True art marketing success lies in the balance of hard skills and the soft skills that connect you with your audience on a deeper level. It’s this combination that transforms creativity into a sustainable and fulfilling career.

— Barney Davey

As I reflect on my 30-year journey in the art marketing world, I see a clear evolution in my understanding of what truly drives success for artists. My decade-old book, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Career, focuses on hard skills like email marketing, website management, and publicity.    

While these tools remain invaluable, and the core concept of targeting 100 collectors is as relevant today as it was when I first wrote about it, my epiphany in recent years has led me to a profound realization.    

Although hard skills are usually necessary, soft skills, which refer to personal attributes and interpersonal skills, are essential for long-term success and fulfillment in an artist’s life and business. Not surprisingly, the most satisfying art marketing results come from an efficient, self-aware use of both—knowing what you want is an enormous advantage. Self-awareness is the tool that helps artists stay focused and keep the main thing the main thing.    

The Foundation: Guerrilla Marketing for Artists   

Published in 2013, Guerrilla Marketing for Artists introduced a practical approach to art marketing. Interestingly, it parallels marketing maven Seth Godin’s popular and topical ‘Minimum Viable Audience’ concept from his 2018 This Is Marketing book.     

Like me, Seth advocated for a ‘small but mighty’ audience. I contend artists could create a sustainable career by focusing on a select group of 100 collectors. My book details the essential hard skills such as email marketing, website management, promotions, publicity, and advertising. These strategies provide a solid foundation for artists to market their work effectively.   

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

Over time, however, I noticed that many artists were only mildly interested in putting in the time to harness these hard skills. While most didn’t oppose marketing, it wasn’t their primary focus. They could engage in marketing more robustly to sell more art, but that’s different from why they create art. This observation led me to a critical insight.   

The Epiphany: Importance of Soft Skills   

For many years, I believed mastering hard skills was the key to a thriving art career. I promoted these skills as the sole solution, assuming that artists should embrace them fully to grow productive and profitable businesses.  

However, my experience taught me that only some artists are motivated enough to do the challenging work I outlined that they could use to make a big splash and earn vast sums. Their goals were personal, and, as such, they often involved balancing their creative pursuits with a fulfilling life. For many reasons, thriving as a visual artist was never their main goal.  

Experience Colors Perception  

I met top publishers and artists who succeeded wildly during my two decades with Decor magazine. I wanted all artists to have similar opportunities. But most artists aren’t like them by choice. There are other highly satisfying options.    

What I discovered, though, was that it wasn’t a lack of ability to perform the tasks I outlined in Guerrilla Marketing for Artists; instead, it was a lack of desire. Many artists preferred to keep their art as a side hustle instead of a full-time career.   

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy

 

 

Choosing this path allowed them to enjoy their lives and art without the pressure of selling their art to survive. Nonetheless, developing soft skills doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your artistic freedom. Boosting your soft skills will always enhance your ability to express yourself and connect with your audience, leading to a more fulfilling creative journey.   

The Shift: Embracing Soft Skills   

Realizing the personal benefits of soft skills for artists, I began to understand that promoting hard skills alone was not enough. Artists needed more. They require the soft skills that underpin and power any hard marketing activities.    

These skills, such as self-awareness (knowing your strengths and weaknesses), effective communication (clearly conveying your artistic vision), relationship-building (connecting with collectors and influencers), and storytelling (creating a narrative around your art), are not just business tools. They are the keys to personal growth and fulfillment, igniting a passion for your craft and a deeper connection with your audience.   

The Artist Advocate Project   

Introducing the Artist Advocate Project, my legacy initiative designed to equip artists with these essential soft skills, whether making traditional or digital art. The project comprises four core courses, each offering practical and actionable lessons that artists can immediately apply to their careers, empowering them to take control of their artistic journey.    

This pragmatic approach ensures that artists feel confident in enhancing their skills and achieving a balanced and fulfilling career.   

  1. How to Know What You Want: This course helps artists define their goals and create a roadmap for their creative journey. Self-awareness is the foundation of success, allowing artists to map their path to self-fulfillment.   
  1. Conversation Sparkers for Artists: This course teaches practical dialogue techniques to promote artistic vision, connect authentically, and communicate effectively. Knowing how to ask the right questions and guide conversations creates connections that turn into collectors.   
  1. Strategic Connections & Luxury Marketing: This course provides strategies for connecting with key individuals who can support an artist’s work as buyers, champions, or influencers. Understanding who can help and influence your career and how to connect with them is the most efficient use of an artist’s limited time and marketing budget. It includes the exclusive 34-page bonus ebook Art and Affluence: Luxury Marketing to Wealthy Buyers.   
  1. Storytelling for Artists: This course focuses on storytelling’s power to forge deep emotional connections with the audience. Mastering storytelling empowers and supports an artist’s brand, marketing, and communication. It is currently a work in progress.   

By developing these soft skills, artists can amplify traditional marketing skills while fostering mindfulness and promoting abundance thinking. These skills enrich both the artist’s artistic career and personal life. They enhance communication with collectors, build stronger relationships with influencers, and create a more compelling narrative around their art, leading to increased sales and a more fulfilling art career.   

Artist Advocate Project

The Value of Soft Skills   

Soft skills work for artists of every age and skill level. They don’t require any tools, apps, or programs to learn, and they are highly effective in advancing your goals.    

These skills also apply to other aspects of life and business, making them universally beneficial. Whether you’re a seasoned artist or just starting out, knowing what you want, how to ask for it clearly and confidently, and focusing on high-value connections are invaluable to your artistic journey and will continue to serve you well in all your future endeavors.   

Conclusion   

The journey from focusing solely on hard skills to recognizing the crucial importance of soft skills has been transformative for me. It has reshaped my approach to art marketing and led to the creation of the Artist Advocate Project.    

I aim to make quality training and information affordable and easy to consume, helping artists develop hard and soft skills to achieve a balanced and fulfilling career. Remember, it’s both hard and soft skills that truly make a difference in your career and life.   

So, I encourage artists to explore the Artist Advocate Project and leverage these courses to round out their learning. By integrating soft skills with traditional marketing techniques, artists can create meaningful connections, engage affluent buyers, and elevate their art to new heights, all in a manageable and beneficial way.   

Thank you for reading and being part of this journey. I wish you all the best in your life and artistic endeavors. Remember, the Artist Advocate Project has already helped numerous artists like you enhance their art marketing skills and achieve a more balanced and fulfilling career. You could be the next success story!   

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