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Tag Archive - Selling Art

Studio Rules

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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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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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Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part One:

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

First off, for those who have read it, thank you for reading my book. I’m glad you found it helpful!

Let me say that each art fair, and what works for each artist is going to be different. This is because locations, and shows vary, as do what works for each artist and their unique brand of art. So I can’t really give specific advice to you, in that I don’t know where you are, what your art is etc. And also because what works great for 1 person won’t work great for someone else, because what they are selling is different. But I can give you my opinion on what I have found most useful to everyone about getting ready for the art fairs, displaying your work and price points, etc.

Q: My first juried Art festival coming up in a couple weeks and have been trying to produce lots but find myself continually creating pieces that can’t be “mass” produced. Any suggestions on how much material to bring? They expected 6,000 people over a two day event.

A: I think the beauty of your work is that it’s not “mass” produced. It will stand out on it’s own as different and unique because it’s you.

I looked at your work on Etsy again – it looks like it is competitively priced. Are you looking to have items at a lower price point as well? if so – are there any shows you could go to in between now and your show for some ideas?

Your question about how much to bring is always one on everyone’s mind when starting out or doing a show in a new location. Create a nice pleasing to the eye display, where things don’t get lost because there is too much product out. If you have items left over, then put them in a safe place that you can access them to refill your stock. It took me 2 years to figure out how much to take to fill my tent in a way that works best for me. And I still switch things up and re-evaluate during and after each show.

Just because a show says that 6,000 people are coming, does not mean that 6,000 people will stop by any one particular booth. Not everyone is looking for the same thing. So just bring what you can, what will fill up your booth with some backup stock as well. Make a note to yourself as to what you brought, so you will have a benchmark to go off of for your next show. I have never met any artist who sold out during a show. But hey, if you do – that’s cool too! What a way that would be to start an art fair career!

My first shows I had artist friends who came by and gave me tips after I was setup on ways to make it look better, flow better etc. And I was able to wonder around a bit and see what other people were doing that seemed to be working.

I guess what I’m saying is don’t worry about getting it perfect. Know you will continually change your booth, maybe even during the day – see what people are drawn to. See what maybe isn’t getting the attention you think it deserves – switch it up and check out other people’s booths if you have time.

For jewelry you want to make sure that you have someone who can watch your booth/area when you have to take a break. Because otherwise it is way too easy for someone to steal your work. And the one thing I have forgotten when first selling jewelry – have one or two mirrors on your tables so people can see what they look like with your jewelry on.

Q: Did your sales revenue from fairs meet your expectations?

A: Some shows I do well at, and others I don’t. If they don’t do well for me, or I feel they are too much work, then I don’t do them again. Although I normally give a show twice before deciding. And I always try to remember that outcome for the show (for me at least) takes up to a year to really figure out based on after show sales and contacts into other local area venues.

I do shows for a variety of reasons, including making a profit. However, I normally do shows in a new area, with a bigger goal of helping me penetrate that market. And whenever I have done this, it has gotten my work hung elsewhere in that city on an ongoing basis. Which is much better for me, as then I don’t have to setup or watch the art, and yet it is still selling in that city. And that is also therefore where it is more profitable for me to be. So the art festival for me, is never just about the show. It’s about what comes after it. Which includes online sales stemming from that show, as well as getting into new locations in a new city.

As I stated in my book, I am not a full-time art fair artist. If I was, I’m sure my answer would be different. However, being a full time art fair artist has never been my goal. Being away every weekend is not my life’s plan/path. I am a woman with a family. And art fairs are not where I make most of my money.

However, as stated above, there are many reasons to do shows, and I find that for me, where I am at the moment, and given our current economy, doing a few a year works for me. And just from an ego perspective, I try to make sure that at least ½ of those are outdoor events that will be immediately profitable so that I don’t go home always feel like life as an artist sucks. : ) Because while long term market gain is great, so is feeling successful after/during a show.

Stay tuned for Part 2 – where I’ll answer more questions for you about pricing, booth setup and more.

To purchase a copy of my book on Amazon click here. ($9)
PDF version on Etsy ($9)

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An Art Show Is Never Just About The Show

Sometimes, in the middle or tail end of the day, when I’m exhausted from working so hard at an art festival and not necessarily making as much money as I would have liked for that day, I will forget that an art show isn’t just about what happens that day.

