Keeping it all going

If you have been implementing the advice and tips given here over the last year you have hopefully seen some positive changes. Even if it is no more than a change in your attitude towards your work, that is a big start. The way to become a professional and successful artist is to act like one first. For the last in this series we’re going to look at how to keep the momentum up.

Don’t get ahead of yourself

Just because you’ve had a little success and gained some experience does not mean you should be paying less attention to developing your business skills. You should always be pushing for more. If you’ve been accepted into one gallery, use it as encouragement to try out for others, not as an excuse to kick back and relax. Keep entering new competitions, attending new events, talking to new people and seeking out new ways to get your work out there.

Staying professional

We have stressed many times the importance of acting professionally as an artist, and hopefully you have put some of our advice to practical use. However, for many artists the novelty of acting in a business-like fashion soon wears off and they slip back into their student routines. Don’t get caught in this trap.

Being professional actually becomes more important as you grow as an artist. When you are starting out it is easy to remember meetings and deadlines because you have so few and they are so important to you. With a growth in your profile and success, however, you will see an exponential growth in your contacts and communications. It can be scary, but never bury your head in the sand.

Keep a diary of your appointments and a database of your contacts. In your contacts database you should keep as much information about that person as possible: where you met, what you talked about, what agreements you made etc. They too have chaotic lives so will often need a gentle reminder as to who you are.

Never upset current relationships

Even if you’re sure that something big is coming along, some better gallery has accepted your work or you have an upcoming exhibition, never upset your current relationships – you never know when you’ll need them again.

Behaving professionally

If you do have a show or an exhibition of your work, congratulations! It is indescribably satisfying to have people gathered together to see and discuss your art, but you must maintain your professionalism. It is a huge opportunity to further your career, and how you behave will have a direct effect upon it.

Don’t get drunk

It is tempting to treat the show as a party, especially if everyone else is. However, you are the host and the star simultaneously, so all attention will be on you. Nothing ends a show quicker than an inebriated artist, and you can be sure it will stay in the minds of everyone for all the wrong reasons.

Be amiable with everyone

Don’t sit in the corner with your friends and family just because they’re the only people you know there. Everyone knows who you are and will be interested to meet you. Yes, you will have to repeat the same things over and over again all night, but each time it should sound fresh, as if they are the first people to ask that question.

Don’t snub anyone just because you don’t think they can help your career. If nothing else, a buyer could be anyone in the room; but more significantly, darting from one important looking person to another makes you appear to be an ingratiating fraud. Engage people in sincere conversation about art and you will find yourself attracting people rather than repelling them.

Don’t argue

A heated argument creates as bad an atmosphere as drunkenness. If you find yourself disagreeing with someone on the end of a barbed comment about your work, contain yourself and walk away. Even if you win the argument it will be counter productive. Also, if someone thinks something positive about your art that you don’t agree with, don’t tell them they are wrong. Simply say you had never seen it that way and be happy that they did.

Finally

As you go forth in your career as a professional artist, always continue to refine your business skills. Make as many friends as possible, don’t burn your bridges, stay positive, and keep utilizing the opportunities that ArteXposed offers to their fullest. Good luck!

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Getting into a gallery

Dean's DisplayWhen most artists think of selling their work, they think of galleries. Despite the fact that they will take up to fifty percent of your profit, it feels far more prestigious and professional than selling on the street or over the internet. However, for many artists too used to rejection it can seem an illusory task. If you feel like you’re always on the outside looking in, the chances are that it is your approach that is wrong, not your work.

The process

Research galleries first

The first step is research to find galleries most likely to accept your work. Art fairs are excellent for this. Each gallery has a different stand where you can admire a selection of the work they sell. You can talk with the owners about your own work and make valuable contacts

Another option is to research galleries on the internet. Most galleries will have websites, and the reach of the internet means that you may find opportunities in foreign galleries that specialize in art from other cultures. Be cautious of anyone willing to accept your work without seeing it first though.

Make a shortlist of ten galleries

Out of the thousands of galleries worldwide, why only ten? Surely it is better to buy a large mailing list and apply to as many as possible to increase your chances? If you’re considering that route, just ask yourself how many unsolicited spam emails you reply to. If an email is not targeted at you and your needs, you won’t take any interest; the same is true in applying to galleries.

