by Carolyn Edlund
A few months back, I talked to a very well-known artist who had made a fortune licensing her popular paintings several years ago. She still has licensing contracts – but her income was down 20% over last year, customers were hesitant, and she was starting to get stressed. She asked, “Am I doing something wrong?”
Later, I spoke with another artist I know, who had built a profitable business licensing images to greeting card companies. His largest account was currently renegotiating his contract – with a lower percentage for him. He wondered, “Is this happening across the board?”
A connection on LinkedIn messaged me, insisting that I address the problem that certain cities are art-friendly and others have dried up, with virtually no potential for sales of original work. She was casting around for the answer to this dilemma.
Then, an article appeared on Fine Art America regarding Print on Demand royalties diminishing to around 5% for artists … Not good news for anyone trying to make income through that avenue.
Is the world coming to an end? Well, it can seem that way sometimes. The truth is that no matter what industry you are in, change happens – and you can’t stop it. You have to deal with it.
I experienced changes in sales volume while I owned my production studio, and also during my career in art publishing sales. At times, reliable sales sources faded away. Major accounts went belly up. Trends changed, making top sellers not-so-popular anymore. It was impossible to get too comfortable making money through one channel or relying on your current customer base. It was easy to start feeling that panic.
When you expect change, and prepare to embrace it, you won’t feel helpless and panicked. Everything comes to an end at some point, but you do have options. Keep yours open by using these strategies:
Diversify your income. Create and maintain several different forms of income with your art. It often happens that when one stream slows down, you can transfer your energies to building up another. The riskiest scenario is working for only customer, who then drops you. Don’t let that happen.
Stay informed on new ways to earn. As markets evolve, some fade away and others come into play. Online sales are growing by leaps and bounds. Are you taking advantage? New trends arise. Understand where you fit into the market now, and how you can take advantage of the newest opportunities. You may even end up reinventing your entire business.
Find new markets. Are you catering to a niche market? What other niches would be a good match? Sometimes new niches are found by accident, others by design. Each vertical market you add grows your potential for sales.
Broaden your network. One of your key ongoing strategies should be building your network. This includes making connections with other artists, your clients, arts professionals, prospective customers, and people who serve the same market you sell to. Your connections can drive referral business to you, help provide resources, share your work through social media, and even collaborate with you on projects. It’s often who you know, not what you know that provides the best opportunities of all, and can make a huge difference in your art sales.
Have you experienced changes in the market for your artwork? How are you overcoming this challenge?