Selling artwork can feel like the ugly side of a professional art business.
But, it doesn't have to be.
Not everyone is a natural salesperson. Luckily, by adding a few key audience insights and shifting your perspective about selling artwork, you can make art sales less painful.
A successful art business mindset understands your artwork and collectors are the core of your business, not just sales.
Here are some simple ways to build an art selling mindset that will attract buyers and keep you happy and productive.
First and Foremost, Do Work That Fulfills You
Make sure you are dedicating time to the creative work that feeds your artistic spirit, whether it is considered saleable or not.
Your art business should never throttle your creative endeavors. The fruits of the creative work that fulfills you will drive the productive, profitable side of your business.
Learn What Your Audiences Like
In business terms, knowing what your audience likes is reflected in market research reports. In reality, all it takes to find out what your audience enjoys is an attention to where people shop and what they are buying.
What are galleries showing around town? What pieces are selling? For how much?
What about you? Which pieces sell the best? Do you keep track? As an Artwork Archive member, professional sales reports help you see trends like your average sale price and frequency of sales.
Are there sizes, subjects, or colors that people buy specifically?
Learning what different audiences like will take some trial and error, and patient observation.
Everyone has a unique point of view, and most everyone will have an opinion (one way or another) about your work. Use their excited responses, hesitations, discussions, and criticisms as feedback to improve their buying experience.
Understand Your Audience's Budget
By tracking the work that sells the best, you’ll begin to see how many pieces you need to create at each price point.
Anticipate your sales opportunities by understanding your audience’s point of view.
Make it easy to be affordable to your audiences, but get comfortable with higher price points as well. Some of the best advice about setting your price point is that you should eventually price yourself out of your own artwork.
This, understandably, will make you uncomfortable at first. However, setting higher prices points (as long as they are in line with the quality of comparable works) will help grow your business.
Make Work at a Variety of Price Points
Does your audience buy at your price point? Have you made enough work? Or, have you overproduced certain price points, and you need to create a new inventory using a different scale or subject?
When you know what your audience likes and what they’ll pay, you can gain a better understanding of your production schedule.
“If you are serious about becoming a professional artist (or already are one), then you know that having a dynamic way to keep track of your inventory is paramount,” says artist Nancy Teague.
An inventory management program like Artwork Archive will help you stay ready to sell and keep track of it all. With these insights, you are better able to hit every price point and bulk up areas you know sell the most.
Your work is your work, whether you’re inspired by sales or not, but a business—your art business—is driven by the bottom line. For some artists, meeting this bottom-line is a breeze, while others struggle to find a frequency that works for them.
Find your balance. Can you produce enough to sell once per year? Twice or more per year? Every month? Every day? Start there, and then work at increasing your frequency with higher-paying audiences to meet a bottom line you like.
Make it Easy for Collectors to Get to "YES!"
Collectors jump at the chance to buy if they find a connection with your work, especially when it’s easy to acquire it.
Do these three things to make seamless sales:
Get mobile apps that make it easy to securely accept money anywhere, anytime. Learn the ropes with different solutions like Square, Paypal, and others, then verify your accounts and run the cash register yourself. People want transparency, ease, and efficiency, and these mobile apps make you look good.
Have an accountant, or learn how to use an accounting app. Taking money is a tiny fraction of what happens next with the cash, and accountants have the next steps in hand. They help you set up accounts so you are able to pay taxes, fees, and bills on time. Self-managers can use software apps to compile reports and file their own taxes and receipts, but everyone should consult an accountant for up-to-date information on tax laws.
Understand your tax obligations. Again, your accountant can help you, but you should take steps to learn and understand your roles and responsibilities when it comes to paying taxes. Put dates and deadlines on your calendar, and know the difference between contracts to sell in galleries compared to selling at art fairs.
Knowing how money works beyond the sale will put you and potential buyers at ease. Handle it smoothly, and you leave them with a good impression and more time for you in the studio.
Cultivate Authentic Relationships with Your Collectors
The only way to get people to notice your work is to tell them about it. And, while a lot of artists have an aversion to self-promotion, talking to people genuinely about your work feels more authentic. The best place to start? People who have already expressed an interest in your work!
Communicating with people that are interested in your work will alleviate some of the cold-call fears of rejection. Keep in touch with people who have collected works from you in the past and remind them about the newly available work and the developments in your art career. You don't always have to be looking for new customers, cultivate strong and authentic relationships with collectors through email lists and social media.
Then, streamline ways that new people can find your work and start building those relationships over time. Use your Artwork Archive profile to boost your online presence and drive sales.
Add social media outlets that help drive new people to your website and public profiles. Find ways to get involved and increase your visibility to potential collectors both online and by attending and hosting events.
Follow up with collectors in personal, memorable ways, such as hand-written cards or a special-edition reproduction of your most recent artwork.
Once you establish balance in this cycle, you’ve mastered an art selling mindset.
Promote your artwork and ways people can buy it, make it easy for them to purchase and take it home, and continue to create work based on how your audiences respond to it.
But, always—always—make work that fulfills you.
Without this core objective, selling art will feel like a wild goose chase trying to identify what people will buy. When you stick to your vision but remain sensitive to the way people experience your work, you can find a balance in creating, promoting, and selling your artwork.