Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

How To Be an Empowered & Successful Artist (Part 2/3)

Bob Baker has a movement. It’s not just some idea he came up with to make money or become famous. It’s a vision to change the world and how the world view artists. He wants to inspire artists and creatives of all types to “express themselves, hone their skills, and share their talents with the world!” That’s a mission and vision worth fighting for.

Bob was kind enough to provide immense value to artists everywhere with his free Youtube video series “30 Ways to Become an Empowered Artist.” I’m just doing my part to spread the word about this lofty and empowering creative revolution.  You can check out part one here. In the second part of this three part series, I will give my thoughts on the videos eleven through twenty of his Youtube series.

11. Don’t Get Sidetracked by HOW Something Will Get Done

Don't Get Sidetracked by HOW Something Will Get Done

Photo by mgifford

It is always great to have a goal in mind when starting on a new project. Goals give you clarity of thought and focus. However, too many artists start with HOW something will get done before they’ve even started. “How will I get this painting into a gallery?” “How do I make this album?” “How can I sell this on Etsy?” Before you know it, you’ve questioned yourself out of a project and you don’t move forward. You need to forget about the how for a second and focus in the why.

If you need help with the WHY, watch Simon Sinek‘s profound TED talk Start with Why. It’s one of the most popular TED talks online, and for good reason. In it, he explains that most people who create something begin with the what, then the how, and lastly the why. His idea of the Golden Circle flips it inside out. Take Apple for example. Other companies will say, “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one?” Apple will say “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, easy to use, and user friendly. We just happen to make computers. You want to buy one?” All that happened was reversing the order of the way the story is told. Starting with why made the pitch much more compelling.

“Life is meant to be lived with adventure, doing things that matter – both to you and to the world.” – Scott Dinsmore

You just need to know that, like Marie Forleo says, “everything is figureoutable.” If you need to know how to do something, you can always figure it out later. Google is at your fingertips just about every second of the day. Know why you want to do something before you try to figure out how to do it.

I will give you an example. Say you want to be feature in a gallery. Ask yourself why. Is it to gain more exposure? Is it so others think you’ve “made it”? If so, you need to change your mindset. The better questions are: What do I want the viewer to feel? How can I share my story with the world? How do I take the viewer on a journey? These questions will put your work on a completely different level. Instead of trying to make something that can get you into a gallery, think of a why your piece NEEDs to be made.

12. Feed Off the Energy of Others

Feed Off the Energy of Others

Photo by dbakr

There’s this rampant myth of the lone “creative genius”. If you think about it, it is almost impossible to be a lone creative genius. In order to be creative, you must combine ideas to create something novel. Where do these ideas come from? Everywhere. Everything you’ve done up until now has left an impression on you, no matter how small. This includes everything from deep conversations you’ve had with others to watching mindless TV. There’s a reason people don’t work in isolation. Almost every great idea has been the result of collaboration with others.

If you want to feed off the energy of others, you should join groups. You may think finding groups of like minded people may be hard as a grown up, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can join Meetup groups, take classes, or you can become a part of an organization. Sure, not all of these people are upbeat, but seek out those who are. Being a part of a group subjects you to an array of new ideas, and stimulates the brain in ways that being alone cannot do.

Two things that have had a profound impact on my life have been Mastermind groups and having an accountability partner. Mastermind groups allow you to regularly share, give feedback, and foster encouragement in others. Some of the most successful people in the world were part of Masterminds. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt used Brain Trusts to form the New Deal. Andrew Carnegie created a steel empire and while knowing very little about steel. I can’t count the number of times I’ve gained a valuable insight from being a part of a Mastermind. The group mind has an incredible way of figuring out how to solve a problem you can’t solve on your own. If you want to know more, check out Pat Flynn’s post on Masterminds.

The lone genius may be a myth, but add one person, and you can have a profound impact on your creativity and productivity. This article from the New York Times does a great job of debunking the myth of the creative genius and explains why pairs are the force behind creativity. The way you can make use of this principle is through an accountability partner. Having an accountability partner has not only helped me achieve my weekly goals, but has been a crucial sounding board for new ideas I have. When you are only accountable to yourself, you can lose focus and procrastinate endlessly, but having a partner pushes you to achieve more.

13. Your Ability to Communicate with People Will Determine Your Success

Your Ability to Communicate with People Will Determine Your Success

Photo by usarmyafrica

Language and communication are some of the most fundamental parts of being human. Since the beginning of human history, the ability to communicate with each other has allowed mankind to not only grow, but flourish. As an artist, you need to be able to effectively communicate your message with the world.

This may not come as a surprise to you, but the more people you know, the better your odds are for success. We would all love to believe people will buy our art because of how great it is. Although that is an extremely important factor, your ability to talk about your work may be more important. You may have come across certain works and wondered why they got that exposure and you didn’t. The reason is probably because of the connections that artist has or that artist’s ability to tell a story about their art.

