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To Join the Latest “It Craze or Platform” or Not on Social Media


Success and Failure Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

It seems like every time we turn around there is some new way or platform (like Instagram or Facebook) that is suppose to transform how we meet new clients as artists.  While admittedly some of these things, when the proper marketing techniques are learned, do lead to sales, all have the potential to be huge time sucks.

When I first got onto Facebook I joined a group called Link Love. You may have heard of them.  The premise was that setting up back links to each other’s pages will increase rankings inside of Google.  It’s other theory is that the more people who fan your page, the better off you are.

I was a member of Link Love for a while.  And for me that ROI – Return on Investment –  in terms of my time, was not worth it.  I met some GREAT people there, and yes my fan pages and blogs were read a bit by people who were back linking to everything. And I even used the services of one or two marketing type people who are a part of Link Love.  But my own Link Love activities did not generate one sale.

Here’s my thinking as to why Link Love works for some people and why it didn’t work for me.  My art is in two very targeted niche markets.  So for me, I prefer to get people who are actually invested in my type of art, who are the correct target market for my art – and communicate with them. For some people, like those with marketing and graphic design services to sell, Link Love put them on the map.  Why?  Because who was “liking” their pages?  Business owners who are online, probably just starting out, and who needed those types of services.

So what’s the lesson learned here?  Well for me it was 1) will this new action or new platform really get me touch with my specific target market? 2) Will it get me sales that are worthy of my time spent?  3) How will I measure if it is getting me sales? and 4) Can it help add to my physical email list.

If I don’t know the answers to these questions, I don’t begin. So I’m not saying don’t do something like Link Love, or Instagram or fill in the blank.  I am saying if you do – ask yourself if you are bringing in the type of clients you need from participating in that activity. Not “exposure” – PAYING CLIENTS.  Or if your time could be better spent elsewhere. For some, a certain platform or activity within a platform will be a perfect fit. For others, it won’t.  Like all marketing activities, the key is to evaluate consistently and see what is working and change course accordingly.

I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences with new must do/ must have activities and platforms. What has worked for you, and what hasn’t? And why do you think that is.

 

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How To Inventory Your Art Work

Drawings in a Classroom

Inventorying their work is something that many artists do not know how to do well. Partly because we tend to just shy away from anything that requires time away from our studios. And also because I don’t think it’s really taught anywhere. However, inventorying art work makes life a lot easier when consigning and selling work. And also when trying to remember what a piece of artwork is.

After a few different attempts to inventory my work (I tried just the name, I tried just a number) a fellow artist suggested the following.

2 digits for the year, and 2 digits for the number it is painted that year

So for example, the first painting I paint in 2013 will be labeled 13-01, the second painting is labeled as 13-02. For 2014 the first painting will be 14-01. I mark the back of my artwork in pencil, with this number. Obviously, for some types of art that might not work.

I put all of my paintings into a spreadsheet, organized by theme of paintings. I include the following columns:

1) Name of Painting
2) Short Description
3) Size of artwork
4) Medium
5) Year created
6) Number (i.e. 13-01)
7) Price
8) Location (ex studio, gallery, or name of owner when sold)

I also keep my sold paintings and gifted paintings on a separate spreadsheet. So that I don’t have available paintings and sold paintings on the same page. But this is something that isn’t necessary in the beginning.

Do you inventory your art? If so, what is the best method you have discovered for that?

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5 Easy, Low Cost and Free Ways To Promote An Art Show

Zen Drawing Figure
If you have an art show coming up, and are looking for low cost ways to promote it, here are a few ideas.

1) Send a press release to your local art and lifestyle editor at your local newspaper. Do your homework, and get their name so you send it directly to them. If you spend the time to write a good press release, that makes their job easy (as in cut and paste your release info into their column) you have a good chance of getting picked up.

2) Create a postcard and promote your show to your existing mailing list.And/Or use an email, and promote to your existing email list.

3) Create a postcard, and use it to post on local billboards where people you think might connect with your work are. This could include the local coffee shop and grocery message boards. There might also be local shops that have an area for you to place your post cards as well. (Just make sure to ask for permission before dropping off cards at a store.)

4) Use social media! Post your upcoming show on Facebook and Twitter. Include a picture of your art, so that it grabs people’s attention. Ask your friends to share and like your announcement to get additional screen time. Use the calendar event option to invite people as well.

5) Look at local magazines in your area. Are there any who talk about art shows? If so, find out the name of the editor, and send them your press release as well.

