As an artist, it can be hard to figure out the necessary steps to market yourself effectively. This is especially true if you’re just starting out on your own; as they say, you don’t know what you don’t know when it comes to this new area. Your focus is on making your work, not selling your work and presenting yourself to gallery owners and potential clients.
When an opportunity comes up to show your work or apply for a residency, does your heart sink because you don’t have anything you need ready to go? Here’s a starter list of marketing items to get ready now so you’re ready to rock and roll next time, and every time after that. Seriously, do it now.
Business Name and Collateral Materials
Obviously, if you’re starting a business, you need a name! Many folks choose to use their name or their name plus whatever medium they work in - “pottery,” “art,” “fiber,” and so on. It’s a simple way to gain name recognition. If you’re feeling extra creative - showing off there, you creative soul, you - don’t follow any of this advice and pick a totally different name. It’s your business, name it what you want. Just make sure you have one (and it’s registered and legal and such).
Once you’ve got that step down, you need collateral materials. At the bare minimum, you must have a way for people to contact you. If only someone made little cards that you could tuck into your wallet and leave behind with every business owner, gallery curator, and art enthusiast/collector.
Really though, printing up business cards seems like it is an extravagant step (“Can’t the receptionist just leave my number on a Post-It for their boss?”) but it will help you stand out: you give a shit about your image. As a bonus, business cards add another dimension of who you are as an artist. You can print a different piece on the back of each card, custom-paint the edges yourself, and generally make them little extensions of your work.
Website and Graphic Elements
Once you’ve picked your name and settled on a look for your marketing materials, next comes the website and design work. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be clean and easy to navigate. There are also a few non-negotiable things that every website must have: high-quality images, information about you and your art, and a way to contact you.
While we’re talking about graphic elements here, let’s pause and take a minute to appreciate why you need high-quality images of your work, ideally shot by a professional. In that post, we mentioned that when a pro photographs your work, you’re able to 1) show your work in the best light, 2) free up time to do other things you actually want to do, and 3) have a consistent, dependable record of your art.
Using these images on your website highlights your work in the best way possible and makes a great web-based first impression because of your professionalism and attention to detail (the gallery owner sees that and thinks, “That obviously carries over into his work as an artist. I want to work with this person who has their shit together!”)
Another graphic detail that you want to consider is your logo. This will be used on your marketing collateral (which may or may not be just business cards), your website, social media profiles, and most any other items with your business name on it. Like your website, your logo doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does give you a chance to set the tone and be consistent with typefaces and colors.
Bio and Artist Statements
As mentioned in the non-negotiable section of website must-haves, information about yourself is imperative. This comes in the form of bios and artist statements.
Your bio should include information about who you are and what motivates you to create the pieces in your collection. There should be at least two versions of your bio: a long and a short. If you’re feeling particularly crazy, take a minute to think of your 70-word “elevator pitch” while you’re at it. Pro tip: practice saying it out loud so you feel natural and are able to recall it on-demand; it’ll make you sound more confident when you’re introducing yourself because you won’t be fumbling for words.
An artist statement is also indispensable. This element enriches the experience of your work in your audience’s eyes. While it may seem similar to your bio, it is a separate component and deserves consideration. Here is what we recommend you consider when writing your artist statement. Just like your bio, you should have a long and a short version.
Now that you have all the pieces to help you successfully get started with your marketing, it’s time to sell! Keep a list of available inventory with the completion date, what it’s made of, and where it’s located. Also be sure to record what you sold, the sale date, price, and buyer.
While marketing yourself as an artist can seem like an overwhelming beast, it’s easy to tackle when you break it into pieces. Preparing these basics now will take a lot of pressure and unnecessary stress off you when it comes time to whip out your artist statement and photographs of your artwork.
Because we feel this is such an important conversation, we’ve created a handy chart for easy reference with all of these steps. We even outlined the essential parts of each section so you won’t forget what should go on your business card or inventory log.
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