The Numbers Game of Selling Art

The Numbers Game of Selling Art

selling more art, how to sell art, the numbers game of selling art, Mark taylor, Beechhouse Media,
The Numbers Game of Selling Art

Every week I write a brand new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, The Artists Exchange, and The Artist Hangout. This week we look at a handful of strategies that might give you an edge when selling your work. Talking of edges…

My week to date…

As many of you already know, I am currently in a battle of wits with a 1.4cm kidney stone.  Yes, that will be centimetres and not millimetres. I know kidney stones aren’t related to art but seriously, you have so got to know that kidney stones are like some really bad movie that never deserves a sequel. Yet here I am having had a dozen or more of the things and I can categorically say that they don’t get any easier.

I’m not even sure how to describe them anymore. Kidney stones are like a Brexit negotiation. There's lots of hanging around, the promise of a brighter future, and no one can decide on the best possible course of action. You wish it was all over either way and you just want the madness to stop and go back to the way things were before the pain. The moment when you think something might happen a plot twist happens and the whole painful process starts again. For those who are lucky enough to have yet to be indoctrinated to the wonders of Brexit and need an analogy to explain it better, it’s a bit like when Geri Halliwell overestimated her viability as a solo artist and left the Spice Girls.

When the stones eventually come out, their few millimetres of spikiness laughs at you in a way that says ‘I caused you, pain human, you are insignificant’. This one, it’s not coming out naturally, it is going to need some qualified adult supervision and an anaesthetic. I expect that rather than it laughing at me, its look will be quite sinister and it will say, I told you I will be back.

So before we continue with this week’s article I just wanted to say a massive thank you for all the well wishes and support and for the love everyone has shown and I especially want to say thank you to those who have been busy keeping my Facebook page alive by sharing my work. You absolutely and truly are stars and I cannot even begin to thank you enough.
Now let’s get back to the article you really should have been reading last week before a kidney stone decided to come out and play preventing me from pressing the upload button, and as usual, there will be a few of my recent artworks scattered throughout for you too!

The Art World is Many Things…

The artworld is many things and comprises of many markets, so what we go through today is going to have to be broad in the broadest of broadest senses. The strategies we look at today will make sense to some but for others who work in some areas of the art market, these strategies might not work at all, though generally, I have tried to focus on those that will stand a better chance of working across a good cross-section of the art world.

The good news is that you aren’t the first great artist to know the struggle of figuring out how and where to sell your work. Many others have been there before and I think it would be fair to say that even the most well-known and commercially successful artists have had to go through this at some point. But there are some general principles and practices that for centuries have provided art sellers with a way to get work onto the commercial ladder and sometimes we have to consider that the old school way of doing things is worth a shot too.

The most difficult things beyond exposing our art that we have to do as artists are to market and sell our work. How do I sell more art, is one of the most frequently asked questions I hear from artists. Looking through Google Trends it seems as if even more people are asking the question now than ever before as you can see in this very quick trend search I carried out. 

Google Trends - A tool you should be using more!

There’s really no one size fits all secret formula and selling art is no different today than it was hundreds of years ago. What has changed are the ways we buy and consume art and they have changed dramatically even in the past decade alone. Today we have the best tools we have ever had to help us sell our work, the internet, social media, global markets within reach of almost everyone, but when we look back through art history the tools might have changed but the process behind selling art hasn’t changed that much at all. The same core principles that sold art in the past are the same principles in play today and which are used by art sales professionals all around the world.

We rely on marketing technology way too much…

This issue today is that marketing has become easier and to an extent, that’s also made things a lot harder. Firstly, everyone is a marketer on the internet, everyone wants to be ‘the brand’ even when they’re fresh out of kindergarten and without a real clue as to what adult life will eventually throw towards them. While there is every point in having dreams and aspirations, there is something else that has to be considered and that is, if you want to be famous on Insta or YouTube, so do millions of others and the same is true of trying to become some rock-star-level successful artist.  

