If you're just getting set up to manage your own art marketing, you might be overwhelmed by all the tools that are available. To simplify it for you, here are my 10 top marketing tools for artists, with ideas for planning, setting up your website, email, and social media platforms, along with tips for telling your unique story as an artist and getting the support you need. Here are my top 10!
1 | The 12 Week Year (book)
Let’s start with a planning tool. My students in the Art Marketing Project membership ask me this all the time: “I've set my goals for the year, and I know the strategy I'm going to use to get there, and I know the tasks I need to do, but how do I keep track of my progress? How do I keep myself moving along from day to week to month?” And I respond by telling them about the book The 12 Week Year and how I use it:
In December I set overall business goals so I know where I want to be by the end of the following year. I follow the planning process in The 12 Week Year but I put my own twist on it:
- I create a 6-week plan every 6 weeks, during which I think through where I’m at now and what I need to do in my business to reach my goals.
- Every Monday morning, I review my 6-week plan and create a weekly plan, which is just a list of what I need to get done this week to stick to the 6-week plan.
- At the end of every day, I make a list on a post-it note of the top 3–4 things I need to do the next day and number them in order of importance. This helps me get into action quickly in the morning and away from scrolling on the internet or getting lost in the weeds on something interesting, but not important.
2 | Instagram
I recommend Instagram as the number one social media platform for artists because it's visual. Also, it's easier to develop a following on Instagram than it is on Facebook. You can get your social media legs under you as you observe the comments generated by your posts, interact with followers, and watch your audience grow.
When you share content on Instagram, use hashtags that are related to your ideal buyer and your brand more than you use hashtags about your work.
For example, say you’re a landscape painter. If you use hashtags like #abstractoilpainter or #landscapepainter, guess who you're going to attract? You’ll attract abstract painters and landscape painters, because those are the people following those hashtags.
Instead, use hashtags that relate to your ideal buyer such as #outdoorenthusiast or #getoutside, or whatever hashtags are related to the activities that your ideal buyer is interested in, along with organizations and activities that relate to your brand.
You can also spend time on Instagram exploring hashtags to see what kind of content you come across. Find an artist whose work and style aligns with yours. Then see if they’re doing what I recommend: are they using hashtags that will help them be seen by their ideal buyer? If so, try a few of those hashtags yourself and grow from there.
I recommend using Tailwind to help you schedule your social media posts; it also gives you hashtag suggestions.
You can use up to 30 hashtags per post on Instagram (although 9–12 is ideal). In my course, I talk about splitting your hashtags into thirds: one third related to your ideal buyer, one third related to your brand, and one third about your art. Want to know more about this? Join the Art Marketing Project membership to get access to my online course. Read about it here.
3 | Tailwind
Once you're up to speed on Instagram, posting regularly and getting good engagement, I highly recommend Tailwind for scheduling and automating your Instagram Stories and posts ahead of time (Tailwind works with Pinterest too).
For a low monthly fee, Tailwind allows you to dedicate one block of time per week to schedule your social media posts, freeing you up from having to pay attention to it daily. You can manage it from your desktop rather than your phone—and you can have an assistant log in and manage your social media for you if you like!
4 | Mailchimp
Your most important asset may be your mailing list. For one, it’s something you own and control. If you’ve built a social media following but haven’t encouraged your most engaged followers to join your list, where will you be when the social media platform changes its rules? You need your followers to join your platform, which is your email list.
When followers subscribe to your email list, they are self-selecting: they’re telling you that they’re interested in hearing what you have to say and seeing what you have to offer. These highly engaged individuals are the people you want to focus on in your marketing.
To do this, you need an email service provider, and Mailchimp is a platform that makes it easy to get started. It's free for up to 2000 subscribers, and it includes automation (you can set up automatic welcome sequences for new subscribers, for example).
Mailchimp makes it hard for you to make an old-fashioned-looking email, full of indexes and links and giant photos, and that’s a good thing. Mailchimp guides you through best practices for modern email.
Not convinced that you need to send email to your followers? Read this: 6 Important Reasons Why Artists Need an Email List
5 | Squarespace
Squarespace is probably my favorite website platform for artists. I really love WordPress too, but I've been managing WordPress websites for many years, so I've already put in the time it takes to be comfortable with it. But for a lot of people, WordPress isn’t easy.
That's why I like Squarespace. They provide all you need to create a website with a blog, connect to your Instagram account, sell your art online, market your business, and track your success. Squarespace has all the tools that WordPress does, but it's simpler.
Because it’s a popular platform, there are plenty of people who can build and update your Squarespace website for you if that’s what you need.
Want to compare Squarespace with WordPress and Shopify? Read this post: Top Tools for Selling Art on Your Website
6 | Google Analytics
It’s crucial to track metrics in your business so that you have an objective means of measuring what is or isn’t working.
