I get it. You love painting/creating but when it comes to actually selling your art and doing all the business stuff your mind draws a blank?! That’s totally normal at first and the trick is not to look at the whole picture and get overwhelmed. Instead let’s break it down into several bit-sized chunks.
There are several parts to being able to sell your art profitably and consistently (just as any other business type).
Let’s break it down a bit further. Starting with having a product that people actually want. In days gone by this was much more difficult because before the internet, people were ‘serving’ a local market, so you had to look around you and see what it was people wanted/needed. This was great if your art fit that profile but not so great if it didn’t e.g. if you love painting cityscapes but you live in a rural hamlet of 1500 people then you would have struggled to sell your art.
However with the internet you can now reach any group of potential buyers according to their interests. So staying with your cityscapes example you can target your message to attract people who live in cities, who have businesses in cities or simply love the energy and pace of cities. More importantly you can reach hundreds of thousands of those people within a few hours!
There is another important element at play here though that’s not related to the subject of your art but the quality and the emotional connection. See unlike a pair of socks that people buy out of necessity, people buy art because of an emotional connection i.e. it makes them FEEL something. Whether that be joy, serenity, passion, hope or anything else. Good art speaks to people in a way that makes them stop in their tracks.
So ask yourself – does my art make people want to stop and look closer? If so, and you are creating from a place of passion and joy then you are likely on the right track. Don’t create art just to sell it, the buyer will be able to see that in your work, just as they can see a piece that came from the heart.
Now in terms of pricing, this is where a lot of artists who don’t fully understand business can fall short. We think that because we loved creating the piece, or it came naturally, or it didn’t take 6 months to make, that we ought to price it accordingly and often artists underprice. The effect of this is that over time you can become demotivated as you are working hard and only just covering your bills.
Your pricing should take into account your materials and your time then use a multiplier to create a profit. There are lots of different ways to price your work but I would find one that suits you and that you are happy to sell your work for. Take into account all of your expenses when creating your art – your raw materials, any studio rent, light, heating etc. If you are planning on making a career out of art then ultimately you need your profit to be your ‘salary’.
It’s a good idea to set yourself financial goals then break it down into small chunks of how you’re going to get there e.g if you’d like to earn £3000 per month then that would be 3x£1000 pieces or 10x£300. Remember a lot of that £3000 will be accounted for with things such as tax, expenses (materials), courses you want to take, plus a reserve for emergencies. So it could look like this:
Tax 20% £600,
Expenses 20-30% (depending) £750,
Emergency savings 10% £300,
Leaving a take home salary of £1350. So be realistic. The good news is it’s VERY do-able to make £3-5k online per month pretty easily. Once you get there, you’ll probably increase your goals to £5-10k.
Knowing how to reach potential customers is a biggy, because you can create all the wonderful art you like but if no-one sees it (or the wrong people see it) then you’ll be watching tumbleweeds roll by.
Firstly do you have a place customers can view your work such as a website or social media presence? Are you actively communicating with them frequently? And not just about sales. No-one likes being sold to all the time so make your content interesting, Post about your work in progress, your materials, your thought process, your studio set up (even if it’s a corner in your living room) People like to get to know more about you and they LOVE seeing behind the scenes and what makes an artist ‘tick’.
You can also use paid ads such as Facebook and Instagram ads, social media influencers but I would only recommend doing this once you have all the other parts working and you want to scale your results, otherwise they can be costly if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Finally and probably most importantly is knowing how to convert potential customers into buyers. The truth is most people will NOT buy from you right away. They will see your work, decide whether they like it and if they want to know more. It is VITAL that you have some way of engaging with visitors and encouraging them to sign up to your mailing list. That way you can stay in touch with them and nurture the relationship. Someone who feels valued and ‘spoken to’ is much more likely to become a customer.
If they visit your site and you have no way of capturing their information they will likely be gone forever as the online world is a busy place and they will be distracted by other things.
Also most people WILL NOT sign up to a link that says ‘sign up to my newsletter’. People are inundated these days and the last thing they want is ANOTHER newsletter. You need to give them something of value, something they really want/need for free. That might be a downloadable piece of art for their desktop, a downloadable print or entry into a competition. Get creative about ways to engage your customers!
An important point to make is that people will convert into buyers when the perceived value of what they are receiving matches or outweighs the price. So if a piece strikes a cord with a buyer and literally fills them with joy/excitement, they will look at the price and ask themselves “am I willing to pay that price in order to own that piece?”. It’s really as simple as that.