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Studio Rules

List

Years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her family, who are all artists, have family studio rules. I thought this was a good idea to implement for myself and I’m sharing in case you find them helpful as well.

Here are my basic rules. Let me know what additional rules you may have below.

1. No work is started without a signed contract. Even if they are a friend, and I know them well.

2. 50% deposit is required at beginning of work, even if they are a friend and I know them. (Yes even good friends can be flakey.)

3. Contract states exactly what is expected for the piece, and any big changes create a change order (and additional money).

4. Anyone who wastes my time with phantom shows/events that fall through at the last minute does not get a second chance.

5. All work left anywhere has at minimum a consignment sheet, with agreed to price, inventory number if applicable, and sales fees stated, signed by the owner before the artwork is left.

6. Collect sales tax on all in-state purchases. Because not collecting tax equates to giving someone an additional 9% discount, as I then have to pay the sales tax myself. (Some artists simply factor this into their pricing. I however find it a little messy to try and back out the tax after a sale, and prefer to simply add that onto the sale at the end.)

I have found that besides saving me a lot of headaches and frustration, having studio rules is an easy way to make things less personal. By that I mean, if you tell someone No, they can get upset. But when you let them No, you have a set of basic business rules, that apply to all clients, there is less chance for a client or potential client to take this personally.

What are some of your studio rules? I’d love to hear from you below. Thanks!

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Banners for your website or Etsy Shop:

When creating banners for a blog, website or online shop, not all artists are experts at PhotoShop.  Here are some ways to help with that process.

Option 1: Do It Yourself: There are free photo editing software programs available. Some even come installed on a computer. I personally use Photoshop Elements, which is an inexpensive version of PhotoShop, even though I’m not very good with it.

The images: I would suggest using your art as the art in the banner. But if there is  aneed for other art, try a stock photo site, like iStock to purchase art for this purpose.  Purchasing art, or making sure you have the right to use the images, is important. As artists, we more than most should respect the copyright of another’s work.

There are a few places I use to find free images.  They include:

TheCutestBlogOnTheBlock.com has some great already made banners and backgrounds to download for free.  They are great for female based, or targeted blogs, websites etc.

Microsoft has some royalty free clip art images that I use for my blogs (not my banners, as I want unique content).  Here’s the link to their website: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/images/

Option 2: Hire Someone:  This doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think. I found a wonderful woman through Facebook who created my Etsy banners and avatars for one of my shops. It was much better for me to get a professional graphically designed banner quickly then for me to try and create it myself, which would have resulted in a less professional look.

Option 2.2 Outsource. This is a second version of hiring someone to help. But it requires hiring someone who is generally out of the US/Canada area.  Use a website such as  Fiverr or oDesk.  Both of these sites have overseas help for less than US prices.  Because English is not the first language of most of those on these sites, one needs to be incredibly clear with instructions and expectations. As everything is done via email, over communication is the key.  You will also need a PayPal account or credit card in order to pay your contractor.



 

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The Value Of A Signed Contract For Artists

A few days ago my manager went to pick up art from a hotel who had called to say that after a few months, nothing had sold. When he went to pick up the art, he discovered that 1/4 of my work had actually sold. Which, given the limited amount of time my work had been hanging in the hotel during the off season, was in line with other spaces my work was selling at in the same area.

The hotel manager tried to argue with my manager and insisted that all that work had been stolen. And was trying to not pay for any of it. Even though the art was in a restricted area that was not easily accessible to non employees. If I had not made sure to give my manager the paperwork from when he dropped the work off, that clearly stated the name of the hotel, the manager’s signature, and a detailed list of the work and the commission I would not have gotten paid.

My advice to everyone is, next time before you drop off work anywhere, make sure you have in writing a detailed list of what you are dropping off, how much it costs and what you expect to get back. This takes maybe 1/2 an hour of time, but is so worth the extra effort should something go wrong. I also generally have a legal contract associated with my work. But for smaller, non original limited edition work I sometimes decide to not scare people off with a legal contract as well. (Which is a risk I weigh individually.)

Because I’m not an attorney, I ordered a legal documents book for artists I found at my local book store called The Visual Artist’s Business and Legal Guide by Gregory T. Victroff. I have since easily modified my documents based on that book. And I will say that in the ten years or so that I have been leaving art somewhere, this is the first time I have had an issue. But I was very glad I had developed this practice when my manager returned with both my art and a check for the sold work. If you don’t have a local art store that caries these types of legal books, you can also order one from Amazon. Here’s a link for the book I use and a few others.

