Are You Ready for Prime Time?

By  Carolyn Edlund

A checklist to make sure you are ready to promote and sell your art as a creative professional.


Courtesy Olga Gouskova

Take stock of your portfolio, your line, your sales, and be honest – are you presenting totally professional work to the marketplace? Or are you not quite ready for prime time? If not, it’s better to be realistic and make plans to improve what you are offering for sale rather than complaining or stressing because your work is not selling.

Here’s a quick checklist for evaluating your presentation:

  1. Do you have a signature style of work that makes you stand out from others?
  2. Is your portfolio large enough to present, and do the elements work together?
  3. Is your portfolio enhanced by presenting it as a whole collection? Would it work seamlessly in a gallery show, or as a handmade product line in a retail store?
  4. Are the quality of the materials and the framing or the finishing of the item impeccable? Is the back as finished and professionally treated as the front?
  5. Do you work with an accomplished level of skill, or do you need a bit more polishing?
  6. Do you have accompanying marketing materials, such as postcards, sell sheets, brochures, etc. which look professional and are well-written and branded?
  7. Is your website a reflection of all this?

If it’s hard for you to gauge these answers, take a look at the work of another artist or craftsperson you really admire, and who has been selling well in the marketplace for a number of years. You will easily see the maturity in their presentation, the visual or tactile quality, and why it’s appealing and selling to collectors and/or the public.

If you have the opportunity to attend a trade show, even if it’s not strictly handmade, observe closely and make note of the elements that you see running through the displays of others who are experienced and successful. This type of research will educate you on how to present your own work for maximum impact. Notice how the display itself enhances the art or the craft product. Think of ways you can use presentation to make your work stand out as well.

If you’re not really ready for prime time, that’s OK too. We are all in a process of learning and improving throughout our careers. Plan what you can do to really hone your craft and sharpen your skills. Trying something new even if it doesn’t work, and just practicing in your studio are worthwhile. We learn more from our mistakes than our successes.

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  1. Can the answer be BOTH yes and no, or half & half? Haha…
    I’m almost there in so many ways, I’ve developed a body of work, but my style is constantly evolving….
    but I’m not willing to wait to acquire X years more skill to JUMP IN and take the bull by the horns. Really want to break out of present full-time non-creative job, it feels like death by slow torture & I have so much less time to paint….
    Life won’t wait for me, I’m going after it! But I have done tons of research & have gotten a lot of those things you mentioned in place.
    I’m always looking to see what else I can do, I think that is a big point of yours.

    • Tiffany, I think persistence is key to succeeding. Put yourself and your artwork out there – apply to exhibitions, art shows, and seek other opportunities. Develop your website and present a professional appearance. You will start to get traction. Then – follow up on everything.

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