Visual Artists What Business Are You In?

The Answer Is Not What Visual Artists Think.

Visual Artists Job One Many businesses don’t know how to correctly answer the question of what business they are in, and they pay a hefty price as a result.

Ray Kroc became a billionaire with McDonald’s because he realized the real money was in the real estate leasing business. If he had thought he was in the hamburger or restaurant business, he would have made many errors in judgment on how to build his business empire.

Granted, Kroc also took standardizing fast food preparation to a completely new level, but had that been his primary business model, he would not have enjoyed the same success. By buying real estate and leasing it back to his franchisees, he created a completely separate source of revenue from the franchise fees. The leased land is an asset that gains value as it ages. Due to Kroc’s vision, the McDonald’s Corporation became one of the world’s largest owners of prime commercial real estate.

Do Not Be  Led Astray by Faulty Thinking

As an artist, if you consider yourself in the “art” business, or even the “art publishing” business, you are off on the wrong foot and headed up the wrong path.

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

You are in the business of building, nurturing and replenishing a direct buying collector base and a dealer network. (Dealer being galleries, individuals and businesses that resell art.)

A Growing Direct Buying Collector Base Is Your Ticket to Success

In my new Guerrilla Marketing for Artists: How 100 Collectors Can Bulletproof Your Art Career book, I tout the virtues of visual artists building a solid core of loyal collectors who buy from them directly. A dedicated cadre of fans, friends, and patrons can immunize your career against galleries closing, Facebook flopping, or any of your third-party distribution channels failing.

If you concentrate first on finding and developing loyal direct buyers and overlay those sales with additional orders coming through your dealer network, you give your art career the best chance for sustained profitable success.

Know What Is Your Job One?

Of course, you need to make great art that your fans want to buy. As a visual artist, when it comes to the business side of your career, think of it this way: Job One is to come to work every day with the goal of finding and converting new direct buying collectors and building your distribution channel of art retailers and art dealers.

Here are your four steps to success with collectors and dealers:

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
  1. Find
  2. Build
  3. Nourish
  4. Replenish

Visual Artists Seize Control of Your Art Career

I believe it is vital now for all artists to control as much direct distribution of their work as possible. This means you must realize, accept and act upon the clear understanding that your business is building your own distribution channels of collectors and dealers.

While I advocate building a direct buying relationship with collectors, I firmly believe there is every reason to embrace building a dealer network through galleries because the potential for repeat sales from them remains strong.

Changing Times Create New Opportunities for Visual Artists

The rise of e-commerce, affordable digital marketing, social media and changing consumer-buying habits give artists opportunities to affordably build a direct buying collector base. These same conditions also give smart marketing artists new ways to forge powerful relationships with galleries and dealers.

When you bring your own following and a way to ignite action from them, and show a willingness to share your resources with your marketing partners, you have the opportunity to create dynamic relationships with dealers that artists of previous generations would not recognize.

As visual artists, it is up to each of you to take advantage of what is available to get your art to market. You start with the realization of what business you are in and act accordingly.

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


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


Artist Opportunities, business, Marketing, visual artist, Visual Artists Job

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  1. HHMMM, What Business Are You IN ?
    I am never disappointed with the gems embedded in your finely thought over fine blogs.
    “What business are you in ?” Indeed, a Profound question.

    Sometimes a humorous question as well.

    It reminds me of an “old school” comment oft heard on the street, perhaps about a politician. When a person rambles on with a hit or miss underlying hypothesis, they themselves became confused.
    “This person does not know what he or she is selling”
    I loved the analogy with the famous hamburger franchise.
    Fantastic work Barney,
    I am convinced that your book – “Guerilla Marketing for Artists” is the precisely placed scaffolding for the “skyscraper” artists of the art world in the 21st Century !
    Thank you
    b u d

      1. Dear Barney,
        I call em like I see em.
        The book “Guerrilla Marketing for Artists” is remarkably well researched and factual.
        The book and blogs are literally “up to the minute” with critical information about how marketing art in the 21st century is done.
        Marketing one’s artwork is not only a whole different ballgame now, it’s not even the same ball-park.
        Additionally, both the book “Guerrilla Marketing for Artists”and the blogs touch on some of the psychological “potholes” if you will, that hinder the process on the road to a successful career in the visual arts.
        For example, “The painting that one can never finish”, Could it be fear of success ?
        When should one pull the brush away from the painting ?
        In terms of references, there are many many useful references throughout the book. “Guerrilla Marketing for Artists” often points to very useful writings which support and further enhance the process of developing one’s career.
        Example: Wayne Dyer’s “The Power of Intention”
        “You’ll see it when you believe it “- a quote from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer.
        That was only one example of many many useful references throughout the book “Guerrilla Marketing for Artists”
        Thanks Barney !
        b u d
        P.S. Yours truly was filmed sitting in the audience at the taping of “The Power of Intention”, filmed in Boston MA. in 2004.

        From Wayne Dyer’s broadcast – *The seven faces of intention: (1) creativity, (2) kindness; (3) love, (4) beauty, (5) expansiveness, (6) abundance, and (7) receptivity
        *(Above quote from Dr. W.D.Dyer’s “Power of Intention” broadcast ©Wayne Dyer in cooperation with PBS 2004).

  2. Thank you Barney Davey for your eye-opening and important article on the business of selling art this morning. My background is in graphic design. I am working on, developing, some artwork based on a particular theme, that I expect will be marketable, and am working completely digitally, using Corel Painter. Would be interested in hearing anything that comes across your path that relates to the potential development of markets for “digital painting!” I also spend a good bit of time myself doing online market research, and am very interested in marketing, to start, into the interior design market. Thanks again for your work. Also I like yellow but I think tone back the background even a bit more (a bit less yellow :). Saludos- KW

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