Your best chance of being accepted is to focus yourself on the ten galleries you are most likely to get into. Visit the galleries. Get to know who makes the decisions there and their personal tastes. What kind of people are buying there? You need to find as much out as much as possible about each gallery in order to carefully tailor your application for the maximum chance of acceptance.

Create a professionally designed and printed mailer

Your next step is to create your mailer: a small brochure of your work. It is well worth paying a professional designer if you do not have the skills to do it yourself. It should be clean and elegant and include: a small selection of your work; your artistic statement; a brief biography; and of course contact details. Visit your local printers and get them to do a fairly small print run of less than a hundred

Send the mailer off to the galleries with a personalized introductory letter

If you’ve researched the gallery well enough you should be able to write an introductory letter that addresses someone by name (no “dear sir/madam”) and mentions any previous contact with them. Send the letter with your printed mailer and include a business card too if you have one.

Wait….

The final step is to sit back and wait. Do not expect an immediate reply, but if no-one has got back to you within two weeks it is fine to give them a call to check they received it. If you are asked to visit them to discuss things further, be prepared for a shock. The gallery will usually take around fifty percent of the sale price, and you will normally be asked to frame your own work. This can be expensive, but is well worth getting done professionally.

And repeat…

Rejected by all ten galleries? Simply go through the process with another ten, making sure to take as much care as the first time. Hopefully you will have gained some experience that will serve you better the second time around. Persevere. If you wish to apply to the same gallery you should wait at least six months before doing so.

How to keep the ball rolling

You should always be prudent when dealing with galleries, since a good relationship with one can last a lifetime. The best advice is to get on friendly terms with all the people who work there. Do not resent the fact that they are making money out of your work, you should be happy about it. Do not argue with them about price or tell them they are doing their job wrong. Remember that they are professionals, and that any hassle you cause them costs them time and money. Finally, drop by occasionally to see how everything is going. Be casual and friendly, take their advice with grace, and you should be fine.

Selling your art

This month we look at the basics of how to sell your art, but before getting into details it’s worth thinking about why people buy art in the first place. The serious buyers willing to pay higher prices generally buy art as an investment, so it should be evident that the more future potential you offer, the higher the price you can sell for. The general public will often buy lower priced work just to hang on their walls, but they should not be ignored because of this, since they can keep you going through the tough times.

Agents

The agent will typically take around thirty percent of your profit, but a good agent will work hard for that money. However, artists who display in galleries already lose up to fifty percent of their profit to the gallery, so you can understand their reluctance to give away any more money to an agent.

Consultants

An art consultant is an industry insider who will, for a fee, give you advice on your work and how to take it further. This can be extremely useful if you are not getting the success you think you deserve, but the price can be prohibitive. Talk to your fellow artists and find out if any of them know of a good local consultant.

Places to sell your work

The options of where to sell your work are really limited only by your imagination. Anywhere it can be displayed there is the potential of a sale. Galleries are obviously your first choice and we will be discussing them next month, but for now you shouldn’t be averse to other opportunities even if they don’t seem quite so prestigious.

Open studio

The open studio is becoming more and more popular. It simply involves allowing the public free access to your studio where you have a range of your art on display. Some artists find it a distraction or an invasion of their privacy, but it can work very well. Even if you don’t choose to allow public access, you should still keep a clean and tidy studio with priced work hanging on the walls. If someone important shows an interest in your work it means you can invite them back to your studio to see it first hand.

The internet

The global reach of the internet makes it a tempting option for selling your work, but you should remember that selling art is different to selling goods online. Most people will want to see the art before buying, or at least know the artist’s work well enough to know what they’re getting.

Art eXposed provides an easy means for artists to get exposure on the Internet. Working with the Art eXposed professionals, artists receive different types of promotional packages that suit their needs; from the ability to catalog their artwork in searchable databases on the Internet to a Public Relations Toolkit that provides them with the resources (news releases, media alerts, letters) to reach the media and organizations that can further support/endorse their efforts.

Another option is to simply sell giclee prints of your work. They are easily shippable and relatively low cost, so can be a nice way of supplementing your income. Make sure to use a specialized giclee printer and, as ever, talk to other artists about their experience.

