It's a brand new year and Mercury In Retrograde is right around the corner. I like to start my year knowing exactly when I need to check my tires, back up my computer, and be wary of everything way ahead of time. I created this little calendar and am happy to share it with everyone. It is 5x7 and will look cute popped in a frame, on a bulletin board, or stick it in in your journal or planner.
When you start branching out and your art starts to sell, you will encounter many kinds of clients who like your art and want it for whatever project they are working on. Store buyers, magazine editors, interior designers, art consultants are all examples of people you may deal with during your day. One thing they all have in common is they are trying to please their clients or bosses and whatever YOU have will make their work life better. They will pour on the sugar to get what they want, often while being paid by their employer to do so. As soon as the contract is signed and the art delivered, you will not hear from them again until they want something. Being ghosted by clients is normal. It's nothing to be offended by, but it is frustrating to want information about your designs but never get answers. It's important to keep your perspective in these situations. Know the difference between a client wanting your art and a person wanting to be friends. They are not the same thing. Business transactions are not friendships. Keep in mind that while your work is often your life, their job ends when they go home and negotiating deals with you is just what they do when they are at work.
To help with the frustrations, before you deliver your art, ask all the questions you may not get answers to when they have what they want. Don't fear asking questions because you think that will make them take their business elsewhere. You need to know when to expect payment, how your art will be used, and what to expect. If they can't answer your questions, that is a sign you should not ignore.
Being an artist does not mean making great art every time. Being an artist just means making art. It means expressing yourself. One of the popular social media trends for artists is "doing it for the process." Artists will say they are just exploring or experimenting "the process" in the caption of absolute works of art that are gallery wall ready. If you have done your research and have looked at artists before the dawn of social media, doing it for the process meant learning how to do something and it was rarely a masterpiece. Process rarely means perfection. Practice often leads to closer to perfect. I think process and practice are often confused. Getting your inspiration or ideas down on paper for the sake of your process does not have to be art in itself. Your "process" does not have to be sellable. Think of it in terms of baking. The process is the mixing of the batter, the baking times, the temperature. The process is not the actual cake. The cake is the delicious result of the process.
Imagine if you walked into a new store and the greeter by the door immediately asked you for a list of your friends and their email addresses then followed you on social media and while you looked at the merchandise, the greeter tagged you in a photo of their weekly mailer so that all of your friends could see it. How would you feel about that?
As the lone greeter of your online shop, it is up to you to welcome people, not repel them.
While there are many multi-level marketing companies that seem to encourage associates get sales by any means necessary, I think as independent artists we can learn what NOT to do from them.
1. Be cool. This is the most essential piece of advice. Do not obsessively email stalk your potential customers with invites to your groups/sales/promotions unless they request to be on your mailing list. It is fine to email once in a while when you have something new to offer (like a sale or to introduce new works), but this is what the point of social media is. You should post your promotions on your social media pages. Follow up with commenters who ask questions about where to buy. When I am working personally with a client, when the sale is complete, I email them a nice thank you note with a link to my social media pages and let them know I post new works often and not to hesitate to contact me should they have interest in more artwork.
2. Don't be an unwanted guest. If you have a product to promote, promote it on YOUR page. Posting coupons or ads on someone else's facebook page or tagging them in photos of your ads on instagram violates rule number 1. It also seems really desperate. As mentioned in a previous post, if you feel not enough of your followers are seeing your facebook posts, use the "boost" option. Better to spend $5 on a boosted post than lose customers because you annoyed them.
3. Don't play hard to get. I see a lot of artists suggesting buyers e-mail them for prices and availability on nearly-blank websites and social media profiles. Who has time to email back and forth when other artists have images and prices easily available? Before the internet was a thing, it was more acceptable to use the "buy now, ask me how" approach but it's too late for that. Show your work, list a price, be approachable.
4. Respect privacy. If you want to show commissioned art you are working on in progress, resist the urge to tag your clients. It is great to show in progress shots, but do it without invading anyone's space. If your client is watching your page, let them add a tag to themselves if they want to. By all means repost someone's post that shows your art or product, but let them do the tagging first. My main goal is to make my clients happy, not to promote myself via their decision to hire me.
5. Get to know your clients and buyers. When you interact with people and get to know who likes what, you will be better able to serve them. If you have a client who loves black and white landscape photography, emailing them every week with new additions to your neon colored abstracts could repel them. Emailing them when you have updated your black and white series is more likely to result in a sale.
Put yourself in the buyer position. What works for you as a buyer? Keep that question in your mind when you are promoting your own goods.
