Have you ever wondered how to sell art online? You have a website, you're on social media, and you've got the new collection ready to sell, but where do you start? Whether you're new to the game or are already a seasoned pro, here are 5 keys that will unleash your online art sales this year and give you more understanding of how to be a successful artist.
Key #1 – Artist, Know Thy Customer
First things first. Start by discovering your ideal client. Who is the person most likely, out of everybody in the world, to buy your work and put it in their home or commercial space? As artists, we'd like to think that the whole world is a potential client, but that's just not the case.
In my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program, I teach artists how to create a client avatar, or what some call a buyer persona. This is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal client based on what you know about your existing customers and the research you do in your local and regional art marketplace.
Listen To What I Said On My Podcast About This:
Creating a client avatar (buyer persona) is easier than it sounds, and you're probably already doing it to some degree and don't realize it. It's just the process of paying attention to the interactions and conversations you're having with customers every time you sell a piece of art and collecting that data. Even if you've only ever sold one piece of art, you know something about the person who bought your art.
This is a process that really never ends because every piece you sell is another chance to interact with people from a client perspective, from a strategic partner perspective, from a gallery perspective, and a referral perspective. As you do this over time, you'll start to get a great picture of who these people are, what motivates them, what they're looking for, and where and with whom they hang out, which brings me to the second key.
Key #2 – Go Where the Clients Are
In a recent article about how to sell art if you live in a rural area, I said, "If you want to catch fish, you have to go to where the fish are." Makes sense, right? The same holds true with finding customers. Once you understand who your ideal client is and what they are into, it's time to develop what I call intersection points. The goal here is simple, regularly getting in front of your ideal client using a variety of strategies.
Now that you are starting to understand who your ideal customer is, you want to be found by them. In the real world, you can do this through a variety of ways like exhibiting at the kind of art shows they frequent, volunteering for the non-profits they support, and speaking at social clubs they've joined.
But don't let social distancing or physical separation keep you from being found. Advertise in the types of magazines they read, start collaborating with the interior designers they are using, and follow common social media interests. Again your goal is to cross paths with your ideal clients in as many natural non-salesy ways as you can so that they can find you. And this leads us to the next key.
Key#3 - Connect (Like Your Art Sales Depend Upon It)
The point of the first two keys is to get you talking with your ideal client. If you don't remember anything else I share, remember this:
No Connection, No Sale.
People buy from people that they know, like, and trust. Think about that for a second. As an artist, you have to build a connection with your client so that they feel connected to you, your aesthetic, and the work you're producing. If you don't build those connections, you won't have many opportunities to make a sale.
So, again, these connections are built up over time, and they're developed along with those naturally occurring intersections points you're beginning to seek out intentionally. As the relationship grows with your ideal client, so will their interest in owning one of your pieces, which brings me to the next key.
Key #4 – Make the Offer Clear
The confused mind rarely buys. Now that you've got a potential client interested make it easy for them to shop. In simple terms, let your clients know precisely what they get from you when they invest in one of your creations. You should include details like:
Whatever it is that you're offering, make sure those details are available to a client browsing your website. This holds true whether you're selling finished pieces, prints, or commissioned originals.
Create a clear, compelling offer
This brings me to the final key.
Key#5 – Keep Your Checkout Process Simple
Make it easy for people to give you money. I recently had an experience with a local merchant that drove this point home for me. Instead of a quick swipe, signature, and press of the yes key, I received a 10-minute lesson in loving my technologically challenged neighbor.
It's so easy to accept credit cards, checks, wire transfers, and even cryptocurrencies online, over the phone, and in-person in today's world. There's really no excuse for making it hard for a customer to do business with you.
Don't know where to start? Check out Square. They are great. I use them for accepting credit and debit cards both online and in person.
So, there you have it, my top 5 tips selling your art, online and otherwise. Remember the keys:
Got Questions? I'd Love to Answer Them
I sure hope this has been helpful. If you have a question for me, I'd love to answer it here in my blog and on a future episode of 5-Minute Mentoring. Just stop by my podcast page and leave me a voicemail. Thanks for reading.
