The Season of the Art Sale

The Season of the Art Sale



seasonal marketing, practical tips for artists, selling art, Beechhouse Media,
The Season of the Art Sale

Every week I write a brand new article for members of our four wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, The Artists Lounge, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take an annual look at seasonal art sales and prepare to take advantage of one of the biggest selling seasons of the year. Welcome to Quarter Four!



So this week I have taken a week off from the day job to concentrate on refurbishing my digital studio and about five minutes in, I was already questioning my sanity for starting the task in the first place. I was literally having a conversation with myself about why I thought this would be a good idea, clearly, before I started I did not see just how much effort was going to need expending to tackle the years of collecting art supplies and return it to some semblance of order. Ten minutes in and I was already aching from moving everything out.

I am lucky enough to have two studios, one for my digital work and one for my traditional paintings where I make up frames and occasionally use real brushes on real canvases. That studio needs a refurb too but I’m not sure my ageing bones will take the amount of effort that will be required to sort that one out this week. Instead, I will procrastinate about it for a while longer while I work on getting into the zone where I feel I need to be to take on such a mammoth task. And talking about mammoth tasks, we are approaching one of the busiest times of the year to sell art so this week we will take a look at everything that will need to be done to ensure you stand a better chance of selling your work over the next few months. 

If you don't have time to read the entire article, I have recapped the most important points in a list at the bottom of the article, this is something that I am thinking about doing more of because, over the next few months, we are all going to be super-busy!

As usual, I will be showcasing some of my own recent works for you to take a look at, each sale will help towards keeping this website alive and independent. All are available on a wide range of print options and gifts on my Pixels site which you can find right here!

Here's my latest work... Adrift Under a Glowing Sky!


adrift under a glowing sky, artwork by Mark Taylor, landscape art by Mark Taylor, Beechhouse Media
Adrift Under a Glowing Sky by Mark Taylor

Political Reboots…

It is around this time every year when I write an article that covers seasonal selling. As we approach one of the biggest selling seasons of the year, now is the best time to start thinking about your sales strategy over the next few months which will cover the holiday season and the big sales days such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber-Monday.

This year, here in the UK, many of us are wondering what Brexit really means. At the time of writing this article, the government has been prorogued, political parties are vying for position, and no one can decide what’s really best for the country. The proroguing of Parliament, I think, is some political way of turning it off and back on again to see if it reboots. Whatever the politics and whether you agree with Brexit or not, economically it is an unsettling time when it comes to making business decisions.  

I’m so not into politics but I am worried that the effects of Brexit will significantly change the way people will or won’t be buying this year. As an artist, much of my collector base is outside of Europe but Europe still equates to a fair chunk of business and if the rules of engagement change so dramatically, I’m worried for every artist who usually operates some of the smallest of small businesses.  If you are based outside of the UK, then selling to Europe isn't going to be so much of an issue, the rules will stay the same, but selling from the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit might bring some additional complexities and if there is a no-deal, by the governments own admission there could be some significant delays when it comes to shipping. 

I have been planning as best as I can for many situations that might arise as a result of whatever Brexit is or isn’t, but alas, some situations will be out of my control. If the economy tanks as some predict, then sales of art could take a downturn, while sales of some artworks in some other areas of the art market could potentially see more sales. Back at the start of the financial crisis in 2007, the impacts in some areas of the art market weren’t completely felt until a couple of years later but even then, art at auctions continued to perform well with only a slight dip over a couple of years before it eventually picked up again. Despite the political turmoil, there is always a glimmer of hope, but right now Q4 in the UK looks at the moment like it could be a difficult sea to navigate for small businesses. 

The art world is experienced in taking the rough with the smooth and in the high-end markets, art becomes more resilient. The art markets have a unique ability to regulate supply and demand. In good times, major artworks are more transient in the market, in the rough times, collectors might hold on to their Renoir for a little longer. But for a majority of working artists who are not represented and who run very small businesses, economic uncertainty can be brutal and artist essentials such as art supplies can become even more expensive. Artworks for most people are a considered purchase and if there is a choice between buying a piece of artwork or buying something more practical and essential, the choice is often one that is pre-determined.