Once you start getting into the social media marketing game for your art, you find out very fast that you will not have time to be everywhere or be everything to everyone. In addition to making the art, you have to factor in photographing, editing, uploading, communicating with clients, shipping products, all the business things. It is important to analyze where your buyers are coming to you from- real life or social media and which social media platforms bring the most buyers. I use google analytics to track which social media platform my sales are coming from so I know where to focus my energy. When you are in the thick of running your art business and in the making of art, it is hard to post to multiple accounts all day long. This is where you have to make executive decisions and use your time wisely. Set up sharing in your instagram profile so you can post to twitter, facebook, and your blog all at the same time. Another good app for posting one thing in multiple places is IFTTT. I use it for pretty much everything. At first I felt weird posting the same things everywhere because I thought my friends and followers would get bored or sick of the repetition. But after stepping back and analyzing my own data, I saw that most people favor a certain platform and I had different followers in each place. What works for one person may not work for you, so do not fret if you see others getting tons of likes on facebook or having a ton of followers on snapchat. Follow your own path based on what the numbers on YOUR stats tell you. Don't worry about what everyone else is doing. Buyers will follow and unfollow your pages as they decide what platform works best for them (just as you do), so do not stress if your followers numbers change.
As a career artist, one thing I hear a lot from friends who are exploring creativity is "I'd love to come over and have an art day with you." When art is your job, every day is an art day. I always think it is funny because I never hear anyone say to my sister "I'd love to comer over and have a day of writing closing arguments with you!"
Art-a-day challenges are very popular on social media, mostly for the creator of the challenge who requests you tag their challenge name in every piece you create and post. Art-a-day challenges are great at driving traffic to other people if your challenge is really about them and not you. I am a huge believer in personal projects. Art projects you create because the desire to do a certain project or learn a new medium won't let you go. A personal project is all about what YOU want to create. No client is involved, no person you have to tag, no sales to worry about, no social media group creating the exact same thing you are. You are creating for you and only you. Creating for yourself because the idea you have is keeping you up at night matters so much, especially when you create for others every day. Personal projects are usually where you learn the most, have no fear of failure, there's no expectation, and the main thing driving you is your passion to create. You are the boss of your personal project. Absolutely nothing has to come from your personal project. Though, it usually happens that personal projects have a way of turning into work projects once you see them through...and that is the magic of them!
One of the dreams being sold on social media the last few years is all about art licensing. As someone who has licensed her photography and art for years, I don't quite get what the deal is with the obsession. I think one big issue is people often do not know how licensing works and they do not know the difference between wholesale and retail pricing. Art licensing is not at all (NOT AT ALL) a way to get rich quick. It's not even get rich slow. Or get rich at all (unless you are Thomas Kinkade). One way artists make a fortune on art licensing is to sell $250 workshops for artists who want to license their art for retail.
When it comes to art licensing, typically an artist receives a small percentage of the wholesale or pre-market cost. 3 to 7 percent is a realistic royalty. Then you split that with your agent. If the wholesale cost of the product is $1.75, figure 3-7 percent of that, then split with your agent. Get your calculator out and figure out how much you have to sell of that $1.75 item to earn ten dollars. Greeting cards are a great example of this because the wholesale cost is similar to my example. You have to sell a lot of cards to buy a jumbo pack of gum. The key to making money here is to have multiple licenses going at once. You have to work non-stop submitting images, constantly creating new artwork, then revising for clients, then all over again. The sales cycles of products is very short now so you have only a matter of weeks to get your stuff in stores, sold, and the next season starts.
You have to be great with deadlines, not at all emotional about your art, and easy to work with so manufacturers and suppliers get what they want. I think licensing is great as an addition to your other methods of selling (see the other post about not putting all your painted eggs in one basket). It is fun to see your art in stores and I totally do get that rush.
If you are interested in licensing, please be aware of any agent who charges YOU for guidance or instruction. Agents make money off the transactions they negotiate for you. You do not pay your agent. Your agent pays you. Your agent represents you, and they are paid when they negotiate for you. Run from any agent who charges you for a seminar or workshop then wants to represent you.
I was going to save this topic for later but now seems the perfect time. It is challenging to try to sell your art under normal circumstances but it can feel hopeless when some life altering event happens for most of society and everyone sends their money to the ACLU instead of buying art. What goes on in the world has a huge impact on sales of all things. It seems natural for your first instinct to be to mark all your prices down and just try to get everything to sell. Surprisingly, this tactic rarely works. When economics change, it is not so much that people want a great deal, it is that they are not spending money at all.
When sales slow down, you just keep going. Keep creating, keep posting your art, keep your lines of communication open. Work on personal projects (a post on that topic coming soon), work on shop updates, work on photographing your art, write captions for later posts, work on watching those art documentaries. Falling off the creativity wagon makes getting back on very hard, kind of like when you fall off the diet wagon. If you need to work more at a part-time (or full-time) job that is not related to your art career, don't fret. Keep creating your products when you have the time (and as your passion dictates) so when the world goes back to normal, you will be ready for your customers. I make a point of letting my corporate clients know that I am available as needed and I know they are affected by changes as well. Know the world does always go back to some version of normal and being flexible in turbulent times is a good way to ride life's wave.
Copyright 2000-2014 Linda Woods and Karen Dinino.All Rights Reserved.
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