Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Why You Shouldn’t Market Your Art to a Large Audience

Looking for a large market to sell your art to? Then you’re probably doing it wrong.

Main Photo by Viktor Hanacek

Have you ever thought to yourself “Where can I sell my art to a lot of people? or “How do I attract buyers when there are thousands of other artists selling the same thing as me?” If you have, you’re thinking about your art in the wrong way.

The Problem with Art School

The problem with art schools is, they will teach you the principles of great art and methods of creating great art, but they don’t teach you where to sell your art or how to sell it. Your first thought may be to get your art in front of as many eyeballs as you possibly can. “I’ll just post my work on Etsy, Cafepress, Artfire, eBay, etc. and my work will sell itself.” If you decide to go this route, you might see success, but you are also competing with thousands of other artists trying to do the exact same thing.

How You Should Approach Your Art Business

Is There a Market For Your Art?

The first important thing to consider before you begin selling your art is whether or not people like it and are willing to buy it. The harsh reality is, no matter how much we may like our own artwork, unless someone else is willing to buy it, you are not going to sell it. The good news is, if you’ve found people who like your art and are willing to spend their hard earned money on it, there are others out there who will do the same.

Are You Competing on the Wrong Turf?

Photo by LoggaWiggler

Photo by LoggaWiggler

If you are selling on a large marketplace like Etsy or Storenvy, you will likely see many items that are similar to yours. How do you stand out in this crowded marketplace? If you are relying solely on those sites, you will face some stiff competition and you will feel compelled to lower your prices just to compete. The answer to selling your art may lie outside of those sites.

Change Your Mindset

Photo by p_a_h

Photo by p_a_h

The mindset of many artists is “If I get this in front of enough people, it will start selling.” When this strategy fails they begin to doubt themselves. They think “Nobody wants my work”, “How can I compete with so many artists?”, or “I’m not as good as everyone else.” Instead of adapting this defeatist attitude, you need to change your mindset from “I’m not good enough” to “Let me find people who think I am MORE than GOOD ENOUGH.”

The founding executive editor of Wired magazine Kevin Kelly developed the theory of 1,000 True Fans, which makes a very compelling case that individual artists, producers, inventors, and makers need to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living. These fans are defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you make. Instead of seeking out a massive number of people to market to, you should be in direct contact with your true fans and they will be more than willing to buy from you.

Marketing Yourself

Know Your Audience

Photo by D.H. Parks

Photo by D.H. Parks

Before you try to market yourself, you must first know who to market to. The problem with many marketing strategies is they are not focused enough. When you ask most artists who their target customers are, most will respond “Everyone of course.” The problem with this thought process is, everyone does not want your product. In order to create a strong relationship with true fans, you must learn more about them.

Finding Your Audience

Photo by olarte.ollie

Photo by olarte.ollie

The best way to find your audience is to see if there is a commonality among the customers you do have. Finding the commonalities amongst your customers will make it easier to connect with them and will allow you to create a more personal relationship with them.

  • Is there anything they share in common?
  • Are they mostly men or women?
  • Are they young or old
  • Are the middle class or rich?

Once you’ve figure out some commonalities, you should go to the places they hang out on-line. Some good places to check out may be Reddit, niche blogs, or forums. Also check out some influencers your target market might follow. The key here is to interact with your fans here. Let them know who you are and that you care. If you are active and helpful, you will have an easier time getting featured in these places!

How Do I Connect with My Audience?

Photo by Sam Howzit

Photo by Sam Howzit

This step is key in creating a sustainable living as an artist. Once you have an audience, you have to connect with them on an emotional level. Find out what makes your artwork unique and share it with the world.

  • Do you drive around and find supplies for your work?
  • Do you use only recycled materials?
  • Do you repurpose old items and create something new with them?

All of these things can help you stand out in the sea of sameness that is the art marketplace. Once you figured out what makes your art unique, write about it. People love to hear what you have to think about your work. Share your thoughts, your workflow, your hopes, your fears, or anything else that helps your customers feel a connection with you. Your customers want to know the person behind the artwork. You are selling yourself as well as your artwork.

Sharing Your Work

Why You Should Start a Blog

One of the easiest and most common ways to share your work ideas is through blogging. Blogging allows you to gather all your thoughts in one place and easily share your ideas and images. A good way to learn how to blog is by following your favorite artists. If there is an artist that you love, they are likely doing something right. Figure out how they are making those connections with their fans and incorporate some of their ideas into your blog. If you want a great example of an artist who does this well, take a look at Austin Kleon. He tells you how to Steal Like An Artist and also how to Show Your Work! He has created a huge base of true fans by making those connections and showing his work.

