Art Business Marketing - 6 Steps to Re-Energize Slumping Art Sales by M Theresa Brown

Artist Blogging M.Therasa Brown

Follow this six step plan to get your art business back on track and re-energized!

There is nothing harder to do than to walk into your studio and start (or finish) a piece of art when you already have a number of unsold pieces sitting around. The energy is suddenly not there. The phone is not ringing. And every time you turn on the news, the top story is the downturn of the economy. If you need to sell what you create in order to make ends meet, then motivation becomes critical. You may be in enough of a panic to be unorganized and not thinking clearly. There is a direct correlation between need and motivation and the key is to organize that motivation! Slumps ARE a normal part of any business. But to successfully pull your Art business out of the slump and make it through these economically challenging times, you need a plan.

Step 1. Re-think your Business Plan. No matter where you are financially, if you want to sell your art, you need a thought out marketing plan. If you are not selling your work, or your work has stopped selling, then you either don't have a plan or you need to rework the plan you have. Who was your target market and why are they not buying? Be prepared to re-invent yourself and your art product. That can be a tough concept for artists to deal with, but an objective look at the facts can make the difference between success and struggle. If your large paintings are not selling, create smaller ones. If your gold jewelry is suddenly not selling, create sterling pieces. If your abstracts are not selling, try realism. Do you need to broaden your target market or find a new one altogether? These are tough questions and demand some tough decisions by artists who are in a slump mentally and financially. Need creates nerve. Think outside the box.

Step 2. Make a financial plan. Your art product may have brought in 15% or 100% of your income before the slump. Regardless, the only way to replace, earn or create that needed income is by knowing exactly where you are financially. Only then can your new business plan be effective. The income from your art product may be worse than you thought or it may be better. But knowing brings a certain mental relief because now you know exactly where you are financially and what you need to do!

Step 3. Make a plan of action.  You have examined your art products, re-written your business plan and know how much additional income you need to earn to get through or banish this slump. So how are you going to do that? Make an action plan. A How Do I Make the Money? plan! The goals in a business plan are worthless if you have no plan on how to achieve those goals. With any art product, look at what and where you have been selling. Examine what art product you create has sold the most, where it has sold and what else you could be creating. What can art product can you tweak? Look at every possible marketing tool that is available and economical. Social networks, free classified, blogs ,websites, forums, friends, organizations, galleries, art shows, sidewalk, flea markets, etc. In tough economic times, every marketing opportunity need to be implemented and worked.

Step 4. Create deadlines for your new business plan. It is a fact repeated over and over by the greatest marketing minds of our times that if you write down your business goals as well as expected financial goals, and give yourself a deadline, you will achieve it. An example: Artist #1 says "I need to sell my art and make lots of money." Artist #2 says: "I need to sell 10 paintings for $200.00 each by the end of each month. I will sell them at the local art festival, on my website and send out postcards to my past clients" Which artist do you think has a better chance of attaining that goal? By giving yourself a deadline to achieve your marketing and financial goals, you have subconsciously engaged your brain. Your brain will keep nudging you about the deadline. And as the deadline approaches the urgency increases. By setting a deadline for your financial goals, you will find it much easier to ask for the payment or ask for the sale because you know what bills are coming up. It works.

Step 5. Limit the negative influences in your life. Re-working your old business plan can be re-energizing simply because you know what you need to do and how you're going to get there! But all of your new found enthusiasm can be negated by surrounding yourself with too much negativity. Take steps to distance yourself from negative people and places. There is always someone within a family, neighborhood or organization whose job in life appears to be complaining or making other people miserable. Don't give them that power. Don't let negative media distractions have a daily place in your life either. All can zap your energy level and motivation. Right now, you need positive energy. Make a point each morning to make some quiet time before starting your work day. All batteries need to be charged.

Step 6. Work the plan. No plan will work if you don't work the plan! Every evening you need to make out your list of things to accomplish the next day in order to reach the goals that you have outlined. Your new business plan should be hanging in plain sight in your studio. Your To Do list needs be taken with you everywhere. Each new marketing method or art product that you create needs to be given an opportunity to be successful.