In our social media-driven world, should you be working to collect an email address from your website visitors and clients? Absolutely! There has never been a better time to commit to an effective email mailing plan as a part of your overall art marketing strategy.
With all of the social media platforms available to us today, I get this question all the time from folks like Misty, one of my podcast listeners, "Matt, do I really need an email list, and if so, why?" It's too easy to fall into the trap of thinking, "All I need is Facebook. All I need is Instagram. All I need is YouTube." And as much as I would love for this to be true, today's art entrepreneurs need to use a variety of tools if they want to create meaningful and profitable connections with their social media followers.
Don't Keep All Your Marketing Eggs In One Basket
I have been in the art marketing game long enough to realize that technology platforms, specifically social media, make significant changes without warning, often at a moment's notice.
Companies routinely change their algorithms, what THEY think is important, which impacts what their users and your followers see in their social feeds. And when this happens, all of the organic connection you've worked so hard to build could disappear in an instant.
Next to your website, your email list may be the most crucial marketing tool YOU OWN. And I say, "you own," because unlike the following you've built up on social media, you have complete control over the connections you cultivate with and content you deliver to the social followers and customers who have opted-in to your email list.
If the unthinkable happened and your social media accounts stopped being useful, you would still be able to use email to stay connected, create interest, inspire people, and bring them to an event, class, or sale.
Want to Hear More on This Topic, Then Listen To:
Building Your Email List
It all starts with building your list, giving your social followers a chance to become a bigger part of what you are doing. One of my favorite tips that I share with my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program is to offer their casual followers a free resource.
I use an offer similar to this on my website, podcasts, and in my blog. The embedded link takes visitors to a landing page where they are asked to share their first name and their email address so that I can send them this free resource. Feel free to click the picture to see what I mean, plus you'll get a great free resource.
Your Invitation to Cultivate the Connection
The other thing I love about building an email list is this: When a person gives you their email address, they are telling you they are interested in what you do, but more importantly, they are inviting you into their world.
Think about it in these terms. If you owned a gallery on the main street in your town, you'd showcase your most impressive pieces in the front window of your shop as a way to capture the attention of folks passing by.
But thriving art businesses aren't built upon the passers-by but by the folks who come into your studio. Once someone has come in through your door, they are looking to learn more, giving you a chance to build a connection and potentially gain a client.
In some ways, social media is the online equivalent to an attractive window display. It's great when you get those likes, comments, and shares, but once a social follower opts-in to your email list, you then have the opportunity to connect personally. They effectively permit you to push that send button so that you can connect with them directly in their inbox.
Once you start building that list, be faithful to cultivating that connection through weekly or biweekly emails and monthly updates. Use email campaigns to reinforce what you are doing on social media and introduce them to new concepts you're working on, collections you've completed, or classes you're planning to teach.
Got Questions? I'd Love to Answer Them
I sure hope this has been helpful. If you have a question for me, I'd love to answer it here in my blog and on a future episode of 5-Minute Mentoring. Just stop by my podcast page and leave me a voicemail. Thanks for reading.
It's a question that has plagued diversified creatives for as long as the internet has been a thing. And given the time, effort, and expense of setting up, tweaking, and maintaining just one effective website, when, if ever, should an artist consider having more than one website as a part of their overall marketing and communication strategy?
A Tale of Two Artists
One of my podcast listeners, Lorraine, recently reached out for a little wisdom on this very topic. Lorraine is a two-genre painter, creating both flower paintings as well as custom pet portraits. As she was in the process of putting her website together, she kept running into issues of fitting both sides of what she does creatively under one "roof" on the internet.
Again, it's a great problem, and one I've been asked about many times by the members of my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My rule of thumb on this is simple. If an artist is doing two or more creative things related to their career as an artist, I encourage them to have just one website to showcase and market their artistic endeavors.
In Lorraine's case, both of her creative genres are complementary. A good number of her pet portrait clients may likely be interested in her floral art, while a good number of her floral clients will have a beloved pet or two they may want to be memorialized through one of her custom pet portraits.