Newsletters and Why They’re Important

Photo by 92five

Photo by 92five

The e-mail newsletter is the best way for your fans to stay up to date with your work. If you are a huge fan of a company or artist, you know that irresistible urge to open every e-mail they send out to you. This is the same response that you want from your true fans. You will keep them up to date with your progress and they will be eagerly waiting the moment you post your next piece of art! The key to the newsletter is you want it to be highly visible on your blog and easy to sign up for.

What is the Best Social Media or Search Engine Optimization Strategy?

Photo by kdonovangaddy

Photo by kdonovangaddy

In the beginning, you may be tempted by the buzz words of Social Media and SEO. This is where people often become overwhelmed and start drowning in the sea of endless things to update and worry about. You’ll often hear things like “I just have to try harder” and “I don’t have time to do anything else.” These are a key indicator that you should focus, instead of being lured by those shiny features. For now, unless you know what you are doing, you need to worry more about creating your art and focusing on a single platform like your blog. Once you’ve built a sizable, engaged, and connected fan base, you can begin to think about optimizing your social media presence or search engine optimization.

Conclusion

If you’ve been stuck trying to market your product to large audiences and it hasn’t been working, you should consider changing strategies. Why should you compete against thousands of other artists doing the exact same thing? I challenge you to change your strategy and seek those true fans.

Do you know other artists who are trying to market to everyone? Send them this link and help spread the word.

To get the finding your audience checklist, please sign up for my free marketing tips newsletter 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. Stay tuned, and don’t forget to leave a comment below, I would love to hear how this information has helped you.

18 Comments

  1. I think finding your target audience is key. I will be looking forward to all your sage like advice.

    Joy

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the article Joy, what did you find most helpful?

      • I found the concept of targeting a smaller audience interesting. I think I was one of those artists that believed I needed to get to the largest selling platform I could find. I just got professional postcards made to target galleries that might be interested in my work. I know snail mail, but I am wondering if the inboxes are the new circular files. I’ve considered blogging but as you can see writing is not one of my stronger suits.

        • Very cool idea Joy. An interesting that has happened since email has become more popular than snail mail is that when someone receives a personalized piece of physical mail, it can have a much larger impact than an email. Let me know how that goes!

  2. Hi, Kevin! Thanks for your instructions. As an artist-painter of course I’m interested about how to survive with my work. In these days I’m just reading the book by Austin Kleon whom you proposed.
    Kind regards and best wishes for your work.
    Matej Metlikovic
    http://www.matejmetlikovic.si

  3. Hi Kevin
    A very interesting article that makes me want to read the next ones. I am about to launch my new website and am feeling very overwhelmed at this stage with everything that needs doing.

  4. Thank-you for sharing this wisdom. Please feel free to check out my website and to email me with any feedback you might have for me.

    Thanks a ton!

    Olivia

    • Hey Olivia, If you are trying to sell your art on Tumblr, you may want to link to where you are selling your work or even have a buy button on each post.

  5. It is difficult to know where to find my audience and writing about my work is not something I particularly enjoy. It is an unnatural burden for me, but it looks like I might have to force myself to do it. thanks for the article.
    http://www.arthet.net ( revamping my website a bit at the moment but it should give you some idea what I do )

    • Maybe you can try recording your thoughts instead. Then you can post the audio to your site. You are only limited by what you can think of.

      As far as your audience goes, have you noticed a trend among people who have bought your work?

  6. Very good article. It makes me want to read more and i just signed up to the newsletter! Thank you

  7. Thanks for sharing the post. You linked it in the comments in one of the other threads. It was reassuring to read that more targeted marketing is key to success as opposed to trying to rise through all the other artists out there.

    Do you have any additional tips for identifying one’s target audience?

    I create glitch art panorama photography through my brand cine//gLit.ch and I’d say it definitely appeals to younger people interested in abstract and experimental artwork. Glitch art in general is a counterculture movement and my work fits with that. I’d really appreciate your help in pegging this down.

    Thanks!
    Ken

    http://www.cineglitch.com

    • Hey Ken, Thanks for reading. As far as your audience goes, have you noticed a trend among people who have purchased your art before? Who are they? What types of things do they like? Where else would you find them hanging out online? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, try asking them yourself or put a survey up on your site, or try thinking from their point of view. If you were looking for the type of art you provide, what would be true about yourself? Getting insights about your audience will allow you to target them much more easily.

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