But at this point in time, we just don’t know what we don’t know. There's no real way to know if any of this Brexit business will affect global markets or if indeed it will affect any markets, no one can seem to categorically provide a straight answer and the answers that are given are frequently biased by either leave or remain agendas, and everyone seems to have one. I don't think that in all my years of running a small business I have ever been so unable to at least second guess what might be around the corner in the next quarter.   

So while quarter four is a big one, this year it has a little more uncertainty surrounding it. Will people be saving or will they be spending is something that will become more and more apparent over the next couple of months, but one thing is for sure regardless of your geographic location, it has never been more important to take stock and think about a seasonal marketing strategy. 

Figuring out the audience...

It becomes easier to plan for seasonal marketing campaigns when you figure out who your audience is and just because economies go up and down, people don’t suddenly stop enjoying art, they might not buy as much of it sometimes but there are opportunities to be had too. People might not be moving home so often but they might want to spruce up the home they live in and at Christmas, people still manage to buy gifts somehow. Frequently a business needs to adapt and be both agile and responsive to change and this goes for artists who run small businesses too. The good news is that as a small business you don’t have the red tape that the big businesses have, you should be responding in real-time to consumer demand and doing everything to give them what they want, but getting to the crux of who your audience is can still be a daunting endeavour. 

Approaching quarter-four always brings questions, do we diversify our portfolio to take advantage of more markets or do we start to add more lines in the hope that buyers will be persuaded into the upsell, or do we approach quarter-four based on what we have done in previous years. As a small business owner, these are questions that only you can answer. 

Stocking seasonal items can be problematic for small businesses. Having a range of accessories featuring your art can be a great way to encourage more buyers to look at holiday gifts and it gives the artist another opportunity to add in the upsell, but having physical stock sitting around if it doesn’t sell is expensive and it is even worse when you have to dramatically reduce the price later on just to get it out of the door. Thankfully drop shipping via the print on demand services makes this less of a risk, but knowing what gifts to make your artwork available on can still be challenging and even more so if you are still to figure out who it is that is buying your art.

Some artists will shy away from having their art printed on anything but quality canvases or they will sell only original works and will never touch prints. For some artists in some markets, that makes total sense. For others, they might be looking to extend the range of items that they have on offer and consider making smaller and less expensive items available or they might want to add a range of functional items to their existing catalogue to bring in buyers who might be looking for more practical gifts. 

There are some considerations that you have to take into account when you sell seasonal gifts. If you only make a limited number of gifts available then choosing the right artwork is one of the most important things that you need to consider. Some artworks just seem to have more of a fit with some products than others.

Stocking bestsellers isn’t something that happens by chance. Big retailers have huge marketing teams and run focus groups to work out what people will be buying, and they have access to masses of historic sales data. But more importantly than this, they also have people who are constantly on the lookout for the next big trend. They will be looking at trends from a local, national, and international perspective and from across a range of industries and competitors and they also have the added advantage of knowing what their current clients already like.

Choosing what gifts your art will feature on is fraught with challenges. It can make no sense to offer some products that don’t have a fit with a particular artwork, and if the product isn’t true to you as an artist, your art, and your business, it can add confusion and you run the risk of devaluing your work. Many of the print on demand services offer a great range of products that you are able to have your creations printed on, but if your buyers aren’t interested in buying those products it makes much more sense to limit the range to products that they are more likely to buy.  

Another important thing to remember is that using print on demand and drop shipping gives you control over the number of products that are manufactured with your designs and artwork on them. In some cases, it might also more sense to only offer seasonal gifts for a particular season and then retire them until the next holiday season or retire them forever which then gives a product with a particular design the all-important scarcity factor.

Knowing what products to offer can be an art form in itself. Do you go with low-cost options or do you sell more exclusive and higher quality items, again, this comes down to knowing who your market is and also what has a better fit with the art you usually sell. It’s difficult to categorically say what gifts sell better than others because the market for one artist's work will be very different than the market for other artists works. 