So, when should you have two websites? Well, that's simple. When your second business, venture, or hobby isn't closely related to what you do as an artist. In situations like this, you may want to consider having two separate websites. I'll use myself as an example of when to do this.
I have an artist website, where I showcase my baskets, woven sculpture, commissioned artwork, and the classes that I teach for other aspiring basket weavers. All of this information and my public persona as an artist lives under one roof at matttommey.com.
I also have a separate website that talks about my life and work as a mentor to artists. MattTommeyMentoring.com is the online portal where I talk about my books, conferences, and my Created to Thrive Artist Mentoring Program. My mentoring website also houses this blog and all the episodes of my twice-weekly The Thriving Christian Artist Podcast.
I found out early on that very few of my basketry classes or woven sculpture clients were interested in what I did as an artist mentor and even fewer of my mentoring clients were interested in one of my commissioned wall pieces. The two sides of what I do creatively and as a mentor don't necessarily complement each other or connect with the same set of potential clients.
Making One Website Work For Everything You Do
It all starts with your home page. A good home page will evoke a connection, inspire, and make your visitors curious enough to click and continue the journey through other pages on your website. A great home page will speak to the visitor's aspirational desires, bringing needs to the surface that you can solve through your skills and talents as an artist.
So, in the case of someone like Lorraine who creates fine artwork, like her floral paintings as well as custom commissioned pet portraits, I always recommend having a couple of different “doors” on your homepage so that people can quickly see the full range of what you offer creatively.
Redundant Intuitive Doors Get Opened
Now these "doors" into the different sides of your artistic expressions should be both intuitive and redundant. The secret here is to make navigating your website easy for everyone, no matter how they like to journey through a website.
So, for an artist website, that means giving your visitors access to the various sides of your artistic personality via text-based navigational links in your menu and through graphic links that clearly communicate the scope and variety of your abilities through amazing images of your work.
Optimize Your Genre Specific Pages
Once you've created that great home page that highlights everything you do creatively, now you need to turn your attention to the genre-specific pages your site visitors will be visiting. So using our friend Lorraine as an example again, she'll want to have a page devoted to her custom pet portraits and one focused upon her fine floral art.
On the pet portrait page, I would encourage her to include past work examples that tell the story of her process. I would suggest she show examples of her source materials, like the photos she used in painting a portrait, show a picture of that custom portrait in process, and then finally a final shot or two of the finished piece, including one in situ if possible. I would finish out that page with information on the commissioning process and how a client can connect with her to get a portrait project started.
Now since her floral art pieces are most likely ready to purchase, I would recommend that this page include pieces of currently available work, along with the prices, as well as examples of few sold pieces in their final homes when possible. Again, I would make sure visitors to this page on her site can easily learn how to purchase originals and prints of her art, as well as how to connect with her for a commissioned floral creation.
Finally, creating genre-specific pages with unique pictures and descriptions greatly enhances your site's ability to be found on the internet. These become anchor pages for those topics and genres on your website, making them easier for your clients to find when searching for "custom pet portraits," for example.
It's All About the People
So whether you end up with one website or two for what you do, always keep your visitor, the prospective client's experience in mind. Your site should peak curiosity, showcase your talents, inspire and inform your visitor all while providing a clear, simple pathway for them to connect to you and the art you create.
I hope this has helped. Thanks for reading.
I don’t know about you, but I get way too overwhelmed with Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Clubhouse, Linked In, and all of the different social media platforms out there. Part of me thinks they are wonderful because we have this incredible opportunity to share our ideas, our art, and to reach out to clients and friends while building community.
The other part is that it can sometimes feel gross, overwhelming, and even demeaning when the comments start rolling in. So as Kingdom artists, how do we find the balance between the real community we create online versus those random unhinged comments that pop up on your social media feeds?
What is Real Community?
