You're an artist. Your work is beautiful and unique and you know there is a market for your work out there.
As you navigate the business side of the art world, you realize there are some significant roadblocks to selling your work. This leads to my first and most important piece of advice: DON'T GIVE UP. The art world is strange, sometimes counterintuitive, and very contrary to how business works in other industries. This is to be expected when the value of art is and has always been subjective.
Failures will occur... learn from them, and adapt. Onwards!
Most cities, even small cities have large chunks of people willing to pay for original art. The quest is to get your art in front of the right people to get the sale closed. With that said, I'll share a few tips to help you get out into your locale and create sales opportunities! Creating your own opportunities can be tough, but success in this realm is generally what makes a good artist a successful artist.
First, if you are starting from scratch, you need to run google searches to find out what (if any) venues allow artists to hang art in their business. *Google everything art related in your region* Some of these are really good deals where lots of sales are made, and others not so much. Some are absolutely free, while others want some sort of percent commission or some other mutually beneficial arrangement. Finding out what venues are better or worse is part of the process, so don’t be afraid to put your work up somewhere… The results may surprise you.
Next thing is to find all of the venues that don’t come up on a google search. That involves talking to other artists in your community and networking with these people. You’ll learn where more spots are, and how to get on the list to present your work there. I'[m not the chattiest person, but I realized that a closed mouth doesn't get fed. If you don't enquire, you'll never know, so get out there and TALK to people.
This is a tough piece of advice for many, but believe me, all things get better with practice. Much of the art world is through referrals, word of mouth, and people who know and are comfortable with each other.
Once you’ve run the circuit of local places willing to showcase local art, it’s time to shoot for bigger better venues. Find local galleries, high end restaurants, hospitals, country clubs, and other places like these where you could potentially show your work. Emailing them with a digital portfolio can work, but visiting in person with samples will likely be more effective. Find the manager, or whoever has the power to make a decision about allowing a local artist to procure an exhibit, and give them your “pitch”. Be prepared to be told no, a lot. Many managers are tied up with the day to day operations of their business and don’t want extra tasks. Others may be interested in one or two pieces that match their décor, and could lead to purchases this way. Others still might love the idea of having the interior décor of their establishment handled by an artist. That’s why having a solid portfolio is key.
Also, look for events and venues in large cities near you. I find that different regions appreciate different art styles. From a San Diego perspective, what is popular in La Jolla and Del Mar might not sell in Central SD. And much of my "pop" work gets love from people in LA. Your style may fit another locale better than where you currently are, and that's important information to have... so reach out!
Another way to create an opportunity is to team up with interior designers and new business owners who are renovating spaces for commercial use. In these stages, they are open to ideas on how to design their space, and having an artist on hand to create pieces exclusively to match the space would prove invaluable. These kinds of relationships are hard to establish, but if you can pull it off, it's a partnership that provides a steady stream of sales and exposure. I’ve watched many artists get catapulted to massive financial success from just one great gig like this. Find them by searching them out on social media and connecting with them. You can also search for business networking and open house events and get ready to be very chatty. Remember to sell yourself as an artist that can create a visually appealing space, and not be too pushy. Allow your work to speak for itself, and you are simply the person making others aware of it.
Pricing your artwork is an important part of your business model, and many factors go into play. As mentioned above, art is subjective and what one person feels is worth $5000, another person wouldn’t pay $5 for. With that said, the price of your art when starting out must, at a minimum, pay for the supplies needed to create it, the overhead costs of marketing, transporting and displaying it, and compensate you for your time. Once the overhead costs are calculated, you have to figure out how much time you spent on it, and decide how much you should be compensated for that time. This is the difficult part. On the other hand, if we're being honest, every artist has a bare minimum that they would accept to part with a piece. Somewhere between that and the amount you would really like to receive is your price. This is not comforting information to many artists. They set their prices quite high, and make zero sales, and refuse to lower them. You have to realize that you either have to get your work in front of a different audience, or lower your prices until the market agrees with you and begins buying. This is where economics and art intersect, and this point will change depending on who your clientele is.
Personally, I find that until your name as an artist starts to have 'weight' behind it from sales and word of mouth, you can only sell art for what it sells for. In other words, your art is worth what people will pay. At the end of the day, it’s people with disposable income that buy original art, so getting your work in front of them is everything. Keep creating, keep getting your work out there, and the word of mouth and referrals will slowly but surely build. Patience and persistence is key.
As sales increase, your prices can increase with it, but not before.
Also, as sales increase, your work will be in more places, where more and more people can see it and see that you are making good content. This is success that brings more success. Expect progress to be slow at first, but stick with it and keep creating opportunities and you will see slow, steady growth in the art world.
I wish you nothing but success. Thanks for reading!