If you are focussed on selling museum-quality canvases, offering alternative options such as an archival paper type might be an option, but you may want to look at soft furnishings and home décor items too. When you are looking at alternative products you can usually find a choice of products at different price points but you don't always have to only limit yourself to the cheaper options. 

Offering some of your artwork on gifts can work well when you are exhibiting at shows. Out of all the people who stop at your exhibition space there will be some who might find that owning an original work is slightly out of reach, but having a useful art collectable that is practical or more affordable might be an alternative, or having luxury practical items available might appeal to those in the market for quality gifts. Every time I visit a local museum or art gallery I always take a look at the shop, and most of the time they will have a rotating range of products depicting the art in the current exhibition. If a gallery can sell quality merchandise there’s no reason why you can’t do this too. 

In fact, it is worth looking at the online stores of major galleries and taking a glance at the kind of products that they offer. The Tate has a beautiful product range featuring artists from Turner to Frida Callus, and products from money boxes to throw cushions and obviously, many of the big galleries will sell giclee prints too. For the museums and galleries, selling products in the gift shop it is a way to build revenue to support the museum's upkeep but offering products can also remove the barriers of owning art. 


adrift on turquoise waters, Mark Taylor art, Beechhouse Media, landscape art, seascape art,
Adrift on Turquoise Waters by Mark Taylor


Gift Ideas...

I make many of my artworks available on a wide range of other products, greetings cards are always popular and last year I created some specific designs for Christmas which sold well, especially when Fine Art America offered free shipping for a limited time. So it is worth looking out for offers through the print on demand services and making sure that you get the message out to potential buyers. 

I have also had some success with soft furnishings, throw cushions, fleece blankets, and the usual extended product range from Pixels, but last year I also offered a few additional items which I sold directly. I managed to source some slate drink coasters and had some of my artwork printed on them to make available only to collectors for a month and I know a few artists who sell limited edition photo-books depicting their artworks. 

There are some photo publishing companies that offer a free photo book when you pay for the shipping, and some of these books are really great quality. If you need more pages or more books then there is usually an extra charge above the shipping costs but it can still work out significantly cheaper than self-publishing through traditional routes. Some artists then sell these at shows as coffee table books, and I have known other artists who have had these printed as hardcover catalogues which are ideal for taking to art shows, and surprisingly, there are a few that don't come with labels suggesting that the books were printed for free. 

Some companies also offer free photo prints when you pay shipping and again, the prints might be useful to hand out at art shows as postcards. The only downside is that most of the companies who run these offers will only allow you to print one of each submitted design but you often have an option to pay for more.

What can stop you making sales at Christmas?

There are some things that artists either forget to do or just don’t do when it comes to selling art. Having said that, these things are no different from what sellers of other products have to do and sometimes forget or avoid doing.

The biggest mistake I see many artists making is that they don’t have a web presence that is more permanent and controllable than social media. The premium plan with Fine Art America is exceptional value given that it also comes with a website that is fully e-commerce enabled for $30 per year. You can even place a redirect on the site so that you can utilise your own web address rather than going with the stock URL provided, and other print on demand art sites offer a similar service usually by giving you a presence as a store on their main site.

Storefronts are great and certainly a start but the ideal way to go about having a real web presence is to have your own website which you can control. There are many options to do this relatively easily and without the need to hire a web developer, at least at the start.

Again, Fine Art America allows you to insert small pieces of code that will take care of the payments and order processing which can be added into most good website building platforms, this is how I turned the sister site to this one at https://beechhousemedia.com into an e-commerce enabled site. Although the actual website is constructed by using Adobe Portfolio which comes included in paid Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions I did make some other modifications to the templates. 

Having a web presence doesn’t have to just mean settling for the tools that social media platforms provide, and nor does it mean that you have to invest a significant outlay to ensure that you have a base that customers can go to. What I would avoid though is using some of the popular super-easy free web hosting tools that limit what you can do, or go on to charge you significant sums as soon as your website becomes really busy or when you need additional features. When starting out there are plenty of good low and even almost no-cost options that have a lot of the features that you will need, but whichever way you go, if possible you should consider giving the site your own website address.

