Top Tips to Sell Art


Top Tips to Sell Art
 
If you are an artist struggling to make sales, it might not be that your art is just well, not so good. It is likely to be that you haven’t been able to find your market. There are so many art markets it is a daunting task, and especially if you as yet have no real niche.
 
Print on demand sites such as Fine Art America, Zazzle, and others are a great place to start selling art. Some people make an entire living from the process, others get buried between millions of artistic works from hundreds of thousands of artists all doing the same thing. Trying to be discovered.
 
The problem with print on demand or rather the two problems with print on demand are that one, the services rarely promote an artist unless they are well known, and secondly, there is a whole heap of no-so-great art that seems to rank higher in the search results than your own.
 
Some online art services charge a commission, some allow you to set the commission, others offer you a set commission, and 30% of zero sales is not going to make you rich.
 
Print on demand is an ideal way of dipping your toes in the water. You really need to know how to promote yourself if you want to see some initial sales, there are artists who have been uploading quality artwork for a few years and have still yet to make their first sale.
 
Galleries are difficult. Firstly you need to find a gallery that loves your work, and secondly you will find that the better galleries will be expecting up to a 50% cut of any sales. But given that they have to promote you, have a physical space to showcase your work, and employ staff, it can be a lucrative area for both parties.
 
Art Gallery
Despite the commission a gallery can seriously improve sales
The problem here is how to get your work in a gallery in the first place? That is a difficult one to answer. Some gallery owners will visit exhibitions and approach you, and some gallery owners will expect you to go to them. That is when it gets really difficult. Generally they’re a vocal bunch. If they don’t like your work, or it doesn’t fit in with their client group, you are pretty much back at first base and they will offer critique that may offend. Top tip here, be less sensitive, and be prepared to give up a chunk of your profit.
 
It is rarely a good idea to enter a gallery and expect them to fall in love with your creative side. It’s also not worth going in with hundreds of pieces in a portfolio. Galleries, or at least the good ones, really haven’t got the time. Yes, some may look empty of customers, but they generally sell big name, big ticket paintings, and staff are usually busy looking at white walls in between visits from billionaires.
 
Art Fairs are a relatively inexpensive way of getting noticed. Art Fairs such as the Affordable Art Fair are mainstays of emerging and established artists. Getting a space within an art fair usually means that the client group is interested in art. You just need to make sure you have a good display and that your pricing is competitive.
 
I will be writing a feature on using social media to sell your art soon, in the meantime there are a few simple rules that you will need to follow.
 
Social Media is a collective term for people who are using their phones, tablets, or computers to connect with the world. Repetition is generally unliked, seeing the same photo of the same photo in multiple feeds becomes tedious. How many times can someone actually like the same thing before you get bored and move on to something different.
 
If your social media posts portray you as a self-promoting sales machine, most people will ignore or unfollow you. You need to connect with potential customers, and this means giving them a glimpse of who you really are behind the canvas. If you can share insights in to your creative process, share your other interests and become involved in groups, you might actually increase your follower count, and increase your customer base. As I always maintain, 10-collectors are worth more than 20-single sales.

USING SOCIAL MEDIA TO SELL YOUR ART

Facebook
Facebook- other platforms are available!

As I promised, I wanted to give you some top tips for expanding your business using social media, and here it is.
 
There are so many so called “business guru’s” on social media, each one asking for an email address, and then they send you a one or two page PDF with some outlines. Now I am not proclaiming to be a business guru, and nor will I ask you for an email address. Today I am going to write about my experiences with social media and selling my art, maybe you will pick up a couple of usable tips. If you find something that works, let us know by leaving a comment at the bottom of the post or connecting with me via my Facebook page at https://Facebook.com/beechhousemedia
 
So how do you use social media to reach a customer base, and why should you use social media at all? Those are two questions I hope to answer, very rarely is money involved if you play the strategy right, but what you must remember is that you are up against a really smart algorithm that every social network uses. Unless you are famous, or have a million plus following, social media is actually a hard nut to break. Well, actually, the algorithm is a hard nut to break.
 
The greatest thing about social media is that it can give you a platform to talk directly to your customers, engage with them, and let them talk back. The hardest thing you will need to do before you do this, is to either already have a loyal customer base, or you will need to grow one. Loyal followers do not occur overnight, you need to spend time and put in a lot of effort to grow a loyal following, or you could throw some money at boosting or promoting what you post, tweet, or pin, but having gone through all of that, I can attest that unless you know exactly who your audience are, the promotion is likely to bear little fruit. What you really want is organic reach.
 