There are several characteristics of authentic community. Number one, is real intimacy. Being vulnerable, transparent, and knowing each other’s heart is a huge part of the ground that real relationship is built upon. While this is best built face to face, this isn’t always possible or feasible. But given the technology we have available, real relational intimacy with people online is possible.
Secondly, real community is marked by an opportunity and openness to give and receive. We have all been in a one-sided relationship before where either it was us receiving something that somebody was trying to give that we didn’t necessarily want to hear, or vice versa. A healthy relationship needs a balance of both giving and receiving, sharing and taking equally so that one person isn’t being dominated by the other.
Thirdly, in a real community, people are invested in each other for the long term. These are people that you want to walk with and have chosen to share your time, energy, attention, and resources. These are the people you have chosen to focus on in your life because they are important to you, and hopefully, they feel the same way about you.
The real question is, how does real community differ from the comment driven “relationships” we all have on social media?
Who Are These People?
First of all, you really don’t know WHO most of those people are. We all have Facebook “friends” we barely know or have never even met in real life. When you think about it, you don’t know that much about them at all. You only see the happy high-points of their life and the stuff they choose to share in their posts.
These are not people you’re invested in. So many of your online interactions are based on algorithms and not on authentic connection. These are people that are like leaves; they blow in and out of your life, they are here for a moment, here for only a short season. For the most part, these are not the folks you have chosen to invest your time and energy into.
When you look at the Biblical concept of community, we are called into relationship with others so that we can complete one another. I am here to sharpen you, and you are here to do the same for me. Just like in a healthy body, a healthy community supports the members, supplying them with the support, comfort, and care they need. Again, this is a very different concept than the reality we face in our social media post-driven world.
A Healthy Community Supports Your Godly Identity
Diving in a little deeper, take a moment to answer these questions honestly. How do you define yourself, and who are you allowing to shape your identity? Of course, you can be defined by anything you want to be defined by, but from a Kingdom perspective, God’s best for us is that our identity comes from who Jesus says we are. Our identity is meant to come from the Word of God.
That’s the gold standard God intended for each of us. A healthy identity that comes from the Lord is designed to be reinforced and encouraged through a healthy community. The relationships you build inside a safe, supporting, and caring community are there to build you up in the Lord and equip you to be all that God has created you to be.
But those relationships, just like everything good in the Kingdom, have to be cultivated. It’s yet another case of reaping back what you’ve sowed. As you walk together with others in a life-giving community, your healthy, godly identity matures when you’re helping others do the same.
So, take a moment and ask yourself these questions?
As you continue to travel through this social media-driven landscape, it’s vital that you learn to temper your reactions to posts and comments based on the level of authentic connection you have with the commentator. When the relationship isn’t genuine, then take the feedback, whether good or bad, with a grain of salt.
I hope this has been an encouragement to you. I, for one, am glad that you are a part of my community.
One of the questions that I get all the time is, “Matt, how do I find my artistic uniqueness and express that in the marketplace?” It’s a great question and a real sign that the artist asking it is ready to take their art to the next level. Why, you ask? Because differentiation and uniqueness are what set you apart from other artists in the marketplace.
Art, after all, is a language. It is visual, auditory, and it speaks to the soul of all people. Like the spoken language you use every day, your artistic vocabulary doesn’t just appear overnight. Here are three essential things you need to know about developing and refining your creative voice.
You’ll Know It When You See It
One of the things that I really believe about finding your unique, artistic voice is that you don’t find it; you recognize it. You uncover it. You allow it to emerge over time. However, one of the things artists often neglect is being in the studio enough to ever see that emergence happen.
As you pursue this process, just start by doing the things that come naturally to you. Then, get in the studio and create tons and tons of work. Develop that masterful competency that only time and practice brings forth. And as you do, you’ll start to see themes and styles come out as your unique creative voice emerges.
Consistently Cultivate Inspiration
Creating lots of work over time forces you to cultivate continued inspiration in your life. As a creative, you must keep your artistic eyes and ears open all the time. As you receive that inspiration, you respond through your work. And then the inspiration/creation cycle starts all over again.