Ultimately, self-hosting a website is the way to go because you will then have full control over every aspect of it but, to begin with, even a rudimentary web presence is better than either having no web presence at all or only relying on the whims of a social media algorithm and having to work within the confines of low organic reach or community standards which can cripple your entire business if some online troll decides to persistently report your posts or if you inadvertently fall outside of the rules. 

If you already have a website then now is a great time to think about giving it a complete overhaul. Make sure that you have image categories so that buyers can go straight to the kinds of images that they want to see, avoid obscure names because some of what you do here will have a bearing on your search engine optimisation, and most importantly, make sure that your website is optimised for mobile because that will be where a majority of your traffic will come from. 

Having an identifiable logo that screams you is also important, but there are other things that a website needs that often get forgotten. Perhaps the most inexcusable omission I have seen on a website is a complete lack of the most important text that any website needs which is how to contact you and in one case I saw last weekend, the artist must have been so excited to create a beautiful website that they had forgotten to put both their contact details and details of where the art could be purchased from on there and there was no link to social media or a contact email address. Buying art shouldn't be a puzzle for the buyer to figure out.  

Essentials such as pricing and delivery options should also be clear, and you also need to let customers know about any returns policies and guarantees that you offer. If you are relying on drop shipping sites and print-on-demand, those services already offer best in class guarantees, so make sure that you highlight these on your website too. 

With pricing, it is always best to give at least some indicative pricing so that buyers can see the ballpark figure or starting costs of your art, because just like the exhibitions and galleries that never show clear pricing, people will move on assuming that because something doesn’t have a price tag it must mean that they can’t afford it. That latter point seems to me to be even more significant when selling art because art is often seen as a luxury purchase. Teaser pricing is essential in giving a buyer an indication that they can afford the work. 

If you have your work available in different sizes and on different mediums, this should be clear too, and if possible show some examples of the work printed on different surfaces and products. 

If you are selling prints and also still have the original, it’s worth keeping both the option to purchase the print and the option to purchase the original on the same page so that buyers can decide if they want to pay the extra to own the original. options on the same page so that buyers can choose either the print or the original.


never have enough time, marketing tips for artists, beechhouse media, Mark Taylor
Never having enough time...



Plan to plan…

Having any plan is better than having no plan. Sometimes plans will work sometimes they won’t, but unless you have one then the chances that you will be selling your work in the volume that you need to sell are going to be a lot slimmer. 

I know I keep writing time and time again about planning but its importance when selling art can never be underestimated. Just having an idea of what pieces could be more popular at what time of the year will give you a head start that you never had if you hadn’t have made a plan and planning your social media from the beginning of October, right the way through to December and January is worth doing too.

If you already have an email list then Q4 is the time when it needs to be dusted off and if you haven’t already got an email list then now is probably the best time to start thinking about one. Again, many of the print on demand services can offer an email service but the downside is that you will be collecting names not so much for you, but for the print on demand service who host your work. While you will get to see how many people are on that list, you might not get to know who those people are and that becomes a major headache when you are trying to figure out who your people are. A much more sustainable and better idea is to use one of the many email management services that allow you to control and view the people who have signed up. Some of these services offer free plans which allow you to add a couple of thousand recipients, and this for most artists might be all that is needed.

When you do have an email list it is vital that you never use the information to send out spam. The best email campaigns offer value to the recipient, the last thing people want to see when they check their emails first thing in the morning and before the coffee has settled, are three hundred emails competing for any money that they might earn that day. WIPs, subscriber-only offers, news of your latest and next releases, insights behind the scenes and humour all have a place in an inbox, and not every email needs to be about buying the product. Building trust and a brand image are vital if you want to make sure subscribers stick around.

Your seasonal email campaign should be starting anytime now, with a gentle ramp in the number of emails the closer we head towards the final sales weekends pre-the holiday season. There are also a couple of opportunities prior to Christmas and I mentioned both Black Friday and Cyber Monday earlier. For some artists, those events along with Thanksgiving can be commercially successful opportunities to promote their work, but events like these won't work for everyone. 

