It is a fact that art generally does not sell itself. You may find that places that sell your art for you do not do as well as when you are in front of your customers as an artist selling yourself. Part of selling art is promotion that can be approached from many ways at once.
Promotional Emails or Newletters:
When at an art show, have an email sign up list for visitors to fill out. When you have a new art show or any art related event in that area, send out a simple email blast inviting them. Many artist design and send out on a regular basis a more sophisticated newsletter with this information included in it. Many artist use a reasonably priced bulk email company such as www.icontact.com or www.constantcontact.com to send out these emails. One nice thing about these services is that you can have separate email lists under different titles and you can target only those lists you want to for a specific event. Also, the customer can easily unsubscribe from your email list automatically without any extra work on the artist side.
For my art exhibits, I create postcards or print off 4×6 prints, as shown in the photo, and leave them around in local businesses close to the exhibit. These locations are mainly art or photography related and customers pick them up. The remaining prints are placed at the exhibit as a fancy business card for those attending to take home. I find the 4×6 prints on sale to be cost effective on smaller quantities versus 500 or 1000 postcards. This can also be done for art shows with the option of mailing them to past customers.
I found signing up with www.fineartamerica.com and entering your event in the event calendar, which is also free, has great benefits and is available on a national level. If your event is selected, they will mention your event such as an art show in their email newsletter to a great number of customers with an art interest. These customers are targeted to the general location of the event along with a link to a web page with additional event detail. I am really surprised that more artist do not take advantage of this free service, but now you know about it and you can with a little effort. Once you spend the initial time to figure how to enter an event, all your future events will only take about 10 minutes to submit.
When more serious art collectors see your art work at different events such as art shows, displaying at galleries, public art events, solo shows and group shows around your area they may be more likely to purchase some of your art at art shows. I feel all of this promotion adds up to give you more credibility as an artist. I feel collectors would rather buy art from an artist that they feel will be around in 5 to 10 years more than someone they see on and off for a year and then disappears from the art scene.
My theory is that even if you live in a very populated and spread out area such as I do near Phoenix, AZ, the number of people that visit art shows is a much smaller number. These people will visit many art shows as something they enjoy to do and not just to look for art to purchase. They will get around and if you do enough shows or other type of public exhibits, even in different areas, they will start to recognize your art work. It is something like print ads were some customers need to see your product (art work) numerous times before they make a purchase.
One thing I do is numerous public art exhibits. While I like to show my newer work mostly, for larger exhibits of my art, I always include a few older classic images that I have shown at shows in the past. I do this so people who may not remember your name may remember one of the older images if they liked it. They will then realize that this is an artist they have seen before and that this is new work from you that they have not seen. This is part of my need to see your work numerous times to get credibility to some collectors plus who doesn’t like to show their classics.
At first thought the artist may think that this is a no brainier, have business cards easily accessible at art shows is a good thing. At art shows, for customers purchasing art is more of an “In the moment decision”. Once the customer leaves your booth, they will most not likely be back. Sometimes taking a business card is just a nice way for the customer to leave your booth without purchasing.
Artists handle business cards in different ways. Some place them in the front of the booth that is easy to find and take. Other artist may place them within the booth area but in a section more inside the booth in which a more serious customer looking for a business card could find. I see artist at the higher end shows sometimes have business cards in the back out of site and supply business cards to the customer upon request. This has the advantage of having the customer requiring a brief personal contact with the artist to receive the card.
Although it is unlikely that people who take business cards will contact you later, it does happen and the cost of business cards is so small that I feel they are worth having. Having a well designed business card also has a more professional look. I recommend that your business card have more of an artist look and can have one of your art images or custom business logo on it. Some business card information you may include are the artist name, business name, business address, web site, email address and phone number. In my case, I have all this information on my web sites contact page. If you feel that many of your customers do not use the internet, then I would definitely have a phone number on the business card.
Many places from local print shops to the popular VistaPrint can print business cards for you. If you go the online route, I recommend getting on the mailing list first so you will get discount offers before ordering. The more business cards you purchase at the same time, the less expensive each card becomes. One suggestion on business cards is to not have both sides coated unless you are having print on both sides. If you only coat the text/image side to give it a glossier look and leave the blank side uncoated, you will be able to write on the blank side. It is nice to use the blank side of the card to write down for the customer the title, sizes or prices of the art pieces that they are interested in for later referral.
For artist, I do not think that the pre-designed business cards that you can choose for free at these sites and just add your contact information will be best since artist should show in their business card that they are creative and have custom looking cards. If you just want to get some business cards starting out and use a more basic card design, that is fine but for the long term, I suggest a more impressive business card.
What do I do? I used to have business cards, but now I produce 4×6 photo prints at Costco that act as my business cards. I have some set forms that I add 3-4 photos on and the customers seem to like them. At this time I have five different versions with different themes such as landscapes, doors, or cars and if a customer is interested in a particular subject matter in my booth, I give them a related theme card. You can see an example of one of my cards here. I tend to change out my card images every year and see them as more of a trading card that customers who visit me often may collect.