Organic reach is something that is the Holy Grail of social media, if you can grow a following without having to promote through paid promotions and adverts, you will know that the people who like you, actually like you. Sometimes a paid for campaign can work, but out of the two, organic reach to me is the better option unless you have lots of spare cash to gamble with. Essentially you are edging bets on how many likes or interactions you will get when you pay, sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it doesn’t.
 
But before you go down any route, there are a few basics that you need to understand. Not least that you need to know your audience, and where that audience hangs out online. If your client base are likely to be commercial businesses or organisations, then the option you have is to see where the majority of those businesses reside online. Look through adverts from organisations, they will most likely indicate where there online presence is. Usually they will have a Facebook page, or will be on LinkedIn, though many use Twitter for their public relations campaigns, and many businesses are increasingly turning to Instagram. Out of all the platforms, LinkedIn is more about targeting a corporate market.
 
It is great when people interact positively with you on social media, but getting in front of those people is really hard work. Let’s put it into context. As of the third quarter of 2015, Facebook had 1.55 billion monthly active users. In the third quarter of 2012, they had achieved 1 billion active users. Over half a billion new users since 2012. Facebook measures active users, and by active users they mean people who have logged on to the platform in the last 30-days.
 
That’s a whole lot of people, and potentially the biggest audience you will reach out to. Remember I mentioned the algorithm? Well, when you post something on Facebook, it doesn’t go out on to each and every one of the total active users. If it did, we would all see billions of posts each day on our timelines. The reality is that your post may only be seen by a few people. Sometimes it may be seen by half a dozen people who follow or like you, not everyone you are linked to will see the post. This is what they call organic post reach.
 
Depending on what you post, how many people initially engage with the post by liking, sharing, or commenting, will determine how many more people will see the post. There seem to be an infinite number of things that the algorithm has to decide when determining how many other people will see the post. In this respect, it means that everyone will see only the most relevant content. Some content is favoured above other content, and I believe there are possibly some key words that can be picked up by the algorithm that just might give you the edge.


However, this is based on a purely unscientific test carried out over a number of posts from my garden shed. The algorithm is a closely guarded secret, more so than Colonel Sanders's eleven secret herbs and spices. The other problem of course is that Facebook change the algorithm on a relatively frequent basis, often as frequently as two to three small changes each week. Game on.
 
There are some things that you can do to increase the reach, and a search around the internet will provide you with the opinion of pretty much everyone who has used Facebook commercially. Everyone has an opinion on how to beat the algorithm, but the reality is that sometimes it is just pot luck.
Algorithm updates are frequently rolled out across the platform, and this has resulted in decreased visibility for a business’s organic reach. According to Facebook they see some content that might actually be relevant to the target audience as spam. We know from looking through Facebooks corporate pages that there are three things that will no longer do so well as a post.
 
1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app. What that means is that essentially, promotions for goods or services are not prioritised. To make them a priority, you will need to pay to boost or promote the post.
 
2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
 
3. Posts that reuse the same content from ads.
 
For a business, it means things are a little tougher, but there are some less intuitive ways that you can boost a post. If you use a phone with a slow data connection you will likely see less video. Writing “congratulations” in a comment might indicate that the post is of a big life event, liking an article after you have clicked it is a stronger positive signal than if you were to like the post before you had actually read it or viewed it.
 
So there are a few initial pointers, you will need to create engaging content that your viewers will read and then like, and/or share. If you can encourage people to leave a comment that will boost a post too, and make sure you reply to comments. Facebook it seems is training people to behave in a particular way in that algorithmic environment.
 
@beechhouseart
@beechhouseart is on Twitter
In summary these are the key things that my experiment in the garden shed highlighted, although not particularly in any order, except maybe the first one.
 
1. Post great content. Quality content is paramount. If you post great content, your chances of the content being liked increase, and your chances of getting your content shared also increases. If you get shares, that means that you will be exposed to other people’s timelines, extending the reach further. Facebook’s algorithm doesn’t particularly like memes, sharing a story from a news site will do better, and so will publishing your own high quality content such as e-books, blog posts, and useful information.
 
