You can finally start selling your art confidently and consistently without spending thousands of dollars on “experts” or handing over control of your marketing and sales to a few galleries. How? By following these ten steps:
1 | Know what you need to do
In last week’s post, The ONE Big Reason You’re Not Selling More Art, we established this: As a small business owner, you need to be in the driver’s seat of your art marketing, because the gallery scene isn’t working the way it used to.
But what if you don’t know anything about marketing? You probably didn’t learn it in art school, you’ve never had to do it before, and it’s just not something you even want to think about. Besides, marketing feels kind of “icky,” and really, you just want to create. Business is for business people, right? Not so fast!
It’s true that if you don’t know much about marketing, the prospect of being in charge of your own business can sound scary. But isn’t it even scarier to leave your art sales to chance?
So, what should you do, then? You could go back to college to get a marketing degree. You could hire a team to take care of your marketing for you. Or you could look for advice on the internet, but here’s a heads-up: There are people who teach marketing and business to artists, but they don’t necessarily have professional marketing experience, or a background in the arts. Luckily, you have found me, and I have both!
Now that you know that you need to take the reins of your own marketing, here are nine more steps you can take to successfully market your art:
2 | Understand why you need a marketing plan
Here’s how a marketing plan will help you sell more work and get back into the studio:
You’ll be clear about what makes your work unique, you’ll know who you’re selling to, and you’ll feel good (maybe even excited) about it!
A plan will help you make informed, strategic decisions for your art business rather than simply following the crowd. You’ll feel confident about every move you make to market and sell your art—in an authentic way, without feeling pushy. Spoiler alert: It might even be . . . FUN!
You’ll have a clear direction for what to do now, next week, and next month to sell more work. You’ll know what you need to do and what you don’t need to do—and you’ll be more efficient about it so you can spend more time creating.
With the clarity and confidence that come from following a plan, you’ll be more likely to take action—and enjoy the process while you’re at it! Here are the next steps:
Photo by Seth Doyle on Unsplash
3 | Set goals and track metrics
For a strong marketing plan you need to set goals. We all set goals in our heads, but writing them down and making them official gives you a destination; the rest of your marketing plan is the map for how you’ll get from here to there.
4 | Examine your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats
Don’t assume that you have to do it all yourself, or that you have to be good at everything. No one is good at everything that relates to marketing.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses helps you figure out which tasks come naturally to you, and where you might consider bringing somebody in to help you.
It’s also a good idea to look at what opportunities there are in the market, whether they’re local, national, or international, and examine any possible threats—what could be coming that could hurt your business. Again, you want to be proactive rather than reactive. Your art business is unique, and your marketing plan will be too.
5 | Get clear on your artist’s brand
By “brand,” I don’t mean your logo or tagline. In this case, brand is an umbrella term that describes the personality of your business.
Your brand is made up of the personal and professional values that are at the foundation of your business. You’ve been making business decisions based on these values whether you’re aware of them or not.
Taking the time to understand this foundation will help you make business and marketing decisions that are authentic to you and will help you identify your ideal buyer.
6 | Identify your ideal buyer
I believe this is the crux of a strong marketing plan. Identifying your ideal buyer helps you focus on speaking to one person rather than trying to speak to a vague “target market” that could be intimidating.
Think of your ideal buyer as one person, a person who best represents someone who would buy your work. Then write a profile for that person. Need help writing your ideal buyer profile? Download my free Ideal Buyer Worksheet:
7 | Create a marketing strategy
There is no one thing that will skyrocket your sales. Marketing requires a system that works to attract your audience, get them engaged, make sales, and build ongoing relationships with your customers.
You need a strategy for your marketing work, because without a clear approach with all the steps laid out, how do you know what tactics (or tools) you need to use? Should you focus on social media (which platform?), building an email list, improving your website? How will you know which tactics will work together for your art business?
8 | Choose the right tactics for you and your ideal buyer
Once you’ve come up with a strategy designed for your unique business, then you can choose which tactics or tools will work for you and your ideal buyer. Tactics are things like posting on social media, engaging in public relations, doing email marketing, and choosing sales outlets.
For example, say you’re comfortable with a certain social media platform, so you want to focus your marketing efforts there. But what if your audience doesn’t spend time there? They’re never going to come across your work.
Or the opposite: you’ve heard that a certain social media platform is the best place to find art clients. But what if you can’t stand that platform? That’s not going to work either.
For help choosing the right social media platforms for your business, download my free worksheets, Choose the Right Social Media for Your Art Business:
9 | Create a marketing and promotions calendar
Having your tasks written down in a calendar will keep you from wondering what you should be doing. With your calendar in hand, you’ll sit down at your desk and you’ll know what to do—in this moment, today, this week, this month.
A side benefit of keeping all your tasks on a calendar: it makes it easier to hand tasks off to an assistant if you decide to go that route.
10 | Put processes in place to support you so that you actually do the work
Without processes in place, it's easy to get side-tracked, distracted, or just “decide” that there are more important things to do than your marketing work.
Here are some examples of helpful processes: Plan your work in six-week increments to keep you working towards your goals in manageable chunks. Use time blocking— scheduling large blocks of uninterrupted time in your calendar for tasks you need to do every week.
And, related to that: work batching—instead of approaching certain tasks (social media posts, for example) over and over again during the week, work on them in batches and see how much more efficient you feel!
Bonus: Be consistent! Long-term success comes from your ability to stick to your plan, adapt when needed, and keep on following through.
If this sounds like a lot, don't worry—you don't have to go it alone. You can have the support of a marketing expert as well as a community of artists while you learn how to become the boss of your art business.
You can finally start selling your art confidently and consistently without spending thousands of dollars on “experts” or handing over control of your marketing and sales to a few galleries. How? By joining the Art Marketing Project membership!
Hi, I’m Cindy. I have committed most of my career to working in the visual arts and with artists. I have both a Bachelor's and a Master's degree in marketing, have worked for 20+ years in marketing including art museums, art schools, art festivals, art districts, and performing arts organizations.
I teach in-person marketing courses and workshops for artists through Americans for the Arts and at several local arts associations in and around my home state of Colorado. I'm currently teaching marketing and communications strategy at the University of Colorado Denver and at the University of Denver.
My career in the arts had an unusual start: I was a single mom to a young, burgeoning artist whose kindergarten teacher suggested I enroll her in art classes. She started taking classes at our local art school and then I eventually became the school's marketing director.
My daughter is now in art school studying painting. As you can see, I have a vested interest in helping artists to be successful!
I hope you'll consider becoming a member of the Art Marketing Project for $37/month. Everyone (especially the highly-creative artist) needs support, good advice, and a community that understands them. We will be here to support you and help you make smart decisions. See you on the inside!