How about you? Have you even been really glad you had a contract?

For more about showing art see An Art Show Is Never just About the Show

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Art Class & Teaching Children – The Parent Perspective

Teaching art to children is a very popular way artist make additional money. And when speaking to artist teachers, I find many expressing frustration when setting up and teaching classes. To the point that many talented, caring artists simply stop offering teaching after a few private pupils or classes because they don’t understand why parents stop the classes when they seem very happy with the classes and the results their children are getting from them.

I understand this artist’s frustration, as I too have felt extremely confused and frustrated when a child that is doing well, enjoying class and progressing is then not signed up anymore. I think this frustration comes from not understanding the way most parents view art classes for their children.

From my experience there are two main reasons parents sign children up to take art classes. They take them either to fill a gap in time or to further explore their children’s interest in art. However, very few parents really focus their children’s art career on a regular basis, because most people do not believe art is a way to make money in life. The confusion often occurs when we as artists forget that most parents signing their children up to take art classes, aren’t looking to really expand and continue their child’s study as artists. They are simply looking to expand their children’s life experiences for a few weeks.

Let me explain what I mean with two examples. When I have taught one-on-one art classes to someone’s child I’m always told by the parent that their child has a great aptitude for art, and that they want to expand on this. When I look at this as an artist, I think great, I get a chance to help someone else develop their creative side. And so I spend time creating and adjusting the curriculum based on the individual needs of that child. Then inevitably 6 or 8 weeks will go by and the parent will pull the child from classes for some reason. The reasons all center around the same issue – which is parents, like the rest of us have a set amount budgeted for children’s activities. So if they feel their child should be well rounded, they will use their monthly budget for a new activity every 6-8 weeks.

I have a friend who did a very well thought out 6 week art class with a very detailed curriculum at the start of summer. All the parents were thrilled and happy with the progress their children made in the class. But when she offered a second 6 weeks to continue their progress none of the parents signed them up. They went on to sign their kids up for swimming or a sport for the remainder of the summer. She felt this was a reflection on her and was very disheartened. When in fact, if you asked any of the parents, they were thrilled with her instruction.

The disconnect occurs, because we as artists look at art as a life long pursuit. And so we view the skills we are teaching as life long skills, that require more than 6 weeks of activation to achieve. And it’s also extremely frustrating to see our teaching begin to pay off in a change in our student’s abilities. Only to then have the parent, who also sees this improvement in execution, then cancel further classes. Generally, parents are looking at art classes, even for their gifted creative child, as a way to expand a children’s brain for a period of time. And sometimes they really are just looking for an activity for their kid to do for 6 weeks, before giving them some other activity. There isn’t a lot more thought process than that. So we as artists are looking at a life long skill, and a parent is looking for 6 weeks of activity to fill a slot.

To avoid frustration, sometimes it’s easier for me to simply offer a workshop or an hour long class somewhere, occasionally, with a set activity that can be achieved in a 1 or 3 hour time block and leave it at that. If you can find a venue or a group that is looking for artist teachers to do this type of work – I feel this is a rewarding way to help kids increase their creativity, without investing a lot of extra emotion and attachment to it. Plus then I don’t have to worry about marketing my classes. And since I teach the same thing over and over again, my prep time before and after class is cut down significantly. As are my expenses, as I use the same materials each class.

For those not in a position to partner with an organization, or for those who are asked to do private or group lessons I have the following advice (which I also follow myself). Any private lessons are done in a block of 6 weeks. With a total of 7 weeks available to complete. This way I can prepare a syllabus, and feel that I have made an impact on my student. And at the same time I am able to schedule myself better. I find that teaching private lessons is more an act of love, than a viable way to make money, given how much time and thought I put into each session, thinking of ways to tweak the curriculum to best address the needs of my student. So if I can at least know that my time and energy will be rewarded

And for any artist offering of group classes for a period of 4-6 weeks, think of it instead like how churches offer vacation bible school. Offer it only once or twice a year. This way it can be an anticipated, looked forward to activity. Which parents can plan for financially, and be included in the yearly budget for child activities.

Obviously, occasionally there will be a parent looking to truly increase their child’s artist ability throughout the year. But for the most part, understanding the parent’s perspective will help alleviate our own frustrations and self-judgments we experience when teaching private lessons.

What are your thoughts? How do you best balance your needs with those of parents?