2. Extend your reach to other social networks. The caveat is that you will need to deliver content in the same way on other platforms as they too will have an algorithm running in the background. Explore other avenues such as Google+ which is a great community platform now it has been through a transition, post on Vine, Pinterest, Tumblr, and even Twitter. Just remember that the rules for any platform are that quality content is key.
 
3. Personal pages tend to show up more in news feeds than business pages. Business pages are important, but probably not as important as your personal page. Think of business pages as a store front. It should be a repository of business related information, and should also give customers a glimpse of your personality. Purely posting business related information is too corporate in this day and age, you need your business pages to be a hub where a community can engage.
 
4. Despite what everyone has been saying for what seems forever, post frequently. Posting 4-6 times a day seems to be the numbers that have been bandied around, but as long as you are posting great content, more posts mean that there is more chance of a bite. As a minimum, you need to post at least twice per day.
 
5. Exclusive content, just to up the ante, Facebook likes exclusive content that users won’t find on any other platform. No idea how they can tell if a post is exclusive to Facebook, but no doubt their algorithm has an idea.
 
6. Image and video posts always do better on Facebook than regular text posts. Sharing video is great as long as the content is relevant to your stream. You can also share your Pinterest and Instagram photos on Facebook, but for the love of a Cyber God, please do not ever send me a request to play Candy Crush Saga. Since Facebook owns the Instagram platform, it would be unwise to think that Facebook doesn’t like you sharing the content.
 
7. User generated content as long as it is relevant is something that you should encourage. Hosting photo contests, video contests, and you can always use the content posted to feature in blog posts, just so long as you get the original posters permission.
 
8. The next tip should really be at number two if there were any order to these insights. You need to engage with your Facebook fans. Drive user interaction by creating caption competitions, fill in the blanks, or asking for feedback. Art buyers generally need to feel a connection to the artist, if they can contact you via your social-media channels this will go a long way. Just make sure you respond to everything you can.
 
9. A powerful cover image is important. So many times I have seen artists who forget that the cover image (the banner at the top of the page) is the first thing that people will see. Just as you would with a shop window or gallery window, you need to make it look inviting.
 
10. Think about what you post. It doesn’t have to be an entire dissertation on quantum mechanics, your post needs to be informative and relevant. You also need to consider what you are posting. If it is a personal opinion around a sensitive issue, my advice is stay well away. Not everyone shares the same opinions or views and this could lead to a lost sale.
 
11. Connect to others that could offer you some assistance. I managed to meet a great ink supplier through Facebook. I have also managed to connect with a number of small print business’s that no matter what silly deadline I give them, one of them will step up to the plate and produce the goods, and they are not just local business’s, I have made connections all over the world, all through a quick hello on Facebook.
 
As I beta test apps for App Store developers, I am now in a position where I rarely do now have to do the job for free. Again, through Facebook, just saying hello and giving a quick bio can improve business, and it involves no additional posting beyond the first contact.
 
12. I cannot stress this enough, it was a mistake I made a few years ago when I posted something I thought was current, but was actually posted back in 2008! I wondered for nearly a week why no one had mentioned it, liked it, or commented on it. It was because they had seen it before. Just because it is new to you doesn’t mean it hasn’t already done the rounds. Make sure your content is current.
 
13. Self-promotion. Now here is a topic that I could write around 20,000 words on. As an artist you have to self-promote. If you are a print on demand artist, then you have no real choice unless you have a huge fan/collector base. So many times I see a barrage of posts from the same person, all posted within about 10-minutes of the last one.
 
Yes, posting often is good, but remember that it also swamps the news feed of people who like you, or a piece of your work. Spread out the posts. There is nothing worse than seeing a group page that looks like it is the business page of one artist. Any potential new customers visiting that page may have to scroll down twenty posts to see another artists work. If they don’t like your work, they are likely to not bother scrolling to the end, and they're less likely to return when you do post something they actually want to buy.
 
The only time this works is if you are Banksy, or are a household name and everyone loves your work. Even then bear in mind that people generally don’t like repetition, and even 200 Banksy images may become repetitious.
 
14. Market, market, market. There is a saying that if you build it, they will come. Not on social media, unless again you are an interesting "not Justin Bieber" celebrity. You need to tell people about your online presence. If you have a business card, your primary social media links should be included. I say primary because my web presence is pretty expansive. If I were to create each link to one of my sites, channels, or groups in a 10pt Arial font, the business card would be the size of an A4 sheet of paper, printed both sides.
 
