The Mystery of Art Marketing
I read your email questions asking about my enthusiasm for the upcoming course launch of Marketing Impact Academy, and why I feel the need for a business plan when I could just paint, and let the chips fall where they may. Three reasons: 1) I want to make a good living with my art. It takes more than just painting to make art into a livelihood, and I know other artists want this too. 2) I’m still using the configurations and strategies I learned in this course – almost four years ago – successfully. I believe in it, and it’s familiar to me, so I can speak about the course and its effects from first hand knowledge. And 3) (this one might be a little selfish) It would be nice to have community. I looked for other artists at MIA’s live events – three years in a row. Meeting creatives would provide opportunities to brainstorm. We could compare notes and discuss the principles taught in the course as they pertain to the artworld. If some of you – my art friends – take the course, then I/we have instant community on this Art-Business-Train, and that sounds both fun, and beneficial. Does that make sense?
Art Detour Ahead
With some of the questions you sent in mind, this post is about online marketing, and making a living with your art. So, you might want to skip this if you’re not interested in wrapping your creativity inside the structure of a business. I totally understand that some folks want to just make things, and that’s wonderful, and worthy, and full of magic all by itself. I’ll be back with more art studio musings in later posts. Pinky promise.
Making a Living with Art
I’m at the Sierra Madre Art Fair this weekend. Artists at shows inevitably discuss whether art festivals have a return on investment for all the time, labor and costs, and what avenues there are to supplement with art sales online. I was almost late getting my booth set up because several of us were having a little marketing round table around the coffee pot in the main building. Art marketing is akin to voodoo in the ever changing directives of what works well on the internet.
You can choose from a global map of artist coaches who teach and write about making your art work. There are books, workshops and online courses – and they become outdated in six months. It’s overwhelming to DIY the building of websites, best blogging practices, passive income, and online course creation on your own. The transition from art as a hobby to art as a livelihood isn’t an overnight set up. When I first dreamed of making art full time fifteen years ago, the list of ToDo’s I gathered in books and magazines even back then looked like a tangle of unmarked trails up a steep mountain. And now, I think that trail is also a shape-shifter with ever-changing search engine optimization quirks, and sketchy social media algorithms. Navigating all of this solo doesn’t make sense to me any more. It’s just too hard.
Focus on your Strengths
Artists have a reputation for thin business skills. We often have trouble with focus and follow through. (Hand up.) Organization – practically and intellectually – can be a challenge. Some of us are loners, and we wouldn’t consider people skills or marketing as strong suits; we’re only interesting in making the art. I know artists who are brilliantly skillful, but no one knows about them. I also know artists whose work is not-yet matured, but they sell enough to quit their paycheck-jobs. The difference between the two is simply the absence or presence of tested marketing strategies. Among the current day artists I follow that everyone considers “successful”, every one of them has diversified their business approach to include both gallery and direct-to-collector sales, authoring books (paper and ebooks), teaching workshops, building online courses and competing for cash prizes in national shows, etc.
Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan
The online marketplace changes constantly, so learning how to navigate through the latest iterations of social media, video trends and opportunities for exposure require time and attention aimed at a variety of sometimes conflicting resources. I’m willing to pay to have access to experts doing all that research. I keep up with trends by accessing a single source that harvests and tests all the emerging trends as they relate to online business in social media and marketing, and their knowledge has been worth every penny – provided I follow the program and do the work.
Best Use of Time
You could search online for free videos, blog posts and courses for everything you’d need to know about artist marketing, because it is all out there. Then you’d confirm that the material is up-to-date and in the right sequence, and compile your task list in the right order, and get to work. Or, you could shorten the trail and buy a course that takes you through each step, in the right order, with a workbook, videos, accountability partners, the latest statistics on the most successful places to invest your marketing time and energies. Smart partnership for the business-building process makes the unfamiliar stuff so much more manageable.
Get What You Pay For
The course I took was a big investment in time and dollars, but it turned my business around four years ago. The course segments were loaded with relevant worksheets and exercises – and some of them made me groan for the workload they detailed – but the results dispelled myths I mistakenly used as a marketing compass for years. With my newly tooled approach to art marketing online, I reduced the amount of art festivals I attended by two thirds, created passive income streams to supplement the gaps in between art sales, and revamped my approach to search engine optimization so that almost 70% of my traffic comes from new folks looking for art or courses, or resources on google.
Selling without being Sleazy
The most compelling change after taking this course was my mindset about selling. The approach I used previously came from dated sales methods, akin to selling curtains or lawnmowers. I hated the notion of a sales spiel to push art that is so personal to me. How could I talk about my work like it’s new machine-washable throw rugs?
Art is different, right? We birth it from our memories, our dreams and life experiences, our wishes and beliefs. How does one promote that sort of creation without feeling like a carnival souvenir salesman? The Marketing Impact Academy course worksheets, and the live events were so full of Ah-Hah moments that I’m totally clear about how I present my work, and everything else I want to share that might be of benefit to others. What used to feel uncomfortable is now sure-footed and authentically real. The tone and meter of this blog changed from those courses too. It’s a relief to feel so clear on my brand, and my message.
Marketing Fan Girl
I’m happy to share the details of the course I took, if you’re interested. I’ve attended their live event three years in a row, and re-taken segments several times when new information was updated (alumni enjoy lifetime access to the course updates and events). Enrollment for this year’s course opens Monday, and it comes with a free Instagram stats, trends and tips report. (EX: six in ten online adults now have an instagram account!) Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to know more.
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P.P.S. I’ll be back at the Sierra Madre Art Fair again tomorrow till 5pm. Stop by and say hello if you’re in Los Angeles.