Give a Gift to Your Art Career

Your Art Career Deserves the Best!

It’s the time of year for giving gifts. You’ve probably checked off a list with lots of friends, family, co-workers, and more. But, did you save a little something for you and your art career? I have a great gift suggestion for you from you.

I know. Your career is an inanimate thing and, as such, will never complain if you overlook it in the gift department. So, you might think it’s a silly notion to think about giving a gift to your art career. But, when you think about it, how much does your vocation give to you?

Lots of us love our smartphones and tablets. Just go to any restaurant or public gathering place and watch people be alone together while they interact with that inanimate device. We can have an attachment to inorganic objects. I think it’s time to give a little love to your profession.

Now, back to your career.

A career is not a lifeless thing. I see it as the dynamic overarching intersection of creative talent, ambition, smart marketing, and activity. When you get all those plates spinning, success is at hand.

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You can make a career without a tablet or smartphone, but you’re dead in the water without working to improve your art career.

Things you can do to help your art career:

  • Brush up (pun intended) on your art skills… who doesn’t want to do that?
  • Learn some new marketing skills… copywriting, Facebook advertising and blogging come right to mind
  • Read some books… artist bios, marketing ninja ideas, excellent fiction or great poetry… anything to jolt your brain in a new direction
  • Take consistent action to complete achievable goals based on a realistic assessment of your resources and ability to get things done
  • Stop messing around. Drop all business activity not helping you make more sales
  • Start doing everything you can to find and connect with your best prospective buyers

Do you know how you sell your art?

I’m always surprised to find artists who aren’t keeping track of how they make sales. The only way you can get better and make more sales is if you know your stats.

  • Who’s buying your art? How old? Where from? What other interests? What income strata? Married? Gay? Single?
  • How did they find you?
  • Are they first-time buyers or repeat buyers?
  • What are you spending money and time on with great results?
  • What are you spending money and time on with poor results?

You need much more information about your career and sales than those things. But, if you can answer those questions and start making plans and taking actions based on them, you’re ahead of your competition. And, if you keep digging, testing, and refining, you will lead yourself to more and better buyers. The result is you will enjoy more sales and a healthier business in 2017 and beyond!

Grow your list. Now, that is a great gift to give your vocation!

I’m not going to stop saying this because it’s the truth, plain and simple!

Things have changed. They continue to change. People still buy art. They never stopped buying art. How they buy art is changing. Change means opportunity for those ready to embrace it. It’s a great time to be an artist!

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What’s different now is people are buying all kinds of luxury items online… cars, diamonds, furs, fine art, jewelry, houses, and more. Moreover, consumers like to buy from the source. Especially if what they are buying is an artisan product.

Are you aware of this phenomenon? It’s real. Are you doing something to get with it? It’s never too late. Just get started.

It was a career killer move not too long ago

Competing with galleries used to be a bad idea… it was career suicide for many artists. Back then, there were more galleries. And they had more clout. But, even in the heyday, there were never enough to go around. Now, smart gallery owners are aware that artists with a list and loyal following are precious and add value to a relationship.

That’s right. If you have a responsive mailing list and want to work with a gallery to co-market your art, the smart owners are going to give you more attention than someone who cannot help with the marketing. It’s not 100% that way, but it’s moving that way fast and is not reversing… now or ever.

And, no one can take your list from you. No one can come between you and personal relationships with buyers. That’s power!

Free Art Business Checklist
Get your free Goalkeepers Club checklist. All help. No pitch.

You don’t need galleries… or anyone or any other platform either

You can find buyers, connect with them, and make sales to them. It’s a numbers game. At any given time, maybe between 2-5% of 100 prospects have some need to buy. This means you need a more extensive list than you have now. You need to nurture that list with affection and respect. You need to message your list far more than you do now.

Years ago, the Professional Picture Framers Association did a survey and found 7% of the US population had ever purchased a custom frame. I’m using my trusty SWAG Factor (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) to deduce that about the same 7% buy original art. Indeed, it’s not more.

There are nearly 125 million households in the US. And, 7% of that number gives 8.75 million potential original art buyer households (Original art is mostly a joint decision.) In that prospect pool, there are nearly 4 million households with an annual income of $200,000 or more.

Those numbers can sound daunting. Don’t let them. You are not selling numbers; you are selling to people who know you. That’s the key! Get your tiny little slice of those prospects with disposable income. They are out there waiting for you to FIND THEM.

You only need a small band of loyal patrons to fuel your sales and bulletproof your career

Your tribe, your fans, your patrons, your benefactors are in those numbers. It’s your job to find them and get to know them. If you develop 100 – 200 repeat collectors, they can purchase as much as half or two-thirds of all the originals you make.

What should you do now?

  • Learn who is your ideal buyer down to what kind of toothpaste they use… sounds extreme, but the more you know about who buys your work, the less time, money, and energy you spend chasing tempting, but empty targets with disappointing results
  • Start working on getting connected to your prospects. You may not get in an exclusive country club, but you are welcome at the Boys and Girls Club. These are real people, and they are accessible if you take the time to learn a few things about them
  • Connect with them through social media, online, offline, through referrals, through volunteering, networking, or whatever works
  • Create a compelling offer to get them on your list. This step is critical. The more creative your offer, the better your results
  • Brainstorm ideas for your offer to the point of ridiculousness then sift for the best ones. Then survey to find out which offer works best
  • Communicate intelligently and regularly. I can bet you are not sending enough emails to your list. That is a H-U-G-E mistake. If you bother someone off your list, so what? The likelihood that a person would ever buy from you is so tiny it’s not worth the worry. Keep in mind; you’re running a business not a “Let’s just be friends” club
  • Keep up the lather, rinse, and repeat the process until your marketing is squeaky clean and shiny. It is the steady drip of consistent, pertinent messaging that makes sales.

