25 Ways Artists & Craftspeople Can Market Their Work

 

By Carolyn Edlund

You’ve put in tons of studio time, developed a signature style, created a body of work and are serious about selling your art or crafts and building your business. Even if you’re an experienced pro,  are you doing everything you can to market yourself and create opportunities for sales every day?

Here are 25 ways to spread the word, spur interest in yourself and your work, and grow a base of dedicated customers:

  1. Diversify your efforts. If you are currently working in one medium, how many other ways can your images be sold – as t-shirts, mugs, mouse pads, notecards, etc. Use online resources such as Café Press and Zazzle to sell your creations in multiple formats. Many well-known artists do this.
  2. Sell Retail – and Wholesale. Are you currently selling only to the public? You may be giving up a huge market – wholesale buyers. Crunch the numbers and see if you can sell your products to the wholesale market. This involves making items in mass-production (such as prints, pottery, etc.) not strictly originals.
  3. Sell your Work through Online Outlets. Etsy, Red Bubble, DeviantArt, ArtyBuzz and other sites let you upload images and sell through their venue. Take advantage of these popular websites not only to sell but to create recognition and publicity.
  4. Show Your Work in Alternative Spaces. In this economy, there are empty storefronts, window space on busy streets and other non-traditional places to show and sell your work. Pop-up galleries have become a trend, and can be placed in homes for sale, restaurants, and available real estate for next to nothing.
  5. License Your Work.  Many artists license their designs to manufacturers and get paid well for their work, giving them a steady stream of income. Use this as a primary or secondary way of creating income.
  6. Apply to Exhibitions. Keep sending in applications to shows which suit your work.  Show up personally to shows you get into at local galleries to speak with visitors. This will help lead to sales and commissions.
  7. Write About Yourself.  Write an article about yourself and your work, or have an article written about you. Does your work involve anything unusual or complex? Explain your techniques, using lots of photos. Post your article on ezines, on your blog, or use them in press releases.
  8. Regularly Send out Press Releases – Any time you have news, whether it is a show you are participating, a new body of work you have created, or if you just want to publicize your work, you can send out press releases, by email and on paper. Send them to trade publications, local newspapers, large newspapers, blogs, and news organizations. Photos of yourself and your work are essential. Most importantly, tell your story. The press is always looking for interesting stories for their readers. And face it, you’re interesting!
  9. Cultivate Referrals. Word-of-mouth referrals are like gold – you want to encourage them whenever possible. So, how to get referrals? Ask for them! When you send out an email newsletter to your existing customer list, ask them to refer any friends who may be interested in your work. You may want to offer a discount or a gift card for these referrals. And be sure to thank anyone who gives you one!
  10. Respond to Requests from the Press. The flip side of press releases is to respond to reporters looking for interviews, such as HARO.  Also consider writing articles for publication on popular sites such as Fine Art Views who solicit them. Drive readers to your website by providing a link – and then when they get there . . .
  11. Make Your Website into an E-commerce Site.  You spent a lot of time and money on your website. So, where’s the shopping cart? Getting online visitors is challenging enough, but when they do visit and can’t make a purchase, you lose the sale. Check out this great article by Ann Rea on the subject.
  12. Exhibit at Trade Shows.  It can be expensive to do a trade show, so make sure you have done your homework first and target the right ones. Participating in a trade show gets your work in front of many buyers, and can be extremely profitable.
  13. Sell at Home Shows. Do you have clients or patrons who would be willing to open their home and invite their friends to come and see your work? Partner up with other artists if you wish and create a great experience by setting up displays in a home and selling to a private audience.  Give the hostess some free work or other gift to thank them. This is a proven method I’ve used personally to make thousands of dollars in sales.
  14. Do a Trunk show for a Retail Store. Boutiques, galleries and department stores have a “meet the designer” event and you show up, bringing new work with you that isn’t available in the store’s inventory. You split the sales with the store, and it’s a win/win. The store owner should provide their customer list for a promotional postcard mailing, and you can advertise in the local paper and online.
  15. Hire Sales Reps. This is a powerful way to multiply your presence and exposure to wholesale buyers. Working with reps (if you have a mass-produced production line of products) can add a huge dimension to your marketing and your sales.
  16. Cultivate Buyers in Your Niche. Get involved with people who enjoy and support your chosen niche. Is your work animal-related? Attend SPCA and charity events for animal rescue. Do you create nautical art?  Participate in waterfront, sailing events and clean water causes. Donate some work to help raise money and awareness. Get to know the people who run events, and participate in groups for your cause. Subscribe to publications and websites which support your niche, which of course you will be sending press releases to!
  17. Advertise. This may be in a newspaper, magazine, on related websites or even Google adsense ads. Use compelling images of your work. If necessary, get professional help from freelance writers or marketing consultants.
  18. Volunteer.  Help out at a local art event or sale. Get to know the people who support the arts and enjoy participating. They can often introduce you to many others in that community who can help spread the word about you. Plus, you get the satisfaction of being a volunteer and helping others.
  19. Participate at a Decorator Show House Event.  Many areas around the country have seasonal Decorator shows where a large house is transformed by many interior designers and they are well-attended. Vendors at these homes usually get exposed to a crowd of affluent buyers and can make lots of money in sales.
  20. List your Business in Directories.  Is your studio listed in YellowPages.com? It’s free. Add your listing to Google search, and other business directories to get the attention of local buyers. List your website address in online directories of artists and craftspeople, providing a way for potential customers to find you.
  21. Print Postcards of Your Work. Choose several professionally-taken photos of your work, and have a selection of postcards printed. Use these in mailings to your customer list, to hand out at shows, or as leave-behinds for business contacts.
  22. Seek out Corporate Markets.  Is your artwork appropriate for hanging in hotels, offices and other business environments? Submit your portfolio to corporate art advisers, or get in touch with buyers for hotel chains and make a presentation of your work for consideration. Sometimes framers work with these clients and you may be able to make a strategic partnership with a framer to help promote your work.
  23. Open Your Studio.  Does your city or community offer any “open studio” events where artists invite the public to see their work space and purchase their art? Participate in these, or have your own open studio by choosing dates, sending postcards, advertising and sending out press releases well in advance. This can coincide with the Christmas holidays, when certain towns invite the public to view homes decorated for a “holiday tour”. Open your studio and let your guests view your work for possible gift ideas.
  24. Get involved with Public Art. A relatively new phenomenon, public art allows artists to get exposure they ordinarily would not receive.  Find out more by visiting this website and see if you have an idea or project which could be turned into a public art event!
  25. Constantly Seek Opportunities. There are many publications out there listing opportunities for artists and craftspeople to sell work. From trade magazines to website directories to craigslist, you can find shows, exhibitions, projects and venues to publicize yourself and your work. Subscribe – whether in paper or online, and plan to read them regularly. Don’t miss out on ways to build your business and grow your customer base!