If you're not analyzing the data, it's too easy to make decisions about your marketing based on your personal feelings—whether you like or dislike the work, for example—rather than whether it is actually benefiting your business.
Having the data and analyzing it will help you make smart decisions rather than relying solely on your preferences or your gut instinct. The job of a marketer is to try something, and then look at the results and ask, what do those results tell me?
With Google Analytics you can track which information is most popular on your website, how many visitors you’re getting and how long they stay, how much traffic each of your social media outlets is bringing to your site, and how many visitors subscribe to your newsletter.
If you need help setting it up, any website manager can add Google Analytics to your website. Here’s an article about it on moz.com.
Knowledge is power when it comes to marketing! Keep track of your results so that you have an objective way of measuring what is or isn’t working. In the Art Marketing Project membership, we get into the details of marketing metrics. For starters, grab my Marketing Testing Toolkit for Artists:
7 | Video
Video is one of the best ways to boost awareness of your art and business, and to engage your audience. You can do it in whatever way feels most comfortable to you.
You can record 15-second videos for Instagram Stories, you can create a series of polished emails for your VIP buyers, showing them a new series of work you're creating in the coming year, or you can be daring and do a Facebook Live every week. Video is all the rage right now, and it’s great for building an audience of art buyers.
My friend Zach Wolfson created a how-to post about this just for you. You can find it here: How to Easily Create Video to Promote Your Art
8 | An engaging story
Mythologist Joseph Campbell spoke of the hero's journey. Telling the story of your own journey as an artist will help your potential buyers feel an emotional connection to you and your work.
We’re drawn to other people’s stories, to their deep experiences of life. You can start by telling your backstory—the story of where you came from, what you do, who you do it for. But you can go farther than that.
Use Joseph Campbell’s stages of the hero’s journey to delve into your story: what was your call to adventure, who are your mentors and allies, what obstacles have you encountered, what hard times have you gone through, what strengths have you gained, and what gifts have you brought to the world?
How have you found your life’s passion and followed it, how have you forged “the path that is no path?” What are some of your “aha” moments, your uncanny discoveries? Describe what it’s like to be in the flow when you’re creating. When have you had the courage to seek the depths? What are your sources of inspiration? What are you working on now? What projects are you planning?
You can tell your story over and over again in different ways with a variety of media: You can use video and social media; you can blog (tip: consistent blogging gives you lots of practice in telling your story), and you can email your list. Bonus: when you're pitching to the media or being interviewed, you’ll have your story ready to tell.
I guess that’s the thing about a hero’s journey. You might not start out a hero, and you might not even come back that way. But you change, which is the same as everything changing. The journey changes you, whether or not you know it, and whether or not you want it to.
― Kami Garcia, Beautiful Redemption
9 | A positive mindset
It’s not always easy to balance life, art, and business, is it? Purposefully adopting a positive mindset can help you stay resilient and adaptable through it all.
For our Facebook group in the Art Marketing Project membership, one of our guidelines is: Don't be negative. Choose your thoughts and your words carefully, because they create your reality.
Cultivate a positive mindset, believe that you have the capacity to reach your goals, believe that you're good enough, believe that you are enough, that your work is strong, and that you have an audience waiting to be found. Having a positive mindset is critical to your success.
For more on mindset, read 7 Important Mindset Tips for Art Marketing Success.
10 | A supportive community
Having a supportive community of other artists who are business focused is really helpful when you’re selling your own art. If you spend your time with artists who tend to say, “Oh, I hate the commercialism of selling my work,” that’s not going to light you up about the marketing work you need to do!
Surround yourself with business-minded artists who are supportive, who help hold you accountable to your goals. When you’re in business for yourself, the path to success can be a long and winding road, and you’re going to need all the support you can get.
Your friends and family can be as supportive as they are able, but when they don't understand what you're going through, they can only support you so much.
Your supportive community of artists will help you break through barriers and think differently about the challenges in front of you. Without them, it’s easy to talk yourself into abandoning your project when you’re having a tough time.
Keep company with people who get you. You can achieve more in a year when surrounded by the right people than you can in your whole lifetime alone.
Seek out in-person artist associations, or find out if there are artist meet-ups in your community. When you start engaging in person with other artists, you'll find people you jive with.
Look for opportunities to build a supportive community. Whether it's 2 or 3 people meeting for coffee once a month, a community of 50 at an artists' association, or a Facebook group with 1000 people, find a place where you feel like you fit in and get the support you need. We have a supportive community of artists in the Art Marketing Project membership. Read about it and join us!
Do you have any favorite marketing tools you'd like to share? Tell us in the comments below!
*This post includes an affiliate link for Tailwind. If you click on my link and sign up, I get a small benefit. I only serve as an affiliate for products I use and recommend.