Thursday, August 24, 2017

how to start selling your artwork

I get asked all kinds of questions about all sorts of creative things and once in a while I take the time to answer the frequently asked questions here on my blog!

Something I get asked a lot is how to get started selling your artwork and today I am the best advice I can give

Before you even start to think about selling your art or craft, you MUST have a good body of work! Now, this is going to look different depending on the things you create but it really helps to begin with enough art or products that look and feel like a cohesive collection that best represents you and your style.
Take time to develop your style before your jump into selling your art.
Be patient with this process! Taking time to really identify your style will save you the trouble of needing to change things further on down the road. 
Challenge yourself to create a collection of art or handmade items. I like to think of a collection as enough products to fill an online shop or a good amount of paintings that can be added to a portfolio. 

Taking great photos of your work is one of the most important ways to capture the things that make your art unique. Over time and experience, I have learned that good lighting will make all the different in a photo. My #1 rule is to always have good lighting. This means I try to use as much natural light as possible and I never use flash.
Try finding a window or place that has natural light and use this spot to photograph you work. Keep in mind natural light changes over time and can be affected by weather. I like to shoot photos in front of a window with the light source at my back. 
If using natural light is not an option, then you might want to invest in some soft box lights. Having lighting will enable you to take well lit photos at any time of the day. I use these lights in my studio. 
When taking photos of products use backgrounds that are simple. I like using white butcher paper in natural light because products appear bright and crisp in photos.

Trying to sell your work in a gallery, small boutique, craft bazaar or art festival is a great way to experiment with showing and selling your art and craft. This process can be intimidating and even scary but it can also be a valuable way to interact with the public, get instant feedback on your work and gain experience selling. While this topic could be a post in itself I want to at least share a handful of ways to get started.


Creating stock well in advance is really important. Most customers shopping at a art festival or craft show are looking for lots of inventory to shop from. Creating a lot of products and offering variety will attract customers. 
Prepare and plan out your booth ahead of time! Different shows have different booth requirements so make sure you are aware of the required size and if there are any rules or regulations for what you can bring or set up. Laying out your booth and setting it up ahead of time (not when you show up the day of the show) will help for a smooth set up process when you arrive. 
Get creative with your booth display! Color, unique signage, interesting and ways to display our work will only help to attract shoppers into your booth.  
Have a variety of products at different price points. 
Know how to price your work. A simple formula to follow- TIME + MATERIALS= COST 
Make sure you have tags for your products, business cards, unique or fun packaging- all these things make a customer shopping at a craft show feel a little more special.  
Have a mailing list sign up available for customers to sign. 

I am going to start by saying that getting your work into galleries or even getting a solo show is can be hard and it typically isn't something that happens right away. Often you need to grow a body of work, build your portfolio, network with galleries and start small. In my experience, having worked in galleries and museums, I've found that this world is a little (dare I say) pretentious (just my opinion) and it can be a tough world to break into. But once you get your foot in the door, more opportunities can open up. Thankfully the art world is changing and these days it seems like there are more than just galleries that hang, show and sell art. Restaurants and coffee shops, even office buildings and unique stores show and sell fine art.
When it comes to showing your art it often means starting small. Don't limit yourself to only looking for BIG opportunities at popular galleries- sometimes the little opportunities can lead to bigger things. 
Put together a comprehensive portfolio- digital and hard copy. This way you can email or send your work to potential contacts and opportunities. 
Always keep your portfolio updated and fresh. Add new work as you create it and try to challenge yourself to create art that could be appealing for a gallery or an art show. 
Do your research! These days galleries have websites where you can access their information and many of then even have a place to submit your work. 
Don't be afraid or discouraged by small opportunities to show or hang you work. Each of these smaller opportunities can be used to build your creative resume.
Think outside the box! Maybe you don't have galleries in your community but do you have other places and spaces that need art for their walls? Try getting creative and BRAVE and approach local businesses that might be a good fit for your work. 