There are lots of visual artists who make a commercial success of what they do, even if they never achieve rock-star levels of fame and fortune. But there are many that don’t get past first base who never quite set out with a plan a, let alone a plan-b that will navigate the heady waters ahead. Many unprepared artists will fail purely because they forget or even ignore the basic entrepreneurial skills that are needed to underpin any business.

The ones that make it are the ones that can either buy it (we do have to be honest here) or they earn it by thinking every move through and putting in the work. I am undoubted that some also have a sprinkling of excessively great luck and in some instances, serendipity plays a pivotal role too. The most successful will have recognised that new skills have to be learned along the way and they will have taken some time out to learn some of the broader skills they need beyond knowing how to handle a paintbrush. I will come on to that a little later.

There are more artists today than at any time before, and whilst the modern tools are there to be used, what we often forget is that tools such as the internet are tools that can only support our marketing strategies, they’re not the physical marketing strategies. I have the internet is not the strategy, it is merely a tool to use to help you reach whatever goals are in that strategy. The internet makes life easier but it cannot do everything for you, there have to be multiple action sequences made on your part.

It’s a little like when you hear the phrase, ‘my Wi-Fi is really slow today’ when the chances are that whoever says that really means that their internet is slower than usual and that the overhead of running wirelessly is causing some latency, or the external internet backbone is being crippled by a thousand different problems.

Their Wi-Fi is probably fine because Wi-Fi isn’t the internet. The issue is more likely to be that the external internet is probably out of whack and that’s a very different problem. While you are chasing your tail changing settings in the dark and with no hope of ever fixing it, unknown to you, the data centres are probably being rebooted and new cables are being laid and the problem will be being resolved at its core.

The point here is that we too often misidentify where the problems really sit when it comes to marketing and business and that makes diagnosing them difficult, and resolving them successfully, practically impossible. A few months ago my friend reached out to me to say that his organic reach on social media had declined by almost twenty-thousand views which he had managed to resolve, but not before he had succumbed to paying to boost multiple ads, spending a fortune and then figuring out that his organic reach was down because he had restricted the audience in the settings on his last dozen posts. He went for the obvious fix not realising that making his posts public again would have got him his reach back.

 We put way too much trust in technology and believe it will do everything needed to get us from point a, to point b. The internet doesn’t market our work for us, we have to take actions using the internet and that usually means a lot of different actions along with a few that don’t need the internet at all. For some, there might even be complacency in thinking that a social post is all that’s really needed to sell a lifetime’s portfolio of art, and disappointment slips in when the work doesn’t sell. A sale like that will happen occasionally, but it is rare and usually means that there have been many previous contributing actions taken that have converged together at a single successful point.

I call the problems that you can’t see, small stars. You can’t always see them with the naked eye but there is every chance that’s where those challenges come from!

searching for stars, figuring out art problems, beechhouse media, Mark Taylor,
Look for the small stars...

Lesson one in selling more art over. The internet is a tool, if you want to sell more art you have to step away from solely relying on the internet and do something that is a little more direct, and you have to look at the obvious problems first which might only be minor and easy enough to fix. 

Van Gogh…

Van Gogh wasn’t great at marketing his work. During his lifetime he had managed to sell one piece and you would be forgiven for thinking that that print on demand services must have been a thing back then too. Vincent was thought to be the poster boy for great starving artists, unappreciated during his life which sadly came to an abrupt end at the age of 37.

Vincent had a brother by the name of Theo, who did his utmost to promote Vincent’s work and who himself passed away some six months after his brother’s death.  There is no doubt that both had departed too soon and it is remarkable to think that some of the world’s most famous works would only become famous after Vincent and his brother had passed away.
There is another myth in the art world that the value of work increases the moment an artist meets their earthly end, and if that end also happened to be a little brutal or dramatic, well, that really helps to sell the work too because nothing screams look at me like a little drama.