Author Carolyn Edlund is the founder of Artsy Shark and a business consultant for artists. Find out more here. 



Comments

  1. This is a great article. Thank you for all the information!

  2. You can also submit samples of your work to any number of handmade samplers — these samplers are then sold to customers who LOVE handmade and WANT to support handmade businesses. The two longest-running handmade samplers on the market are The Little Black Box and Out of the Box Sampler. Others to check out include The Spotted Box, Divalicious, Sampler Village, The Sassy Sampler, and Tantalizing Sampler.

    • Milly, that’s an excellent suggestion! I was not aware of this, thanks so much for contributing. I was able to find those sites by Googling them.

  3. thanks for sharing that information with us. I have gone in and bookmarked each of them and will now go in and read and see if it is something that will help me in my new little business.

    I make quilted handmade baby bags, quilted handbags, quilted totes, apron, bibs, and a few other items. I would love to get my items out there for more people to see.

    I do have two etsy shops and a facebook fan page. Facebook as been my best source for showing my items.

  4. Debbie, Thanks for your comments – I’ve seen artists who made really fabulous Facebook pages and are getting tons of traffic. Best of luck in your new business!

  5. Wow, thanks so much for all the fabulous ideas. What a great resource. I’ll be linking to this.

  6. Cor, this is the most scrumptious blog post I’ve read in a while! Thank you for compiling such a thoughtful list of tips – I look forward to connecting with you on Total Art Soul 🙂

  7. Just wanted to post a quick response/update…

    So glad folks are finding my post helpful! Forgot to mention that I am the owner of The Little Black Boxes and have also purchased from Out of the Box and The Spotted Box several times.

    Also, wanted to mention that apparently Tantalizing Sampler is NOT specific to handmade businesses, as they allow Scentsy samples in their Boxes. Nothing against Scentsy or Tantalizing Sampler, but folks need to be aware that these samplers are not limited to handmade businesses only. PLEASE do your research before committing to participate with ANY of these samplers.

    And if I can be of any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me — [email protected]

  8. Thanks for the great information. Printing it out now to start the New Year’s right! Happy New Years.

  9. Thanks, Sally. I wish you lots of success in 2011~

  10. Great list; I got a few more ideas. Thanks!

  11. I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information :,`

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