The Visual Artist’s Advantage Is Powerful

Discover How to Use Your Potent Advantage as a Visual Artist

As a visual artist, you have advantages over marketers in the other arts and many small businesses. Read on to learn about the visual artist’s advantage. I trust embracing these thoughts will help to give added positive motivation as you face the New Year.

If you like are many people, you use this time to reflect on your plans for next year. Creating a plan to improve and build on your past year is crucial to your future success.

While the rollover to the New Year provides the traditional impetus to do it now, it’s never too late to start planning. Besides, for successful entrepreneurs, making plans and executing around them is an ongoing activity.

What Is the Visual Artist’s Powerful Advantage?

Simply, it is the number of collectors you need to enjoy success is relatively small in comparison to other small business arts endeavors. Every business needs customers. Without them, you don’t have a business.

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

Artists without customers don’t have an art business; they have a hobby. ~ Barney Davey

There is no shame if you currently do not have buyers and collectors. It would only be a shame if you want to make a career from your art, but you are not working towards building lasting relationships with collectors who will love and buy your work for years to come.

every artist emerson

The 100 Collector Theory.

Depending on your plans, and where you are in your career and your life, you only need as few as 100 collectors for success.

A believable rule of thumb is on average that a visual artist will make 1,000 originals in a lifetime, which works out to 33 per year for 30 years. While some prolific artists may triple that figure annually, others may not come close to 33 works in a year’s time. Of course, your mileage will vary.

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

100 Collectors — a small, but mighty, number.

Those 100 collectors can easily purchase a third or more of your entire body of work. Equally important is that among them you are nearly certain to find some who can positively and powerfully be instrumental in your career in ways you would not have imagined.

In last week’s What Is the Best Way for Artists to Get Found Online? post,  I differentiated art buyers and collectors this way:

Art buyers are not the same as art collectors.

There are art buyers, which I think are the ones doing most of the buying online. They differ from art collectors in that they typically are filling a current need, usually for a design scheme. They don’t think of their online art purchase as “collecting art.” They don’t have plans to buy more art unless some other decorating need arises. Art collectors, on the other hand, seek art and artists to engage, support and communicate with them. I believe you may encounter collectors online, but you will not get impulse sales from them.

When you look at authors, musicians, actors, playwrights and so forth, you realize each of them requires thousands upon thousands of devoted fans to make a successful career. For example, an author with only 100 fans cannot come close to making a living on sales to them.

Want to learn how to sell locally and to people who know you? Join the How to Find Art Buyers Workshop.

Your big advantage is the leverage your smaller number of buyers required gives you.

As a visual artist, you are competing for discretionary income dollars against the other arts and buyers’ interests. Since you use the same traditional and online marketing methods and tools to find and develop your collectors as, for instance, an author does in gaining book readers, you can make more from your marketing dollars and time.

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

This means what you do with your website, blog, social media, and other marketing plans will give you much greater leverage against the cost of using those tools than businesses that require a larger customer base to succeed.

Marketing time and tools make for a level playing field.

Other arts and small businesses have about the same amount of time to put into their marketing as you do. To be fair, we’ll agree that it is an easier sell to promote a $20 book or a $14 CD than a piece of art priced in the thousands. Still, when it comes down to numbers, other arts need to spend greater amounts of time and money to entice more buyers than you do as a visual artist.

Where things really get advantageous for you is you can devote time to cultivate one-on-one relationships with your collectors with the goal of keeping them for a lifetime. Authors or musicians cannot afford such a luxury for their marketing because the lifetime value of their customers does not allow it.

Want to learn how to sell locally and to people who know you? Join the How to Find Art Buyers Workshop.

Put gaining collectors on the top of your list.

If you are using this end-of-year time to reflect on last year and making a plan for next, I encourage you to think about how to use your advantage to grow your art business. Make it a top priority to pull collectors into your orb of influence in the coming year. Start by working on building a relationship and let the sale of your art come as a result.

Collectors are more than buyers. They are buffers.

A strong advantage of a collector base is how it helps immunize you against the downfall of your distribution channels, For instance; Facebook can fade from favor, or it can ban you for seemingly unjustified reasons. Regardless, you will have no way to do anything about it when things like this inevitably happen.

The nature of galleries is many come and go. Sure, there are the good ones, and I believe you should work to develop profitable relationships with them. You just don’t want all your eggs in the social media or gallery basket because neither gives you control over anything. You always have to play by their rules.

A growing collector base puts you in control.

When you build lasting relationships with art buyers and collectors, and growing a list of responsive email subscribers, you have complete control. You set the rules, and you do your branding. Your marketing message is precisely what you want it to be. You send your messages and market your work on the timeline that is best for you. Because you steadily work at building that base of buyers and subscribers, you can afford to lose a few along the way without wrecking your career.

Changing consumer buying habits is also to your advantage.

The final advantage is the change in the way art collectors buy art. Because of the transparency and ubiquity of information these days, and the evolving habits of buyers, finding collectors who are ready and willing to buy directly from you is possible. Not that long ago, collectors mostly avoided dealing direct with artists, and competing head on with galleries by marketing work to collectors was a path career suicide.

Those artists who chose to market direct to buyers found it was a very expensive way to get art sold. Whereas galleries and dealers could spread the cost of marketing their entire roster of artists, the single artist bore all the costs for just one line of work.

Now, with the advent of email marketing, websites, blogs, social media and more, you have a powerful, affordable and effective array of tools at your disposal.

You can’t expect collectors to find you. You need to hunt them.

When you go customer hunting for your collectors, you can carefully and selectively choose them. Nonetheless, you will bask in the knowledge your cost of customer acquisition does not differ much from a musician or author seeking thousands of fans and buyers. It will take some research to determine how to go about finding your top collector prospects and what tools are best suited for your career, but you can do it.


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


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  1. Barney, I am interested in your workshop that begins Jan. 8th. My hours are however a poor match for the listed times, convenient as you’ve made them. Is it possible to do the whole workshop through recordings on our own time–would we miss anything by doing that?

    1. Hi Tanya, Thank you for your question, it is a good one. All the sessions will be recorded. You will have lifetime 24 hour access to them. You will be able to interact with other participants in the private Facebook group any time it is convenient to you. I will make myself available to you for your half hour private consultation on a time that works with your schedule. I think you will miss very little by watching the recorded presentations. It is absorbing the materials and acting on them that will give you the return on partcipating. You can ask follow up questions in the private Facebook group. I hope this clarifies your question and that you will join us. Happy New Year!

  2. The live webinar did not come through where I am located in the UK. Will I be able to listen to the recorded version at a later date?

    1. Sorry you have had a problem. It is actually a recorded webinar that you can watch when you want. Please go back to this link: and register again. (Your email address won’t be duplicated.) On the right side, make sure the drop down is set to “Instant Access / Today” You will see a link on the left under the promo video. You can copy and paste it into a browser address bar to watch immediately, or at a later time. If the webinar is not displaying, you probably have a security setting on your browser, or on your computer firewall that is not allowing you to view it. Check for those things, or try a different browser or computer. Many thanks for your interest in the webinar. All the best, Barney

  3. Dear Dick, my good friend and co-author. You are so right about interior designers. For many artists, they make excellent prospects. They buy more frequently than nearly all collectors and pay on the spot. You don’t share with a gallery or other middleman. Thanks for your spot on observations!

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