Surprisingly, and rather sadly, artists who didn’t do that much when they were alive are no more likely to sell any work when they’re no longer around than they did when they were alive. Not that is, unless their work gets discovered or goes on to be promoted in the same way that successful living artists get discovered and promoted. Someone has to buy into that artwork otherwise it slowly or in some cases, quickly fades away and becomes lost. The only plus for a deceased artist is that they now at least have scarcity on their side.

It wasn’t until Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, inherited around 200 of Van Gogh’s paintings that the world began to find out just who Van Gogh was, and because she was entrepreneurial, she began to loan the works out to those in the art world who were important and had credibility. Between 1892 and 1900, she organised twenty exhibits of the work and offered 10-15 percent commissions to dealers who could sell or place the art in museums. You can read more about Johanna on Wikipedia, right here

She went even further than placing the artwork and translated many of the letters that had been written between Vincent and Theo into English and she did one of the things that so many artists of today dread, she stepped out of her comfort zone and began to network. The result was a retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam which gave the credibility to Vincent’s art that was needed. The work was then used as examples when H.P. Bremmer who was an art educationalist gave lessons on modern art and because Bremmer was respected and had the credibility needed to influence sales of artworks, he was able to place some of those works amongst the wealthiest individuals in the Netherlands who were also his students.

One of Bremmer’s students, Helene Kröller-Müller who was married to Anton Kröller the industrialist had the wealth which gave her the opportunity to purchase hundreds of works (a mixture of both drawings and paintings although the exact number is debatable) on the basis of the advice she received from Bremmer. She also happened to be an influencer, yes, influencers were around pre-internet days too, and Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger published three volumes of Vincent and Theo’s letters and continued to build on Vincent’s reputation when she moved to New York where she ultimately managed to get Vincent’s Sunflowers painting placed into the National Gallery in London. Eventually, Johanna’s son carried on the work his mother had been doing through the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation.

The point here is that selling art today is little different to how it was sold back in the days of Van Gogh. If anything it has been made easier with the advent of communication and the internet, but the basic principles of selling art today are still the same regardless. You have to do something to make it happen that is often so far out of your comfort zone because despite what they say, art doesn’t sell itself.

So this week we will take a step outside of our comfort zones and give you a few ideas on how you can hopefully improve on your sales history.

Become an entrepreneur…

Being an entrepreneur isn’t just about raising and lowering prices at the right time and finding quick wins, it is about having the knowledge behind you that allows you to make sustainable business decisions over the long term, over and over again and to an extent, making mistakes over and over again too. It’s a cliché to suggest that you need to fail quickly, but as long as you learn something from failing then you do have to fail quickly and repeatedly. The real key to being able to move forward is to learn.

When we read about the top entrepreneurs in business such as Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs, we find that they were voracious consumers of knowledge who would spend about five hours a week learning about business.  We so often hear of the one percent who only ever hang out with others from the one percent because they share the same culture, and artists would do well to have that same kind of community with each other too. Peer learning is a powerful way to gain insight and education in the business that no art school can provide. This is the reason I set up the Artists Lounge Facebook group. It is a group where the focus isn’t on selling artworks but discussing art and the business of art, what works, and what doesn’t, although sadly of late people do seem to see it as just another hey, I can post art here too group but I am working on that, although I am beginning to wonder if people ever read what a group is about before they join! 

Stop with the excuses!

You are an artist, that’s a brave first step. It takes guts and courage to bare your art and your soul to the world and that’s the biggest obstacle you will ever have to face. The other obstacles are just minor inconveniences compared to the guts it takes to show your work but they’re also often excuses.

Social media is hard, but it’s easier than doing what Johanna did. If you’re not selling then you’re more than likely not finding your tribe, the problem is that you will never find your tribe if they don’t know you exist and those who don’t go on social media which is quite a chunk of humanity are missing out entirely. You proved you have the confidence when you showed the world what you are capable of, but sometimes you just have to get on with the job and put that lack of confidence to one side and stretch your presence out beyond the digital yonder.