15. Remember that social media works best in conjunction with other marketing. If you rely solely on social media, then your strategy could go in the wrong direction when an algorithm changes.
 
There is always a need for real interaction, generally between people using a technique that we all seem to have lost as of late, that technique of course is talking to customers face to face.
There are now lots of local networking groups that are being set up in local communities, I would encourage anyone who has a product to sell or a service to offer, to attend these events. For many shyness is a real issue at these events, yet rarely do we encounter shyness online. I will be covering how to network your art business in a future post.
 
16. Join "The Artists Exchange" a group of great people who share other artists work. The group is now live and you can join it by logging in to Facebook and going here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/940723089340284/
 
The idea of the group is to encourage sharing of other artists work. By other people liking, commenting, and sharing your work, and you in return sharing other people’s work, means that you and everyone else becomes a part of many timelines. If the post that is shared is then shared by those new people too, the algorithm problem becomes less of a problem.
 
In just a few short weeks over 300 people have signed up! The group is free to join and is a great way to chat amongst other art lovers and artists.
 
The Artists Exchange
The Artists Exchange - A friendly Facebook group
17. There are companies that will also manage your social media presence. The only problem is that generally these companies cost. Some offer a low cost fee usually with one or two posts per day, but if you go the whole ten yards, you will need some heavy investment.
 
The people behind these companies are usually experienced in media campaigns and public relations. Media campaigns being the optimal word here, translated in to easy speak, means expensive, but you do get what you pay for.
 
Having set up a more than a few social media campaigns previously, the amount of work involved is high. Social media is /365 and never takes a break. To make sure you remain at the top, you are going to need to think about covering the time zones of your customer base. I have set up groups on Facebook commercially, it is a whole heap of work.24/7
 
There is a cheaper way to do this, you can schedule posts. Most of my customer base resides in the USA, and then India. I am stuck between two extreme differences in time zones, so scheduling a post is critical. The only downside is that replies need to wait until I wake up, but at least you are not limiting your exposure to a specific time zone.
 
LinkedIn
LinkedIn is great for corporate sales
18. Define your goals. If you want to use social media for sharing funny cat videos, fine. Post as many funny cat videos as you feel you need too. But defining business goals is a smarter way to go when you are selling a piece of art or offering a service.
 
As much as I hate business speak, SMART is the way to go. You need to be specific about what you want to achieve. The more specific you are, the easier it becomes to formulate a content sharing strategy.
 
Measurable, how do you know when your campaign is a success? I know that my campaign is a success when I get a new sale, or when my post breaks all previous view records. In Facebook pages you can see how many people your post reaches. You can also use analytics software such as Google Analytics on your website.
 
Attainable, goes without saying. You need to set realistic expectations. If I plan to sell 30,000 pieces of art next year, I know it is not attainable. If I plan to sell 30 pieces of art, and maybe increase the goal accordingly, that makes much more sense.
 
Besides, if I was selling 30,000 prints per year, I would be writing this from a beach in the Caribbean. I’m not.
 
Relevant. Is the content you post relevant to your business, interests, or in a similar subject vein to your business? Displaying lots of fine art, and then posting a meme of a cat sipping champagne whilst sitting in a cat litter tray will not add any value and might put people off. Yes, they can see your non-business side, but a Facebook business page needs to be relevant. Posting a video of the creative process, or sharing a great piece of art from someone else is fine, as is posting something different that is still relevant to your business, unless you created the meme, best leave it to your personal page.
 
Time. I hate deadlines, although I have to give myself a few every week. My base blog needs to be completed by a Wednesday, and any additional news items need to be created by Thursday each week. Then I upload the new blog on a Friday, adding in any snippets of art and technology news around two-hours before the post goes live.
 
When I work on a piece of art, I never work to a deadline. It takes as long as it takes, unless it is a commission. If it’s a commission, then 18-20-hour-days can be the norm. However, I never take on a commission that I haven’t got the time needed to create it. Either that, or the commissioner will sit in a queue with a realistic expectation of how long the piece will take.
 
