Quite often I am asked for my opinion or if I have any tips to increase an artist’s potential when comes to selling prints either online, in galleries or at art shows. While I have had some personal success in the past as an artist, I no longer put energy in selling my past work or even seeking out commissioned work. Most of my experience now is from viewing the visual arts industry from the perspective of someone that has frequent contact with both struggling as well as successful artists or photographers. And many times, I cannot explain why someone who I think is an incredible photographer or artist is struggling after years of trying to get their name out there while people just out of college have no trouble finding buyers of their work with what appears to be little work on their part. Without knowing what efforts have been made on their part I would simply be guessing.
Am I Insane?
Do you ever feel like everything you tried is not working? If that is you, ask yourself if what you are doing is really all that different. There is a saying that “insanity” is defined as doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting differing results. Is it possible you may think you are doing something different but only in your mind? For instance if you are approaching galleries, people in the home décor industry or are participating in art shows but are not succeeding, look at any commonalities in your appoach and see if you can change those up. As an example, maybe you are using the same portfolio or presentation and need to cater these things to those industries or potential buyers.
Can insanity be the preferred route?
At times doing the same thing over and over might not be a bad ideal. Knowing when to finally throw in the towel and try some other way is the hard part. The method you are using to promote your artwork may not have had time to mature and gain the momentum needed to show it working. There are many ways an artist can market themselves but in marketing, I have frequently found that initial efforts do not always show results right away. It is only after the advertisement has had time to be seen by potential customers repeatedly does it start to bear fruit. That is why it is important to know what your trends are whether it be how many times individuals look at one of your pictures in an online gallery or how often people have expressed interest in a piece at a traditional gallery. This must further be tied to your individual marketing methods and even individual promotions.
What if it is merely a timing issue?
We can see trends when it comes to artists selling prints. There are certain times of the year in which we are busier because our customers who are artists are selling more. Obviously, Christmas is one of them but also during certain seasonal changes like early Fall and early Spring when there seems to be many art shows going on. And for the artists that are having us fulfill big orders for corporate buyers (decorating hotels, retail stores, etc.) we tend to see more of these orders toward the beginning of fiscal years. For artists, whose work will deck the halls of government buildings there usually is a higher rate of these orders during the end of the government entity’s fiscal year. Depending on who you are selling your work to, you will find there are trends with highs and lows in sales based on the time of year. If you are getting a lot of print orders, you want to try to map these trends on a monthly or even weekly basis. For instance, we see most smaller orders (individual prints) toward the beginning of the week versus on a Thursday or Friday. This has indicated to us many of the artists who use get more on weekends. This is not applicable to eveyone but you should find out “when” is. Not only will knowing the trends in time help you save money (you will know when to order in bulk), you will be in a better position to plan your time accordingly (you can plan your vacation during a slow time of the year).
Pinpoint the right type of buyer
Pinpoint who you buyers are. This is where it is okay to profile, but in a good way. You need to identify the people who like your work so you can better position yourself in front of those buyers. As an example, we have a local artist recently retired from the U.S. Army who has had some success by presenting his paintings and prints to people who are currently serving. Another artist I know does great creating surreal quirky cartoonish images that certain millennials love. Your market might be older people or perhaps new mothers. It might be men (or women) into motorcycles or hot rods. You probably know this already but I am amazed at how often artists and photographers do not gear the way they present even something as basic as their website to the groups that are more likely to buy their artwork. Pinpoint as much as you feasibly can if it has any bearing or relationship to your work. Maybe this includes age, gender, sexual preferences, occupation, culture and so on. When you get your work in front of the right audience and appeal to groups that identify themselves by these commonalities or any other metric your chance of being successful becomes greater.
Finally, be nimble
I have met artist that have invested a lot of time, effort and money in their art centered business but have had trouble walking away from what they were doing because in their psyche they feel as if they would be wasting all that time, effort and money. Being able to be instinctively objective is not typical for most people but recognizing when you are holding yourself back can be the difference in failure and success. As an example, we have a very landscape photographer who now ordesr his prints from us even though he had spent a lot of money on his own equipment to create metal prints in his studio. Metal prints are all the rage in photography circles right now but while his buyers were intrigued by the metal prints when they saw them, they were not necessarily how his buyers wanted to display his photos in their offices or homes. His buyers tended to be people who were more interested in a traditional presentation like a frame and matted print. Once he finally accepted that fact he started to stock up on some basic frames from his local art supply store while having us print his images on the Hahnemuehle Photo Rag. His sales increased immediately exponentially and he had continued to thrive.