Make a plan and change the plan...

You won’t navigate far if you have no map. The art world has a difficult topography at the best of times, with lots of winding roads and dead ends. Choose the place you want to get to and just go, and if you have to stop at the next junction and navigate a new path, the solution is to change direction and carry on again, quickly or slowly, step by step, one at a time. Sometimes you might have to take a step back, but any step you take that keeps you moving is a step worth taking and that includes the backward steps. A step is a step no matter which direction it takes you. Getting there takes doing, not thinking about doing or thinking about never getting there.

How many people really update their sat-nav devices every time the manufacturer releases a brand new map? Maybe more do today than they once did but often we still run a map or two behind the latest. They still get us to the destination, just a little more slowly. Sometimes they make us look as if we are driving through fields when we know we are driving on a brand new road, but we know that we are heading in the right direction and we can see another road ahead on the screen. That’s like having a plan and any plan that shows the waypoints between start and finish is something that will help you to navigate through the mud.

The best artists are masters...

Sure, Van Gogh was a master but it took Johanna to get his work on the road to getting sold. Creativity looks easy enough but sometimes. it is all a very carefully staged illusion.
Behind the painting, the artist might have had their own personal inner battles to deal with, they might be holding down multiple jobs, they might not be feeling well or coping well, and while they’re painting they might have to draw from deep within to produce what they produce based on past experiences that might not always be positive. This is often what makes their works so powerful and even if there are no such inner battles going on, the artist will always need Olympian levels of determination and grit to get anywhere.

As an artist, I can categorically say from experience that no matter how much you love art, you have to always put yourself first. Feeling unwell, take time to recover, stop handing out unrealistic deadlines for commissions, save those moments of madness until you are back in the zone. This is something I have been learning over the past couple of weeks while I have been attempting to ignore my kidney stone. Eventually, I switched everything from work to social media down a notch. Be a master in your art by all means, but be a master of you too.

no more excuses, marathon, art business, sell more art, beechhouse media,
No more excuses...

It’s more than a marathon...

Artists work for years, sometimes decades, sometimes an entire lifetime before they see success. Forget the fast sprint, forget that it’s even close to a marathon, art can feel like you are participating in a decathlon every day. Artists work long hours and works can take months and sometimes even years to reach completion, others might take twenty-minutes.

Sometimes art and the business of art is momentarily easier but the processes to selling it remain the same, and yet I see many artists who undervalue their work based on this epic lie that the piece was easy to produce. It wasn’t too long ago when I visited a show and overheard an artist talking to a potential client who was asking if one of the works could be discounted, not insignificantly either. The same potential client asked something that completely blew my mind, do I get a discount because I watched you paint it earlier and it only took you 20-minutes, and besides, you said that using those paints made life easier.

What that client hadn’t seen was the twenty years of learning, practice and skill-building that got the artist to the point of creating something as beautiful in twenty minutes, or the multiple practice attempts that may have been done to carry out a live painting demonstration, or the fact that by my reckoning and knowing that the paint being used wasn’t exactly cheap that the cost of the paints alone wouldn’t have been covered from what the buyer wanted to pay. The artist did what many wouldn't and declined the offer. 
The best thing an artist can ever do is to remove the word ‘easy’ from their vocabulary especially when a client is nearby. The easier moments are just a welcome relief from the moments when inspiration and sales are hiding away, and besides, if it really is that easy, I’ll lend you a brush.

While we’re on the subject of devaluing work, if I had a dollar for every promise of great exposure I would be given if I gave a piece of art away for free, I would be pretty darn close to being rich on one hand and bankrupt on the other. Tactically these free jobs have to be picked really selectively and that’s if you pick any at all. They have their place but there have to be hard limits and you should never feel you have to say yes because you find it awkward to say no.

