Over the past two decades I have had a front row seat when it comes to observing how people promote and sell their artwork. I have also said that when it comes to promoting your artwork, you are also promoting yourself as an artist. Interesting to me is how the methods have changed. Today, in 2020 the top method was not even in existence 20 years ago and barely there almost 10 years ago when it first started.
Last week we decided to run a poll to find out today in 2020 what is the top method artists use to sell their art. The results were quite interesting but my advice is to never allow yourself to rely solely on any single one of these or other forms of promotion. You should test and experiment with different methods. If you can track their effectiveness, even better. This way you do not find yourself in the uncomfortable position if the main source you use dries up or stops working. Over time, advertising methods and formats change and if you are not willing to adapt, growth with your art based business can become stagnant.
Social Media (Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest)
Unsurprisingly to some who are using it, Instagram, Facebook, came in at almost 60% combined as the platform of choice for the modern artists. Yes, that is right: roughly 60% of artists who sell their work are likely advertising and self-promoting using Instagram and Facebook. And if you include Pinterest in the mix, it goes over 60%. And it will likely remain in the social media realm for a while.
I am not saying that you must promote your work on social media but I would suggest if you are wondering where your sales are and not using social media to market, then you are missing out on a great opportunity. Especially considering its free except for the time and effort you put into it. There are a lot of good books out there and articles that you can find on how to use it to your best advantage.
Pay Per Click Ads
PPC has been around a little longer then social media. Google, Microsoft and even Facebook offer a pay per click model. Usually it involves you pay a amount you budget for every time someone clicks on an ad you provide. Normally this will take the potential buyer to your website where they can make a purchase. Honestly, I do not believe this is for everyone. I know it has worked for some artists and photographers, but you really need to know what you are doing in order for it to work and not loose money this way.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of organizing and crafting your website to gain the best exposure from searches. This has evolved over the years and is not easy like it used to be. The search engines closely guard and change their algorithms to try to prevent people from taking advantage of them, so it becomes a never-ending process. A few years back, FinerWorks actually hired a company to assist with this but it seemed every day changes were required and it became a task that was incredibly burdensome. I have a lot of respect for those that can do this effectively in today’s competitive environment for online sales.
This must be done with care so as not to be spam. Some will tell you that email marketing is not what it once was, and I must agree. For it to work, you need a comprehensive mailing list of people interested in your artwork. But when done correctly, can yield to easy sales at a low cost.
Word of Mouth
Years ago, I was told that the best form of advertising in “word of mouth”. That rings true today and essentially showing your work, sharing it with friends, family or followers is the today’s version of “word of mouth”. So, in some respects, Social Media is also a form of word of mouth advertising.
Print advertisement has been in decline for several years now. There are still places to advertise your artwork such as art magazines but unless you have extra money you can not apply to other means in your advertising budget, I would not recommend it for an independent artist. As you can see by the results, the few that did use this format was not enough to even register in the poll.
Rely on Etsy
With the number of Etsy users that use FinerWorks, this is no surprise. There is nothing wrong with relying on a 3rd party to drive the sales for you. An online market place like Etsy is a great place since it makes sure that your advertising is highly targeted toward people that are searching and looking for your type of art.
Rely on OFFLINE galleries or stores to attract sales
I honestly expected this one to be higher, but it could be a simple sign of the current environment where traditional galleries have been shut down. This might take a while to get back to a higher rate but I think eventually it will to some extent.
Rely on ONLINE galleries or stores to attract sales
I also expected this number to be higher but it might have been the way the question was worded. Based on some of the “other” comments I believe that the numbers might be a little higher. At the same time, I would be careful with relying as an Online Gallery or Online Store, unless it is your own, the be the main source of attracting sales. Use them with the understanding that some of these sites come and go. They may change ownership and focus, inconsistencies in printing as they change who does their printing or become too bloated with artists and not enough buyers.
Exposure at public gathering (art shows, etc)
I am glad this number is still relatively high in comparison to some of the others. Obviously right now, this area is hurting but it can be fund and give a sense of accomplishment. Meeting your buyers in person, making connections, and talking about your work can be a lot of fun.
Most of those that answered others mentioned categories already included above. A few that was not included were online crowd sourcing, offline and online (Ebay) auctions, home parties, Youtube, 3rd party articles or blog posts. One person even said TV.