By Carolyn Edlund, Guest Blogger - Not long ago I had a conversation with a ceramic artist who had a terrific body of work that was highly appealing and saleable. She was in a good place, increasing sales and expanding into a new marketplace.
During our talk, she revealed something very interesting. As her creative business grew, certain things about her business shrunk. In other words, she was deliberately cultivating “less” in her plan.
The artist had reduced her studio time by using techniques that simplified her production – so she was taking less time on each piece she made. She had focused her designs and decreased the variety of materials she used – so she had less inventory of supplies.
But she was also crystal clear about what she wanted to achieve, so she pursued her goals with less distraction. And this is where she attributed most of her success.
Distraction is something we all understand – who hasn’t lost an hour surfing on the internet? But the type of distractions this artist was eliminating from her life were major ones that could actually derail her whole business. And they can derail yours, too.
The artist explained that she had a vision and goals for her business that kept her centered, so she knew where she was going. She was firm on what she wanted to do, and what she wasn’t willing to do.
Do you have that sense of conviction in your own art business, or do you struggle with distractions? Three of the most common are:
Taking on too many projects at once. You have plans – lots of them. Perhaps you want to pursue gallery representation but would also like to license your work. Or you want to try several new directions with your art. But too many plans can stall out your business because every time you add something else to your plate means that everything on it goes more slowly, or even dies on the vine. Rather than let that happen, take a look to see which projects you can take off your list so that you can focus on what is most important.
People pleasing. This can be defined as “wanting to make everyone around you happy by doing whatever is asked of you.” Does that sound familiar? This can seriously take you off task because it becomes all about them, not about your own goals. It requires a bit of selfishness to say “No” to every request that comes your way, but building your art business means that you must place yourself and your goals as a high priority. It can take practice to turn other people down, especially when this goes against your usual behavior, but it’s empowering, and will eventually teach others that you won’t be easily manipulated.
Following the money rather than your passion. It’s not uncommon for artists to take on projects or jobs for the paycheck, whether they are in alignment with their goals or not. But if you constantly do this, you will find that you spend all your time working for someone else’s business rather than your own.
You might need a day job, and if so, keep it. But you can be seriously derailed when someone knows you are an artist and offers you an unrelated paying project. Here’s where it takes self-discipline to refuse those offers even if they are paid and double down on the work you need to accomplish for your own art business. Forget teaching that summer class in painting if what you really need to do is paint in your own studio. Your time is worth money, so pay yourself first by using your time to work toward building your own dream business.
Carolyn Edlund is an art business blogger, consultant, speaker and the founder of the Artsy Shark Gallery. www.ArtsySharkGallery.com
By Carolyn Edlund, Guest Blogger - Galleries can be of great assistance to artists. They are your representatives, who display, market and sell your work to collectors. They have contacts and existing customers to whom they can recommend your art. And, they may provide feedback and guidance to help you present a portfolio of artwork that will sell to their audience.
This type of service saves you a lot of time and effort. Your galleries earn their commission by providing a venue, hanging your work, dealing with customers and closing sales. But once you contract to work with a gallery, do you merely hand over your artwork and wait for checks? Hardly. There is more to do because your galleries will get the best results when you act as a good partner to them.
Relationships are a two-way street. You as the artist can enhance your importance to a gallery, and provide assistance to them by being pro-active. Take these actions to help enable your galleries to sell more of your work:
Refer Clients to Them - Let the public know that the gallery represents you, and recommend that they visit the gallery to view and purchase your art. Include the name of your gallery when you post on social media, in your email newsletters, and on your blog. Mention your galleries prominently on your art website, and include their address and phone number. Link to their website - preferably the page where your art is shown.
Make an Appearance - Showing up at openings where your work is being displayed is a must. But appearances can go beyond that. Some galleries have a “meet the artist” series where you may join visitors for coffee and conversation. Others may invite artists to give a talk about their technique or another aspect of their work. Consider having a conversation with your galleries on ways that you can participate in person. The face-to-face connection is powerful. Many collectors love to tell others that they have met the artist in person and have come to know them.
Provide Great Photos - Do you have excellent photos of your artwork, or photos of yourself working in the studio? Make the gallery staff aware that you will be happy to provide these. Compelling images of your art may be used by the gallery on promotional postcards, in ads or even in magazine articles. When you assist your gallery in their marketing efforts, both of you win.
Tell Your Story - The more information the gallery staff has about you, the more they can tell their collectors about your inspiration, technique, and background. Is your work based on an amazing concept? How does it relate emotionally to collectors? Have a concise but interesting story written down for use by gallery staff when making the sale.
Share Selling Points - Galleries need lots of information to sell your work, and you should provide this without being asked. What type of materials are you using? Is this an heirloom which will last for hundreds of years? Is there any special care that your work needs? Can it be cleaned easily? Are there special installation instructions? Will it fade in sunlight? Is it tarnish resistant? Archival? Impervious to moisture? Consider carefully what buyers need to know in order to commit to making the purchase, and make a list of selling points. Include this when shipping or delivering your art to the gallery, so they can answer questions knowledgeably and share the benefits of owning your art.