I always make a few exceptions, if an artist needs help I’m never going to walk away, and there are charities that I support who I know would appreciate the value of anything, and I still plan on making some free art available on my portfolio site. Those reasons are either because it is about doing what is right or they’re strategic, but what they’re not, is to just furnish someone’s ego so that they can say that they came in under budget or get a free print or original for their lounge. 

Never in the history of ever have the majority of working artists ever gotten anywhere near enough great exposure from giving away free work. Great exposure is like some junk currency that might have had some value once, but today it’s rated lower than the UK pound.

Free giveaways are usually good at getting some engagement on social media but again, and the same applies with heavy discounting, these are things that should be tactical and strategically decided on and used sparingly, never every day. In my experience with offering deep discounts, I think I have only ever just about broken even in terms of time and money and sometimes I have taken a loss.  When offering daily or weekly discounts becomes the norm, buyers wait around for the discount to be applied to the art they want and the problem that artists have with this approach when they work with print on demand is that they have no way to know what someone might be interested in until the time they buy it.

pricing your art, setting art prices, Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media,
Money... also known as art supply tokens

Work out your pricing model and stick to it…

Another consideration is pricing because this is something that can make or break art sales. The price you set might be too high or too low, and pricing yourself out of the market or undervaluing your work never helps sales.

This is perhaps the biggest challenge for many artists and there are many formulas kicking around on the internet which will give you an idea of what other artists might be using. The problem is that those prices are generally based on a specific market, in a specific location or through certain resellers. Add to that the other hundreds of factors that need to be considered when setting prices such as, experience, the number of shows you have entered, the number of major exhibition wins and awards, and of course, the type of mediums used and the time and skill needed.

I have never found a formula online that is guaranteed to work for every type of art and every type of artist in every type of location. Ultimately with whatever artwork, whether it was painted by Matisse or your next-door neighbour, it is only ever going to be worth what the market is willing to pay so unless you get to know your market or have an idea about what market you ideally want to engage with, pricing will always be the Achilles heel for a lot of artists.

The art world can never be accused of being transparent which makes it even more problematic to come up with a price that is exactly comparable. There are some sales listings available online but none of those listings covers every artwork ever sold and certainly not for every artist. Artists tend to be protective of their pricing models to protect their buyers and collectors and galleries even more so. There are some signs that the veil is beginning to be lifted but it will still be a while before we start to see any major shift, there’s a huge pushback from some major galleries.

Whatever you do charge has to be justifiable because there will be a time when you need to explain why your art is worth what you are asking for it. If you are represented then the gallery will usually determine the retail price and they will negotiate the discounts they can apply with you which takes out a lot of the hassle that comes with figuring out what to charge. But the issue for many artists is that they’re not working in a represented space such as a gallery.

The ideal is if you already know exactly who your tribe are and what they are willing to pay. Going in blind and setting prices at a certain price point will limit you to the people who buy at whatever price point that is, and the people who buy at that specific price point become your target market. The question is then whether or not you manage to recruit buyers who usually buy at that point.  

I think it might have been either last year or the year before when I visited a show and saw for the first time a thousand dollar open edition giclee print. It wasn’t huge, something like twenty-four inches by eighteen inches and was signed by the artist. Remember that this was an open edition, unframed, and here’s the jaw-dropper, the artist had been creating art for six-months and had a queue of buyers lining up.

An artist on the next stand also had thousand dollar prints, all small limited editions, signed and numbered, the prints were framed and technically the artwork was significantly more skillful than the other seller. No queue and from what I could see, no sales, and by the end of the day he had reduced his prices.

The difference is that the thousand dollars open edition print guy knew exactly who his market was and he knew the subject they wanted to buy and it turned out that he had been studying marketing in college, every Tuesday evening for two years. Before that, he was the guy who would queue up to buy the thousand dollars open edition print.

