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How to Build Your Art Business with a Small List of Email Subscribers


You Can Succeed Selling Art from Your Small List of Email Subscribers

This post is inspired by Seth Godin’s post titled, “Average is not the same as typical.”  His thoughts are in alignment with mine when he talks about marketing to your smallest possible audience. I call it a small but mighty list. Either way, the sentiment remains the same.

Of all the arts and practically any business for that matter, visual artists need the smallest group of buyers to create long-lasting success. Think about it. Authors, musicians, playwrights, and filmmakers all plan to market the fruits of their creativity to thousands, tens of thousands, and more to create the success they desire.

Learn All About Email Marketing for Artists

If you want to learn more about how to use email in your art business, check out this comprehensive post, The Definitive Guide to Email Marketing for Artists. You will find the content in the post full of helpful advice, insider insights, and valuable suggestions to help you succeed in your email marketing plans. 

You can crush it with a small list!

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

How to Make Lasting Success with a Small, Mighty List Have you taken the time to break it down? Do you know how many sales at what price you need to bring in a specified annual income? The graphic here mentions $50,000, but you can choose any figure you like.

For example, using a $50,000 desired annual income and a modest, average price for your originals of $1,800, you need about 28 sales made to patrons directly to hit your target.

Numbers you need to know

Typical direct marketing gets a 4-5% sell-through from a list. At that rate, you’d need about 700 people with some degree of interest on your list to sell 28 originals. (28 divided by 700 =.04) But that’s typical, and you should never settle for usual in making your art or marketing your art. 

Another way to see it is you need four people from every hundred on your list to buy an original from you in the next 12 months. If your list is curated, getting a 4% sell-through is more than possible. One-in-25 is all you need. Making learning how to get the right people on your list a priority and put in the work to keep them on it is to create unstoppable success.

Why email marketing for artists matters

Start with this truism. Most of your sales will go to people who only buy original art a few times in their lives. Art rarely is a spontaneous decision. It’s an expensive purchase that usually requires spouse/partner approval, often including where to display it. Experience shows your best prospects may know and like you, they may love your art, but they don’t have an urgent need to buy original art at the moment. So, what is an artist supposed to do?

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

The answer is to get them on your email list. That is the best and perhaps only way for artists to stay in touch with potential buyers and keep them engaged with the content they send through email marketing. Yes, social media helps, but there is so much the artist can’t control with resorting to advertising that can get expensive fast. 

Sending email messages on a bi-weekly basis is how to keep prospective patrons interested in you and your art alive while buying decisions brew. Set a publishing schedule and create a topic list to know when you will send and what you will send. Mix in at least two of the four EDIE (educate, demonstrate, inform, entertain) attributes with each post. It’s best not to always ask for sales with every email.  

Do it both ways

You don’t have to choose to build a more extensive list versus a smaller list. If you concentrate on creating a small, mighty list, you will grow into a more comprehensive list as a happy byproduct. A small, robust list is one where your prospective buyers and active patrons are highly qualified. They have shown, or you have created in them, an interest in your work that goes beyond casual. Most buyers of art who are not collectors of art are casual. They don’t take collecting art seriously, and they usually only buy when they have a particular need.

There is no reason not to have casual buyer prospects on your list and keep them warmed up for the day when they need a piece of art. Still, keep your focus on building a list of people who will take an active interest in you and your art. They are the ones who are most likely to buy multiple artworks from you. These patrons will help you advance your career in other ways, such as making introductions to influential people. It’s a probable outcome your happy patrons will buy three, four, five, or more pieces of your art throughout your career.

That sounds hard

It’s true that finding ideal buyer prospects and connecting with them is a challenge. But, consider the alternative, which is selling your art to strangers. No matter how you slice it, selling to strangers is the more brutal row to hoe. Having someone else make sales is why some artists want to work exclusively with galleries. While there is nothing wrong with working with galleries in general, it’s far from ideal.

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

First, you need a string of them to sell all your art. Second, you have to make and then sell twice as much artwork to earn the same as selling to patrons directly. Third, there are not enough of them to go around. There never were enough in the best of times for the gallery business, and we’re far away from those days. Sadly, we know they’re not coming back. Lastly, you give up control of your distribution when you work exclusively with galleries or other third-party distributors. And, that is a situation fraught with peril.

Start thinking about direct patronage.

I suggest you read this post to learn more about direct patronage. It is the small, mighty list concept. The reason I strongly advocate this approach is I don’t see a better solution for artists. If you want the best for your career, then nothing beats selling most of your work to people who know you, love your work, and who want to support you.

Besides being the best thing you can do financially for your career, I believe having closer contact with your buyers is fulfilling, heartwarming, and soul-satisfying in ways that are incomparable to others. A gallery selling your work is, at best, a pleasant thing. You eventually get your cut of the sale, but you get little if any feedback and zero personal interaction with your would-be patrons. It doesn’t come close to selling your art with a passion for those who love it.

So what now?

Marketing your art is a lot like making your art. Before you get started, you have to make decisions. Yes, you can sometimes achieve exciting results by letting your muse wander. But, in the long run, you will get more done and have more rewarding results by having a plan and working it.

When it comes to getting your work to market, the better your plan, the better your results. If you work at building an ideal client avatar and then focus on marketing to those who closely match that ideal, you will get faster sales and higher returns on your efforts than by doing anything else.

You don’t have enough time or money to market to everyone. It would be hugely wasteful even if you did. So why not turn your attention to making a plan to build a small, mighty list and then acting on it with zeal? That’s your key to success… the kind of self-made success based on marketing and relationships that you control cannot be taken from you like those with third parties can.

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

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  1. congratulations you have perfect justice, knowing that the hardest job is what to sell, the art of selling becomes a way of life itself,
    I think that what is very difficult for the state of the artist is even the lack of knowing how to sell
    a true artist is even a unique state of passion, which is very difficult to keep and time passes
    each artist has millions of ideas, but unfortunately only a few are identifiable in collectors,
    you can not be Plato and Aristotle at the same time, it’s wonderful and lived up to success.
    you have perfect justice, and I am grateful for the natural sincerity you wrote with
    with christian esteem
    I’m going to be still persevering
    thank you

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