I’m going to write something controversial and some of you are going to hate me for it. But I’m not here to hold you delicately wrapped in the baby feathers of the softest bird, cooing sweet nothings at you.
And you’re here because you know your art should be selling but it isn’t. Or it isn’t selling enough.
Here it is: Your success or failure doesn’t hinge on how good your art is. Goodness of art is subjective. Your success hinges on you owning your responsibility for your sales.
Yep, I said it and I’m a bitch. But I’m also right.
Let me share with you a story. Perhaps it sounds familiar. Maybe it’s your story now. It was my story only a few short years ago.
I remember my early art days of wanting to do nothing but create art. Wishing for someone to come along and sell my art for me. This magical person would appear, know all the secret secrets of marketing, and deal with any of the thousands of imagined haters I knew were lurking online, waiting to hate.
They would flit about, marketing my art, making deals, and freeing me up to continue to hide.. I mean WORK in my studio. Such a gift.
I clung to this idea for a year or two while madly making art. I’d justify my lack of marketing by telling myself someone would come and save me and do the work.
In the meantime, my art piled up so I signed up with a gallery who assured me they could sell my art. For a fee. And wall rental. Not a thing sold.
I then signed up with an arts boutique who assured me they would sell on my behalf. For a fee. And space rental. Nothing sold.
I signed up with another gallery. On commission only. For a year. Nothing sold, not even when discounted.
I hired a rep on retainer who was supposed to promote me, manage my media presence and help me rise high and fast. I fired her four months in with zero interviews booked and so many promises broken.
I was at my wit’s end, drowning in inventory, trying to get someone else to do the work for me. I’d hit the point that every artist hits, where you want your work out in other people’s hands far more than you want to hide and not sell it.
So I started doing in person shows where I got to talk with people who stopped by my booth. A pattern appeared: my work sold only when I sold it. When people got to know me. They bought my art because they liked the artist! Who knew?
I took that to heart and really started promoting online.
My work sold! And at far faster rates than I expected. When I showed up and made it clear that it was for sale. When I posted naturally and authentically (and with far too many terrible puns, which really you’d think would turn people off but it built my audience exponentially).
People bought from me online because they liked the artist!
And suddenly I had a thriving, buying, global audience who would buy my work hot off the easel.
The question of whether my art was good, or good enough, never came up. It was irrelevant. My sales hinged on being present, active, and showing up authentically as my terrible and punny self.
My story isn’t limited to me. This is the story you can ask any artist making a living selling their work online. As soon as you let go of the idea that there’s someone who can sell your work for you online or in person, and fucking take responsibility for your own success, everything changes.
Art skills are best taught to people with the inclination to make art. That’s a given. You have to have a talent or desire in order to rise up as an artist.
Business and marketing skills? Well they can be taught to anyone.
So if you’re struggling to sell your work or don’t know where to begin, first take heart in the fact that the marketing part of selling is something you can learn. YES! And then go and learn.
Your art will sell best if you take control of your career. If you show up online and sell it yourself. You can learn art marketing from me or anyone else, but here’s one thing I want you to know right now:
You have so got this.
Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula. Leigh and Paula emancipate artists from sitting under the doctrine of the gatekeepers who keep them chained to a life of failure and starvation. She also swears, mostly on purpose.
Their book, Sell MORE Art is now available on Amazon worldwide.