Add Extra Value - Sometimes, small things can increase the perceived value of your work. An original signature on your art is important, of course. A Certificate of Authenticity also acts to convey that the work is from the hand of the artist. Small touches such as an artist’s chop on a piece of two-dimensional art, or words incised on the bottom of a handmade ceramic pot can add value as well.
Plan how you can build solid relationships with your current galleries. Are you providing information, resources, and service to them that will help both of you succeed? Each step you take to build that win/win relationship will pay off for your art business.
This article post is a summary of one of the courses which will be presented at the Art Business Workshop. This workshop is being conducted by The Arts Business Institute. This workshop event is co-sponsored by Skidmore College Entrepreneurial Artist Initiative & Saratoga Arts. The Art Business Workshop will be held on April 9th and 10th, 2016. This event will be held at the Saratoga Arts at the Arts Center, 320 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, New York 12866. For further information on this event and an outline of all of the courses http://www.comsbusinessinstitute.org/saratoga-springs-new-york.
Carolyn Edlund is the founder of ArtsyShark.com and the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute. She will be speaking about Gallery Relationships and other art business topics at the upcoming “Arts Business Workshop for the Entrepreneurial Artist” taking place at Saratoga Arts in Saratoga Springs, New York on April 9-10, 2016. This event is co-sponsored by Skidmore College. Students and alumni of Skidmore will be admitted to the workshop at no charge, by contacting Elizabeth Dubben at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How much of a financial investment are you making in your art business?
By Carolyn Edlund, Guest Blogger - There are so many free ways to share your art today, especially online. That’s great. You shouldn’t have to break the bank to get exposure for your artwork – but there are places where money is well spent:
Your Art Website. This is the most important place to invest your hard-earned money, in my opinion. There are many ways to build a website, to suit any number of budgets. Make your web presence a priority and spend as much as you can afford to make the best impression.
An outdated or barely functional website says you don’t really care that much, or perhaps you aren’t in business any longer. This turns off website visitors, rather than intrigue them.
Some website providers like Wix.com offer low-cost options, but it involves advertising. If your art website has these words scrolling across the bottom - “This site was created using Wix.com. Create your own for FREE” – then I strongly advise you to spend the extra $5.00 per month (literally!) and get that ad taken off your site. Every time I see one of these, I cringe. It screams “amateur” and looks like you're not serious.
Your Photographs. As a visual artist, you know how important it is to present incredible work with impact. Lousy photos are just not acceptable. Don’t ever scrimp on photography; it will get your work ignored and rejected. If you don’t take your work seriously enough to show it to its best advantage, why should jurors, galleries or collectors assign a value to it? You work hard in the studio. Honor your art by giving it an incredible presentation through professional photographs. Definitely, money well spent.
Your Shows. Doing fairs and festivals? If you are limiting yourself to the cheapest booth fees, or even free events, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Apply to the very best shows you can. Investing in fewer high-quality events that match you with the right audience is a far better bargain in the end that wasting your time and energy in the wrong venue, chosen for cost alone.
Your Marketing Materials. Are you looking to impress potential customers with your brand? Use quality images and content to share your art. Whether you are spending on postcards, elegant invitations, or even advertising, put your best foot forward. This is often the first contact you will have. Make it count by wowing your audience, and encouraging them to want to see more.
Have you noticed that the list in this article includes places where you interact with potential customers or people who may have the power and influence to give you publicity or help your business? That is where professionalism is key. It can make all the difference in your results.
Where Can You Save Some Money? If you don’t have money to spend on services that automatically schedule social media posts, then do it yourself. Persistent and consistent outreach through social media drives website traffic and can help build your list, and you can put in some “sweat equity” here.
If you can’t afford a virtual assistant, then learn strategies to approach prospects, do follow-ups, or conduct marketing activities yourself. Learning how to do this effectively will serve you well, and keep you on top of the best methods to get exposure. Research, read free blog posts and put those ideas into action.
If you don’t have the budget for a paid Email Service Provider, use one with a free level such as Mail Chimp or Vertical Response. You will still have professionally-looking email campaigns going out to the list you have built of customers and others who are interested in what you make.
Exhibiting your work or having an open studio? There is no reason that you can’t use upcycled materials creatively to make displays or signage. Check out these cheapskate ideas to get lots of bang for your buck. (www.comsbusinessinstitute.org/blog/20-cheapskate-trade-show-booth-ideas/ )
Every creative business person has different needs. Identify those areas where you must spend money to create the best impression and the most impact. And invest your money there with confidence.
Carolyn Edlund is an art business consultant and the founder of Artsy Shark, which features and promotes artists. Carolyn is also the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute, frequently speaking at artist workshops throughout the U.S. http://www.comsbusinessinstitute.org.
Her background includes owning a production studio for over 20 years and representing art publishers in the retail market. Carolyn’s website is http://www.ArtsyShark.com. Also, don’t miss …. “Artsy Shark’s Success Guide to Email Marketing for Artists’ http://bit.ly/EmailCourse.