Asking friends for help with pricing is a step you could take but the risks are that the answers you get will be the answers you want to hear. Ask someone in the industry for a reasonable appraisal of what the art is worth and the answer they give might not be the answer you want and the chances are that you will disagree with them and go with your over or underpriced gut instinct instead. I see this quite a lot when I am asked to provide an appraisal. The difficulty for anyone appraising art though is that they have to understand so much about you and your art and they have to know your part of the market.

I finally figured my pricing out for my traditional art only after I had started to figure out the kind of person who would buy it. Much of the homework was then about meeting that kind of a person at shows and observing what people were buying in galleries and to an extent, online. Print pricing is much more difficult because there are a lot of variables but one thing I have picked up through experience is that you do have to keep everything consistently priced no matter which platform you are selling on.

Art buyers do their homework and I certainly found this with prints too, most buyers are savvy enough to know that artists work across multiple print-on-demand platforms and if one platform is running an offer that makes similar quality work available for less, that’s where the buyers will go. In my experience, a buyers loyalty is with the artist not necessarily the print on demand service but the print on demand services protect their interests by not sharing any details of buyers with the artist.

The best way of finding a price to put on your art is always going to be hinged on finding your tribe, finding out where your art sits and figuring out what your tribe will be willing to pay.  

If you are looking for something that will give you a very quick foundation in one of the formulas that work well across multiple art disciplines, here it is!

How pricing works – art supplies cost money, and creating art takes skill, time, space, utilities, which also cost money. You need to set a price that covers everything you need to create that piece of art. That becomes your base cost.

Per piece this might mean that the base cost is higher than people are willing to pay in some cases, so you need to decide on how many pieces you will need to sell to cover your entire costs. Forget the profit, for now, we need to establish the actual cost, and how many you need to sell to cover all of your costs before we look at profit. The important thing here is that we have a base cost set because that will at least cover materials.

Next, we need to figure out what our people will pay. Here’s where it becomes infinitely trickier because unless you know who your people are, there’s no real sense of what they might be willing to pay. This is why figuring out step ones base costs is so vital. The important thing again is that you don’t lose money from the off if you can avoid it.

Everyone will buy art for very different reasons, some for the aesthetics, some because they actually like or even love the art, and some will think that art from any artist is a great investment opportunity. Trust me, you can lose money on a Renoir, never buy any art you can’t live with. I digress, but you do need to ask the why do people buy my art question, and you definitely need to work out how much they will pay.

The next bit is all about where you plan to sell it. The venue even if you are not represented can give you an indication of what you can add above the base cost. Show your work in a high-end exhibition and people will be expecting to pay a lot more than if you were showing at a Saturday morning craft fair. Location is often one of the biggest determining factors beyond your people.

Finally, be consistent with other artists producing similar quality works and who have similar histories, skills and sales records, and within the same subject and material, selling in the same or similar spaces. Again, the nuances needed to come up with a formula that is perfect for you are so wide, it becomes difficult until you know what you probably as yet, don’t know. Make a list of things that could affect what people pay, then think outside the box, but pricing is one thing that you absolutely always must be is consistent with regardless of where you sell. 

adrift on still waters, art by Mark Taylor, Mark Taylor artist, landscape paintings,
Adrift on Still Waters by Mark Taylor, available now!

Understand the numbers...

Being good at math isn’t one of my strongest skill sets, I can’t figure out why! Ironic as my day job includes lots of numbers, algorithms and encryption standards. But numbers are everywhere in the art world and some need more attention paying to them than others.
Higher footfall, higher website traffic, high performing sales histories, they’re all things that are focused on getting big numbers. But sometimes we focus on the wrong big numbers too. 

Take social media as an example. The way algorithms work and bear in mind the inner workings are never made public, are that they will determine relevancy through reactions, comments, shares, and mentions. In short, they generally look at engagement levels and whether or not the context or content goes against community standards or there are indicators that the post is spam or a scam.

