Selling Without Begging: Tips for Selling Art by David C. Baker

Tips for Selling Art

2016 Artist's and Graphic Designer's MarketIf you’re like most creatives, selling is probably your least favorite part of running your business. But selling doesn’t have to be painful, and it certainly doesn’t require begging. In his article “Selling Without Begging,” David C. Baker offers six tips for selling art without begging. You can read an excerpt from the article below or read the complete article on selling art in the 2016 Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market or on

Keep creating and good luck!


Selling Without Begging by David C. Baker

Forget cold-calling—reel in the clients you really want with these six practical techniques.

The problem is clear: You need more business. Not because you aren’t busy, but because then you could be choosier about which clients you work with. But if there’s one thing firm owners and entrepreneurs hate, it has to be selling themselves to prospects. Selling feels uncomfortable, needy, and it also seems like something we probably shouldn’t have to do, right? If our work is great, shouldn’t it sell itself?

I want to help you by explaining some ways to attract more business without begging for it. First, I’m going to assume that you’re really talented. That’s an important assumption. Unless you’re an expert in something where there aren’t a lot of other experts, clients will find you interchangeable, and when they have a lot of choices, they’ll dive down to the cheapest option. Second, you need work, but you don’t want to harm your carefully earned position as an expert. That means you need thoughtfully chosen and very effective methods of finding new clients. Here are six ways to reach prospects while keeping your expert status.

1. Send a Letter by Express Mail.

In the past, any letter you sent blended into all the other letters that a prospective client received, and so you had to resort to flashy and expensive brochures instead. But now, nobody gets letters, so they stand out. They’re also quick and cheap, which makes them an even better choice.

Sit down and write a really good one, highlighting what helps you stand out from the crowd. Make it punchy (i.e., confident), but keep it short. About two-thirds of a page is ideal.

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2. Put Paid Advertising on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn has become the digital water cooler among the next generation of decision-makers, and it’s surprisingly easy to post messages on the bulletin board hanging above that water cooler. This often underutilized tool is a breeding ground for professionals looking to connect with practitioners who possess the skills they need for a particular project.

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3. Host a Webinar.

Online education webinars are very effective tools because they don’t require travel, they can be watched on demand and there’s none of the financial risk that comes from holding a seminar. Mostly, there’s no risk of failure. Let’s dive into this last point a bit more, as it’s the secret sauce to this tool.

Contrast a webinar with a speaking engagement. For the latter, you’ll spend months landing one and preparing for it. That big day will come—but what if you end up with three people in attendance? First of all, those numbers don’t work. Most important, it looks like you’ve failed. The few people there look around and then wonder how much of an expert you really are. But now think of a webinar, where you can choose to hide the list of attendees from your prospects. Unless you tell them otherwise, they’ll assume that there are dozens of others who are listening and learning.

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4. Buy a List.

If you already have a subscriber list with at least 8,000 names of people who have opted-in to receive your e-mails, that should do it. Any quantity below that should grow on a net basis from e-mailing to e-mailing, but reaching a critical mass of that size organically will take too long if you need some quick hits, and that’s when you buy a list. Keep in mind that the more data fields that come with each record, the better, but what matters most is getting a current e-mail address.

There are three places to look for good e-mail addresses for your own marketing purposes, and you want to do a search in this order. First, check with any associations that might gather your prospects. The Encyclopedia of Associations is a good place to double-check your knowledge and see if you’ve overlooked any. That source will also indicate how many members each association has and whether or not they make their list available for purchase.

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5. Be Interviewed as an Expert.

Scour the free Help a Reporter Out website ( and make yourself available for expert interviews. The signal-to-noise ratio is a little distracting, though, and you might be better off spending a little money and subscribing to the ProfNet service. It’s Help a Reporter Out on steroids. It’s curated, simpler, and collects more serious journalists.

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6. Write a Short E-Book.

Apple has a product called QuickReads, and Amazon has matched it with their Kindle Singles. The two products are nearly identical: 5,000–30,000 words, with a mandated low price. It’s a wonderful tool in selling your services because it gives you a reason to contact a prospect by including a gift certificate to the book. Regardless of whether or not they read it, they’ll be left with a suitable impression.

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There you have it. You need new clients, you need them quick, and you don’t want to beg. So, pick two or three of these six suggestions and get busy. I bet you’re pretty good at landing work once you get a chance to talk to a prospect, right? You just need more opportunity, and this list is designed to give you just that.

David C. Baker has been an author, speaker and adviser to the creative community for 20 years, and has worked closely with nearly 800 firms. His blog is read by 20,000 designers.

Excerpted from the November 2014 issue of HOW magazine. Used with the kind permission of HOW magazine, a publication of F+W, a Content + eCommerce Company. Visit to subscribe.


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