#1. Professional Presentation
The most important thing you can do as a professional artist is to present yourself well. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to show that you are serious. What's great about being an artist is that "professional" takes on a different meaning. It's not boring or corporate. You can be colorful and creative while still being respected for the true value you offer. That's what being professional is all about. You've invested time in learning skills and technique that make you unique. If you also invest time in establishing an online presence and putting together a portfolio, you are far more likely to find success in this highly competitive market. Any time you do an event, you should have signage and business cards. When you sell your work, make sure your confident in your pricing. It's the little things as much as the big ones that will help you stand apart from the hobby artist.
We've talked before about how important it is to have an online presence in order to get exposure. You no longer have to rely on only making sales to people you meet. As long as you present your work online or in a digital, shareable format, you can reach a much wider audience. With that said, letting your portfolio do all of the talking means that you need a really good batch of work that represents you well. It's best if you pick pieces that are cohesive in style and arrange them in an order that flows. Be careful not to overstuff with ok work when you should be focusing on only the best. A portfolio should not be a catalog. Your audience is not necessarily looking for the one piece they want to buy. They are trying to get a feel for you are a professional, and they you'll talk about the piece or pieces they want. If you are skilled in a variety of different media or subjects, you may want to have more than one portfolio. Choose which one you show based on who’s attention you're looking to catch.
#3. Niche Markets
No matter what you do, art or otherwise, you can't be everything to everyone. You are more likely to sell if you focus on specific people. You've heard the cliché "big fish in a small pond," and that's what it means to find a niche market. Is there a group out there that's being underserved? Can you meet their need in a way that other artists can't? Think about your subject matter or perhaps the way your work can be used. While I'm not saying you should change your whole approach to appeal to buyers, but if you can find the audience for what you're already passionate about, you have a greater chance of finding fulfillment while also making a living.
#4. Pricing Your Artwork
On the note of making a living, you have to sell work to pay the bills, buy more supplies, invest in marketing and all of the other things that make a business possible. How you price your work can make all the difference in whether or not this can a full time gig. There is no exact science to pricing; you have to find the happy medium between the value of the piece and what the market will bear. If you're lucky, those two meet, but sometimes you have to start lower and work your way up. As you gain more experience and exposure, your prices will benefit. The key thing is that you are consistent in how you price similar pieces and for different audiences.
#5. Email Marketing
Believe it or not, email marketing is still one of the best online channels for connecting with customers. You can tell them about new work, upcoming shows, sales, business updates and more. You should take every opportunity to collect email addresses from current and past customers, other artists, potential buyers, collaborators and anyone else who seems interested. Then plan to send out a blast once a month or so to keep connected. It usually takes multiple touches to get someone to remember you. Email is a great way to check in. I recommend creating a template so you know exactly what content to put together. It'll be much easier on you and your readers will know what to expect.
#6. Social Media
I won't spend too long on Social Media because you already know how much I love keeping connected via Facebook, Instagram and more. One interesting insight that was shared at this event was the added value of LinkedIn. Many of you may think of this channels as just for doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. Oh wait, you're an entrepreneur too if you're in the art business. LinkedIn can be a great place to connect with a B2B audience. If you want to sell work to interior decorators for example, who will then share your work with home buyers, you can find them on LinkedIn. First step is setting up a profile so you can show that you are a professional. Then you can start researching connections and growing your business.
#7. Making Agreements
When you start finding opportunities and getting your work out there, make sure you are clear on the business relationship. Most art events will spell out the details for you. Galleries and agents should have contracts. Talk through the terms so you are clear on what you're agreeing to. That way there are no surprises. The better the relationship, the more likely you are to find success together for many years and shows to come.
Thanks again Art Business Institute, Creative Arts Alliance, Carolyn Edlund, Wendy Rosen and all of the wonderful fellow attendees! Please have this event again next year! There's so much more we can learn from you, and Austin is such a great market for artists!