Public buildings

Cafes, restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies and the like are always looking for work to hang on their walls. There are many artists who make their living exclusively from selling in these sorts of places, so there’s no need to feel any shame. What’s important is that the work is on display, not where it is. Try to make sure that the work has your name, a price and telephone number. If not possible then at least make sure the people who work there have your contact details

Maintaining integrity

You will only sell your art if you put time and effort into finding ways to sell it, but don’t become obsessed. Art shouldn’t feel like work, you should always be enjoying it no matter what you’re producing. However, if you find a certain style of painting sells well but you don’t think its worth much artistically, bite your tongue and keep producing them; in the end, you will always be judged by your best work.

Getting interest in your art

However good your art, it is worthless if not on display. If your studio is currently cluttered with unsold works stacked in piles then the time is right to start getting it out there. Where it is on display really matters far less than most artists think. There is no point in holding out to have it displayed in some prestigious gallery when you are losing opportunities elsewhere.

We will be discussing getting your work into galleries in two months time, but because it takes time to achieve this it is worthwhile looking at other immediate actions you can take to get your art out in public.

Places to display your art for free

The options of where to display your art are limited only by the number of empty walls in the country. You should constantly be on the lookout for places where your art would enhance the atmosphere and where it would be exposed to large numbers of people.

Your Studio

Keeping a range of your work hanging in your studio should be mandatory for the artist just starting out. The cost is negligible compared to the opportunities it can bring. It is also an excellent place to sell work from, which we’ll discuss next month. Treat your studio like a gallery, neat and clean with the work well organized and hung on the walls.

Events

Events, shows and exhibitions of all types are often interested in having art on display if they don’t have to pay for it. Keep track of any upcoming events in your area and approach the organizers with your portfolio, explaining why you think your art would enhance their event. Another effective way is to form a combined show with artists from different disciplines. Jazz music and abstract art are a common example, but try to think of a novel combination that your work would harmonize with.

Donating artwork

If you have spare work lying around your studio that is not likely to be sold, consider giving it away to cafes, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and any other public buildings you can think of. This is not the same as selling your work in these places, since many will not allow this. You are giving them the work permanently, and the only thing you ask is that your name and preferably website address are clearly on display. This can be a very effective way of getting your art noticed because of the volume of people who will be exposed to it each day.

Competitions

Art competitions are organized up and down the country by foundations, corporations and individuals. The prestige of a competition is best judged by the prize money being given out, but at first you should try to enter as many as possible whether prestigious or not. It not only gets interest in your art, but is also an excellent way of meeting people, gaining credibility and possibly earning a little money.

Grants and awards

Grants and awards give money and opportunities to promising new talent. They vary greatly in how they are run: some are nothing more than cash in hand, others offer training courses. They can be an excellent addition to your resume, and many also offer promotional opportunities. Always be wary of any grants or awards schemes run through the internet. If they ask for more than thirty dollars to apply then you should consider them a scam.

Promotional video

If you take a particularly novel approach to creating your art that would be of interest to the public then have a short video made of yourself producing it. You can send it off to galleries, put it onto your website and have it on display at your exhibitions. It gives people who know little about art something to talk about in discussing your work. You can even try sending it off to a local television network or newspaper.

Finally

The number of people who see your art is directly proportional to the price you can sell for, so get as much out there as possible especially in the local community. Just remember to make sure your name and contact details are clearly displayed alongside.

Pricing Your Art

The blank canvas is the bane of artists since the number of options seems limitless, but worse is to come on completing the work. After putting the final touches to your work, you are presented with the equally open ended problem of what price to give it. For the inexperienced artist it can seem impossible to fix a price, so they ending up making wild guesses (almost always too high) and then wonder why their art is not selling.

The first thing to understand is that the price of art is simply the highest amount that someone is willing to pay for it. However, the second thing to understand is that only people who see it can pay for it. The price is circumscribed by the wallets of those who view it, hence the importance of having your work seen by as many people as possible.

Why price at all?

Many artists refuse to put fixed prices on their art, but they lose sales because of it. If you keep an open studio where people can enter and browse your work it is imperative that every piece hanging on the walls has a price tag on it.

People hate to talk about money, especially where art is concerned, so many buyers will choose to walk out rather than face the indignity of asking how much a piece costs. If they do have the courage to ask and the price is not written somewhere, they will assume you are making it up based on how rich they look.

Creating a baseline

So where do you begin in setting a price? The first step is to work out what your minimum monthly income is. Be realistic about this and always estimate high. Keep this figure in mind at all times as it will act as a deterrent for unrealistically low prices.