As you cultivate inspiration, you start to recognize what you are interested in and drawn to as an artist. You begin to gravitate towards a preferred medium and limited palette of materials and supplies you’re using. You begin to recognize the things in life that inspire you the most, and you start to purposefully pursue that source of inspiration.
One final thought on cultivating inspiration; be consistent, be intentional and be faithful. Get serious about cultivating inspiration in your life regularly. Then, faithfully steward those ideas by journaling them. (Need more tips on this, check out this podcast episode that is all about cultivating creative inspiration.)
Don’t Rush the Process
Creating tons of work and developing masterful competency while consistently cultivating inspiration takes time. One of the biggest roadblocks to artists developing their style happens when they pressure themselves to sell their work too quickly.
Investing time in your art is the key. There is no shortcut to gaining experience and building skills, both of which contribute to developing your creative voice. Allow your voice to emerge, over time, then refine it. As you do this authentically, people will recognize your uniqueness and respond to it, giving you an excellent opportunity to connect with those people when you make your move to the marketplace.
I hope this helps as you continue to pursue the development of your own unique artistic voice. If this article has helped, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
One of the frequent questions I get goes something like, "Matt, I'm on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok. So, is it even a necessity to have a website?
I get it. Websites can seem so last decade. But an effective website can be the best marketing tool an emerging artist can use to grow their business and expand their influence. So, I want to give you a new perspective on websites while highlighting what I see are the four primary purposes of every artist's website.
All Roads Lead to Your Website
So, I'm a big fan of Social Media. I'm currently on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram, while at the same time, my podcasts are being distributed across a dozen different platforms. I've been interviewed on radio, tv, podcasts, and in magazines, books, and blogs. The common thread that holds this all together is my website.
I like to think of an artist's website as the central place or the hub of your artistic world. Your website should be the place that all roads from the social jungle point back to. Your social pages should link to it, your blog should live on it, and when you're interviewed online, on-air, or in print, you should mention it.
Why? You ask. It's simple. Your website is where your Artist Statement lives. It's the place where all the images of you working in the studio, of the trajectory of your work, and the history of your creative process are displayed. Your site is where you showcase your current work, share your event calendar, and talk about your journey as an artist.
Now, the whole point of having a website, though, is not just to have a website. The whole point of having a website is to move people through a process where they can do four things.
Learn About You
As you are designing your website, you want to speak about what you do in a way that connects with what your site visitors are looking for. If you go to my website, www.MattTommey.com, you can see how I speak to people that are looking for unique, nature-inspired woven sculpture.
I am speaking not only about myself, my art, and my creative process, but I am intentionally sharing what I do in terms of what my potential clients are looking for. In marketing, we call that the WIIFM – "What's In It For Me?" When you ask this question, you have to think about it from the client's perspective since that is who you want to be able to connect with.
Have Their Needs Met
I remember walking through a store one day when U2's "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" began playing in the background. I had a chuckle because it was true for me that day, but it also brings up a great point.
Your website needs to persuade visitors that the solutions you offer, the art you sell, the classes you teach, or the book you wrote is something that they need. The language you use, the pictures you share, and the stories you tell on your page need to connect with these potential clients in a way that makes them want to take advantage of the opportunity you're offering based on their values, their desires, and what they are looking for.
Number three, your website has got to have a clear invitation. You want to have an opportunity to invite visitors to get involved in your world. It can be as simple as an invite to a show, an offer to take a class, or even an opportunity to purchase a piece of work.
The secret is you have to ask the visitor to take action, and you've got to be really clear! In the Marketing world, we call that your Call To Action. Your CTA is effective when a site guest can clearly understand what they are being asked to do and quickly and easily do it.
Lastly, you want to make it easy for your site visitors to stay connected with you. That's why I tell the artist in my Created to Thrive Artists Mentoring Program to make sure that there is an opt-in page on their websites.
An opt-in page is where somebody can make a purchase, register for a class, or even give you their email address. Again, your website is not of any real use if it is just a brochure out there. You want to make sure that it's a vehicle to connect, persuade, invite, and enable your clients to communicate with you, do business with you, and refer you to others.
