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Learning to Sell Art: Investing in Yourself


image by ruby_blossom

There are lots of ways to make money as an artist. You can get your paintings into galleries and sell them for thousands. You can make street art for pocket change and fame. You can sell giclee prints online. You can license your art to other companies. Seriously, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of ways to do it.

Which one do you choose? How do you choose?

Eventually, at some point, you have to grow up and stop acting like a starving artist. You need to get your you-know-what together. If you don't have a rich uncle, a sugar momma, or a trust fund then you need to learn how to sell your art. It's a business. Say it with me now:

"Business is not a dirty word."

How do you learn how to be in business? The same way you learned how to paint. By taking lessons and practicing. When you are learning to make art, you go to a class, hire a tutor, collaborate with friends, and make a lot of mistakes. If you are smart, and perhaps a little lucky, you hire a good teacher who takes you much further than you could have gone on your own.

Good teachers are expensive sometimes. RISD's tuition is $39,482 per year. But it's okay because you're investing in your passion, right? Absolutely. I have a whole bunch of debt from my BFA, but I don't regret it at all.

Invest in Your Business Like You Did Your Training

I think we all know enough people with college degrees who stopped learning the moment they walked off the podium. Let's not be that person. It's a given in most business circles that you invest in your self if you want to get what you want. For some reason, the art world teaches artists not to take control of their own career. There's a lot of insular thinking that generates a weird circle of, "I'm an artist. I don't do that." Meanwhile, people who never self-identified as artists are selling $25,000 commissions because no one told them they couldn't do it.

People who go to business school learn how to sell stuff. They then have a problem: what will they sell?

Artists simply have the opposite problem. They have something to sell, they just need to learn how to sell it.

A business person can come up with their own ideas to sell. They're called entrepreneurs. Artists can learn how to sell stuff. They're called entrepreneurs as well. Interesting how that comes together, isn't it?

Either way, the individual needs to learn. Artists have two choices: hire a business person, or learn to be a business person. You'll probably do both at different points in your career.

Learn to Be A Business Person

Trial and error is a great way to learn. Put something up for sale and see what happens. Make little tweaks until something works. Repeat. Read everything you can about: sales, art galleries, pricing, websites, email newsletters, social media, personal and business finance.

Hire a Business Person

Coach. Agent. Gallery owner. Promoter. Manager. Do you know what each of those are? Do you know when to hire the right person. I'm a coach for creatives, but I'm not an agent or any of the other stuff. You may not need most of them, but you could probably benefit by hiring some or all of them.

The point is this: take the time to learn. Sit down each day and spend a some quality time with a good book. Try. Do one thing to further your financial goals each day. Don't give up.

Cory HuffThis article is courtesy of
Cory Huff is a digital strategist specializing in helping artists learn to sell their art online. His Big Hairy Audacious Goal: help 1000 artists create a full-time living from their art. You can view more blog posts like these and get a free gift for ArtPal artists here: window