There are a few ways you can communicate with your audience. You can use the written word, you can create something visual like pictures or videos, or you can speak to people face to face either in person or through Skype/Google+. The key is being comfortable communicating your message with your audience.

You may be asking yourself “How do I communicate more effectively?” Just like everything else, the answer is with practice. Although some people naturally enjoy talking to others, the key to doing it effectively is by practice and trial and error. How do you know what will work? Try it out. If this sounds uncomfortable, good. You need to stretch yourself and break out of your comfort zone.

“To grow, you must be willing to take strategic risks, to learn new skills, and to push yourself outside of your area of familiarity.

The best way to continue to grow is to take small strategic risks, to build time into your life to experiment with ideas and skills outside of work hours, and to increase your tolerance for how others perceive you.” – Todd Henry

A few things you can try to get out of your comfort zone are joining Toastmasters, doing improv, or doing stand-up. I have admittedly only done improv, but that alone has increased my confidence in front of groups of people. You have to realize that most people who are watching you, want you to succeed. People are not as scary as you make them out to be.

When you’ve built up enough confidence, try presenting your message to groups, teaching others, or demonstrating your art in front of others. The more you do this, the more people will want to know more about you and your work. This allows you to build relationships with your fans, which are absolutely essential if you want to succeed as an artist.

14. Come to Friendly Terms with Marketing

Come to Friendly Terms with Marketing

Photo by nasarobonaut

You are probably on this site for a singular purpose: to learn how to market your art. Many of you may despise the word and don’t think you should have to do it at all. I can tell you one thing. If you want to be a successful artist, you need to know how to share your art with the world. As an artist, that is exactly what marketing is. It’s a way to share your gifts with the world. You need to resist that voice inside your head telling you marketing is scammy. If you want to succeed as an artist, you need to stop thinking of marketing as a necessary evil and begin thinking of it as a wonderful tool for sharing your work.

You might be asking yourself “That’s all fine and good, but how do I market my art?” The key here is to tailor your marketing to your personality. You need to find the unique story only you can tell as the artist. What is the message you want to convey that will resonate with your audience?

“Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.” – Austin Kleon

You are the only one who truly knows the story behind your work. A few questions you can ask yourself are: Why did this work need to be created? What was I feeling when I started the piece, and what emotions did I feel while making it? What was my inspiration for creating it? These are just a few of the many things you can talk about with your audience. These are the things your fans want to hear.

“People buy art because it makes their lives and themselves more interesting.” – Martin Stellar

Art is truly effective when the audience feels something when they encounter your art. You must re-frame your mind around marketing to share what makes your art special. No one wants to know about the technical details about the piece. They want to know the WHY behind it. Share what you love and people will follow you.

15. Four Reasons People Create

Four Reasons People Create

Photo by stephycupcake

This concept is new to me, but when I think about it, it makes complete sense. There are four reasons people create. There may be some overlap, but this covers just about every reason artists make things.

1. Personal Satisfaction

This one is fairly obvious and is the most likely reason your love for art began. Creating art brings you love and joy not found in other arenas. You get that joy when setting a goal and you are able to achieve it. Your reason for creating comes completely from within yourself.

2. Recognition & Credibility

Once you’ve created and put your work out in the public, you will begin to notice acknowledgement from other people. They will congratulate you for your art, music, or performance which gives you another reason to create. This praise and acceptance for your art comes from the outside instead of within.

3. Benefit of Others

At a certain point, you will realize that your art has a profound affect on other people. This is a BIG shift in the way you view your own art. People will tell you how much your art has touched them or had a lasting impression on their lives. If people tell you your art is affecting them, it is a good sign that you are successfully conveying your message. This is your opportunity to begin making money for your craft. This is the shift I found in life that has pushed me to help other artists.

4. Money & Getting Paid for Art

This point ties in quite well to point number ten of the series: Clearing Your Mental Money Baggage. You can make money from your passions as an artist as long as people are willing to pay for it. You need to find the intersection of what you are passionate about/good at/known for with what people need or are willing to pay for. You need to find out how your art touches people and convey that message to your entire audience. People are more than willing to pay you if they feel a connection with you. They WANT to help you grow and succeed, not only as an artist, but also as a person. As long as you have gotten past the misconception that you are taking people’s money from them, you can make a living off your art. Value your own work and people will also value it.

16. You Must Have Structure for Receiving Payments

You Must Have Structure for Receiving Payments

Photo by mecklenburg

A problem many artists have when trying to sell their art online is making it so darn hard to pay them. They have no business model for how to create a website or sell their art online, and they make it extremely hard to actually pay them. Some artists don’t even list a price on their site! You can’t just throw up a webpage and expect people to contact you to buy your art. If they don’t see a price, they will likely move on. You need to make what you offer, as well as how to pay for it, concrete, specific, and clear.