I hope this helps as you take that step of creating or refining your website. If this article has helped, take a moment to share it with a friend, share it on social media, and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
Have you ever wanted to know just what it takes to get into an art gallery? I get asked about this all the time, and in this article, I have three tips, straight from a local gallery director, that will help you get your art ready for submission to a reputable gallery.
As many of you know, I have been transitioning out of my River Arts District studio, where I have been for the last ten years, into a private and not open to the public studio. As a part of this move, I am starting to sell my work through galleries again.
I was making a delivery the other day, and I had the opportunity to talk to the director and their staff. I shared with them that one of the big questions that I get all the time from the members of my Created to Thrive Artists Mentoring program is, "Matt, how do I get into a really reputable gallery?"
Of all the things they shared about what to do and what NOT to do when seeking gallery representation, the following three things really stuck out as vital to artists wanting to sell their work through a reputable gallery.
Follow the Procedures
I know that might seem like a "Duh! Everybody follows the procedures!" But not everybody does! In fact, too many artists just show up at the gallery and ask, "How do you be an artist in this gallery," or another favorite question, "Can you just look at my work on my phone?"
Listen! Any reputable gallery has got a process, often found on their website. It will detail when they are looking at work, how to submit it, and the time frame in which they'll get back with you. If you research a gallery you are interested in and can't find their submission process online, then reach out with a call or email asking how they would like for you to submit work for their consideration.
The critical thing to remember here is that every gallery has procedures, and they all want you to follow them; why, you wonder? It's because if they are a reputable gallery, they are a busy gallery, and following their procedures shows a gallery owner that:
Always remember that a gallery isn't just someone who shows off your artwork from time to time. They are going into business with you. When a gallery accepts your work, they partner with you to distribute your art to the world. So, it's vital that you follow their procedures at the beginning of what can be a very fruitful relationship.
This kind of goes without saying, but it was one of the key "what NOT to do" things the gallery staff shared with me. They told me, "If all of our artists would be like you, Matt! You are actually on time. You were here when you said you were going to be, and you have your paperwork!"
Here's a Pro Tip for getting an art gallery director and staff to love you and your work: Make it easy to do business with you. It starts with things like:
Do this, and they will have a great feeling about you and your work. And when the gallery owner and the gallery staff feel good about you and your work, they are much, much, much more willing to talk to clientele about what you do creatively, both to sell pieces and to refer clients back to you for commissioned work.
Make Great Artwork
Again, I would hope this would seem obvious, but too many people just don't seem to get this. You've got to be making great work for a gallery to take you seriously. You may be a great marketer, but if you create sub-standard pieces that are not desirable in the marketplace, then you can't expect the gallery to get excited about what you do.
While you're out there looking for a reputable venue to represent your work, owners are looking for artwork that will enhance their art gallery's reputation. I share these concepts often, both in this blog and on my Thriving Christian Artist and 5-Minute Mentoring Podcasts, about:
Investing in yourself and your art is the path towards creating high quality, unique art that will be prized and appreciated in the marketplace.
When you do these three things, I promise that you will make friends and influence gallery owners quickly. You'll be set apart from so many other artists in the Marketplace who may be great at what they do, but they aren't making it easy for a gallery to do business with them.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend, share on social media and comment below!
Thanks for reading.
So everybody wants to be an “influencer” these days, right? The lure of followers, the excitement of sharing your passion with thousands who are listening to your every word. Trust me, it's a thing and it's exciting! But what’s God’s methodology for becoming a person of influence?
First of all, let me say that wanting to share your passion and inspire others is awesome! And it could very well be a part of what God's called you to as an artist or art teacher. But it's important to come at this from a healthy, grounded perspective because for Christians, concepts like laying down your life, serving others first and allowing God to raise you up in His timing come to mind pretty quickly.
In that context, here’s 5 other practical ways you can approach your dream of leading and potentially influencing others...
