When you went to art school, you likely did not learn anything about sales or marketing. And, if you did, it was likely taught by someone who either did not want to be teaching the course or was not in a successful sales position themselves. This creates a massive gap between an artist, and their business: their art!
The good news is sales is something you can learn at any point in time. There are a lot of different levels to sales, but for this blog post, I’m going to focus on teaching you how to understand when you are in a sales position.
Part of learning sales is preparing to make sales, and then knowing when you have entered a sales position. Preparing to make sales includes things like photographing your art, creating a website, and knowing your talking points to sell your art and yourself, all of which are outlined in my sales checklist. But how do you know when you’re talking to a potential client? When you’ve entered into a space where you can...
Sales is a skillset that can be learned and can be practiced. You can BUILD your skillsets and sales muscles and the fun part is that there are no mistakes. You can absolutely take what is working or NOT working to figure out what you need to do next and from this grow your sales.
As an artist, learning sales might feel wildly out of your element. That’s okay! That’s what I’m here for. I’ve been in your position, I learned what worked and what didn’t work in the sales world. Through those experiences, I have been able to create a complete sales checklist, which I share in my Art MBA program. To help you get started, I wanted to share the first three steps you need to take for launching your art sales.
1. Organize your products
First things first, you need to get the products you’re planning to sell organized. Select 20-30 recent (within the last 2 years) quality pieces of work that you’d like to...
The world of sales, even with art, is much more than exchanging a product for money. It’s about a connection you create with a potential buyer and how that connection develops into a customer relationship.
These relationships sometimes come very naturally with someone, but other times, that relationship needs to be built. As the seller, building that relationship is your responsibility. Learning to build relationships for sales is not a natural interaction with someone, so you’ll need to practice. Don’t get discouraged if it takes a bit to get into a natural flow, simply turn the harder sales conversations into a learning moment.
You can do this by tracking how each of these interactions goes. Yes, I mean tracking how your conversations go – whether it’s good or bad, make a note of it and learn from it. I recommend keeping a notebook at your workstation so you can jot things down easily when you're emailing, on the phone, or...
When I started my gallery in 2001, I made a lot of mistakes that I was not aware of until I was painfully aware of them!
My top three business mistakes were: Not hiring a bookkeeper and an accountant, not hiring a part-time gallery assistant, and not having a CRM or a ‘Customer Relationship Manager’ that would help me organize all of my gallery inventory, contacts, and information that was being developed at that time.
As A Matter of Fact: I didn’t even know what a CRM was until I read my first ‘sales book’ at 26 years old, and it was mentioned. It was then mentioned in another book I read and when I heard it for the third time, I decided to take it seriously.
I went down the rabbit hole researching CRM’s for small businesses and galleries and found the software that I eventually started to use. It was custom made for galleries (not artists) and by the time I eventually got around to being able to afford...
As an artist, thinking of yourself as a CEO may have never crossed your mind. You probably think of a CEO as someone in a suit leading a board meeting in a major office building, which is so not you. But what if I told you that thinking like a could drastically change the trajectory of your art career? Seeing yourself as the boss will help you steer your career and goals and be successful, and I’m going to tell you why.
Establish a Clear Plan of Action
A CEO is often in charge of multiple responsibilities in a company including shareholders, employees, growth of the company, and making sure the company is in good financial standing. You might not realize it, but as an artist, you’re doing these same things for yourself and your studio.
When you take a step back and realize that you’re the one running every aspect of your art career, you can start to see how what you’re doing is parallel to the actions of CEOs all over the world. By...
Being an artist is a lifelong vocation. How do you want to be recognized when you’re gone? And how can you plan for your art to sustain you while you’re still here?
A career doesn’t last for just a season, or a few years. Creatives should be prepared for the long haul, with its inevitable ups and downs. Throughout my own professional evolution over the past twenty years, I’ve weathered recessions and economic meltdowns, and I’ve also witnessed how the internet has revolutionized the way that artists and others can do business. In this current moment, when a crisis continues to undermine global markets in general, it’s even more vital to think about the big picture.
But first, look at the positive side of the equation. Digital connectivity has given us an expanded notion of what “community” can mean, and it’s also given ordinary individuals the access to unprecedented waves of information. What’s more, it’s made it...
You’re not going to be able to do this on your own.
No matter how much of an artistic genius you are, or how much of a social butterfly, you’re going to need to make a concerted effort to truly make your career go stratospheric. You’re going to need a leg up, literally, from very special people that I like to call “helpers.”
Who and what is a “helper,” exactly? It might be your grad school advisor, a wealthy uncle who bought your first painting, a therapist, or a fellow artist who is a bit further along in her career. No matter how compelling your artwork is, you’re going to need the leverage and support of people like this in order to truly make it.
When I started my gallery back in 2001, I didn’t have much of a network. My first helpers, of course, were the artists themselves, the brilliant individuals who joined my program and allowed me to accompany them on a joint creative journey. After that, I moved on to a new tier of...
If you’re an artist, it’s simple: You want to make art. “If I could spend 95% of my waking life in the studio,” you might think, “I’d be truly happy and fulfilled. It would be a dream come true.”
Let’s ponder that for a minute, though. Is the life of a creative really one of blissful solitude, with all the other stuff of life—parties, dinners, conferences, classes—just distractions along the way? Or could those “distractions” actually be the very opportunities that can unexpectedly push your practice to the next level?
Your career isn’t just the sum of the work you make in the studio, however amazing that work might be. It’s the story you tell about that work—the reasons you felt compelled to create it and share it with the world. It’s also the story you tell about yourself, the brand you build to explain your passions to collectors, curators, and peers.
The internet has made us a swiftly...
Part of your plan should be to plan.
As most MFA graduates can attest to, art school is not a place that prioritizes career planning. Indeed, it saddles some students a with a sad prejudice: They think that simply having a plan in this regard goes against what it means to be an authentic artist.
That’s completely backwards! Indeed, you need to master things like how to market yourself to galleries and collectors; how to secure a studio in a competitive market; and how to meet the gatekeepers and “superconnectors” who will help carry the message of your art to others.
Most of the time when I consult with younger artists, they tell me that they know these other aspects of a career are important, but that they simply don’t have the time. Here’s where it can be helpful to think about outsourcing these integral, but perhaps complex or boring, parts of your practice. It’ll free up your own schedule, maybe just enough to let you soar.
It took me a while...
It’s a mistake to assume that there’s only two ways to approach your career—either as a laid-back, relaxed person who “takes what comes,” or as a gung-ho self-starter who is proactive and determined. What if it were possible to be both, depending on what’s right for you at the moment? What if success was possible even if you allowed yourself a break every now and then, and didn’t feel the need to race toward the future at 100 miles per hour?
What if you were a bit more like David Bowie? I think of the late, great musician and artist often. He was someone who, at the height of his fame, could still step back out of the limelight to take care of his own emotional and psychic needs. Years might pass between albums. When Bowie returned—much to the delight of his curious fans—he would have conjured a brand-new persona that perfectly captured the zeitgeist. If he grew tired of Ziggy Stardust, he became the Thin White Duke. I can think...