How to Sell Art – The Basics

How to Sell Art – The Basics

It’s doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, someone wants to know how to sell art.

For most of us, making art is fun, even when it challenges us. But marketing? Not so much.

I know all about that! Art doesn’t sell itself, after all (sad to say.)

How to Sell Art – Marketing Tips

A lot can be said (and is said) about selling art. There’s so much detailed information available that it’s downright confusing. Especially when some of it seems contradictory.

When it comes to certain topics, simple is better. Marketing of any kind is one of those topics. So is the specific topic of selling art. So lets talk about a few basic—and simple—tips to get you started.

In our previous discussion on marketing, I listed some marketing myths. Today, I want to replace each on those those myths with a tip.

If I make it, it will sell… if you get it in front of the right people

The first myth was that making art was enough to sell it. Its mere existence meant someone would buy it.

The secret to selling art isn’t making art. Yes you have to make art in order to have something to sell, but the real secret is getting your art in front of the right people.

Who are the right people?

People who like your favorite subjects rendered the way you render them.

People who like art enough to want to spend money on it, and have money to spend on art

All three factors are important. After all, a person who likes what you do, but doesn’t have the money to spend on art is not going to buy your art.

On the other hand, a person who likes what you do and has money to spend, but isn’t interested buying art also is not going to buy your art.

They all work together.

Before you can put that infromation to work for you, you have to identify the people most likely to buy your art. Your target audience. I shared tips for identifying your target audience in a post call Getting Started as a Portrait Artist. Those tips work for all artists.

If I’m not selling, I’m not good enough

The second myth was that if your work isn’t selling, you’re not a good enough artist.

We all can improve as artists. Part of the artistic journey is learning new skills and improving old ones.

But if you’re not selling your work, the reason is probably that you’re not getting it out there. If people don’t know you make art, or don’t know what kind of art you make, how will they buy it?

So if you’re not selling, getting better at marketing is the solution, along with improving your artwork.

Don’t follow trends, set them

Myth #3 was following trends to sell art. This was big for me. Why?

Because I knew from the start that I wanted to paint portraits of horses that looked like the horses I was painting.

The reason this was such valuable knowledge is that I began getting serious about art just before abstract art became the big thing. When I went to school, most of the students were more interested in painting abstract than representational art. Getting a good art education in that situation was an uphill battle, and many’s the time I wondered if I had a future.

Then I made a simple decision.

I’ll paint what I like to paint in a way I like to paint, and will look for people who like my work.

I stopped fretting over what everyone else was doing, and found the market that fit my work.

That’s what you should do, too.

Stop following art trends, and create your own art trend. Even if it’s a very narrow niche market, there will be others who like what you do enough to buy it. All you have to do is find them! (See Point #1)

Yes, you can sometimes make sales by taking advantage of fads and trends, as a commenter on that previous post said. But find a way to fit it into your area of specialty. Trend following can help you if it doesn’t take you away from what you’re best at.

Set aside time to market, then use that time wisely

Have you ever found yourself thinking you can market effectively in just a few minutes a day? If you’ve tried it, has it worked for you?

Finding the people interested enough in your work to buy it means intentionally spending time on marketing. How much? That depends on your daily schedule.

If you’re a full time artist, you may need to start spending 3 or 4 hours a day doing marketing in some form.

If you’re part-time, as I know many of you are, then an evening, or maybe part of a weekend.

What you do depends in large part on the type of art you do and your target audience. It’s really a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say you have to start somewhere and it will take time. Even if it’s just an hour a week.

Part of spending time is being consistent. You need to do more than a spurt of marketing once in a while. It’s far better to spend a small amount of time daily or weekly than to spend a whole day marketing whenever the mood to market strikes.

Set aside funding, then use that funding wisely

The fifth myth was that you can market effectively without spending money.

There are ways to start marketing without spending a lot (or any) money. Social media is pretty much free, after all.

Email is much more effective, and you can start an email mailing list for free with many providers. Several email service providers have free plans up to a certain number of subscribers. MailChimp offers you free service for up to 2000 subscribers. Mailerlite‘s free package is good for up to 1,000 subscribers.

I also use some marketing plugins with this blog that are currently free, but that I’ll one day upgrade.

In each case, the free plans do what I need to do, but the paid versions offer more options. Sometimes those options save a considerable amount of time. When you’re running your own business, time is money, so consider all of your options carefully.

If money is tight, start where you can, but plan for the day when you can pay for marketing. Make the best use of those funds when necessary.

Final Thoughts on Selling Art

I’ve barely scratched the surface on this marketing thing, but I hope I’ve given you hope enough to get started on your own marketing.

Because selling art is not a hopeless proposition. Nor need it be as complicated as it sometimes looks.

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