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.
But this isn’t because your artwork is bad.
You might internalize a lack of sales 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 That:
Selling your art is about just that. SELLING. You need to be a salesperson and convince your potential customer why your art is meaningful and why they should want it. If you aren’t making sales, maybe it’s because:
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 you tell your story and make it interesting?
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. (Read: How to Write Engaging Instagram Captions)
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, to build a following, to build an inventory, 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.
It has taken me a long time to figure out my own path. I’m speaking from experience.
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.
Again, I know this from experience. When I was playing with fluid techniques, I had to figure out how to make my work stand apart from the other fluid artists.
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 professional and receptive. Also, if people message you on Instagram or Facebook, make sure to reply to inquiries. 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.
When we have businesses online, we need to show our customers we are real and we need to build trust.
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.
7. You don’t have a cohesive style.
To expand on the point before, when you don’t know your style, not only will you not fit in anywhere, but you will confuse your customers. What can they expect from you? If you can’t make a style promise to your audience and give them something moderately consistent over time, they are much less likely to follow you.
Ever listen to a new hit song on the radio, explore the rest of the album from that artist, and find the other songs were nothing like the first on you fell in love with? It’s important to create cohesive bodies of work.
If nobody is buying your art, you’re not alone.
Maybe it’s for the reasons above. Maybe for other reasons entirely. 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!
Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post.
P.S. You probably know by now that I am here to help artists with these posts. If you need help with your online branding, Instagram account, or just want a creative accountability coach, then check out my consulting services. You can easily add a session to my online calendar now.