Is Your Art Business Ready for New Opportunities?

by Carolyn Edlund

As markets evolve and change, artist entrepreneurs must be flexible and open to new methods of earning.


Kathleen Hall changed from being an event photographer to selling fine art photography. Read about evolving markets at

Kathleen Hall changed from being an event photographer to selling fine art photography.


A jewelry artist received an invitation to sell her work backstage during a popular music star’s nationwide tour. Displaying her designs and selling to staff and friends of the band, she consequently made thousands of dollars in sales by traveling to a series of concert venues. But then, the tour ended. She was able to take full advantage of an opportunity while it lasted and earned a considerable profit, but it was temporary.

Not all sales opportunities are as fleeting as hers, but markets are constantly changing, with some growing and others in decline. In our high tech age, these changes are happening faster and faster, and it can be hard to keep up. Artists and other entrepreneurs must change along with them, searching for new and innovative ways to earn and thrive. The average artist needs more than one income stream to keep their business afloat, which means they must be selective, and make strategically sound decisions.

You may have noticed some of these changes in  your own business over time:

Third party websites can be great places to sell, or not. They have a lot of traffic, yes – but there is also a lot of competition. And as the owners of those sites make decisions and take new directions, it may not serve you. Sellers on Etsy, for example, often found that when manufactured goods were allowed on the site, they saw their sales plunge, and fled to sell elsewhere. It wasn’t the same marketplace they had come to know and love. It was time to move on.

Social media has also given many artists a headache, becoming less effective over time. Have you noticed that your “reach” has decreased? Have your social media related sales fallen? As algorithms change, your Facebook business page and Instagram profile reach fewer and fewer followers, as the owners of those platforms squeeze you for advertising money. Twisting yourself into a pretzel to try to accommodate new rules is annoying –  and often, it still doesn’t work.

So with all of these negative changes and market uncertainties, what can an artist do to survive and thrive?

Find out what works – and go there. Do you know where you are making the most money, and what activities are driving the highest level of sales and creating the greatest profit? If you’re not sure, start tracking and measuring results. Take a hard look at where your most profitable venues are, and build on that success. It could transform your small business.

Focus on repeat and referral sales. Who are your best prospective customers? The ones who have already bought from you! It’s much easier to sell to existing customers than new customers. Are you in touch with your collectors on a regular basis, connecting in an authentic way and sharing your newest work? Are you inviting them to events, offering special previews or discounts, and making them feel like VIPs? Consider how you can honor your best customers, and turn them into avid collectors. It’s a lot less difficult (and a lot more fun) than selling to a cold customer every time.

Likewise, you should ask those existing fans for referrals to others who might love your work and become your newest collectors. Here are a few ideas on making that happen.

Use multiple marketing methods together. Marketing and selling art isn’t a singular activity. Artists who want to increase online sales, for example, would do well to get out in public and meet potential collectors face-to-face as well. Your art website is a place to present your portfolio and build credibility and authority. Use it as an ancillary tool to repeatedly get your work in front of interested prospects who haven’t yet committed to buy. Think of your website as a follow up tool in the sales cycle, as well as an online place to introduce the public to your portfolio.

Build your network. People buy from people. One of the best business strategies I know is to build a network of people who know and love what you do, and who will work with you for mutual benefit. Start with arts organizations in your local area. Grow your network online, on social media, in forums and business groups. Meet people in person at your next show, exhibition or sale. Many times you will get your best ideas from other people, and like the jewelry designer who got the invitation to go “on tour” you will also receive opportunities.

Enter new markets. As whole industries rise and fall in our transitional age, artists must be alert. If a business model isn’t producing, what other viable options are there? Make it a priority to stay on top of business strategies that artists can use to build their small businesses.

Photographer Kathleen Hall (shown above) made a major change in her own business. Originally an event photographer (“I’ve probably photographed a thousand weddings,” she says) she realized that her floral fine art work had an audience, and took the plunge to retail her art through fairs and festivals. Not only did she move to greener pastures, but was able to fulfill a passion she has for creativity and self-expression. Open to new opportunities and successes, she is proactively growing her business.



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  1. Carolyn, this is an excellent comprehensive article, as always. As you very clearly emphasize it’s imperative that artists be aware of changing markets and adjust their plans accordingly. The advice you give helps artists become proactive, not reactive. I’ll be sharing this!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Renee. I often find that artists who have experienced a loss of business using one model can feel a bit “stuck” and unclear on how to move on. Understanding the options isn’t something most people have at their fingertips. It takes some research!

  2. Thank you for this useful article. It means a lot to me. I share this post now!

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