First of all, be certain that your work is ready to show (see earlier blog on this). First impressions are often lasting impressions. If people associate you with undeveloped or technically flawed work, that impression might be hard to shake later on. Make your first impression a good one!
I'll begin this conversation by briefly describing the strategies I've used that have worked and also some of the ones that I'd like to try in the future.List 1: What's worked for me
1. Our city hosts an outdoor fine art fair that is high quality and very restrictive. No crafts allowed and only originals may hang for display. Prints and reproductions may be shown, but only in portfolios. I've had huge success with this particular fair for a couple of reasons:
- I hang only one series at a time to show mastery and consistency.
- I engage people walking by my booth in friendly chatter that leads them to examine my work, but I do not "pressure sell" ever!
- My prices are fair, and not underpriced (never undervalue your work!)
- Last year, I teamed up with a noted sculptor who has tons of clients, and we displayed our work together. I was amazed at the crowd that gathered in our booth and purchased art.
Usually I sell more this one afternoon at the fair than I do for the entire rest of the year. I've also been offered a solo show at a gallery by a director who stopped by my booth, which I accepted. Additionally, I liberally hand-out my well designed business cards and brochures and usually receive calls during the year from new clients.If you select this method, be very careful about the quality of the fair and try to find those that advertise well and feature mostly fine art. I should also mention that the booth fee for my fair is only $35! Low overhead is a must if you don't expect high volume sales.
2. The internet. I've been fortunate enough to sell directly from my website. However, there are so many scams that you really have to be careful. I've never had a bad experience, but just this weekend someone tried to purchase one of my paintings with a bogus certified check. Luckily, I knew it was a con and called his bluff. Here's a tip: if you decide to sell work from your website, post realistic prices alongside the art with a description of the piece (title, medium, size) and set up a shopping cart through PayPal. Also, remember to charge your clients for shipping and sales tax if applicable. Try not to ship work already framed. Most clients want to select their own frames and it will save you money not to bother.
3. National and Internal juried exhibitions. Over the past couple of years I've sold a number of paintings at juried exhibitions. The prize money they offer helps, too. My work is enhanced at these exhibitions because works are usually hung in a professional manner in a lovely setting along with terrific work by other artists. Most paintings are priced high, and I keep my prices high along with them.
4. Galleries. I rarely work with galleries because they take 50 - 60% of the price and the owners are sometimes difficult to deal with. However, some of my work does sell this way. Be cautious about galleries that ask you to pay them for publicity, opening-night expenses (refreshments), rent for wall space, etc. This is not good. Also, if you decide to work with a gallery, get a contract! Make certain you are paid in a timely manner after your work sells, and make certain that your work is properly displayed.
5. Interior decorators. Often, these professionals need to find art for their clients and are usually happy to keep your brochure or portfolio on hand. At one point, I established a business relationship with a decorator in Jamaica who picked up my paintings by boat from Miami where I shipped them. It was a great system and profitable as well.6. Referrals. Sometimes people learn about my work through others and contact me to see what's available. It's good to follow-up with these folks because they're usually serious buyers.
7. Keep a high profile. I publicize my name and my work wherever and whenever I can. If people notice that you're a continuous presence in the art world they'll have more confidence in your professionalism and the value of your work. In other words, no one wants to invest in the work of a "one hit wonder." Be obvious, be productive, and be consistent.
List 2: What I'd like to try in the future
1. Internet sites like ebay, Etsy, Folksy, Imagekind, Facebook, RedBubble, 1000 markets, etc. This will take some time to learn, but sales are made on these sites.
2. A reputable gallery in a major metropolitan area like New York City. I've shown in a few galleries in New York over the past several years, but haven't developed a long-term relationship because it's expensive and difficult to spend time in the city trying to get appointments with gallery directors who probably won't be interested, anyway. But, that doesn't mean I won't give it a shot!
What are your ideas???