It's been said "Your talent will take you where your character can't keep you" and I wholeheartedly agree. Remember, just because you can make influence happen through technology and marketing strategies doesn't mean you should. Rather, listen to the voice of the Lord, watch the fruit He's bringing forth in your life and listen to those who are organically following you.
Psalm 75:6-7 "For promotion and power come from nowhere on earth, but only from God. He promotes one and deposes another."
Lastly, in the Kingdom, those who lead have a greater responsibility. We hold the hearts of our followers in our hands and have the ability to point them in any direction. Make sure your own heart is grounded in a healthy identity in Jesus and who you are in Him, rather than what you do. Otherwise, believe me, it will be really easy to draw others to yourself rather than to Jesus and His purposes in their life.
Do you struggle with pricing your artwork? Do you often feel like you're underpricing, or maybe even undervaluing, your artwork? It's an all too common problem for artists. If you can relate, I have some good news and some surprising news for you. The good news is that this doesn't have to be your story. The surprising news is that we're going to have to address a mindset issue that's probably been holding you back.
Over the years, I've learned that if you are struggling with pricing as an artist, it rarely has anything to do with the value of your work, the quality of your work, or what people are willing to pay you. What I have found to be the case is that 99% of the time, the major roadblock when it comes to pricing is YOU, or more specifically, your MINDSET.
No matter how talented you may be or what kind of local art market you live in, at the end of the day it all boils down to what you believe about yourself and your artwork. Don’t worry, I’ll explain more as we keep going, but first I want to start here.
Let me challenge you to take a few minutes and do a little self-assessment. Be honest, even if you don't like your answers. The point of this little exercise is to find the root cause of why pricing your art is such a struggle.
Now, take a moment and ask God to show you the common thread that runs through all your answers. What is one thing that is most responsible for the problems you've had pricing your artwork?
I know for me, when I started, it was a struggle to figure out how to price my artwork effectively so that I could make money as an artist. One thing that I did learn over the years was that if you don't value yourself and your art, then that same discounting of yourself and your artistic giftings will be reflected 100% of the time in the price that you put on your artwork. Take a moment to let that sink in while I share this story.
After I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and had become a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild (the second oldest and most prestigious fine craft guild in the country), I had an experience at one of my first shows with them that exposed my false thinking and highlighted the need to change my mindset. Being a new artist in a group in such a prestigious group, I decided to push my pricing to where I felt comfortable, to a price point I thought people would pay based on what I would pay. My mindset at the time was something like, "If I wouldn't pay more than this, then I won't price my work any higher than this." At the time, it made sense to me.
Well, I had a beautiful sculptural piece there with me that weekend. And as I started working the crowd, and people are coming up and talking to me, this one guy came up and started circling that piece. I tried to hold my excitement back just knowing he was falling in love with the sculpture and that I was about to make a sale. Everything was going well until he looked at the $200 price I had on the piece.
The guy finally engaged me and asked, "Well, are you the artist?"
I said, "Yeah!"
He said, "Well, this is a really beautiful piece, a really special piece."
I said, "Well, thank you so much.”
He said, "You know, people come to this kind of show because they are looking for something that is really, really special."
Now in the back of my mind, I am thinking the whole time, "This guy is going to totally buy this piece! He is driving himself into the buyer's lane right now."
I said, "Yeah! Yeah! People do come to this show because it is a beautiful show."
He said, "Matt, can I be honest with you?"
I said, "Sure! Sure!"
He said, "You have been doing this a lot longer than I have; you have got a lot more experience than I do, but I'll be honest with you. $200 really doesn't say "special" to me." And then he walked away.
I have a friend that had the same thing happen when she was selling a piece of pottery. She had priced her art at $150, but a prospective customer mistakenly thought that the piece was priced at $1,500 and was eager to take the piece home. As the customer took the piece up to the counter to check out, she was informed that it was only $150. Normally you'd think this would be a good thing, but the customer who was willing and ready to buy a $1500 piece of pottery refused to buy it now that it was only $150.