When you do an art shows – people you’ve spoken with before will remember you. During your marketing for the upcoming show, you are again front of mind. Collectors and gallery owners will remember they had been meaning to see how your art was going, or buy another piece, but they got busy and it slipped their mind. Until they saw your email about the upcoming show…

Art shows are also about relationship building and building your list. It’s about meeting raving fans who might other wise never hear of you – who tell their friends, who buy from you. Or who look you up on Facebook and then tell their friends who buy.

Art shows are about meeting people, and selling someone a card or a print, who comes back later and buys more prints, or buys an original (or two). So it’s about starting that artist/client relationship.

It’s about people you meet coming back later and buying.

It’s never just about the show.

That said – I’m not suggesting anyone does a show just for visibility (unless you want to). Or that anyone does shows where they don’t see enough advantages. I am about making money in my art. There are “good” shows and “bad” shows. And only the artist, can put all of the benefits, immediate and residual together, and make a decision about doing a show, or doing a show again.

But, if you are in the middle of a show, tired and a little cranky – try to remember it’s never just about the show. It’s about the before, during and because of the show too. And sometimes, that tips that show in your favor. And makes a meh show a great one.

For another way to look at it, see Selling Art: It’s Like Buidling a Snowman

 

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Selling Art: It’s Like Building A Snowman

Remember when you were a kid and you would start to make a snowman? You’d start with a small snowball, keep rolling it, and rolling it, and rolling it. And then suddenly the mass had gotten big enough it would start to really pick up snow on it’s own? That’s what selling art and making an impression on the art world can be like.

You start off your list, with just maybe 25 or 30 friends and family. Then you do your first show and add maybe 5 more people who really like your work. But the, after a few more shows and a lot more work, “suddenly” you have 300 or 400 people on your list – who really, truly want to hear from you. And are excited about your art. It’s baby steps that eventually get you to the next milestone you have set for yourself.

Baby steps, that suddenly seem to make you see the gradual tiny little wins you have been having along the way. But may have been too deep in the muck of it to realize.

So next time you get a little worn down, or frustrated by all the seemingly small progress you are making. Don’t give up. Celebrate the seemingly small progress, that probably even to you, a few years ago, would have seemed unreachable. And keep going.

Because as long as you are taking small, manageable, intentional steps towards your goals, you are building a really great snowman, even if you can’t see it just yet.

For another way to look at it, se An Art Show is Never Just About The Show

 

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Art, Paintball & Widgets

Not sure how exactly I came to have this epiphany while playing paintball but – I realized that selling art is simply another type of business. It’s not different than dry cleaning, selling advertising services or Belgian chocolate.  It’s 90% business and 10% art. I think because I saw so many successful couples tag team the art business, I always figured it was 50% art and 50% business.  But it’s not.

This realization started to creep up on me over the previous few weeks.  First there was a post by an artist who’s wife manages his career stating that it was 90% business and 10% art.  I was really surprised by this – given his full time crack marketing and sales team/ aka his wife.  And while I did agree with that – and think “oh good, I have been feeling bad that I’m not at my easel 50% of the time, maybe I’m on par with everyone else.”  I didn’t really get the deeper meaning of this.

I could basically be selling widgets.  Yes, high end, niche widgets, but widgets just the same.  This fact didn’t fully sink in until ANOTHER artist said he was spending 90% of his time at his desk and only 10% of his time out in the field behind his camera.  I was like – “yeah, I spend my entire day doing business.  It’s like I’m back in the corporate world, doing what I did then, only now I work for myself.” And he agreed.

So there I was, two years into being an artist full time and I finally got it.  I am selling widgets.  Art is a just another business.  I know that takes some of the fun out of it.  But it also all of a sudden makes it fit nicely into everyone’s business processes and models.  Where before I had been going along with the “conventional” artist wisdom that says art is not a square peg in a square hole.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is.  We are not the exception.  And this is a GOOD thing. It means life is much easier for us when we look at selling art from this viewpoint.

Yes it’s still precious.  Yes, unlike a traditional widget, it’s personal.  And yes, it costs more than a paperclip widget. But probably costs less than a real expensive watch widget.  So when we start to think about it in sheer business/ product terms – Wow – possibility opens up like never before. And all of a sudden the hard become simple.

What do you think?

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