Some retailers now have pre-Black Friday deals and start to promote their products under the banner of Black Friday or Cyber Monday a month or so before the big day. The danger in doing this is that people might start to tune out and it takes away some of the excitement that Black Friday is supposed to bring.

At the same time as any email campaign, your social media strategy should be to ramp things up too but you have to be cautious around cross-posting and using some automated tools to schedule posts. There’s nothing that shouts unprofessional quite as loudly as posting the same image ratio on Facebook and Twitter, because one of the images is going to get cropped and it might cut out some of the most important information. Time is often the biggest barrier to making sure that cross-posting looks as if it belongs on each platform but thankfully there are plenty of tools that can convert a single post into different image sizes and ratios. 

Long-time readers will know that I am a big fan of using Adobe Spark and Adobe Spark Video for creating promotional images, and the good news is that you can access both of those platforms for free, either on the web or on iPhone and iPad through dedicated apps. If you already subscribe to even the most basic Photoshop Creative Cloud subscription you will be able to take advantage of premium features of Spark which brings access to premium templates and it gives you the option of setting up themes so that future posts have a consistent feel and you can even include your logo. You can find out more about Spark right here

landscape art, seascape art, ocean art, Mark Taylor art, latest artwork,
Previous works from my Adrift Collection - Available Now!

Take notice of the competition…

I have said it before and I will say it again, other artists are not usually your competition. The competition comes from heavy discounters, mega-galleries and the major online retailers but these sellers are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Remember when I said earlier that the big organisations have teams of people working out the next big thing? Well, taking a keen interest in what they are up to and looking at how they are handling their marketing can give you a massive insight into what is and isn’t working. 

The one thing you must-do though is not to copy them verbatim, they know their audience and their audience probably isn’t your audience, but taking ideas about their approach to marketing and noting colour schemes that are on trend can pay dividends when creating your own marketing campaigns. Now is also the time when you relook at your existing marketing and ask the big question of whether or not it is working. If you use the same template as everyone else on social media and you are struggling to make sales, then that is a good indication to switch things around and do something more original. 

One of the reasons I set up the Artists Lounge group on Facebook was to give artists a forum where they could test the waters and work collaboratively to figure out what does and doesn't work and to share ideas. I see the reluctance but the reality is that you are one person and you probably don't have access to an entire marketing department, and as I said earlier, other artists really aren't your competition. 


The all-important Q4…

In retail terms, this is the all-important fourth quarter. The most significant selling opportunity of the year, and if you are missing out on sales throughout quarter four, then quarters, one, two and three are doubtless also going to be slow. No matter what the world throws at you for the rest of the year and no matter what the financial or political outlook looks like, quarter four is the key to driving sales because it is the time of the year when buyers will be in a buying mood.


No matter how many times I tell my wife that we are definitely cutting down on buying presents this year, inevitably that goes out of the window on payday and I expect a lot of people are the same.  Quarter four has to be approached seriously because this is definitely and categorically the single most important time for a majority of working artists outside of the big art fairs such as Basel.


evenings low tide, landscape art, mark taylor artist, Beechhouse Media, Staffordshire artists,
Evenings Low Tide from my Big Skies Collection!



Recap on Q4...

So to recap this week’s article and for those who didn’t have the time to read everything, here’s a list of the things that are vital as we head into quarter four. I have also added a few things that I didn’t get time to cover in the main article but which will give you and your work a little more exposure and will make it easier to work out who your audience is.