Why do you think this happened in both of these cases? I believe it all boils down to perception. From the artists' point of view, we both priced our pieces based on what we perceived our value and the value of the piece to be. Again, this made perfect sense at the time. But to both potential buyers, their perception of our art, art that they wanted to buy, was damaged by what they perceived to be a cheap price.
For me, this experience was an excellent opportunity to reach out to God and allow Him to challenge and change the mindsets I held around the pricing and valuing my work. As I grew in this area, I began to gain the confidence to start pricing my art in a way that set me apart.
If this resonates with you, then I challenge you to take your own pricing and value mindsets to the God and ask, "Lord, am I charging for my art based out of fear, or am I charging for my art based on being a business person, being confident in what You have called me to, knowing that I need to make money and make a profit to sell?"
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading.
For a detailed explanation of pricing artwork, check out my guide to How to Price Your Art: The Definitive Guide for Pricing Artwork for Visual Artists.
There’s a fresh wind blowing through the arts right now, all over the world. Many have called it a New Renaissance of sorts and as an artist, that’s exciting!
For many artists, it's brought a new vitality, a resurgence of buyers and the opportunity to significantly grow their businesses through new tools and technology platforms, but is that it? Is that the end game?
I believe there's much more on God's heart for artists.
More than Marketers
During this current resurgence of the arts, God is highlighting artists, our work and our creative process. It's an exciting time but God's not simply interested in raising up more talented artists and better marketers for our own sake. This move is not just about creating great art and making money as an end in itself (although both of those things can be the fruit of following Gods lead)! He’s actually waking up our hearts, drawing us into wholeness, transforming our minds and raising up an army of creative sons and daughters who know who they are and what they are called to in the Kingdom.
This is definitely a God-inspired movement - a tidal wave of creativity in our generation - but to simply see it only as a renaissance is to miss the essence of what's going on. This move is very different and if we don’t recognize the differences, we will miss the central focus of what’s Gods really doing in this hour. Here’s why:
3 Philosophies of the Renaissance
During (and as a result of) the Renaissance, three main philosophies emerged that have guided artists for generations since:
These three systems formed the basis of how most artists approach their work and business - Christian artists included - even today. It goes like this: pursue my artistic expression (because that’s who I am), make it all about my desires, my talent, my expression and then find others to support me through grants, donations and sales. For some that works, although not long term. For many, it doesn't work, resulting in a starving artist mentality on one side or a success-focused art marketer on the other.
The ugly side of patronage during the Renaissance of the past was that the artist became dependent on and was at the mercy of the patron (rather than a healthy identity in the Lord), adding a complicated (to say the least) dynamic to their life and art. Today, being a slave to the market or latest marketing trend can yield the same frustration.
More than an Arts Renaissance
In this season, God is using this renaissance to lead us to revival and ultimately, thriving in His Kingdom. He's also raising up an army of artists who operate in three wholly different ways:
Lasting Success, Grace to Grow
As an artist myself and one who’s had the great privilege of walking with thousands of artists over the years as a mentor, I know this:
artists who seek the transformative power of God in the context of their life, art and business will always experience more lasting success than those who simply seek after the latest artistic fads and business trends.
Further, artists who center their art and business in their relationship with God also have the grace to grow and mature over the long term, building what Proverbs calls “wealth without sorrow.”
I want revival, not just renaissance. Revival starts in the heart - my heart - and flows out to others by the Spirit of God through my art, my business and my life.
Revival awakens and empowers me from within.
Revival centers my life, work and business in hearing Gods voice and following His lead.
Revival calls me to community and lasting impact, for His glory.
Sure, becoming a better artist and a better marketer is a part of this process for artists but it’s when God shows up that everything changes. That kind of lasting transformation will never happen as the result of my own effort.
When God shows up, transformation is released.
When God shows up, my life and art has meaning.
When God shows up, then the world is changed.
Pray this with me: Oh God, raise up an army of artists - sons and daughters - who know your voice, follow your lead and release the beauty of your Kingdom in the earth! Here I am, use me.
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.