinse and repeat.
  • Make friends with a local media person covering culture, entertainment, or politics. Don’t try to approach them for a story. Instead, approach them to offer help and to get to know them. The residual effect is bound to be positive and worthwhile for you if you do.
  • Do something outrageous that you would never do. An excellent brainstorming technique is to take a large piece of paper and write as many ideas as you and your family and friends can offer. I guarantee you will come up with some good ideas to promote yourself.

  • Start an art event for charity. It does not have to be elaborate. It can be in your living room or at a local coffee shop. All you need is an idea, a few fliers, and a little grit.
  • Print your art large on an unusual substrate such as metal, wood, or clothing. Make it twice as large or twice as small as you have ever made. Then challenge yourself to find a way to promote what you have done.
  • Seek help in high places. I wrote a post titled Six Degrees of You. Think about someone who could seriously help your art career if they took an interest. Examples are a museum curator, a top interior designer, a magazine editor, and the head of your state cultural organization. If you can’t think of someone like this, especially after getting clues offered, question yourself how much being successful means to you.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.
  • Collaborate with another artist. There is no reason you can’t work with other visual artists or performing artists, poets, or musicians. Learn to be inspired by someone, do likewise, and look for ways to explore how to channel that inspiration into new work and new vistas for your art marketing efforts.
  • Get a .com domain with your name on it. Your name, if it is at all common, is probably taken. So, get one with mynamestuidio.com or mynameartist.com, or mynamefineartist.com. Then start using it. Your name is your brand. People will remember your name much more than some amorphous company name.
  • Write articles, or have them ghostwritten for you on entertainment, design, travel, dining, wine collecting, playing poker, or anything that interests you. Or, write about an art experience that is profound to you. Make sure it is clear you are an artist with a website and a blog.

  • Use social media. Do I need to tell you to get a website, blog, and Facebook fan page? If you haven’t, do not fret, there is still space available on the Internet and Facebook.
  • Pay it forward. Get involved in ways to promote other artists. The good karma that will come from it will easily be worth the effort. Market Locally – Grow Where You Are Planted. Use the Internet’s power for local marketing.
  • Network. Get involved in your area, and become part of the local chamber. Many chambers have social memberships. Volunteer at a local charity. Visit every picture framer in a 50-mile radius. Ask each one how you can help them or if they have ideas on how you can promote yourself.

  • Use handwritten and hand-drawn marketing pieces. I’ve seen a terrific marketing piece that was printed to look like an elaborate brainstorming session that led to a great idea. Use a series of sketches to illustrate an approach that leads to a suggestion to contact you or visit your website.
  • Believe in yourself. How can you expect others to believe in you if you lack self-belief?
  • Be driven; no one can want success more than you. Do not rest until you have the success you want. You are the captain of your ship. It will go where you steer it. You are your own true North Star to guide your careers. It won’t all be smooth sailing, but the result will be like a day at the beach if you persist.

How Does Barney Davey Use Self-Promotion?

The answer is my methods have changed over the years. I am established and doing well at this point in my life and career, so I do less self-promotion than in the past. I’m not slacking too much because I still publish this weekly blog post and produce bi-weekly live sessions with my AMTP (Art Marketing Toolkit Project) members, with a PDF workbook. I produce the graphics including the image for this post with my cheeky Barnsky on a coffee cup homage to Banksy in the banner image.

I Believe

  • Artists can live their dreams in their best artists’ lives.
  • Making art marketing information affordable for all artists is a good thing to do.
  • Helping more artists to live their best lives makes the world a better place.

How you market your art has everything to do with how you live your life as an artist.

— Barney Davey

The focus of the AMTP is making connections, leveraging micro-influencing, mastering art marketing skills, and encouraging artists to learn about themselves to know how much marketing, connections, and influence they need to succeed. If that sounds interesting to you, please accept my invitation to become a member and join me and a worldwide community of artists.

It’s the best bargain on the planet for artists who want to live their artist lives in harmony with themselves and use the insights they gain about themselves to market their art accordingly. It’s less than a latte per month with no contract.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

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  1. Great post, Barney – actually a series of posts. I get my optimism dose from reading your blog and these days I’m needing it more often than not. Thanks for reminding me that I am still (supposed to be) in charge!

  2. Great ideas in this series of posts. The main thing for artists to remember is to keep trying. If a promotional idea doesn’t work try another. Successful people are persistent.

  3. Barney,

    I really enjoyed reading your fresh approach to self promotion and the comments. There are some great ideas on this list…and as you mentioned above, you and I have proven that collaboration with another artist can really get you in front of some new eyes!
    Thanks again for collaborating with me on a great series of artist/gallery related articles.

    Lori:-)

  4. I love the list at the end. What a great way to get your brain working on ways to get your name out there.

    ArtWoMan:
    Although I think just making better are and waiting for people to find you is very short sighted and not really practical in today’s world. Plus if you love your work why wouldn’t you want to let people know about it?

  5. Wow, this is some fantastic and super useful advice! I just found you via Lori McNee. I’ll be linking to this post and subscribing right away!

  6. I appreciate this article. It’s not always so much doing the self promotion, but finding the time to to do it. Once you get the ball rolling, things seems to fall into place. Thank you for sharing…

  7. THANK YOU!!! I am a professional artist, and I have many friends who want to be artists, but when we get into discussions about business & marketing and self-promotion it often turns into an argument. So many of them still carry the old idea of magically being “found,” and think that they are somehow selling out if they think about money and art in the same sentence. I’ll be forwarding this article to several of them 🙂

    1. What a great suggestion. All you had to do was some research then ask for help and look what happened. Repeat that with other venues and publications. Let one experience build your confidence on the next and let the media know your art has already been seen elsewhere, too. They need confirmation themselves sometimes.

  8. Thank you for reading and commenting. The first step towards improving is acknowledging you have a problem. The next is working towards fixing or overcoming what is holding you back.Congrats for taking the stand!

  9. Thank you, Barney, for your article on promoting art. Artists, more than most other people that are owning their own business, need help in promoting their work. For an artist to show his or her art to the public is like revealing a part of oneself. Therefore, artists fear that marketing is on the same level as bragging. I believe, the suggestions in your posts for promoting art will help put this misconception on marketing to sleep.

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