How to Sell Your Creative Work,
Even if You're Not Established:
Becoming established is totally relative. You should never hold yourself back by comparing yourself to people who appear to have everything you're trying to achieve.
I would encourage you to write down what you think it takes for someone in your field of work to become established. I think someone is established as soon as they land their first client. That goes for any industry.
Ever since I had two newspaper articles published about my artwork, this one, and this one. I've had a ton of people from my hometown message me and ask how I pulled it off, AND if any of it was even real.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Yes, I was able to sell about $10,000 worth of artwork. $9873 to be exact. One night, I opened up a Paypal account, joined a handful of online art communities to get my name out there, and the rest was history. There was a lot more to it, but hopefully those points will be explained later in this post.
- Each piece sold between $300-$1000. I would turn away projects any less that. I was actually undercharging for the work that I produced.
- Put into perspective, $10,000 is not a lot of money for a full-time artist. That figure was made over the entire year. With the proper methods put in place, I could've expanded my client base nearly tenfold.
- This blog post will not go into those advanced methods. This blog post will only talk on how I achieved the small success that I did. However, if you're eager to learn more about growing your art business...
So you want to start selling your art?
Awesome! Here are a few things that I wish I had known, before I tried selling my work.
- Media contacts are actually VERY easy to contact, and most love to promote local talent
- Don't let anyone convince you that you're making a bad decision, pursuing your dreams
- You will have to start off doing commission work before you start selling your own style
- Understand the differences between mediums, as well as what your ideal buyer wants
- You can make a killing without paying for any advertising (facebook ads, newspaper ads, gallery space)
- A website is NOT everything. There are artists out there who make loads of money with just a Facebook page (pulls 50k a year) or an Etsy shop (845 sales) or even an Instagram (each piece is worth $20k+ in collector value).
Now that that's out of the way...
I started creating art when I was in the 6th grade. I always saw myself as a hopeless romantic.
As creepy as it sounds, I would sketch the faces of girls that I had a crush on, but I would never give them the final piece. I did that all the way into my Senior year of Highschool.
This picture is of my Girlfriend Amanda.
In high school, I was able to build a brand around my name. People knew me as the artist.
This was not easy to accomplish. It only came from a stroke of luck. In my Junior year, a girl in my grade stole an 18x24 drawing of a spooky face off of the walls.
As Administration tracked the piece down, they were unknowingly advertising for me. Each teacher at the school received an e-mail containing the drawing I had made. Each teacher was then asked to ask their students if they had seen it. At the end of the day, my drawing was seen by more than 75% of the student body. Students showed their parents, parents called the office asking for my name, that resulted in a few new commissions to work on.
The majority of my sales were made after only one year of practice.
I really loathed painting while I was in high school. I never had any formal instruction on how to paint. If you're talking yourself out of selling your work, don't. Remember - I was able to sell my art with only one year of experience. I mostly learned while I worked, totally on the fly.
If you're struggling to learn the basics, I would recommend going to youtube and searching for Painting Speed Art videos. Start by watching Goauche, and then move onto Acrylics. Oils are an entirely different monster to tackle, and you will probably need professional guidance to fully master them. In today's contemporary age, one medium is rarely more valued than the other.
Getting your Artwork seen by people who aren't just your grandma and her cat:
So this is the meat of the article. If you read nothing else in this article, read this.
Here are some tips to help you sell your art. This is what I did:
- If you don't already have a Reddit account, register for one and subscribe to r/redditgetsdrawn. It is a forum based community where users submit pictures, and various artists submit their work of that users picture. If your work is good enough, the user may request to purchase the piece. I have made at least $1,500 from selling artwork to users on that forum. A friend of mind created his entire art empire using redditgetsdrawn as a vehicle to share his work. Keep in mind, if your post doesn't get enough upvotes, you will have wasted your time.
- In the google search bar, use the bolded string of text that follows to scrape through different forums. You're going to want to type "buy art" inurl:forum What this operator does, is it searches through all forums where someone has said the phrase "buy art". Alternatively, you could type "commission art", "looking for art", etc. Once I find these users, I offer my services by replying to their post with my facebook page. I have found and built relationships with buyers. This has accounted for about $1,000 of my sales.
- Social channels are really big for artwork. I've created a dummy Instagram account for my artwork. Check it out, and model your account after mine. Ashley Longshore, the artist linked further above has found the secret to drawing in collectors using Instagram. I recently spoke with her. She told me that she can post a pic of her work, and within minutes collectors literally throw their money at her. Instagram has accounted for $500 worth of my sales.
- Another great social channel for sharing your artwork is through Imgur. Then cross-posting it to Reddit. If you have no idea what that means, ask a millennial to help you figure it out. This is how I got my Eye of the Impressionist piece up to the top of the google search term when you search for "art". This social channel has landed me $2,000 in sales.
- Ask for referrals or recommendations from your family and friends. A Facebook share can go a very long way. This accounts for the rest of the $10,000.
- Give people a reason to view your art.
It's one thing to post a piece and say "buy this". But if you can tell them how you created the piece, what drove your decisions, what inspired you, how your personality conveys through your work, etc. They will be much more likely to follow you and buy than someone trying to blatantly sell their work. This is the reason why very few artists make it big.
- News Reporters are not hard to find. Especially if you can write a compelling story for them. It makes their job much easier. Just look at a recently published article from your local newspaper. Usually, the reporter's e-mail is hyperlinked. I will share my cold e-mailing script to news reporters for you to use in a later blog post. Sign up for the newsletter to get notified when that goes live :)
Don't focus so much on a website.
Websites are hard. I still haven't really found the best way to share my work through my website. You're much better off using a Facebook page, or an Instagram page. Especially if you have a big close-circle on either platform. It becomes much easier to leverage your existing following.
I wasted a lot of time, in the beginning, trying to get the website just perfect. The truth is, you might have to hire someone, unless you have the skills to create a portfolio/e-commerce site (my recommendation) that can fulfill your needs.
When starting out, don't get discouraged if it gets hard.
Essentially you're sharing your content. Usually, this is really difficult when you don't have a large following because you're not getting enough validation that your time is even worth it. But as you gain followers, people who found you through your hard outreach work, you will slowly build a following. Content creation and sharing is a very long process.
Saddle up, you're in it for the long haul :)
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. I am happy to answer any questions that you might have. My e-mail is email@example.com