  • Build your web presence and if you already have a website, use the next few weeks to get things refreshed in readiness for the selling season.
  • If you don't already have a web presence beyond social media, get one! 
  • If you are in the U.K. and will be selling art to the EU, check that you are prepared for any administrative changes you might have to make if indeed Britain leaves the union on October 31st.
  • Source the up-sells such as gifts ahead of the start of your marketing campaigns.
  • Prepare social media posts in advance and have a strategy to promote your work over an extended period of time to the right audience.
  • Join relevant social media groups and for at least the first few weeks, use the time to build relationships and trust before you go into the hard sell and stay within the rules. Social media groups are created by people and not the social media platforms, remember that the creator of the group sets the rules and is often volunteering a huge chunk of time to make the group what it is. 
  • If you do already have a website, link it to an analytics platform such as Google so that you can work out who your market is and take actions on the data it provides. 
  • Take on local markets by signing up to Google My Business and Bing Places, both are free to sign up with and it will give you more of a presence on the big two search platforms. 
  • Set up an email list and have a strategy for sending out campaign emails, remembering the golden rule that not every email needs to be the hard sell.
  • Check the final shipping dates from print-on-demand services and communicate these clearly to buyers. 
  • Keep an eye open for print on demand offers such as free shipping, today more than ever people feel as if free shipping should be included when making a purchase because they have become conditioned to buying from services such as Amazon Prime. Fast, inexpensive delivery is always a benefit and shipping costs can put buyers off.
  • Write a list of every benefit that buying from you will bring the buyer. Use these as prompts in your marketing and if you support a cause through your work, make that cause known and let people know how and why you support it.
  • Send out physical seasonal cards to your collectors and remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. You could add in a discount off any future purchases or simply say thank you.
  • Ask buyers what they want from you and remember to ask for the sale. So many artists don't pick up on the signals that a buyer is ready to buy and lose the sale. 
  • Give your marketing efforts enough time, be patient and don't be tempted to take a rapid-fire approach when posting updates. Spread the love over a few days or at least a few hours to give posts time to surface and resonate. The same people will be seeing the same post if it is posted at 10am regardless of how many groups or pages you share it on and spreading posts out will give some a better chance of being seen by a wider audience. Posts will surface more frequently through engagement and if the 10am crowd aren't in a sharing mood, you might get more traction a little later on. 
  • If you are selling traditional artworks visit galleries and take a look at how they approach selling art. If you are selling prints, visit the retailers who sell prints either physically from brick and mortar stores or online.
  • Always draw attention to any money-back guarantees that are offered through print on demand websites and make potential buyers aware of the policy.
  • Take a break when you need to. I know how brutal working seven days a week and cramming in extended work hours can be, but it is so important that you pace yourself and that you look after yourself. Your marketing campaign needs you and it needs the best you that you can give it.
  • Never leave seasonal and special event marketing to the last minute. Everybody else has already started and most people will have committed to another seasonal marketing campaign. In an online world, no one waits around for a just in case any more.
  • Plan for Q4 and make plans for quarters one, two, and three, too!

No time like now…

It is never too early to be thinking about seasonal marketing campaigns and many of the major marketing players will be a year or so ahead of you already. Plans are made months ahead of time and sometimes even longer. I know from my own experience just how quickly time can creep up on you when being creative is front and centre but I also know from experience that not getting ahead of the marketing can make you fall behind even more and you run a real risk of missing an entire selling season.  

While there are plenty of selling opportunities through the rest of the year, quarter four is special. Outside of the big art shows and major events, Q4 is the time when people are buying gifts for the holidays and getting sales during that same time can make things way easier in the drier months leading up to spring. 

If you want to discuss strategies then take a look at my group, The Artists Lounge, it is a closed group to take some of the issues away that you might come across when posting publicly, and if there is a question that you need an answer to then there are plenty of great artists who have lots of experience who I am sure would all be willing to offer some helpful advice. 

If you have any marketing tips, as always, leave a comment below and let us all know what they are!

Until next time, best wishes and happy creating!

Mark xx

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: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com
Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels contributes towards to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com

You can also follow me on Facebook at https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here om my Go Fund Me Page, and if you buy me a few cups of coffee you will also get a mention on my Go Fund Me page on this website. All proceeds go towards ensuring that I can bring you quality content every week, making sure that this site remains as independent as the artists it serves.

Comments

  1. Thanks Mark, appreciate much! Stay healthy and be creative! x

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    1. Thanks Jane, spent last night at the hospital being reminded that I’m human! Couple of days of rest and should be back to my creative self! Hope all good with you xx

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    2. Take good care Mark. Nothing comes before health as far as I'm concerned xx

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