There are three offerings you can use to entice someone to buy your work:

1. Low Hanging Fruit

The lowest priced option that you will offer. This is something like a small framed piece or a print.

2. Mid-Tier

This is usually something larger and more expensive than the low hanging fruit pieces. These pieces use up more resources and takes a longer time to create.

3. High End or Serious

This will be your most expensive offering. These pieces take a significant amount of time to create, are more expensive to create, or are much larger than your other offerings. Your high end pieces don’t necessarily cost a lot to make, but you should be able to justify the price tag.

Keep in mind all of these prices are relative to each other not other people’s work. Your high end price might be someone else’s mid-tier price. You need to test different pricing models and see which one works for you. Get an idea of what the market price is for art similar to yours, but don’t base your prices solely off of theirs.

I think another big mistake artists make is not having a variety of offerings. As you can see above, there is more than one pricing option when selling your art. Too many of us pigeonhole ourselves into a single pricing tier. If you do this, you are excluding entire portions of your fan base. Make sure you are creating multiple revenue streams by offering art in each of the pricing tiers. This way, anyone who likes your art can buy it. An important note to remember is, these prices aren’t set in stone. As you grow and are able to make a living off of your art, you can adjust your prices. Pricing is subjective, use good judgment when setting them. (Note: You might also consider offering services like speaking engagements or classes.)

One last point I will make about this is, when you have art in three price ranges, the middle-tier offerings feel like a bargain. You want to price your work so the mid-tier offers are the ones you want to sell the most. When you set the bar high with your most expensive pieces, people will compare that price against the prices of your less expensive work. At this point, you are effectively taking the pricing of other artists out of the equation while also encouraging people to buy your less expensive art.

17. Know Who Your Ideal Fan Is

Know Who Your Ideal Fan Is

Photo by tsarkasim

As artists, we like to think everyone is our ideal customer, but that is simply not the case. Your art will resonate with a specific set of people who are incredibly passionate about your work. Don’t believe me? Listen to this scenario:

You are on Facebook and you see an interesting link, so you click on it. You begin reading and nodding your head in agreement. Then the writer says something that appears to be written specifically for you. You think to yourself “How did she know exactly what I’m thinking?” It feels like she is having an intimate one on one conversation with YOU. This isn’t some mind reading trick, it’s called speaking to your avatar. Avatars are just a fancy term for your ideal customer profile, and they are crucial when communicating with your audience.

If you’ve ever felt that beautiful connection with someone you don’t even know, you have seen the power of avatars. In order to successfully sell your art, you need to create the profile of your ideal fan.

You might already know some details about your ideal fan, but here are some more questions you can ask yourself to find out more:

  • What is their age range and gender?
  • What experiences have they gone through?
  • What is their view of the world?
  • What attitudes and beliefs do they have?
  • Where do they shop or hang out?

Once you’ve discovered who your ideal fan is, write it all down. Create a profile for that person you can physically look at. This acts as a reminder of who is most likely to buy your art. Any time you are writing, speaking, or teaching, think of this person. You want them to think you are talking directly to them. This creates a powerful relationship, that makes a person more likely to buy your art. Just remember to be genuine and try to understand them. Keep it conversational and don’t force it.

If you are having a hard time with this, look in the mirror, your avatar is probably much like you. We enjoy spending time with people who are like us, so your avatar likely enjoys the same things as you do. Let that be your guide.

18. Effectively Communicate Who You Are and What You Do

Effectively Communicate Who You Are and What You Do

Photo by mosmancouncil

As a creative person, whether you are talking to someone in person or writing about yourself on your website, you need to be able to capture your audience’s attention. You do not want to bore your audience into submission by simply stating what you do. You want to describe what you do. It all comes back to that old adage of show don’t tell.

In the video, Bob Baker prescribes what is called a brand identity statement. It’s a way to uniquely tell what you do. Instead of saying “I am a painter,” you can describe yourself using the direct approach or the indirect/intriguing approach. These methods create a sense of curiosity in your audience. For example:

Direct Approach: “I use vibrant paints to create abstract landscapes.”

Indirect Approach: “I combine the abstract landscapes of Salvador Dali with the vibrant colors of Leonid Afremov.”

Even if your audience doesn’t know what those concepts are, or who those painters are, they are much more intrigued. This gives you the unique opportunity to explain what you do. You can paint vivid pictures in their minds and show what makes you unique. Being able to capture your audience’s attention is the first step in getting them to buy from you. First, you need to capture their attention, then you need to build a relationship with them, then they will be willing to buy your art.

19. How to Describe What You Do For More Sales

There are two ways to promote your art events, shows, or readings. One is effective in getting people to come and the other is not as effective.