I do not always wait for a customer to pick up a business card. If a customer seems serious by looking at many of my images and taking their time but not ready to purchase at that time, I will offer them a business card by handing one to them as they are leaving the booth. The artist should not give a business card to the customer without the customer asking for one until the artist is sure that the customer is not going to purchase at that time and is leaving the booth.
Another reason to have business cards is if you have an exhibit in a public place such as a library or store. Having business cards available is a way for customers to take some information home with them to be able to contact the artist. Business cards are also handy to hand out to fellow artist or to others as part of your normal artist business activities.
Another alternative option or addition to handing out business cards is to offer to send the customer an email showing the art they are interested in. If the customer is interested in a specific image or images, ask for the customers name and email address. Then send out later that day or the next morning an email to the customer including the following information.
1. Thanking them for visiting your artist booth.
2. Perhaps something personal that you talked about.
3. Include image or images of artwork that the customer was interested in. These should be inline images and not as attachments if possible.
4. Artwork information such as title, size and price.
5. A closing statement to contact you to further discuss or purchase. Include your contact information.
Do not be afraid to resend a similar email out a few weeks later. Having an interested customer’s email address can also be used to send invites to future art shows.
Custom business cards from Vistaprint are available through Amazon. Prices are reasonable with quantity’s of 500 or 1000.
I feel that every artist today should have a web site or web presence. You can put your art on-line at many sites such as www.fineartamerica.com and many more without needing to know much about computers. If you do not know how to create high quality digital files of your art, you can have someone scan or photograph your art that will be used to upload to these sites. Many of these on-line galleries sites will even make a print from your submitted digital file and fulfill the order by sending the print directly to the customer for you.
There are many of these art related web site galleries around and many are free to display your art. Others may be free but charge you a fee if you sell any art. Some of the more sophisticated sights may charge a monthly fee, just to display, depending on how many art images you have on your own personal gallery. These sights may look more like your own individual web site and not just one more artist grouped into a large group of artists. There are many choices to choose from and no reason you cannot select more than one.
If you can manage your own web site or pay someone to do this for you, it is always best to have your own web site for flexibility and customization for your specific needs. When you sell off of your own web site, you do not need to share a commission. Most commercial web sites are geared to selling original artwork or a photography print of one size. They do not handle multiple sized prints which is best for photography or painters wanting to sell prints besides the originals. With your own customized web site, you can display multiple prints sizes and prices such as I do here on my own web site using a drop down menu.
Another advantage of having your own web site or multiple gallery web sites is that many on-line gallery web sites have been going out of business and all your hard work setting them up is then gone. For this reason, always keep a copy of all your digital art files on your computer for later use. I have my art on my own web site www.bobestrin.com and also on a variety of other on-line gallery sites that bring in additional views of my art work. On some of these other web sites that may have only 3 -10 images shown, I then list my own personal web site for customers to visit to view additional art images.
Artist can use their web site to market future art shows. I have a specific web page on my site just for this. I list the event, date, hours, address and show web site and contact information if available. This information, if done in advance, can be picked up by search engines. Recently, I have started to send out tweets in Twitter about my art show events as well as other art related events and new images. With Twitter you have a limited number of words you can use so I give a link to my web site’s www.bobestrin.com/shows.htm page to show more detail information about the art event if they are interested. While I do not use Facebook myself, if you do this can also be a powerful marketing tool to promote your art and events.
The web site is also a good place for customers to look up more information on you as an artist. I have a page that shows articles that have been written on my art, a page that lists my past exhibitions and a page that lists an artist statement / bio and general information about the artist. I tend to think of my web site as an on-line resume / portfolio and not just for selling my artwork.
My experience is that web sites will not bring in sales that often but when they come in; tend to be much larger orders. A web site is also a good place for Interior Designers to find you as well as an on-line portfolio for people to review that may want to exhibit your art. A web site has many benefits beyond its sales potential.
Be careful of large or strangely written email order inquiries that you get from people looking at your web site. Most of them are just people trying to scam you using email. You will start to recognize them easily once you get a bunch of them. You can read the article How artist can protect themselves from internet scam orders for more information and examples of scam emails I have received.
One way to get art show visitors to notice you is to put up a custom banner. Visitors tend to walk by the artists tents at a fast pace and something needs to catch their eye to slow down or stop to look in more detail. One thing that can do that is a banner since it is usually in a place that is very viewable from a distance. You can have a banner on the top inside of the back wall or at the top inside of a side wall, at the front of your tent high up as a few examples. I have a 6′ x 3′ vinyl banner that I have even hung from the front of my 6′ table inside my tent.
I recommend vinyl banners with four grommets in the corner so you can use rope or bungee cord to place them in your tent area. Many local office supply stores can do banners. You normally need to pick a size and then custom design one before you have it printed. Most online printing companies have a step by step process that you go through. You can even upload your own images.
Here are a few sample sizes but many others are available from the printing company Signsinasnap.
This is the design of one of my vinyl banners.