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Duck in Bowl

We've done a lot of interviews here. We've also done a fair number of guest posts. One of the themes that runs strongly throughout all of these posts is that there are a lot of artists out there who are making a good living doing what they love doing. Painters. Glass Bottle Jewelry Makers. Print Makers. Photographers. You get the idea. They all make a living creating beautiful, inspirational things for people, and they're thrilled to be able to do it.

I've had extensive conversations with many artists who are "doing it right" and here's what they all tell me - there is no "right way" to sell art. You can be a gallery artist, a sell-it-online artist, or a sell it out of your trunk artist - as long as you just go out there and do it.

You know. Nike style.

Why Your Marketing Isn't Working

You may rather be in the studio, but your work isn't going to dance out the front door and shout itself from the roof tops. Despite my well-received post on creative hiding, merely pondering the inspirational nature of your art isn't going to sell anything. You need to eat in order to stay inspired - and that means getting the work done. One of the hardest working artists I know is also one of the most successful. Matt Richards spends enormous amounts of time both creating his art and marketing himself. He works all of the time - and he's build something pretty amazing.

You're Not Having Any Fun

Artists are interesting. Be yourself on the internet, just like you are in real life.

I swear, if I see one more artist website or blog with a plain black background and teeny tiny unreadable font, I'm going to unplug the internet. Argh.

In all seriousness though - ya'all put SO. MUCH. WORK. into your art, your mailers, your artist statements, and then you have a website that says, "uh, I don't know what I'm doing so I just flipped the on switch on this here template and called it good. Will that work?" No. No it will not. You will fail. Some 25 year old with a better website will come along and everyone will pay attention to them. And you will cry.

You Don't Know What You're Doing

The Thriving Artist survey results revealed that most artists think that the biggest obstacle to selling their art is learning how to market. Thank goodness, because that's an easy one to fix. There's only about a dozen really great courses on the Internet to choose from. Plus a handful of books. The single best investment that an entrepreneur can make is in educating themselves.

You're Not Talking to the Right People

Marketing fails when you send the right message to the wrong person. Your post-apocalyptic glass bead jewelry probably isn't going to appeal to motorcycle racing aficionados. Or something like that.

So - who are you trying to reach? Why responds well to your work? Where do they hang out? What are their hobbies? Got it? Good.

You're Not Telling Them What to Do

You might have 5 people on your site right now who think your art is the greatest thing since sliced bread. They might even be thinking, "I wonder where I can get something like this." No joke. It happens.

Does your website make it painfully obvious to a 3rd grader what people should do to get their hands on your art? Don't overestimate your audience. The average American's reading level is 9th grade. MAKE. IT. OBVIOUS and tell them exactly what you want them to do. Simply.

You're Not Being Consistent

So much of marketing is timing. The right message to the right person at the right time. Michael Whitlark explained in his interview that he talks to people at fairs, then at trade shows, then at galleries, then he goes home and emails them. Usually one of those gets people to buy.

Talk to people about your work. All of the time. Don't be obnoxious, but do it slightly more than you are comfortable with and that'll probably be about the right amount.

You're Not Planning

Put some thought into your marketing. Why are you doing it? Who are you talking to? When will you do it? In order to do it right, how long will it take you? Start with where you want to end up and work backwards from there. How many days will it take? How many hours per day? What specifically will you need to do? Where are your knowledge or ability gaps? See this post on creating a business plan for your art business.

You're Not Testing and Moving On

One of the most important things about marketing on the Web is that you can easily measure whether something's working. Are you using analytics tools like Google Analytics? Are you measuring the right thing? Here are your important stats: sales, unique visitors, which pages they're visiting, and where they're coming from. Those few stats will get you pretty far. The point here is to test lots of things (blogging, email marketing, Facebook ads, etc), see which ones get traction, and dump the ones that aren't.

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