Let’s say your friend is throwing a show at a local gallery and wants you to attend. Here are two ways he can ask you to attend:

1. I’m having my first ever art show tonight. I’m really excited for the opportunity to show my work. It will help me gain exposure for my work. I want to impress the gallery owners so I can have more showings. It would mean a lot to me if you could attend.

2. There’s an awesome art event at the gallery downtown tonight. There will be a lot of cool people to hang out with and talk to, as well as some great music. It ends at 8pm so you will have plenty of time to do things afterwards. I’m also showing a few of my art pieces, and would love for you to check them out.

Which one of these shows are you likely to attend? These might be extreme examples of how someone might pitch their shows, but you get the idea.

In example one, the artist focuses all of the attention on themselves without a thought about the person they are talking to. There are a lot of I’s and me’s. It’s like reading one of your friend’s “I just ate a sandwich for lunch” tweets or status updates.

In the second example the artist focuses all of the attention on you. He talked about the benefits of attending the show and gave a concrete time for when the show will end. This answers any questions about how much commitment the show will take. Only at the end did he mention anything about himself, which shows he’s putting you before himself.

Even if you are not interested in attending the show, example two is clearly more enticing. You may be asking yourself “What makes for a good pitch?” Here are a few of the keys:

  • Talk about your audience’s interests not your own
  • Use YOU statements instead of I statements
  • Avoid talking in third person, use second person instead
  • Cater your message to what’s in it for them
  • When talking about your art, focus on the audience not the technical points of the art

20. Marketing Should be Especially Creative for Artists

Marketing Should be Especially Creative for Artists

Photo by nomadic_lass

Many artists dread the idea of marketing their art and having to drop everything they are doing. There are so many different things to do from actually creating art to blogging, social media, packing and shipping, and accounting. The list seems endless.

There are a few things going on here. First, if you dread the idea of marketing and approach it with that mindset, you are setting yourself up for failure. Second, if you are trying to do everything yourself, you WILL get burned out. Let’s address these two issues separately.

If you are an artist and you hate the idea of marketing, you need to shift your mindset. You need to be creative and have fun with it. Instead of thinking “I hate marketing, can’t somebody else do it?” approach it like you approach your art. What creative solutions can help spread the word about my art? What can I do differently from what other artists are doing? How can I spice this up or stand out? This goes back to the Power of Questions. If you ask yourself the right questions, your solutions will be much more creative.

In a wonderful interview with Tim Ferriss, the genius photographer Chase Jarvis, said he studied artists outside of his own field to get ideas. Instead of trying to copy what other photographers were doing, he read up on the biographies of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Rauschenberg. He zigged instead of zagged.

Let’s explore some ideas.

Visual artists: What if you brought other creative people, not related to painting, to your event? Have a poet read a short story. Have a guitarist play some songs. Have a creative chef cater the show.

Musicians: What if you had some painters create a custom backdrop for your show? Have some dancers perform on a stage. Hire some stage technicians for a fancy light show and other visual effects.

Actors: What if you had someone record you while you are practicing or performing in front of a live crowd? Hire a sound technician to create a video with a cool soundtrack. Create a story beyond the story. Show off your dedication and commitment to acting.

These are just a few ideas that came to mind after about ten minutes of thinking. There are tons of other ways to enhance your offering to the world. You just have to be willing to think outside of the box and present something unique to the world. If you are interested in ways to separate yourself from the competition, check out Blue Ocean Strategy. It tells you how to compete in uncontested marketplaces to make your competition obsolete.

The second strategy you need to adapt is to stop burdening yourself with every task. Every great company was built by a team. What makes great art any different? You should be focusing on the things that really matter.

Don’t like dealing with payments? Hire an accountant. Don’t know how to design a website? Hire a designer. You need to focus on what you do best, which is creating art and telling your story. That being said, you should never outsource your personal social media accounts or writing. Your voice needs to be authentic and truly you.

If you are suffering from juggling too many hats, check out this interview with Chris Ducker on Smart Passive Income. He talks about superhero syndrome and the burn out you can feel when you try to do everything yourself. It’s a great introduction to the idea of outsourcing and the power behind having someone else do the tasks you don’t like.


There’s a lot to digest here, and this article only covers videos 11-20 of the thirty video series. If you missed it, check out my review of the first ten videos.

As always, if you know of any artists that want to become an empowered and successful artist, share this article with them.

To unlock a PDF download of all thirty tips within my How to be a Successful Artist eBook, please subscribe to my marketing tips for artists below. Future articles will include blogging, creating newsletters, tools for tracking your user interactions, what makes a good post, article headlines, site designs that work, and much more. I also plan to explore social media and SEO for those who are ready. Is there anything  you wholeheartedly agree or disagree with? Leave it in the comments.

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