I was recently interviewed by Youngman Brown of the Your Creative Push podcast (keep your ears open for the podcast episode). The question came up during our conversation and we talked about how getting started selling your work online is both a matter of tactics and of mindset. I'd love to share some of that with you, so let's dig into it.
Don’t let fear stand in your way
The big thing as far as mindset goes is to not let fear stand in your way of putting your work out into the world. You won't know whether your work will sell until you share it and let people know it’s for sale. Don't let your creative judgment stand in the way of you sharing your work or offering it for sale because many times the work that you're less excited about can be the work that other people really, really love.
One of my favorite quotes says, “Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” I believe that. Putting your work out into the world is a scary thing, but you'll never know what can come of it until you put the fear aside and just do it.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Putting your work out into the world is a scary thing, but you'll never know what can come of it until you put the fear aside and just do it.' – Art Marketing Project (@cindyshohman)” quote=”‘Putting your work out into the world is a scary thing, but you'll never know what can come of it until you put the fear aside and just do it.'”]
You do your job and let your audience do theirs
I like to think of it this way: Your job is to put your work into the world and your audience's job is to decide whether it’s right for them or not. Your job is not to curate your work for your audience or to decide what they will or won't like. Your only job is just to put your work out into the world so your audience can do their job.
Create a “ready to sell” rule like Disney
I have an artist friend who worked with Disney for many years. Disney had a go/no go rule. Their rule was that if 10 people said “I love this” or “I would love to have this,” then it was time to create reproductions of the work and sell them.
That metric might not work perfectly for you, whether it's five or 10 or three people, create a rule for yourself so you can take fear out of the equation and just follow the rule.
You don’t need a website…yet
I’m sure you know that a website is absolutely critical to your business–these days you don't have a business unless you have a website. You absolutely will need a professional website, but I wouldn't hold off on putting your work out there and getting that good feedback of selling work just because you don't have one yet.
If you don't currently have a website set up yet, go without one until you can get a professional one built, but don’t let it keep you from sharing and selling your work.
If you are ready to create a website or want to improve one that you have, check out my post, 8 Keys To A Strong Artist’s Website, and download my free Artist’s Website Self-Review Checklist if you want a quick list of artist website best practices.
It’s as simple as PayPal
You don't have to have a website, or Shopify, or any of those tools to sell your work. All you need is a PayPal or Stripe account. With PayPal, all you need to do is give people your email address and they can send you payment.
Yes, it will be nice to get a nice online store set up on your super-professional website, but don’t go through the effort of that before you can build a track record—even a small one—of selling your work.
Choose a primary social media outlet and focus your effort on that
When you’re just starting out, choose one primary social media outlet to focus on rather than trying to be successful on several at one time. Pick one that you're comfortable with personally so there's not an uphill struggle of learning how it works. Once you can get comfortable with one social media outlet then add another outlet or even start automating some of your social media.
In my opinion, the top three social media outlets for artists are Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook. All three outlets have their challenges and benefits, but if you decide that you're going to tackle all three of those at once you're not going to be very successful on any of them.
Of all three platforms, Facebook is the most challenging because the difference between using it personally and professionally is significant.
Don’t let anyone own your audience
It’s important to have a way to communicate and engage with your audience. It’s easy to see social media as the right tool for that, but it isn’t the best place for you to really connect with your audience…for several reasons.
Beware the algorithm. Facebook’s algorithm, even before the most recent changes, is set up so that only a small number of your followers are seeing a post. To get around that, you have to post more often, re-share content multiple times, or create live videos to reach your followers. Instagram’s algorithm isn’t as strict as Facebook, which is great, but when will they change it?
You don't want Facebook or Instagram or anyone else to be able to dictate how often your audience will be able to see the content you share.
The best way to make sure that your most interested audience members can hear from you regularly is to build an email list. With an email newsletter, 100% of the people on your list have the opportunity to see your newsletter compared to social media where only 10-15% percent of your audience can see what you posted today.
Here are some simple ways you can collect email addresses:
- Share a link to a Google form (survey) where you ask for name and email address
- If you have a website, you can set up a simple form on your site that asks for the same information
- Once you set up an email newsletter with MailChimp or MailerLite, you can create opt-in forms for your website, but you don’t have to have those in place to start capturing email addresses
Set goals to work toward
I’m a big fan of setting goals. I love it because once you have a goal set you have something to work toward and to compare your progress over time.
I personally set overall annual goals (just 3 for this year), but then I create shorter-term goals to keep me focused on the work that needs to be done now to get me to my big goals. My process is to create a six-week plan with goals and a to-do list with deadlines that relates to those goals. Once I have that complete, I create a weekly list of things to do based on my 6-week plan.
If you’re interested in hearing about my processes around getting things done and achieving my goals, check out my last blog post and video where I talked about it more extensively.
So, set some goals for yourself that will help you move the needle as your starting to sell your work. Whether those goals are for how often you post on social media, how many sales you will make, or even creating a plan to get you in the right mindset, write them down so you can look back and see how much success you’ve had.
It will motivate you to keep going and keep selling your work. And that’s the big goal, right?
Now get out there and start selling your work!