Getting your art or handmade goods into shops and boutiques is as simple as walking in and asking to speak to the manager. This method takes a lot of courage (and often a manager might not be there) so email is another great way to reach out to retail opportunities. 
Made sure you understand pricing. When selling your work, retail buyers often take a percentage of your sales so you MUST be strategic when you set your prices.  
Depending on what you make, you may find that it's not profitable to sell certain products. But with a little planning you can tweak, adjust and even come up with new products so that it works for you.
Knowing your customers and where your work fits will help you find the right retail opportunities.  
Have a price list with great photos of your products all ready to go- this can be sent via email if you have inquiries about your work. 
One the the quickest easiest way to sell your handmade goods (or even services) is by opening an online shop. The internet is such a great resources for connecting with customers all over the world. These days creating an online shop is super fast and easy.

NAME YOUR SHOP: Some artists use their names while others will come up with a shop name. If you are naming you shop, try to choose that name carefully because it will stick with you and your business for a LONG time.
BRANDING:  Branding your shop- in other words create a look and feel that represents you- will only help you to stand out amongst all those other handmade shops. A logo, an eye catching banner, photography, the brand of your shop should look cohesive and feel like you! 
GOOD PHOTOS:  Customers browsing and shopping online typically have a short attention span and that it why good quality photos are so important when putting your work online. Photos that are good, clean and clear of visual clutter will help your shop look professional. 
BE PATIENT: Don't expect sales to happen over night! As hard as it is to accept, opening an online shop requires a lot of patience, trial and error and experimenting with marketing. 
PRICING: Take time to price your goods. Your first priority should be making a profit and as tempting as it is to keep your prices low (really low) in the long term (after time spent making, marketing, shop fees, packing and shipping), it will be worth it price things higher or at least high enough so you make a profit. 

Social media is one the easiest ways to market and spread the word about the products or services that you offer. It is also a great way to connect with other people out there. While there are all kind of ways to get creative with social networking here are the things that seem to work the best:

FACEBOOK: Facebook is a great tool for building readership, marketing your work and even building a community centered around your business and the things you share. To begin, make sure you have a facebook page. Take it it a step further and promote the things you share on your page. Anything from links to your blog posts to inspiring images, quotes, your products are all things you can share on facebook. Try not to over promote- instead try to create a place where your friends can check in and see what you have going on. I've got to be honest, I am not a big fan of facebook but for me it has helped get the word out to fans, readers and customers. Facebook has become one of many marketing tools that I lean on when I need to spread the word!
TWITTER: LIke Facebook, Twitter is another tool to spread the word. Posting links to your blog content, your online shop or your website is pretty much a no brainer but using Twitter is a great way to connect with your readers in a more personal way. Posting things that inspire you, little tid bits about your day, your creative process, your life helps your readers feel more connection to you and your everyday life. Take it a step further and follow bloggers and personalities in your industry. Tweet and retweet those people and the content that they share. This is a great way to make connections and build your community.

INSTAGRAM: Instagram is one of my favorite social networking tools. Because I love to take photos and I'd rather share something visual than come up with something to say. Connecting with customers through Instagram is a marketing tool that I utilize more than anything else.
While it is great to have innovative and creative content to share often what you need more than anything is to get a good flow of regular posts, updates, links and information to share. I recommend posting at least once a day but posting more is even better. 
Engaging with your customers and audience, while time consuming, is a really easy way to connect, relate, help and interact with the people that support you! Comment back and forth, answer questions, comment on things other people share. This is a great way to understand your customers, understand what they want, connect and create a network with like minded creatives. 
Don't oversell yourself! You are welcome to disagree but there has to be more to your message and the things you share than just trying to sell, sell, sell. Try finding ways to let your customers in to your process, your personal life and your voice.

Have a question you want me to answer? Feel free to leave a comment or email me

To read more about my journey as an artist-

jump start a creative career- HERE

taking a leap into full time artist- HERE

coping with creative burnout- HERE

coping with failure- HERE

how to keep your work authentic- HERE

the art of chasing a dream- HERE

managing life and a creative business- HERE

the art of setting goals- HERE 

the art of blogging- HERE and HERE

the things I haven't shared- HERE

stronger than I ever knew- HERE


Priyanka said...

Love your detailed post Alisa! Thank you so much for sharing. Can't wait for your live Q&A.

Cara Clark said...

So much good advice. Thank you for putting these tips together!

Nina Athena said...

I have been your silent reader for a while, and now I think you should know how valuable and helpful the information and tips you have shared with us. Thank you for sharing. Would love to see your updates again and maybe we can share ideas and collaborate with each other in the future.

social media marketing


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