For more about the business of art, see Selling Art: It’s Like Building A snowman

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Redefining What It Means To Be An Artist

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” – Anonymous

I love this quote. It doesn’t mean you have to be a “starving artist” at any point in the journey. But it does mean you probably will have different priorities with your “free” time than most when you first start making your goals into reality. And it may mean that you do both for a while – a job and your own thing. Or if you are lucky, maybe you find a job in the art field, and do great there as well.

The awesome thing about being an artist, is that there are so many ways to succeed at it. I know people who spend all day in Hollywood, drawing, painting or creating. And I know people in the corporate retail space, designing and creating every day there too. I also know fine-art artists who do the festival and gallery scenes and may or may not have a job somewhere else. None of those options is wrong – that’s the beauty of it.

No one is saying quit your day job today. Unless you can, and/or you feel so inclined. I have a friend who instead of quitting his day job, started freelancing on the side. And then after a while he also started his own website. Wow – I mean this guy is killing it in two additional markets, while still keeping his day job. And so after 2 years of his website being kicked off, he’s making good money. Enough that if his day job said good bye, he’s be ok.

But what this meant was while everyone else was out drinking at the bar on a Saturday night, he was home working on projects, working with this web developers and creating an online outlet for his work. And since his day job normally didn’t require more than 40 hours a week, he was able to work a bit a couple nights a week and still enjoy life. Did he maybe turn down a more “prestigious” corporate job, that would have required more hours in order to fulfill his long-term goals? Yes. And that’s OK. I don’t know anyone who knows him who would think he lacks ambition or is lazy.

I remember when I was working “part time” as a consultant at a big firm. This meant by the way that I would still work up to 50 hours a week at least one week a month. (Crazy I know). I was accused by management of not having ambition because I didn’t want to be a Partner in a Big 4 consulting firm. But anyone who knew me or worked with me knew differently. They knew I gave my all at the client. And then I went home and worked long hours on my art. When I got laid off, I began living somewhat off savings, in order to work 100% on my art. Because I had an all-or-nothing attitude at that point.

Is either of these routes for everyone? No. You can sell your art and not worry about making it your sole income and still be considered a working artist. But, if you are thinking about making art your full-time gig – just know a little bit of sacrifice may be needed in the short term – but rewards will follow in the long term.

That friend I told you about? He still works his day job. But then goes on amazing globe trotting adventures a couple times a year. All because he was willing to think smarter, and work weekends and some nights on his dream. And he’s one of the most creatively fulfilled artists I know.

As for me, I’m currently working 1/2 of the year as a consultant, and the rest of the time I spend on my art.

So choose your own path, blaze your own trail, and start living the life you were meant to.

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Breaking Creative Block – Overcoming The White Canvas:

We’ve all been there. Standing in front of the canvas, or our sketch book, or a blank page, trying to figure out how to start. Feeling uninspired or just even afraid to start. Or sometimes it’s maybe not that obvious. We feel a little stuck, or want to be creative, more creative or get back in touch with how much fun art and writing us to be, but isn’t any more. Well, here are some ideas on how to jump start your creativity.

It’s “time to be creative.” Only you are sitting there facing a big white canvas or paper. Ugh….

That’s OK. This happens to all of us at some point. Instead of rearranging your paintbrushes, colored pencils and the rest of your studio for the 100th time, try something different:

* Grab a sketch book, and allow yourself to SUCK. I’m serious – allow yourself to just totally, just 100% be terrible. I know this sounds counter productive, but has always worked for me.

* Do some sketches in on smaller gesso covered paper or in your sketchbook. And again – don’t worry if they aren’t perfect. The idea is just to start.

* If you are writing, and feel you “can’t” just start anyway. It’s ok if it doesn’t make perfect sense – just start with some free flowing thought. Or grab a quote off the internet that is around your topic – now your page isn’t blank anymore.

* This one might sound like cheating. But if the white of your canvas or paper is really too much to take. And a part of you is scared you will ruin it when you start – go ahead and give it a light wash of color. Obviously a color that will work with the art you are going to create. It doesn’t have to be a really deep wash, it can be very transparent. But sometimes this helps me. Of course there are times, like when I’m doing skin tones that this will not work for me. So chose this option, or play with this options at first, when you are not under the gun to create a commissioned piece.

* I like to play music to get me in the mood, and to keep me company. Because let’s face it creating art can be a lonely occupation at times. I even crank up the music and dance once in a while, just to keep my blood pumping and my energy up.

