Jeff was a budding artist when he was rejected by a several galleries in New York. Although it was disheartening, Jeff didn’t allow himself to get discouraged, instead he searched for other avenues by which to turn his passion into money. After speaking to other artists and researching the ‘Art Market’, Jeff decided art shows were the way to go. It was primarily the success stories that reeled him in. He’d read of amateur artists walking away with as much as $30,000 a show. After months of preparation, Jeff was finally in his own booth - watching prospect after prospect walk straight past him without even glancing at any of his work! His neighbors seemed to be raking in the cash, and although he was no critic himself, as the day went on, he found plenty wrong with their work. Wondering what – on earth – could have made his pieces invisible to the hundreds of shoppers that day; he humbly asked the opinions of the artists nearby. But his aggravation swelled when he only got positive feedback from his peers. So, what went wrong? Why didn’t Jeff, a talented artist selling pieces comparable to those artists around him, end up selling nothing?
Without seeing Jeff in his booth, one may wonder, “What is missing from this picture?” However, if you had happened to attend the art show, you’d have likely walked past his booth, as well. The importance of a good presentation is a no-brainer, isn’t it? Well, unfortunately, even the best of the best often miss that memo. Jeff was no exception. So let’s consider some of the things Jeff was missing from his presentation. First off, Jeff’s personal presentation left a lot to be desired. His khakis and button front shirt would have been fine, if not for the fact that they were full of wrinkles. And his long hair is definitely not uncommon for artists, but a comb would have done him wonders. His eyes never met those of his passersby, but that was for the best. Although he didn’t realize it, his self doubt and frustration was plastered all over his face; not very inviting.
I don’t think it’s vital to break down the problem with the way Jeff portrayed himself to prospective buyers, The moral of the story is that people will always judge a book by its cover. You must first sell yourself. Present yourself in a neat manner, force yourself to wear a genuine 10 hour smile, and meet your customers as they approach or pass. Whether you are successful or not, you must portray that you are. Working hand in hand with your personal presentation is your display. The pieces in your booth normally won’t do all the work, so once you have opened up a line of communication with your customer; introduce him or her to your work.
This is where the focus then moves from you, to your display. The plan is to get the buyer to look at your entire collection so pick the most dynamic or dramatic to entice them with. Tiny details will mean nothing to a buyer who may be standing 30 feet away, so make sure to display artwork that is bold and colorful. Of course these pieces should be matted and framed carefully. It is important that your presentation looks professional, and this can be done relatively inexpensively by keeping frames simple and uniform. And remember, you are framing your art, not the other way around, so choose frames that don’t distract from your pieces. Also, don’t overcrowd your booth by hanging too many pieces. Six paintings may seem sparse but remember this is an art display, not a rack in a department store. Too many pieces hanging in one booth will overwhelm the buyer making it hard for them to decide what they like, and leave less of an impact.
Now that we know what we can do to generate a connection between those shopping and those of us selling, let’s look at what we can do to generate sales.
Well, first of all - Get yourself out there! Interaction with potential buyers can literally create additional value to your artwork. People love to hear the story behind a piece they may be interested in. And often pieces that aren’t noticed very much become invaluable when all of the sudden they hold deep meaning. Explain what makes your art work unique; why literally there’s nowhere else they will be able to find a piece like this ever again. Once your patron takes you seriously and is ‘sold’ on your talent as an artist and self-confidence, your work will begin to sell itself.
But sometimes, you may want to enhance an already dependable sales-strategy. There are a couple of ways to do this. Run a show special and use signage to promote the details. It’s important to give an added incentive to purchase something from you that day. Take one of your lower end products and create an easy way for people to purchase more of them – buy 2, get 1 free for example. Another popular way to generate business is to invite people to sign up for a free drawing to win a piece of your artwork. This allows you to capture their name and email for future marketing purposes. Moreover, do some consumer research prior to your show. Visit other art shows to get ideas. Visit the show as a buyer instead of an artist. What draws you to specific booths and turns you off from others?
So now that you’ve generated traffic to your booth and people are waving their wallets you can say you’ve had a successful show, right? Wrong. The final step is a bit more complicated than some think. Setting a price for your work is relatively easy, but convincing the buyer to pay that price is a bit more difficult unless you have consistent standard for pricing, with a sound method of relaying that system to your customer. So let’s look at some of the different standards you can use to determine the worth of your art.
For established artists or emerging artists with a consistent sales streak, the best way to price your work is based on past sales. Providing documentation that you've been selling comparable (similar medium, size, or subject matter) work consistently for the amount you're currently asking is not only a good way to justify your price, but it also builds instant credibility. This is how the galleries base their prices and the sooner you can get to using this model, the less you'll have to worry about justifying your prices in the future. Another way to determine price for your artwork is to compare to similar pieces on the market. Look at what other artists are charging in the same geographical area, using the same medium, are selling via similar venues, or are focusing on similar subject matters.
If you are just starting out, however, you may opt for basing your prices on your time, labor, and materials. The price your charge should be enough to cover the cost of all materials as well as whatever hourly wage you decide to pay yourself. For example, if the materials for a specific piece cost you $25 and you worked on it for 6 hours, at $20 an hour, the total cost of production would be $145.
Still unsure about how to price your work? Or maybe you’ve hit a slow streak. If you are bold enough, consider asking those interested in your art how much they would pay for it. This will also serve to give you a clear idea of how your prices compare with others.