These 6 steps are designed to help you focus your attention, resources and energy on your art business and give you a jump start out of that slump! You may not be able to change the economy but you can change and adapt to whatever current trends there may be I that economy. Due diligence, persistence and perseverance will be the factors that will see you through your art slump and on the road to success!



Commissioned Art - How to Stay in Control Throughout the Process by M Theresa Brown

Commissioned art. It's the bread and butter art for many artists. It's what pays the bills. And it's also the one area where an unsuspecting and unprepared artist first comes face to face with Client Changes. Learning HOW to prevent surprise changes is the key to an artist enjoying creating commissioned art.

So let's start with the artist's best scenario:
You've created, completed and been paid for the art commission by your client. She is delighted, appreciative and cannot wait to display your artwork in her home.

Then comes the artist's worst scenario: the phone call or email asking for changes in the commissioned piece.

What happened? Why would a client call the artist a month, 6 months, even years later and ask for changes? Recently, on our marketing forum, an artist put that query forth when the client asked her to make changes 4 YEARS after commissioning the original piece. The artist was trying to figure out what to do and how to handle it. If she did not gain control of the situation she would not only be struggling with an almost impossible task but destroying any chance of repeat commissions from the same client or the client's friends. The key is to handle this long BEFORE the situation ever comes to this point. In this particular case, the client's original dog portrait was not altered (and a new dog added to it) but a new portrait was initiated. To prevent this scenario from repeating itself, the artist then had to learn what to say to stop it from occurring again with another (or even the same client).

So what actually happened here? In the world of art, the consumer often assumes that an artist can go back to a piece of art at any time and change it. But why would that even be necessary when the client was so pleased initially?

This artist is experiencing a common phenomena called the "THIRD PARTY SYNDROME" and it happens everywhere in the world of marketing. It's not "buyer's remorse". The client did not regret purchasing your piece of art. It is what happens when a previously happy client is influenced by a self proclaimed "third party" expert who picks your art commission apart and offers "suggestions" and puts doubt into your client's mind after they get it home. This is the same personality type who will always know where you could have purchased something cheaper and better. It could be a friend, a relative or a neighbor of the client And this exasperating phenomena will continue to happen in your art career unless you take steps to stop it BEFORE it happens.

How do you stop it? Learn to HANDLE AN OBJECTION BEFORE IT ARISES! That sentence is the single most valuable sales tip I have learned in my long art career as a working artist! It has changed the way that I do business with commissioned clients and continues to smooth the path to long term and happy relationships with the same clients! Handling an objection BEFORE it arises is a well known sales technique. Despite the Third Party Syndrome being one of the most common problems in the world of the commissioned artist, the solution I am sharing with you won't be found anywhere else in the art marketing world!

OK. So what do I do and say that puts ME in control of my artwork AND my clients and stops them from returning the art piece for changes that are not theirs? When I finalize a transaction and am handing over the artwork to my client, I say, with a professional attitude, smile and a laugh, something similar to:

"I am delighted that you love this piece! Now I don't mind making any adjustments to it that you (and whoever else is paying for it) may like me to make within the next two weeks. After all, I'm working for YOU. But I'll only make YOUR changes. (keep smiling) That's because there is someone, somewhere, within your family, or your neighborhood or a social group, who is not only a self proclaimed expert but whose goal in life is to make you unhappy with any decision or purchase that you have made..(there is always a BIG smile or laugh by the client because someone has already come to mind!).. DON'T give them that power!"

Do you see what I have done? I have cheerfully and professionally HANDLED the OBJECTION before it has arisen. When the negative person in my client's life becomes critical of my client's new art piece, in the back of her mind are MY words, warning her NOT to let that critical person have the power to make her unhappy. I have saved myself untold hours of labor and exasperation. And you will as well.

Not knowing HOW to handle the third party syndrome is one of the biggest reasons that artists who start off doing commissions, stop. The frustration becomes overwhelming. What I have shared will put an artist in control throughout the process.

But you know what else I have done? I have given my client a much welcome psychological tool to challenge the negative individual in more areas than just my piece of commissioned artwork! I have given my client the power to negate the influence that the "expert" originally might have had over my client's decision making abilities! And in doing so, both the client and I are the winners!

