How an Artist Created a Full-Time Business

by Carolyn Edlund

Artist Nettie Price moved from selling only original paintings into a full-time thriving business, using strategies to appeal to different markets with different formats. Here’s how she did it.

 

Nettie Price Collection

Selection of products from Nettie Price’s collection.

 

Recently, I visited a gift shop and saw several displays selling products that featured the work of artist Nettie Price, an artist I knew and had been following for a while. I was very impressed with the smart ways that she had developed different product lines,and had ramped up her business by selling in the wholesale marketplace. I asked Nettie to share her journey with us, and her results.

AS:  How many ways are you earning income with your art?

NP:  I earn income from my artwork in multiple ways. Having more than one income stream insures a steady revenue flow since many are seasonal and cyclical. Income from retail sales are usually from gift markets, fine art shows & craft festivals.  I also sell retail at benefits, fundraisers and online at my website. Wholesale income is usually generated at trade shows, through referrals and by sales representatives.

 

Nettie Price

Artist Nettie Price developed a sustainable full-time art business.

 

AS:  Why did you decide to start wholesaling? 

NP:  I decided to start wholesaling early on in my business. I was at an art show in my hometown and a local store asked me if I would sell on consignment. After testing the waters in a couple consignment stores, I started selling directly. Selling wholesale enabled me to expand the breadth of my business and brand recognition, connecting with customers I would have never have had the opportunity to reach.

AS:  How did you choose the formats that you were going to sell?

NP:  I love creating artwork, however, selling originals I learned early on was the limiting factor if that is all I sold. I wanted to create an affordable product that could be reproduced by me in my studio but not necessarily by my hands. I first sold signed sparkling matted prints. A friend told me I needed a loss leader, something inexpensive that would draw people in and had mass appeal, sparkling mini magnets.

 

The "Sparkling Art" Collection

The “Sparkling Art” Collection

 

A year or so later, I started the card line and was immediately approached by a sales rep group. Cards are a great way of getting your work and brand out there. I see them as selling little business cards that direct consumers to my website where they can purchase a higher priced item at retail.

Canvas prints were another good move because it gave my display some substance and eye appeal. When displaying artwork, it helps to have a big item that will sell the smaller ones. The latest addition to my product line is a desktop calendar. These have proven to be a good seller both practical and consumable.

AS:  You moved your business from an inefficient model into a more efficient one. How did this happen?  

NP:  Moving my business from an inefficient model into a more efficient one was accomplished through systems. Creating a set procedure to handle every aspect of the business from creation, to production, product fulfillment and finally follow up was thought out and solidified as my business grew.

I created a business map, set procedures and put systems in place to provide structure which allowed me to flourish in an organized and manageable way. Sometimes, however, as the business grows, I find the need to take time to reevaluate those systems and adjust to accommodate my changing business needs.

 

Nettie Price's trade show booth at the Atlanta Gift Show.

Nettie Price’s trade show booth at the Atlanta Gift Show.

 

AS:  Are you considering bringing any new product categories into your offering?

NP:  I am considering new product categories for 2015 including a jewelry line and candle line. In addition, I am always open to licensing my designs for home decor, accessory or table top manufacturing.

AS:  How did you put business systems into place to get started?

NP:  The most important business systems I put into place to get started was billing software such as Quickbooks and creating an attractive website. The billing/inventory software is essential and in my opinion, mandatory if you would like to sell wholesale. Keeping track of invoices and payments can be a real nightmare if some type of system is not in place. Having an attractive ecommerce website is equally as important to reap the benefits of the high margin profits of selling directly to consumers.

Nettie Price logo

AS:  What advice would you have for other artists who are interested in growing their businesses?

NP:  Firstly, I am humbled that you ask for my advice since I am learning daily. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more I need to learn. Some advice that I can offer for other artists who are interested in growing their business is don’t be afraid. Know in your heart that you can do it and then do it. Make a commitment to yourself that every day you will pay attention to learning, growing and sharing. There is plenty out there for everyone, including you.

Wholesaling can be a daunting business and overwhelming at times, however, remember you are the one in control. Sometimes bigger is not necessarily better, it is all about how comfortable you feel at the moment.

 

Follow Nettie Price’s Sparkling Art on Facebook here.

 

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Comments

  1. This was very informative AND helpful. I work with my husband, Franklin, within his (our) art business. He’s the artist and I’m the everything else…lol…so I am CONSTANTLY looking for tips and “insider” information om how to get his art out there, which is a question I believe most emerging artist asks. Thanks for providing this info. 5 stars 🙂

    • Thanks, Diana – wholesaling is a sustainable model that not only creates business relationships and repeat orders, but the beauty of it is that the work is sold before it is created. A very efficient, solid way to earn or augment your income as an artist.

      • Thank you Diana, I appreciate your response. Its not easy getting an art business up and rolling. The “everything else” person is so important and is the glue that holds it all together!

  2. Great advice! Wonderful Article… I like the bigger is not always better! 🙂

    Thanks for Sharing! 🙂
    Jen Callahan

  3. Thank you for this article. This or something like it is my next big addition to my art business.

  4. Hi Chris, thank you for your comment:) Making these additions doesn’t have to be big at all. I started my first year with 25 magnets and 26 calendars and grew from there.

  5. Hi Nettie,

    Thank you very much for the great article. You are very inspiring!

  6. Hi Nettie,
    Thanks for your article..great timing for me.I have been on Etsy with no success. I once sold jewelry using reps and did really well .Easy to find in the 90’s went to a trade show …but today not sure how to find reps.Any ideas for me..anything will be welcomed.Thanks

    • Hi Denise, I was approached by reps at trade shows. They wanted my products that were small, affordable and packaged well. Much different then selling large pieces of artwork at a fine art show. Our economy is far from the 90’s and in my opinion, artists sometimes have issues matching their offerings to the marketplace and what consumers are able to buy.

  7. Great article; informative and inspiring. Thank You for sharing. I’ve been thinking about seriously selling my artwork – but didn’t know how to begin. Your article shows me the importance of having a plan, the tools needed to get started, and the possibility of growth. That’s encouraging! I can also see that underlying all these activities and movement is the strong discipline of staying the course – having a plan and following it diligently. Appreciate this information. 🙂

  8. Wonderful article! I am thinking of also branching out with my art..but didn’t know how…this gives me some ideas! Thank you so much!..:)

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