A page with a million likes might perform much worse than a page with a thousand likes if 99-percent of your million number audience isn’t engaged. Whilst it might feel like a nice problem to have and a million likes would at least see eyeballs landing on your art, a page of a thousand likes and 50 percent engagement stacks up much better in the eyes of the algorithm.

Extending organic reach relies on individual sets of people reacting, sharing and commenting, and generally engaging with the post. If the engagement is noticed by the algorithm then the post will be bumped further out to a new set of people and it continues doing this until engagement begins to dry up.  Hence the reason why you might see the occasional comment on one of your really old posts that triggers a couple more, and another reason why you should regularly check your old posts to make sure they’re still relevant.

To counter the effects of embarrassing posts popping up to haunt timelines some business pages will limit the visibility of their pages past posts beyond a year or so in order to be able to better control what people will be commenting and reacting on. This prevents anything embarrassing or not relevant from making a reappearance which could do more harm than good to your engagement levels and post reach.

Beyond social media, there is a tendency to focus on big numbers that are simply not realistic, or at least not well thought through. A sustainable business model for one artist might be to sell half a dozen paintings a year, for another artist, it might be that they need to sell hundreds of prints or paintings each year and this again comes back to having a plan in the first place and that plan has to include knowing what you need to be sustainable.

For the majority of working artists, the big numbers are really not needed to ensure that there is a sustainable business model. Much like the million follower page issue, it would be far more sustainable to have a hundred top fans or collectors of your work who continue to purchase and buy into whatever you do, that can then become your core business as you look to expand and create similar more focussed markets.

There are other numbers above and beyond the sales and hits, numbers are used in marketing all the time yet it’s something we don’t always notice. Take a look on somewhere like Amazon and search for analogue watches, notice how most of them will be set at 10:10? This frames the brand neatly in between the watch hands. But in marketing, it doesn’t stop there. There are more numbers that you should be paying attention to.

Don’t go down the rabbit hole without a torch…

The digital ad agencies who understand terms such as impressions, CTC, frequency caps and neighbouring buckets are always focussed on numbers and variables. Their job is to place adverts in front of the correct demographic and to get results from the ad campaigns they produce. The good ones tend to be good at doing this, the not so good ones, well, they’re still going to be doing a better job than anyone who really doesn’t have the first clue how digital ads work. That’s why I have always maintained that running social media ads without knowing the intricacies of what you are doing is mostly a bad idea. 

This is why digital ad agencies are always focused on those terms like impressions and attribution windows, frequency caps, and neighbouring buckets. Yes, I have no idea what those things are either, but if you’re not prepared to blow whatever budget you had in mind to begin with for an ad campaign and you cannot comfortably top that budget up, ads are really something that needs to be done with some outside help, at least until you gain a better understanding of what you are doing and you know who you need to target.

Trust me on this because I ventured down that rabbit hole once and the rabbit really was some crazy-ass bunny in a top hat holding a pocket watch. One-off ads is a strategy but again, they’re not necessarily going to be a good strategy. If you have no idea about who to target or what you really want your call to action to be, you are just throwing good money after bad and you will in all likelihood, carry on doing that for a while. I know I did.

Sustain your marketing efforts…

Generally, it’s thought that the rule of seven is the golden number of times that people need to see something before they decide to buy it. That’s what many of the books on the subject have to say but the reality is that the actual number is often a little murkier than that. Some suggest that the golden number is 13 times, while others suggest 21 times.

People go through phases of not really paying attention to marketing at the beginning, and it isn’t until the 5th time of seeing an ad or marketing post that they actually pause to take a look. Some even suggest that by the 7th time, the ad has become an annoyance and the thirteenth time is when people begin to wonder what they might be missing out on. By the twentieth time they’ve seen it, there’s a good chance at that point they might buy into it.

