Among the top questions most creatives are pondering in our day and age is how to find buyers. Now that we have this incredible gift of technology to contact and engage with fans of our work it is more important than ever to establish a clear set of goals on how to engage with potential buyers and collectors. In the mind of a creative this may seem like a daunting task. Attending swanky art openings, chatting with potential art enthusiasts, and selling out to the status quo are some fears that creatives have about selling their work on their own. This is why most creatives would prefer to contact a gallery or agent and seek representation. To be clear this is the function of a gallery/agent but like I said before there are now new opportunities out there for creatives that wish to take on the responsibility on their own. Here are my top five tips to engage with potential buyers/collectors. Keep in mind these have worked for me over the past six years I’ve sold my artwork. I’ve never had a month that I wasn’t working on a commission or actively selling my art in the past six years.
- Make your talent relevant.
In today’s day and age it’s important that we stay relevant. That means that the more you are seen and heard the more people will think and talk about you. How does this translate into your craft? Start by identifying where key areas of your city’s creative enthusiasts tend to gather. This could be markets, downtown areas, venues, and studios. Make key contacts with the influencers in charge of those venue spaces and develop those contacts into relationships. Stop in and say “hi”, become a patron, and above all show genuine interest in THEIR dreams and goals. You would be surprised what other people will do to help you just because you showed interest in helping them. Get your products in those spaces!
- Volunteer your time.
Nothing demonstrates your level of commitment more than giving up your time to help others. Seek out where there are some needs for someone of your skillset especially as a creative. Note: this does not mean give away your products or services, this means to volunteer your time. Start with seeing if your municipal government has an arts commission and then find out if you can throw your name in the hat for consideration as a board member. Seek out non-profits with the arts in their mission statement and see how you can participate. People take notice of others that are willing to give their time in the effort to see others succeed. This is all about building partnerships, relationships, and your reputation. It takes a lot of time but once you’ve established your presence in the creative community more people will know you by name and recommend you to others.
- Submit to local shows.
If you were a buyer/collector in your city where would you seek out new talent? The likely answer is at local shows. Local shows give, you the creative, an opportunity to put your best foot forward and showcase your talent. Buyers go to shows for this exact reason. They are excited to discover new talent and are ready to spend money on acquiring unique distinctive pieces to add to their collection. More importantly they want to meet and get to know the artist. Research local shows in your area and find out what the submission guidelines are and SUBMIT YOUR ART, Then GO TO THE OPENING!!!! Note: Bring business cards.
- Talk about your passion.
This seems obvious. But you would be surprised how many creatives don’t know how to talk about their passion or feel it “too personal” to talk about. I totally understand that but the problem is there is no one alive more qualified to talk about it than you. When someone asks about your passion be ready to give a short description of what you create, how you create it, and why you create it. These are the things collectors want to know about your work before they buy. If you repeat it enough to different people they will be able to repeat it for you when you aren’t around.
- Treat everyone like a million dollar client.
The tendency for people in the business of selling is to only sell to people who want to buy. The truth is everyone that loves art or anything handmade is your advocate. More importantly if they like you chances are they probably will like your product even more. So how does this translate into a sale? Perhaps the young man in college can’t afford your product today but when he graduates and finds that six figure income he will remember your customer service and enthusiasm. Perhaps he will tell his rich uncle to check out your website. You get the point. Treat everyone like a possible collector or advocate for your product. The more people vouching for what you create and character the more possibilities you’ll have out in the world for a sale to come from an unexpected place or time.
So those are my top five, but not the only ways to reach collectors. Just remember the creative business is a business built on emotion and relationships. If you treat your passion with consideration then you should treat your potential customers the same way. Keep those relationships close to your chest.
“Business Tips” was written by Alejandro Castanon, Business Development Specialist of Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. For more information on the topic of this article or the services of the ASU · SBDC, contact him at Alejandro.Castanon@angelo.edu.