The only exception is when I create pieces that are to be used as props in TV and film. Contract turn-arounds can be as little as a few hours, and they might need something making brighter on the art work. When my last TV commission came in, I was given thirty-hours to make an adaptation, and get the contract signed and returned. On some occasions, four hours, but my current next art prop work doesn’t need to be completed until August 2016.
 
19. You need to define the demographic. Again, analytics software can be really useful. But to reach your required audience on social media, you really do need to figure out who you want to reach.
You certainly need to consider your customers age range, their location, their possible income, their interests and hobbies, maybe even their likely career and education level. I have two demographics that I can never explain. They are worlds apart from each other. My first group is mainly female, aged between 40 and 55, reside in the USA, and are usually post-graduates.
 
My second demographic who look to purchase my abstract works are usually male, aged between 30 and 45, reside in either USA or India, both are around the same in terms of numbers, and are more likely to browse my work online using either an iPhone, or through the Firefox web-browser.
 
As to that question that every artist is asked, what art sells best? Even with these analytics there are some questions that are always going to be impossible to answer. Art is individual, and I have been creating digital art since the 80’s. In the 90’s portraits sold well for me, as did paintings of cars. In the early noughties, it was landscapes, and now I couldn’t even predict which will be the work I will sell next. Over the years I have had to learn new techniques, create different styles, but in all honesty, I'm probably more comfortable with abstract even though it is more difficult to create.
 
20. You also need to research which social platforms will work best for you. Spending four hours per day on Facebook is pointless if your demographic uses Pinterest. As an artist, spending any time anywhere other than in front of a blank canvas is time that you need to make productive. In the early days I started out on Twitter. Then I joined Facebook, and then I joined Pinterest and a few others.
 
The platform where you get the most interaction is usually the one to focus on. If time is limited, chose the one that brings the most benefit and focus entirely on that platform. Remember that business’s use social media differently to most of the population where your buyers will most likely come from.
 
Platform choice is also determined by the content you wish to post. Around 300-hours of video are uploaded to Facebook every minute. If you plan on posting content multiple times per day, then the fast moving flow of Twitter might be a better platform, for many though, trial and error is the way to find out.
 
21. Timeliness is critical when responding to social media interactions. People live in a hurry these days and an answer is expected quickly. If a customer wants more information on your product, answering could be critical to make a sale.
 
Also bear in mind that people will often talk about your brand or work, and might not always get the name right. Keep an eye open for variations of yours and your company name.
 
22. Remember that you need time to interact. I managed to sit down one evening and pull together a content strategy for my blog that spans the next six-months. I can pretty much tell you exactly what will be featured and roughly when, aside from any news items. One of the best things I did was to also review what I post on social media. My personal page is where I post content that reflects most of my personal interests, communicate with family and friends, and post occasional business related content.

My Facebook business page is where my main business posts go, but I also try to keep the feed fresh with great finds from the web. Covering art and technology I have a huge content base that I can pull from. I do have a rule though, whatever I post must be fun or have a wow factor. The other rule is that my business page is always positive. My personal page is where I post general life observations!
 
23. Remember I spoke about deadlines? Well, deadlines can be overwhelming. If you can remove unachievable deadlines, do it. Managing social media can rapidly become a full-time job. If you are a company that can take on a social media manager to handle your reach, then it is a good idea. You need to invest time, or you need to invest financially so make sure that you are investing any of the two that you can afford the most. Taking on a social media manager could be something that family can help with, although you’ll want to make sure that they aren’t posting memes of funny or grumpy cats when it’s not relevant.
 
24. Study the competition. In the world of social media life is pretty fast. On Twitter, more than 500 million tweets are posted every day. All you need to do is make sure that your tweet, post or pin stands out.
 
25. Here are a quick list of don’t do’s!
 
• Do not, not have a strategy.
 
• Do not buy likes and subscribers. This was a technique used often in the earlier days of social media. The quality and interaction of your audience will have a negative impact on your business.
 
• Don’t delete negative comments, deal with them and turn it around. This looks much better from a customer viewpoint.
  • As I said, posting frequently is good, but remember that whatever you post needs to be included in your overall strategy. Think quality over quantity.
So there we have it. My experiences are all now committed to cyber-space, sitting in some cloud for you to peruse at leisure. Although everyone will no doubt have their own opinions as to what works and what doesn’t, these tips come from using social media from the age of dial-up internet access, and working with social media professionally for many years.

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