The Basics of Sales as an Artist
When talking about sales, a lot of artists get all squirmy. For many, the difference between "Selling Art" and "Selling Out" is very small. And yet most artists dream of a time when they can sustain themselves and their family on nothing but their hard work and development as an artist. That means selling art. In this article, I'm going to offer a few tips and tricks to help you get over the hurdle of selling your art.
The first thing most artists need to learn is to accept that the people who buy their art are doing so because they like the art. Artists are typically very critical of their own creations—this is vital when working on your portfolio, but not so much when presenting your work for sale. An important tip to remember when someone compliments your art is to say "Thank you!" and don't contradict him or her. Often when our art is complemented, we talk about how it is old and not as good as our latest work. We think we are being humble, but in fact, we are offending the person who just complimented us. They've said, "I like that," and we respond, "You're wrong." In any other situation we'd realize how rude, or at the very least confrontational, this is. In sales situation it means no sale. You want to stay positive when discussing your art.
Speaking in a positive manner about your product is the key to being a good salesperson, and for us that means our own art. Practice taking compliments without refuting them, and develop stories for each piece to share when discussing a painting. A trick I often use is remembering why I painted a piece and what excited me about it in the beginning. Hold on to those memories and recall them when discussing your work.
No sales trick in the world will make someone buy a piece of art they dislike. However, there are times when people want to buy your art but won’t. A good salesperson can help guide the interested person to a purchase. This is called closing a sale. It is important to think of what you do as a service. You have made wonderful art; now you are helping it find the right home, benefiting everyone involved. This is an important mental adjustment. You are not bothering people; you are helping people (who are genuinely interested in your work) take home a piece of art that adds joy to their lives. As an artist, you enhance other people’s lives. Let this sink in.
Here's a tip for handling sales: When people approach you directly about your art, smile, tell them your name and that you are the artist. Next, ask the person which piece caught their eye or brought them over. Then, talk about that piece, and tell them why you painted it. Often it is as easy as that. It is important to be observant during this part of the conversation. Do they seem like they want a print, or do they seem interested in an original? Either way, it is time to ask for the sale.
There are many ways to ask for a sale. "Do you want one print or two?" "Can I wrap that up for you?" "Which prints will you be getting today?" The list goes on. I recommend trying several different methods as this is the hardest part. It feels a bit unnatural. Even though it is hard, asking for the sale is crucial. It's great when people walk up and say, "I'll take that one." But more often than not, you have to ask for the sale. The more you practice, the easier it gets. Over time, it even starts to be fun and feel more like a game. Remember, you are not tricking anyone—people can say "no" and they will—but if you don't ask, many people will avoid buying, either out of habit, anxiety, or any number of other factors.
Now that you have a few tips and tricks for handling sales, I want to stress the importance of being yourself. This is both true in your art and in developing a sales technique. If you try a piece of advice and it doesn't sit right with you, scrap it, or change it. Like anything you will have to practice, try different techniques, and find the right fit for you. Remember: be yourself, say "Thank You", stay positive, and ask for the sale. These are the basics, and will serve you well. Salesmanship is a skill, and like any other some people are more naturally inclined to it; but regardless of natural ability, practice and hard work will see that you improve. Being an artist means selling art, so take the time to educate yourself and practice the art of sales.
Sam has been a freelance Illustrator since 2009. Working for both book covers and hobby games, Sam’s preferred medium is oil paint. In addition to his art Sam also does between 15 and 25 conventions every year. This has become a major part of his business and provides both a platform to meet fans and collectors, but also a great opportunity to peruse the art that Sam loves to make, which currently includes Sam's deep love for Norse Mythology.
Sam is putting on a four day workshop that focuses on the business of art and sales. The faculty includes Justin Gerard, Annie Stegg Gerard, Sean Andrew Murray, Peter Mohrbacher, and Kelly McKernan. It will be held in Nashville, TN, November 5th-8th, 2015.
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