Adapt and Sell More Art in the New Year

How to Be a Successful Artist

With the increased use of social media by artists, trust and open communication is needed more than ever between the gallery owner and the creative.

With the increased use of social media by artists, trust and open communication is needed more than ever between the gallery owner and the creative.

As we approach the new year, it’s a good time to reflect on your art business practices and think about how you can approve them in the coming year. Artist and art-marketing mentor Lori McNee offers some excellent tips for improving your art business in “Adapt and Sell More Art.” This article originally appeared in the 2012 Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, but the tips and advice are still relevant today. You can read an excerpt below, and the complete article is still available on

Keep creating and good luck!


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Adapt and Sell More Art by Lori McNee

“Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.” —Nolan Ryan

Most likely if you are reading this article right now, you are interested in selling more art. There is no magic bullet or quick way to success; however, artists who are open to new ideas and have a willingness to adapt to the ever-changing marketplace will have a head start over their peers and competitors. It is time for you to take charge of your art career.

In this challenging economy, being a successful artist not only consists of creating great art, but is also about building a strong business. The small businesses that have succeeded over the past few years have been based on adaptability, trust, longevity and personal branding.

As an artist myself, I understand that artisans tend to be frugal. Nevertheless, it does take some money to make money. The good news is, many of the ideas listed below can be accomplished with little or no monetary investment other than good ol’ sweat equity. ­Implementing the following marketing tips into your art business plan will lead you toward more art sales.

Determine Your Goals

Goal setting is important, because once you have your goals in place it is easier to achieve them. Goals are much like a road map with mile-markers along the way. They give you a clear plan that details where you are going and how you are going to get there.

To begin, you need to determine what you want. Identify your short-term and long-term goals. Goals do not have to be overwhelming. For instance, let’s say you are an amateur artist, but you dream of having your work represented by a top gallery in New York City. Most likely that goal would be unrealistic and difficult to achieve in one step. It is easier and more realistic to set your goal within workable units, like mile-markers.

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Sell Yourself

Years ago, while working in retail, I learned this valuable lesson: The number one ingredient to successful sales in any business is to know how to sell yourself. If you can sell yourself, you can sell anything.

Build Your Brand

A great way to begin “selling yourself” is to build your brand identity. A strong brand is invaluable and serves to communicate credibility to your prospective customers and ­colleagues.

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Update Your Website and Start a Blog

Most likely you have a website with information about your art and pricing, bio and résumé, and maybe a cool video or two. You might be wondering why no one is visiting your website.

The easiest way for people to discover your website is to start a blog.

On your blog, write about things your fans, artists and collectors care about. Encourage feedback on your blog and be sure to personally answer all incoming comments and questions. Customers will enjoy the extra information and personal touch. Potential collectors will have reasons to choose you.

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Focus on Customer Commitment and Relationships

Networking with other artists and building a good working relationship between you and your gallery are keys to success and will eventually lead to more sales.

Networking with other artists and building a good working relationship between you and your gallery are keys to success and will eventually lead to more sales.

With the onslaught of social media, customer intimacy is easy to provide and is expected more than ever. It is not uncommon for customers, collectors and potential clients to engage with each other on sites such as Facebook and Twitter before they engage with you.

The Internet has changed the way we do business. Everything happens so quickly and the competition is increasing. A client’s continuing patronage is no longer guaranteed. Artists must encourage their customer’s loyalty and advocacy through word of mouth. As a result, artists have to find a way to quickly respond to their customer’s wants and needs because consumer loyalty is a thing of the past.

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Direct Marketing

Direct marketing is being revolutionized by commingling old-world direct marketing techniques and mediums with current methods of the new digital marketing tools. This new “hybrid marketing” is a blend of online and offline methods. Direct marketing now consists of the Internet, mobile and direct mail.

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Return to the marketplace

Marketing began hundreds of years ago by literally going to a marketplace to sell a good or service. Artisans and craftsmen would engage buyers face to face. Today, people still want to buy from those they know, like and trust—gallery receptions, arts and crafts shows, ­social media and blogging helps make this possible. It is important to think of your product as an extension of yourself.

Get online

Consider art registries and websites like deviantART, Flickr, Etsy and eBay. Many of these sites allow individuals to sell arts and crafts without having to operate a storefront business of their own. Market your art business and product via social media such as ­Twitter, ­Facebook and YouTube, and remember to start a blog.

Business cards

Be prepared. It’s a good idea to have a professional stack of business cards on hand. In this day and age, be sure to include your name, e-mail address, website/blog URL address as well as any social media handles, and your cell phone number. Add a logo or an image of your art to further your brand identity. *Tip: Print up bookmarks with the same information and leave a stack at your local bookstore and coffee shop!

Business relationships

Don’t forget to nurture your existing relationships with your galleries and their employees. Reach out to interior decorators, real estate agents, house stagers, restaurant owners, corporate art buyers and private art dealers, and let them bring the clients.

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Send out a newsletter

Once you have your blog up and running, be sure to send out a newsletter. Dollar for dollar, newsletters are one of the most effective ways to reach your targeted market. Creating newsletters can be hard work. Decide on the number of newsletters you will be able to produce each year and stick to it.

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Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing describes marketing with a mobile device, such as a cell phone. This has exploded with Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android operating system, the iPad and smart phones. In fact, as of 2011, over 50 percent of all U.S. homes owned at least one smart phone.

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Social Media

Over the years, “social media” has become a buzzword. Wikipedia’s definition of social media is “a blending of technology and social interaction for the co-creation of value driven content.” The “co-creation of content” means that social media is about we, not about me.
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Build your brand

Social media is the quickest way to build brand recognition for you and your art business. A strong brand is invaluable and serves to communicate credibility to your prospective customers and business associates.


Social media is already changing the rules of the marketplace across the globe. We now have access to literally millions of potential customers. These prospective buyers feel more comfortable about a brand if they can interact with it via social media. Use social media channels to send out videos, images of your photographs and links to your latest blog post, and to share interesting content. You can easily drive huge amounts of traffic to your website or blog using social media. Utilize social media to get the word out about your art business in a way that promotes conversation and leads to sales.


Being an artist can be a solitary occupation, but with social networking, you’re not alone! Use social media to get instant feedback on your latest painting or blog post, or ask for a critique on your work. You will learn from other artists and business leaders, gain inspiration from others and build lasting relationships.

Keep your finger on the pulse

Remember, creatives are the movers and shakers of the world. We need to stay informed and on the cutting edge. Artists should be aware of new trends in design, decorating, fashion and technology and how it influences art and sales.

Take Calculated Risks

People like to stay with what is familiar and safe. But, if we eliminate calculated risks, we remove the opportunity for growth in business and in our craft. As a small business entrepreneur, if you try something new and it doesn’t work, you can easily change your strategy. But, you need to be accountable for the inherent risks and the outcome.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

There is no real secret to success. In order to succeed, you must challenge yourself, be passionate about your craft, perfect your skill as a artist, and learn from your mistakes along the way.

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure and an inability to adapt to change. Some of the ideas listed in this article might seem unconventional and intimidating. But, if you adapt just a few of these new ideas into your art marketing strategy, you will begin to see favorable results, which will lead to more sales. Good luck and I hope to see you on Twitter!


Lori McNee is an internationally recognized professional artist and art-marketing expert, who writes about art and marketing tips on her blog Lori is an exhibiting member of Oil Painters of America and ranks as one of the most influential artists and powerful women on Twitter. She was named a Twitter Powerhouse by The Huffington Post.


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