From the Art Career Experts


The World of Fakes, Forgeries and Trickery by M Theresa Brown

Sometimes, in the course of creating art, it's fun to put down the paintbrush and delve into the little known realms of art history. I did just that when I came across an excellent article on "Varsity," an online publication from Cambridge University in the UK. The article "Faking it" is a well written and enlightening take on the world of forgeries and fakes in the Art world. The fact that the London Galleries, the Victoria and Albert as well as the National Gallery are holding an exhibition of art forgeries this year, is a testament to the roll (and havoc) that "fake art" has played throughout the centuries. And how economic turmoil fuels it!

That's right. Centuries of fakes and economics-good and bad. A good art history course will cover fakes and forgeries from the earliest known beginnings. When the classical period saw a consumer interest in owning anything Greek, the Romans reproduced Greek sculpture at a rate that the Chinese would envy! But this period was all about the look, not a particular artist. The real profit came later as particular artists' works escalated in popularity and price.

So what exactly is the difference between imitation and forgeries? Most artists are versatile. Having spent a good deal of time on the juried arts and crafts circuits across the US, I see it all the time. The exceptional quality of art created by these art professionals is amazing. I have seen everything from paintings to wall hangings to jewelry and is hard not to notice the unique style of each artist at a show with over 600 art vendors! Yet, creating a beautiful piece of art is not often enough. These traveling art gypsies are there to make a living and every so often I have seen customers line up at a booth while the other booths had minimal traffic. Just what was this hot product? Well, I guarantee that at the next show, a handful of these talented and versatile artists will be creating a similar or maybe even identical product. That is imitation.

A forgery on the other hand is creating the same product that the other artist creates and passing it off as having been created by that artist. It is designed to deceive. And money has always been at the root of it.

With the rise of a middle class in the 15th and 16th centuries, individual artists rose to the forefront in popularity. Even Michelangelo was once forced to sign his work when rumors spread that his "Pieta" had been carved by another. In the Varsity article," the gradual growth in the importance of the identity of the artist or author provoked Albrecht Durer to inscribe angrily on one of his engravings: “Be cursed plunderers and imitators of the work and talent of others”. Art, after all, had become a commodity...."
Rembrandt paid to join a gild created by a businessman which gave he and the other group artists permission to copy the best selling paintings of the day...thus the confusion over the provenance of a painting by Rembrandt or the "school of Rembrandt!"

And of course, forgeries don't stop with the arts. Anything that captures the public's eye as a popular commodity is fair game. Think of Rolex watches, fake jewelry, historical objects.....
The Varsity article goes a step further though in its observation of the timeliness of the exhibitions at the two major London Galleries," It’s little coincidence that (they), are holding exhibitions on art forgery this year. Their detailed explorations into the dark world of fakes, trickery and curator blunders, could not be more relevant today - covert and alarmingly common occurrences in a market straining to survive the recession. The last great period for forgers was the destitution of the 1980s; now that our economic situation is less confident than ever, can we be certain that the masterpieces we admire in galleries are real?

The article went on to list master forgers who go on to fame, occasional fortune and usually prison. One, John Myatt has now apparently gone legit, working with Scotland Yard and selling "original fakes" (wow-you have to admire this) for $100,000 or more! It further commented that the Lourve employs forgers to recreate their most famous and valuable pieces with the intent of protecting them from would be vandals. Apparently that Mona Lisa may not be the real thing. An artist quoted in a book authored by the late Thomas Hoving, former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, said that he only hoped that any poor examples of his works would be attributed to forgerers! And the Varisity article states that "even Picasso once remarked that he 'would sign a very good forgery.'”

So you have to hand it to the two London Galleries for holding such an exhibit on such a fascinating and controversial subject as Fakes and Forgeries! If you find yourself in London, "The National Gallery’s ‘Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries’ is open 30th June to 12th September, and the V&A’s ‘Metropolitan Police Service’s Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries’ runs from 23rd January to 7th February."

$100,000 for a genuine, original, fake Masterpiece? Maybe I better pick up that paintbrush again!

Check out Art Career Experts for more from M Theresa Brown!

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