What is the best way for artists to sell their work? This question is debated by artists all the time. Everyone will have an opinion, but wise artists will use several avenues to market their work. When it comes to seeing the work face-to-face the best method is to participate in an art market. Galleries still have their place, but nothing beats a market for for that personal connection with buyers.
In this article I will cover ten important tips to ensure your next art market is a huge success. Let’s dive in!
What are Art Markets in Context
In this article markets are events where artists can display their work to the public. Usually you will pay a fee to the market organiser who will provide a stand. However this is not guaranteed so make sure you know what you need to supply in the form of display stands.
Markets can last for one day to a couple of weeks. In rare cases the markets run permanently, but typically a long weekend is set aside for the market. These are often annual events where art displays are either the main attraction or a side-attraction to an event.
Tips for Art Market Success:
1. Prepare Your Best Work
If you are serious about creating and selling your art you need to create a large body of work. From these pick your best twenty to thirty pieces to display. This means preparing well in advance to build up a portfolio of work. From these pick out your best work. There is little point to including average works simply to make up numbers. You want to put your best art out there to appear consistent. Make sure your paintings are clearly signed too.
Your work will continue to develop and improve over time. Perhaps you explore new directions, materials and subjects. However you can only use what you have at that point in time, so make the most of the moment.
2. Appearances Count
Presentation is important. This includes signage for your stand. For example your name and logo should be neatly and appropriately displayed where it is visible to traffic. Have this signage professionally printed on lightweight material. If it is a once-off event for you then perhaps a printer can print your sign on card. You want the sign to be visible and professional.
Make sure your art is tastefully arranged. Paintings must be straight and are securely hanging up for people to see. If your display stand is a mesh grid then a material cover will add a touch of class to your display. Hooks can still grip the mesh, but your paintings will look much better against an even backdrop. Dark material is best and make sure it is flat - not a mass of wrinkles.
Some artists may add a carpet in front of their stand. This can add a touch of class, but remains an optional extra. Of more importance is lighting. If indoors or in a tent your display needs to be well lit. A few LED spotlights can add a welcome punch to your paintings even if there is lighting in the room. I have found that on overcast days or in the evenings ambient light is insufficient. Of course this means access to a power source is required so check whether this is provided by the organisers.
In general make sure your table and stand are neat and attractive. It does make a difference and could result in potential collectors giving your display more attention.
Price labels should also be neatly printed on card and clearly state the painting’s name, medium and price. Include your logo too for a professional look. Do not apply price labels to the front of the frame as this interferes with the look of your work. Rather apply the label next to the work.
4. Comfort and Convenience
Never underestimate the basics of comfort and convenience. They will make you feel better, more confident and keep your morale up. I have endured freezing weather with cold feet and it makes the day drag on forever. Hot weather can leave you wilting and dehydrating. Headaches follow and you feel defeated and grumpy.
A market day is at least eight hours, so prepare for temperature changes by checking the weather forecast. Have sufficient water on hand. Healthy snacks too. Avoid messy food. You know, when a buyer asks you a question and you are munching on a sloppy-joe. Not pretty! Oh yes … some wipes to clean your hands.
5. Credit Card Machine
It will be the difference between a quick sale and a change-of-mind situation. Most people do not carry wads of cash around therefore a credit card system is essential. There are solutions that do not require monthly fees, insurance and other annoying bank-related red tape. I use a YOCO card reader which links up to my phone. Quick, secure and efficient. I can even send a receipt by email to the buyer seconds after the sale.
6. Pricing Your Art
A topic worthy of a short book perhaps? My approach is that a market is where I want to sell paintings. Period. This means pricing keenly at prices fair to both sides. Your strategy may be different. Perhaps you want to establish yourself in the high-priced-art category? Whatever works for you.
Irrespective of your approach make sure your pricing is transparent. I do not expect people to ask me for a price. Personally I think hiding prices is silly. I also avoid trying to game the system. Practices like using red stickers when there is no sale is misleading people and wrong.
What about discounts? I use this only if someone buys more than one painting. These are your true fans so treat them well. They will buy again. Nevertheless discounts should be reasonable and not too high. Never feel desperate or uneasy when offering a discount as this mindset will leave you miserable. If you decide to offer a discount do it with a mindset of generosity and abundance. Or not at all.
What price should you use? Research. Try and figure out where you are in the scheme of things. What are others at your level charging? Look at galleries and other established or experienced artists at the markets. All of these indicators give you and idea. If your art is selling then you may have hit the right mix. Can you make a living on your prices? If you are way below other artists you may be doing yourself harm too.
7. Be Available
I know that a long slow day at a market can leave you with a thousand-yard-stare at times. It you feel this condition coming on you need to shake it off. Also avoid being engrossed with your cellphone. You may miss out on someone taking a keen interest in your work. Nobody wants to interrupt you typing away on your social media and so you may lose an opportunity.
People like to chat to artists. Not just buyers, but other artists may want to take lessons with you one day. Plus there is a wealth of information to be gleaned from potential collectors. What subjects they like. What they love about your work. Which techniques catch the eye and many more facts that should be noted. This is real market research.
Also be friendly, respectful and helpful to other artists exhibiting their work. Networking is important. You could make real friendships that enrich your life in the long term. It is not just about money after all.
Tip: Can you do a little painting? Sometimes I set up my outdoor easel and start a painting. Something simple that I can leave at a moments notice to help a customer. The point is to keep positive action going during the quiet moments. Some people are curious and want to engage you about your painting. A great way to break the ice.
8. Share Freely
Be generous in spirit and helpful to others. Never hesitate in giving painting tips to your fans. Never hesitate in helping your fellow artists when they need it. Each artist is different and I never fear giving away secrets or being copied. Never. To do so is to live in fear and lack. Instead cultivate an attitude of abundance and gratitude. You will feel better and you will be rewarded tenfold.
9. Ask Questions
I put in this tip as it is often overlooked. Most artists are introverts to some degree. A way to get around this is to ask questions. This means you do not have to think of profound topics of conversation off the cuff. Instead let your prospective collector or art fan tell you about themselves. What art do they love? What is there favorite subject? Do they paint?
When you get an answer very often this opens up another question. By then you can chat about the topic revealed. After all this is your field and you can feel more secure. Beware of tooting your own horn too much though. Rather be helpful and listen to what you are being told. How can you help this person?
Sometimes a person can rub you the wrong way. Try not to get into an argument or be rude. Avoid expressing opinions that are going to upset someone. You know politics, religion, sex, race and so on. Why stir up emotions? If a stranger tries this with you change the subject or excuse yourself if you can. Usually that ends things peacefully. Life is too short to bother with other peoples’ baggage.
10. Follow Up
Every buyer should be asked for their email so that you can follow up with a thank you note. Other leads such as gallery owners need a follow up too. Wait too long and they may forget about you. Never underestimate the power of a sincere thank you note. Also follow other artists you have met on their social media.
Finally once the event is over take time to think about the lessons learned. Make notes and take action on new ideas. All too often we fall into a comfort zone working in our studios. Markets have a way of shaking us up and we must learn from these moments.
This process includes taking a look at the numbers. You costs, sales and profits or losses. Take the appropriate action to remedy problems and build on successes. Ask for help where necessary too. You accountant perhaps or a mentor could give you an objective viewpoint. Keep learning.
These are not all the potential issues to consider. You may encounter other ideas and situations in your experience. The important thing is to try markets from time to time. They can be hard work, but I have not regretted them. The lessons learned are important and the feedback is priceless. Markets are only a waste when you do not take the opportunity to learn from them.
Share your tips in the comments below.
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