Find and Focus on Your Art Market

by Carolyn Edlund

Are you going in too many directions with your art business? You’ll achieve better results by getting organized and focus on appropriate markets.


Find and Focus on Your Art Market. Read about it at


I speak with a lot of artists individually, and often ask them about the vision they have for their small business. It’s not uncommon to hear artists explain that they want to pursue selling their work in several different ways. They might say, for example, that they want to sell through galleries, license some images for products, get involved in the corporate market and sell online. Sounds ambitious and exciting, doesn’t it?

While it’s true that most artists who make a living selling their work have more than one stream of income, entering different markets at the same time can be confusing or even disastrous. Some markets are B2C (business to consumer), like exhibiting at art festivals, or selling to the public through your website. Others are B2B (business to business) like licensing to manufacturers or art publishers, wholesaling, or working with interior designers. A commitment to go deeply in one direction is needed to truly understand and master the strategies needed to enter a particular market.

Prospective customers in each market have different needs, and the sales cycle will be unique to each one. To be successful, you must do the research, understand the customers, prepare your portfolio the way that it needs to be seen by that audience, and be ready to work long-term to reach your goals.

Dabbling in several different markets at the same time is likely to end in failure. You cannot go in too many directions at once and still put the required time and effort in to become known in that field, gain traction, develop customers and grow sales. If several options are attractive, learn which are the best fit for your art. Art licensing, for instance, is not right for most artists. Or, you may find that the corporate art market is not a good match for what you make.

Where does your work belong?

Finding out where your work fits is the first step in choosing a market and direction that makes sense. Ask for a critique and recommendations from members of your art community, a mentor or an expert in a field you are interested in pursuing. Seek important feedback that encourages you to get involved – or possibly to reconsider. Research, and learn how business is done in your chosen market. Find out who the decision makers are. Come to understand what it takes to enter a particular market. Put together a portfolio that is directed toward the market of your choice.

Many times artists start out by selling retail, and often that is a wise decision. The barrier to selling art to the public is low. That makes it relatively easy to get in front of people face-to-face, and will help you understand who they are, what they value, and why they love (or don’t love) your art. Listen to their opinions, suggestions and objections. Are you making a connection with the audience, and are they interested in making a purchase? Then take what you learn and use it to improve your work, presentation or marketing.

As you research new potential markets for your art and identify the best options, pursue them one at a time. But first, slow down. Avoid confusion and wasted time by putting too many things on your plate. . It can water down your efforts, cause confusion and ultimately become so frustrating that you give up. Focus on your choice, get organized, and be persistent.  Then, you will be far more likely to get traction and succeed in the art market of your choice.


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  1. We are looking for art experts to comment on this art. Is there a list of reviewers? how does one ask or get some feedback? We have great outgoing SEO and nil incoming.


    Ken Gidge – wife Lee guerette
    [email protected]

    [email protected]

    • Ken, If you are looking for feedback and guidance, you have some options. If you are involved in an art community and attend meetings in your area, ask for input from other artists in attendance, or the group leader about your work. If you feel that you belong in a particular market (art licensing, for example) read blogs and articles about the topic to ascertain whether your art is a fit (here’s a great article about the type of art that can be licensed and look for mentors in that niche. Attend events such as trade shows and art fairs to see the type of work that is shown, and read trade magazines to see trends, and what is appropriate for those markets.

      As a business consultant for artists, I frequently work individually with artists to determine their market and create strategies to move forward. You can learn more about that here

  2. Carolyn, you are so right on with this article…and it’s a timely one for me. As a pastel artist with a house portrait focus, I’ve been narrowing my target audience of both consumers and other professionals to work with. When I try to stretch myself to target every group that might have an interest in my work, it winds up being an exercise in futility and becomes overwhelming. Thank you for this helpful reminder to stay the path and have patience in the process!

    • Thanks, Lisa. Being familiar with your work, I agree that you need very targeted strategies to reach exactly those people who would be perfect customers for you. Having a niche is powerful, and that gives you an advantage. It’s challenging to be in business as an artist (as you know!) but keeping that focus gives you direction and a plan to move forward.

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