A preliminary price

Next, add up the cost of producing the art work you’re trying to price, including all expenses. Then add up the total amount of time spent on the work and multiply it by a sensible hourly rate – 20dollars an hour should be a minimum. Simply adding these two figures together will give you a fairly sensible estimate for a price. Dividing your minimum monthly income by the price of this work will tell you how many pieces you should be aiming to produce a month to keep you going.

Better methods

The best way to price work is to base it upon previous sales, hence the importance of keeping the catalogue of your work we discussed last month. The more you sell, the more you will get a feel for what your work is worth. You should compare your prices with those of other local artists and those on the Art eXposed website, but remember to take into account their experience and reputation.

Another method is to talk to art consultants and galleries. Galleries will not display your work at unrealistic prices, but keep in mind that visiting them without any idea as to the value of your work will mark you out as an amateur.

Maintaining and raising prices

Always maintain consistent prices. Inconsistency shows you are unsure of the value of your work. If you cannot bear to part with a work for a low price then keep it hanging in your studio without a price tag, and if anyone asks about it let them make you an offer. On the whole, larger works should be valued higher than smaller ones. This may seem arbitrary, but it is the law of the market.

You should only consider raising the prices of your work: after you have achieved respectable sales in your current price range for at least six months; if a gallery tells you that your prices are too low; or if you have changed your output significantly to justify such a change.

Final tip

Make sure to keep track of your sales in your catalogue, and always keep some cheaper works on hand for any impulse buyers you happen to meet.

What is PR & Why is it so Important to Artists?

Public relations is the softest selling tool in the marketing toolkit. It’s a combination of communication and public outreach to build trust and relationships with groups of people. Sometimes PR is best known as communication that changes an opinion, builds a reputation or helps to correct a damaged image. Today, artists can use a mixture of communications through credible third party endorsers or influencers (including the media, art critics, bloggers, etc.) or use direct to consumer PR strategies that reach current customers and potential art patrons. Regardless of the approach, PR leads to great relationships and endorsements from individuals that will help you to improve your personal reputation as an artist and/or to extend the reach of your network to get more exposure for your artwork.

There are so many tools in the PR toolkit. Let’s start with the traditional PR communication outreach strategies:

News Releases:
News releases can range from an announcement regarding the unveiling of your latest artistic creation to a release discussing an art demonstration you are giving for the members of a local association. News release writing begins with a carefully crafted message, formatted in a specific news style template (see the Art eXposed Artists PR Toolkit for examples) and is distributed to targeted media outlets, gallery’s organizations, customers and potential art patrons.

Endorsements:
Third party endorsements are written statements that provide credibility and can be used in a number of communication pieces including news releases, brochures, website content and information that can be sent to your art patrons and prospects.

Speaking Engagements/Demonstrations:
Speaking engagements and/or demonstrations are an excellent way for an artist to deliver expertise and knowledge on a subject to large groups of people, including prospective art patrons and/or current customers. Speaking in a public forum, coordinated by an independent art associations or gallery, can create enormous exposure for an artist and his/her work.

“How To” or Articles to Educate:
Working with the media to get articles placed in art trade publications, consumer magazines or those used as online content are a great way to educate and deliver information as an art expert. Articles that instruct or educate audiences position you as an authority and a likely source when an art enthusiast is interested in your particular artistic style or art genre.

These are all simple strategies to generate awareness so that influencers or third party endorsers will find your material interesting and write or talk about you. As you continually send your influencers credible and newsworthy information, they will look to you as a resource, as an artist that will be able to offer them expert information on a particular topic.

It’s important to follow-up in PR so that you are not just sending communication from your toolkit and then not know what’s being said about you. Always take the time to talk to your influencers or correspond with them regularly. Make sure you also taking the time to do Google or Yahoo! searches on your name or your artwork to see if you’re personal brand is the topic of conversation in print or online.

Most of all, the key to PR is to realize that relationships and building trust take time. If you want to have solid relationships with your influencers or third party endorsers make sure you do your homework. Know who these folks are, what they write about and exactly what they are looking for, so that you can aid them by offering your particular area of expertise. And, remember, when you are looking to build customers relationships or relationships with galleries, associations or members of the media, all of this requires a considerable amount of time and effort.

For every minute you spend building the relationship, the result will be strong connections that lead to favorable endorsements. Overall, PR is an excellent way to create positive communication about you, as an artist and your body of work.