So one of the reasons that you might not be selling might not be the hundred and fifty reasons you are beating yourself up about, but because your approach is to post-it and advance to the next post. There is an art in not appearing to be overly spammy, spreading the post out not across minutes or even seconds, but instead, over hours, days, weeks, and months.

There is a fine balance, do you run the risk of alienating people and them disliking your page or maliciously reporting the post as spam, or do you instead prepare a longer-term strategy where you have a post plan that sets out when and where to post. You only have to find the winning combination once and it can then be used again and again until it no longer works.

Again, there are plenty of online resources to help you come up with these strategies but once again, some are very general. My advice is to take a look at some of the training on offer through Facebook’s Blue Print website which you can find right here,  and Google has a great set of free courses available through their Digital Garage program which covers digital marketing, data and technology, and career development and which you can find right here

Change the venue…

When I finally gave myself permission to test out new points of sale and to offer some of my prints in retail locations that were not traditional art selling spaces it began to make a huge difference to sales. It wasn’t something I had considered doing before, preferring for years to stick with either shows, art fairs, or online. Offering work through a retailer who didn’t want to commit to buying in lots of stock and who could order prints as and when they needed them was one of the best moves I ever made.

Sometimes it’s not so much about following some pre-determined route defined by some book on the subject, books don’t know who your tribes are any more than you do, sometimes it is about following what feels right more than anything else.

If placing your work in a coffee shop feels right for you and your work that might be your best strategy but you also need to be mindful of where you might want to end up in the future. The art world purists will see this sort of placement as something that only beginners do, but here’s the thing, a majority of working artists today can be commercially successful without going anywhere near a gallery door. If you do go on to find representation, the choices will be determined by whoever you are represented by, but as I said earlier, you really do have to go where your tribe are.

all that remains, art by Mark Taylor, landscape art,
All That Remains by Mark Taylor - Available Now!


It can be difficult...

There will be times, when sales might pour or at least trickle through and those times might even last days, weeks, months, or years, but there will be times when no one is buying into what you do at all. It was for this reason I originally diversified my portfolio and included art and graphic designs that served a more regularly selling market, but that too can carry some risk.

I have always found the business of art to be one where you often have to be agile enough to change course, determined enough to hold on, and patient enough to wait it out. There have definitely been times in my own career where I have overthought about some of the hurdles I have come across, and times when I haven’t thought anywhere near enough. The important thing is to never give up and to keep on moving in any direction you can but don't sweat the wrong numbers!

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: My recent Big Skies collection is now in one place, just look for my collections on the page!
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website, ensuring that I can bring you independent advice, tips, and musings, every week for free. You can also view my portfolio website at

You can also follow me on Facebook at where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit and you can use them in your own art projects. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here


  1. Highly informative information Mark. I appreciate all the work you go through to publish this. I hope you are feeling better each day.

    1. Thanks so much Colleen, and yes, getting stronger each day thanks, but wow, how these tiny things can wipe you out! Xx

  2. Mark, Thanks again yet another great article and of course the artwork, both are amazing!! Take care x

    1. Thanks Jane, deeply appreciated. Finally working with a designer this weekend to figure out my new studio space, so looking forward to it after the week of the kidney stone! Hope you have a brilliant weekend! xx

    2. That sounds exciting Mark. I suppose you will incorporate the five elements of feng shui :) and I am good thanks xx

    3. Would love to! Only downside is that I’ll have to put my computers and screens back in there when it’s all done but it will be a hundred times better than it is now, at last, I’ll have more space! xx

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. Just pretend they are some amazing functional sculptures :)) xx

    6. Lol! To be fair, the new Mac Pro will be an amazing piece of art and perfect for my new space when it happens. Problem is they cost around the same as an original Banksy!

    7. Pick one, problem solved :) xx

    8. Sorry then Banksy, Mac Pro it is.. I’m so going to regret this in the morning!

    9. Lol! No you won't...the upside is, that provide you efficiency and better work, may be even better than Banksy's someday!


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