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The Business Side of Selling Art

SUMMARY: Great art sells itself, right? Not necessarily. There's a lot of work beyond creating the photograph or painting that goes into selling art. Sales and marketing are essential to moving your art from your canvass and onto a paying customer's living room wall. So does that mean that all artists need a degree in business if they are to succeed? Of course not, but a little knowledge can go a long way. Here are some suggestions to keep in mind if you are getting into the business of selling art.

Customers - One of the most important things to keep in mind when selling and marketing art is your customer. Before you do anything else, figure out who is going to want to buy your art. Is your customer a tourist who wants a pretty picture to take home and hang on his or her wall as a souvenir, or is he or she a serious art collector? Depending on who your customer is you can determine how much to charge for your pieces. A collector of fine art will be much more willing to spend large sums to get an original piece as opposed to a tourist who just wants a travel souvenir to remind him of his hiking trip to Sedona or his adventures at the Sausalito Art Festival.

Street Vendors - Once you know who your target customer is, you have to figure out how you are going to reach your customer. If you're selling street art to tourists, setting up a booth in a "tourist area" will probably be your best bet. Keep in mind that even setting up a small booth or table can cost money. Many cities require that you pay a fee or obtain a license to sell your work as a street vendor. For example, street artists selling their work in San Francisco pay as much as $350 per year just for the license to sell, but these fees vary from city to city.

Festivals and Fairs - A great way for artists to show their work to the public is by setting up a booth at a festival or art show. The negative aspect of exhibiting your work at these events can be the cost. It can cost between $25 and several hundred dollars just to set up a booth for one day. Before paying for an event, think about how much you will probably sell and make sure that you will make the money back that you spent on attending the event. A website that lists various festivals and art exhibits is Festival Network Online Also by searching Google you can find almost any popular art and wine festivals such as the Sausalito art festival or the Mill Valley Art festival in Northern California. Let the net be your guide to art festivals and fairs.

Gallery For Rent - Opening your own gallery can be very expensive. Rent can add up to thousands of dollars a month which will require you to sell a lot of pieces and/or charge a significant amount of money for anything sold. However, if your gallery is in the right location and people are excited about what they see, your own gallery might be a good option.

Rent A Section Of A Gallery - For a significant amount of money less than opening your own gallery, many cities have galleries where artists can rent wall space. Included in the cost of renting the space is often the marketing and public relations done by the gallery. The cost of renting a space at an art gallery can range from $50 per month up to several hundred dollars. There are usually stipulations involved in exhibiting at these galleries. For example, some may require artists to work at the gallery at certain times, and others may collect a commission off whatever art you sell.

Online Art Galleries - There are many websites that give artists, especially photographers, the opportunity to sell and show their art online. These sites cost anywhere from $10 per month up to $100 depending on the site. This could be a good opportunity to show your stuff at one site where customers come specifically to buy art. However, make sure to do your research. Some sites may be more in tune with your focus, values and budget than others.

Keeping Them Coming Back For More

So now that you know who your customers are and how you are going to reach them, a good question to ask yourself is "how do I keep my customers coming back?"

Email Lists - Email lists are a good way to keep in contact with your previous customers. Create a professional looking sign-up list using Word that customers can sign and write their email address on when they visit your booth or gallery. Sure, many people will just sign the sheet to be polite, but you never know when a previous customer will want to come back for more. If your customer buys your work, hangs it on the wall and realizes that a similar picture on an adjacent wall would be perfect, then an email from you might be just the push the customer needs to make another purchase. Update your email list after each day or event and make sure to send out updates about your work three or four times a year. Include a link to your website and point out new projects as well as which art shows and festivals you will be attending in the future.

Working wonders on the web - What about the website? If you don't have one, you might want to consider getting one. A website is a great way to show former customers your new stuff and a resource for getting potential customers to see your work. Just make sure your website conveys the message you want to get across about your work. Your website should be your best face forward to the public.

The Details

Once you're all set up at a gallery or your art is selling like hotcakes at festivals and fairs, you have to figure out the details.

Payment - Whether you sell your art on a website or in a gallery, you have to decide how you are going to charge your customers. If you sell art on your website, credit card processing software gives you the chance to charge customers for their purchases online, but it will cost you for the software plus other fees associated with processing each transaction. If you sell from a booth or table, you will probably deal mostly in cash, but having a credit card machine could be a good investment. Many people do not carry large amounts of cash, and not having a credit card machine might deter potential customers from buying your pieces.

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