*Or, if you really haven’t even made it into your studio, because you just aren’t feeling it. Here’s a few other things I do to get in the mood. Let’s say I have a commission due, and I don’t want to start on it. I head to the beach. I realize this may sound like an excuse to play hooky. And it would be if I was brining my swim suit and a towel. But I go the beach, sit on a bench for a while and just watch the waves. This always works for me. Other creatives I know go for a walk, or go exercise, or listen to some great music.

* This list idea is going to depend more on you than anything else. Was there something you use to do, right before art class in school or whenever you went to take a group class or seminar? Some habit that inadvertently helped put your mind in the right mindset? I discovered that if I can’t get my brain to click over to the right side, I grab coffee or a latte. This works for me every time. I don’t even have to really drink it, I just have to smell it and – boom – I’m ready to get started doing the work. So see if there is anything like that, that you do unconsciously that gets you in the mood to work. And then do this intentionally going forward, to help set your mind in the right state.

Let me know if what you found most helpful, or if there is another trick you use that others might find helpful when dealing with the dreaded creative block.

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Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part Two:

I have some questions from readers who have read my book Art Fairs: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started.

Here are some additional questions I received on art fairs. I hope they too are helpful to you. Thank you again, everyone who has purchased the book. I very much appreciate it! (To see Part One of the Question & Answers click here.)

Q: Regarding booth design and what makes customers feel more welcome / comfortable with entering – did you notice if it made any difference if the artist was posted at the front or the booth – or the very back?

A: Me personally, I never want the customer to feel they are being pounced upon. I vary my approach. Sometimes I sit in the back of the tent. Sometimes I stand to the side out front. Sometimes I sit across from it. Sometimes I busy myself in the booth, or on the print rack, so I have something to “do” while talking with a potential client. This way they don’t feel the artist is going to eat them. : ) Every setup for shows is slightly different, so I just stay flexible. And I like to mix it up if for no other reason than 8 hours is a long time to stay in one spot.

Q: Excluding price – Did size make a difference? – ie – did people tend to buy items based on how easy they were to carry away? for example with canvases, did people mostly purchase canvases smaller than say 18 x 24 inches…

A: This really depends. If you are doing a show that is in a tourist area, then things that can fit into a suitcase or carry on are good to have. But on the same token, anywhere there are tourists there are also locals, possibly looking for something for their living room. So I have a mix of art. But I also do a mix of art because of price points. This way I have small paintings under $100, and larger paintings for more.

You can always offer to ship bigger items to people (although it helps to have an idea of the cost prior to shipping, so buyer’s are too shocked at the cost of professionally packing and shipping art).

Side note: In this economy, I have noticed that large pieces of art will move if they are really inexpensive (ie under $100). My issue with this, is that it then devalues an artist’s work. And by default, the value of the art around them. I do not feel that selling a piece of art for less than it cost to create (painting, materials and time) is good business sense. However, I know artists and galleries who are taking this approach and are somehow talking themselves into considering themselves profitable. It’s all in perspective I guess. For me, if less is coming in then going out, it’s not profit. And for those artists who’s parents or spouses are supplementing their career by buying all of their supplies. I think it’s not a good idea to forget about those costs when pricing art. Because these artists are then devaluing their art. And training those who purchase it to do the same. But that is again, simply my opinion.

Q: Have you had anything stolen? During the open hours of the fairs, has anyone slipped a print under their shirt and walking off when your back was turned?

A: Theft is always something that is on my mind. And the last show I did, I specifically didn’t bring jewelry, even though in this current economy, art isn’t selling as much as jewelry at shows. And so I have started a line of jewelry to supplement my art income in a new way. I didn’t feel that I had the ability to watch small items enough. And given the cost of silver, theft is easy.

That said. I don’t think I have ever had a print stolen from me. I did have a small painting stolen once after a show closed. (And it was at an art fair with security, so the sad thing is – it would have had to have been another artist who stole it. But that is really the only thing I ever lost. This past fall I had someone steal a pair of sterling silver earrings I had at a local store. But, the owner of the store felt that it was her responsibility to have kept those items safe and she paid me for them the same amount she would have paid me if they had been sold.

Q: Do you have any business related books we can read?

A: I am currently working on a business related book for artists. In it I combine my background as a management consultant with my art background. So hopefully I will create something that is unique, and very helpful. I am currently testing out the advice and the templates for this book with other artists as well as one of my galleries. Once I feel that the information has been field tested sufficiently, I will publish it. I intend to have both a book and working templates in both PC and Mac friendly files available for this book. Stay tuned for more details.

And of course, feel free to check out my book on Amazon for only $9.
PDF version on Etsy  $9

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