by Carolyn Edlund
In an evolved art marketplace, artists have more opportunities but are responsible for their own visibility.
Back in the day, artists mailed slides of their work and handwritten applications to galleries, curators, show managers, judge, and other gatekeepers hoping to be granted access to the marketplace. The internet tore down those barriers and threw the gates wide open. Their keepers have become increasingly irrelevant in an online world where permission is no longer needed.
Is universal access to the online marketplace a good thing? Yes. It encourages free enterprise. And it puts you as the artist in control of your own business, able to reach customers directly and at will.
But it presents challenges as well. Artists today face an intensely crowded marketplace with lots of noise and distraction. It’s hard to be found in a sea of competition, trying to appeal to customers with ever-decreasing attention spans.
If you feel like surrendering or struggle to make sense of the latest online marketing trend or social media platform, you probably need to simplify your approach and make a plan. Any artist who desires exposure and the ability to present their work to an audience can reach their goals. Get started with some basic concepts and structure your business for success:
Create an appealing, functional artist website
Show your portfolio at it’s best with professional presentation. This includes excellent photos of your artwork, complete descriptions and prices. Your platform should have a secure shopping cart and information on how to buy. The site menu should be concise but complete, leading the site visitor from learning about you to the ability to make a purchase.
Most artist websites are mediocre and not very effective. Make it your goal to build a gorgeous site with big visual impact and a terrific user experience, and you will clearly stand out from the rest of the noise online. For more details on creating it, see our art website checklist.
Present a cohesive look and message
What is your artwork about? What inspires you? Why should people care about and own what you make? Your brand concept and message should be clear and consistent. And your portfolio should show a distinctive signature style. Together, these help you stand out and make your work memorable to others. It takes time to cultivate collectors; being remembered is a key element in the customer journey. As potential customers come to know and remember you, they will follow to learn more and eventually buy.
Pursue a hybrid business model
Online sales are great, but face to face is the best way to sell art. Use both methods in tandem to maximize sales. Your website can act as an ancillary channel to support your live sales efforts. It works not only as a follow up to in-person exposure, but you can list events and exhibitions on your site as an invitation for site visitors to meet you. Combine both methods by creating videos and livestreaming them online to make real-time art sales.
Quite often, people will search for you online when they see your work at a fair, festival or other sales event. Encourage that connection by capturing email addresses in your booth (and on your website). Build an email list that includes existing customers and interested prospects. Then stay in touch via email which is one of the most effective marketing techniques you can use.
Engage with community
There are many ways to grow a network of connections in the art world. Social platforms work well for this purpose. LinkedIn is an excellent place to get connected with art professionals, and also hosts discussion groups. Start by meeting other artists, who can become allies, provide support and feedback, and share opportunities with you. Join organizations, art salons and attend meetups to know others and to become known. The wider your network, the greater your chance for ultimate success.
What is the best thing you can do to gain traction and help your creative business rise above the crowd? Persist. Understand that it takes time (often a long time) to get established and become known as an artist. When you make a commitment and refuse to give up, you grant yourself enough space to flourish.
Expect to face a lot of rejection. As you experience it, let it go, then stay the course. Believe in what you are doing and make it a regular practice to create and share your art with the world. Persistence, more than any other factor, gives you an advantage over most creatives in the marketplace.