Nobody wants your art.
But it’s not because it’s bad…
Okay, so I don’t know if your art is good or bad. It’s such a subjective thing so it’s impossible to definitively judge the inherent goodness or badness of a piece of art, but I’ll save that for another post…
Are you having troubles selling your art? I know the struggle.
Selling art is hard.
Why? Because when you are just starting out, nobody really wants your art.
That’s not meant to be discouraging. It’s a realistic assessment of the art world. Let’s face it, there are a lot of artists out there. A lot of talented artists! The demand for art doesn’t even come close to matching up with the supply.
Yes, people want art. There are many art lovers hidden in communities that will support small, independent, and unpolished artists with enthusiasm. It feels like you’ve struck gold when you find one of them, but for the rest of your interactions with the arts community, it can feel like you can’t even give your art away.
Believe me. I’ve tried.
You might internalize this and think, “Wow, my art must really suck,” but that’s not the problem most of the time. If you are an artist, you know full well just how saturated the market is with talent. We are all competing to find those precious art lovers, and sometimes stomping on each other in the process. (Ever hear an artist say “That’s not art!” to another artist? Then you know what I mean.)
So what do you do when nobody wants your art? It’s easy. You have to convince people they want it.
I’m sorry to all my fellow shy introverts, but it’s time to put your sales face on.
Why People Don’t Want Your Art and how to fix it
1. You haven’t told your story yet.
Who were your first customers? Likely friends and family, right? Now ask yourself, why did they buy from you? Part of it was probably that they just wanted to support what you are doing, but another part is that they know your story.
Again, you are not the only talented artist out there. Not even close. If you just put your art into the world without context, you won’t gain much interest. Think of Instagram posts without captions. Boring, right? You need to build context around your art and tell your story.
“But what if I’m not very interesting?”
Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the story is, but how you tell it. Comedians and writers make the mundane interesting all the time.
“How can I tell my story?”
When you are selling work in person, you need to talk to people. If you are a shy introvert like me, it will be painful, but it’s necessary. Sometimes being an artist is a performance. Commit to it and go ask that stranger about the kind of art they like.
When selling online, always put time into writing a caption and product descriptions. When your following is low and nobody is reading, it might feel awkward, but you’re going to have a one-sided conversation for a while. Embrace it and consider it practice.
2. You don’t get your work out there enough.
The more people can see your work, the more likely they are to appreciate it and buy it. Ever hear a new song on the radio and kind of hate it at first, but then a couple of weeks later you find yourself singing every word and then you end up buying it or adding it to a playlist? Same idea.
In marketing there is the Rule of Seven, where a customer needs to be exposed to your product seven times before committing to it. (This article expands further.)
Keep pushing and keep putting yourself out there. This means having an Etsy shop, Facebook page, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest, maybe a blog, do local art fairs, get to know local businesses, team up with other artists, enter contests and group shows, post on art subreddits, etc..
Be strategic, consistent, and persistent.
3. You haven’t given it enough time.
A successful art career in most situations is going to take a lot of time. Time to develop your style, time to find your niche, time to build a following, time to build an inventory, time to learn how to market yourself. Sure, some things can happen quickly, but you may go a long while without feeling like you’ve made any progress. This is when it’s most important to keep going.
I’ve been selling my art since 2010, but it took me until a year ago to figure out my style and my direction.
4. You don’t know what sets you apart yet.
Just because your art is “good” doesn’t mean there is demand for it. You have to find your voice and your style to really stand apart. I don’t want to burst any bubbles, but if your work is really similar to a lot of other artists out there, you’re going to have a harder time selling your work. (Says the girl who uses fluid techniques…)
Take the time and ask yourself what makes your work different? How can you evolve and push your style?
5. Your customer service sucks.
If you are interacting with the community, you should try to be nice and accommodating. If people message you on Instagram or Facebook, make sure to reply. If someone buys a piece of art, show appreciation. Treat all customer interactions like a relationship. Even if a sale isn’t involved, no matter how insignificant a single interaction may seem, treat it with care.
You never know who might refer another customer to you.
6. You’re advertising to the wrong market.
I wish it worked like this, but you can’t just advertise to anyone who likes art and hope to capture sales. You need to narrow your focus as you develop your style. If you paint realistic landscapes, showing your work at a Pop Art event will likely be disappointing for you, right? The audience is all wrong.
If you create a variety of art styles, you’ll have an even harder time, because you won’t really fit anywhere.
The more you know your art and the art world, the better you can target your audience.
There you have it! If nobody is buying your art, you’re not alone. Even though my following has grown quite a bit, I still have to work to make sales. Being a professional artist takes constant effort, but it’s worth it.
I hope these tips have helped identify some of the things that might be standing in your way to making sales!
If you have questions or comments please leave them below!