It’s sometimes hard to know where to focus as an artist. There are so many aspects to running your own art business and it can all leave your head spinning! So what’s a savvy freelance artist to do? Well, here are four key areas to start with to grow your art business.
1 | Get to know your customers as an artist
This is something that so many artists forget about or ignore, but it can be crucial to your success. You need to know your audience’s wants and needs. Not even just in relation to your artwork, but in their everyday life. Think about what motivates them to get out of bed every day, what brings a smile to their face, what makes them sad or angry, and what they want to accomplish in their life. These kinds of insights can help you connect with your audience on a whole other level and it can inform what art you create so that it will also resonate with your customers.
So tell me: How will your audience use your art? Where will they put it in their home? Will they send it as a postcard? Do they want it to make them happy or sad? Do they want to commemorate an event or keep a cause they’re passionate about front-of-mind for everyone who walks into their house?
Knowing what your audience’s answers to these questions would be will also help you meet them where they’re at. If they are or aren’t looking for an intensely emotional piece, you need to know that. If they want to commemorate something or someone, you’ll know that commissions should be a focus for you. Whatever the answers to these types of questions are, pay attention and take notes.
2 | Market your art
Market SMART! SMART stands for Sustainable, Memorable, Actionable, Relatable, and Tantalizing. We’ll dive into each of these concepts a little bit.
First, you need your marketing to be Sustainable. Sometimes a big push is okay, but overall, you want to sustain a steady flow of customers. To figure out which marketing methods will do this for you, you may need to experiment a little bit. Also, don’t waste your time and money on ads at first. When you don’t have much money coming in from your art, you want to start with word-of-mouth, social media marketing, and other forms of no-cost publicity. These methods will be more sustainable and can help you gather data that you need to run other marketing experiments in the future to find even more lucrative sustainable marketing methods.
Memorable marketing is important because you want to stick in peoples’ minds. Don’t get all clickbait-y with your art marketing, but you can still find something that will make someone say, “Oh, that makes me think of…!” Tie your art to something that will evoke a memory when you’re creating your marketing. You won’t want to go too generic (aka don’t connect your art with coffee or socks), but you can tell a story about what’s behind your art and make a connection with your audience that way.
Your marketing also needs to be Actionable. If you don’t tell someone what they need to do to buy from you or connect with your artwork, they’ll most likely just move on. It’s easy to pass something over if we don’t know what we’re supposed to do next. Don’t be shy about telling the viewer to “click here” or “share this with a friend” and tell them why they should do that! Giving your viewers an action step makes them more likely to take that action when viewing your marketing.
Make your marketing Relatable, too! If someone sees your art as a lofty aspiration but not something that connects with them where they are now, they won’t pay attention to your marketing, except to maybe Pin it to a One Day Pinterest board. (That probably won’t help you too much in the long run.) If someone sees you as the person behind the art, though, they won’t see it as just a pretty piece of art anymore. They’ll see it as a piece of you and by some strange transference, they may also see it as a piece of THEM if they relate to you and your story.
Finally, you should make your marketing Tantalizing. It should stand out a bit from the crowd (in a good way) and make the viewer sit up and take notice. Give them a reason to click or call or whatever other action you want them to take. It should catch their attention visually. The words in your marketing should also stand out, preferably because it’s relatable to your audience (see how everything’s tying together‽). Get creative with how you make your marketing tantalizing, too!
You can use the SMART framework in offline marketing as well as online marketing. If you’re networking with someone, think about these concepts as you talk to them. You might be surprised at how much of a difference it can make.
3 | Price your artwork strategically
This is something that almost every business owner struggles with, both as artists and non-artists! Making sure your pricing matches your audience and vice versa is a tough balancing act. On one hand, you need to price your work in a way that is sustainable so that you can keep a roof over your head and food on that table… but you also have to manage to price it so that people will actually buy it so you have that roof and food available. Ugh.
There are some strategies that can help you with this, though. For one, don’t be afraid to experiment with pricing and adjust as needed. Creating a variety of price points, for example, can make your art accessible to a range of budgets while still making it worth your time and effort. It can take some time to find that sweet spot, but once you do, it can make all the difference!
Get feedback from your target audience and see where that middle ground might be. If it becomes apparent that there just can’t be a middle ground for your current audience, it may be time to look for a new market, too. Business is all about adaptation, so it’s not a failure if you make changes like this that could grow your business!
4 | Create systems for your art sales
If you don’t already have a system for taking orders, you need to set this up ASAP! Having a system ready to handle orders and commissions is crucial. Sure, you may have a payment processor (if you don’t, check out Square and get $1000 of free payment processing!), but if you don’t know what you need to do next, it can quickly become a headache.
Even if you do already have some sort of art sales system, it doesn’t hurt to reevaluate it. You need to outline what steps you take after receiving an order or commission and set customer expectations accordingly, especially for commissions. For example, if you know that it typically takes you X days to complete X inches of canvas for an oil painting, but the client is expecting it to take half that time because they don’t know any better, you should communicate that to them immediately.
If you want to learn more about creating a client onboarding and project system, check out this post about it!
So there you have it: four key focus areas for success as a freelance artist. If you know your audience and nail your SMART marketing to connect with them, you’ll be better positioned to make sales. And if your pricing is in you and your audience’s sweet spot and you have a great system in place to accept orders and commissions, you’ll be ready to take your art business to new heights! Kudos for taking action to learn how to grow your art business and I can’t wait to see it grow.
Leave a comment with your thoughts on success as a freelance artist! Here are some ideas:
Which key focus area are you going to start with to grow your art business?
Did anything in this article surprise you?
What was your biggest takeaway or ah-ha moment from this article?