Quit getting in your way

If you are not selling art at the rate you want, it’s up to you to fix it. A big problem for many artists is head trash. Clear out all cynicism about business. Weed out any weird theories or personal feelings you have about marketing. These things are real and are real deterrents to your success.

You must recognize and do something about whatever is in your head that is hurting your business. Accept you are in business to make money and how you make money is to sell your work. Understand you are blessed to have the talent to make things out of your imagination that others want to buy.

Don’t let the warm and fuzzy side of your creativity dull the sharp business mindset you need to succeed. Take action. Put fears and concerns aside. Don’t let perfection masquerade procrastination. Don’t be afraid of failure. The only acceptable failure is when trying because you can learn and rebound from trying. You gain nothing by doing nothing.

The big secret

If you think everything I just told you is hard. You’re right. If you believe that there are some other more accessible ways to make your business thrive, you’re wrong.

So the big secret is this… selling to strangers sucks!

Okay, I admit, that’s no secret at all. You have a choice. Sell to strangers or sell to those who know you. It’s a no brainer.

All that you have learned about what to do in this post is aimed at getting you to realize you have an enormous opportunity to seize control of your career. To build a fantastic, profitable, prosperous business based around the art you make. But, to get there, you have to decide, to act, and to throw off emotions and notions that are holding you back.

Sell to those who know you

These suggestions you read here are the keys to getting your life, your business, and your career on a steady upward trajectory. When you eliminate or drastically cut back on galleries, social media, agents, reps, licensors, and anyone else who wants to dip into your revenue stream, you win… big time. And, there is no reason for it to stop… ever. The more ground you gain, the stronger you become. The less reliant you are on anything but your ability to make great art and sell it to your tribe.

The answer to “How to Boost Your Career with a Special Little Gift” is this…


Learn how to start doing the things you read about here. There is no rocket science. It requires research, dedication, and probably putting yourself in uncomfortable situations now and then. But think about it… how painful is it to make art and not make sales?

Get on with a checkup from the neck up, clear the head trash, and start making moves to take your career higher. You can do it! Make 2020 the year you changed your career for the good forever!


Free Art Business Checklist
Get your free checklist. All help. No pitch.


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  1. This is good stuff, as always. The only thing I would say is that in my case I don’t have an art “career”. I think of it as a business. A micro-business if you like, but a business. A career comes with a salary, has a beginning, and an end and usually clear steps which you make your way up. It makes me think of employment and for those of us who still have days jobs, that’s exactly what a career is. It includes resumes and lists of awards, that mostly no one really cares about except the artists perhaps. Careers also often get dictated by someone else, especially if you are one of the rare folk employed in the creative services. Personally as artists I think we don’t have careers, we build (or should build) creative enterprises. Those creative enterprises demand that we know how to find customers, market and promote ourselves, using the tools we have at our disposal. With technology and a strategy we can now reach our audiences directly, ourselves, with no middle person. Maybe most still think in terms of careers, however I think we should consider thinking in terms of growing creative micro-businesses and enterprises, ready to do business with clients worldwide.
    Thanks Barney for all your contributions to growing art marketing capabilities.
    Season’s Greetings and may we all have a very prosperous 2017.

  2. Hi Barney,
    Not only will people always buy art, but MORE PEOPLE THAN EVER are buying art – but it isn’t on their walls – it’s on their bodies! Look around. Do you see anyone under thirty who doesn’t have a tattoo? Tattoo artists charge on average $125 – $150 an hour. Full and half sleeve tattoos (Wrist to shoulder or wrist to elbow) cost $1,500 to $2,500. Google “average cost of tattoos” and you’ll will be amazed at what you see.
    There are some very talented tattoo artists doing original designs. I have a grand-daughter with a striking full sleeve and another with a half-sleeve.
    I never expected them to become “art collectors” in that way. In this case, “collecting” worked both ways. One grand-daughter “collected” the tattoo artist and he’s now part of the family.
    As artists, perhaps we should be looking at ways to convert that love of art and design to buyers for the particular kind of art we create. People who buy tattoos often say “my art is forever,” but is it really? The art we create can not just last a lifetime, it can be passed on to future generations. Isn’t that a selling point we should be making to potential buyers. A tattoo can never increase in value. It may even have a large cost beyond the original investment if the buyer tires of the design and must have it removed. Check out “cost to remove a tattoo.” Our kind of art can, and sometimes does, increase in value as our “collector base” grows and builds our “brand” – our “name value.”
    This new year, artists, think “outside the box” and learn new ways to market what you create. Barney will help you!

  3. Really swell read…we need to think our sales more than do the sales, that’s why we are artists..inanimate, inorganic…all this means tangible creativity is the means to an end…({[]})!!!!!

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