From a Reader – Creating Art Sales by Promoting your Work to Your Network of Acquaintances

I’ve often written that selling artwork is all about building relationships with potential buyers. There’s another side to this however, in that people with whom you already have a relationship can be a great pool of potential buyers. Friends, family and business colleagues  can all become collectors, as can the people you interact with in a less personal way, such as members of community groups where you volunteer, and everyone else you meet.

Some of you worry that you will overstep some unspoken boundary by promoting your art to acquaintances, friends or family. This could be true if you were pushy or overly-forceful in your promotion or sales efforts. I would suggest, however, that being pushy and forceful  when you interact with strangers who are interested in your work would be just as negative. In other words,  if you treat those you already know with the same respect you treat your other buyers, there’s no reason to believe you will be seen as abusing your existing relationship when you invite those you know to see your work.

I would argue that it makes no sense to discriminate against your acquaintances by depriving them of the opportunity to view, enjoy and collect your work just because they know you.

Another reason many artists don’t invite friends, family and other acquaintances to art events is because they mistakenly think the people in their circle of influence aren’t interested in art or may not be able to afford to buy. The beautiful thing about an invitation is that only those who are interested will accept! You may also be surprise who can afford to buy art (and besides, it doesn’t cost anything for your friends to enjoy your art, even if they can’t afford to buy at the moment!)

People in your life are likely to enjoy your work even more than strangers. Knowing you adds an extra dimension of appreciation for what you are doing. Your friends will love getting to see the creative side of your life.

An Example

I recently received the following email from an artist and RedDotBlog reader in Detroit.

At my last open studio, I invited all my rowing buddies, more or less to introduce them to myself and my art, (I was only a member of that group for 6 months)The open studio involves 33 artists studio in my .building and it is fun and very exciting event.

I was completely taken by surprise that to 5 rowers I sold 3 paintings and 2 prints in a matter of 1 hour. Part of it was of course that I only knew them sweaty and in work out clothes- and therefore never considered them as potential buyers. One of them came back over the Thanksgiving holidays with family members that also resulted in a sale and interest in another piece. Now I have to follow up ! : ))

Birgit H.

Artwork Sold to Birgit’s Rowing Mates

Abend in der Pfalz1 Eden II edit_edited-1 Waiting for Mancini 1


 

The next time your work is being featured in a show, open studio or some other invent, make sure the people you know are the first to receive invitations!

What do you Think?

Have you made sales to people you know? How have you handled inviting friends, family and acquaintances to see and buy your work? What concerns do you have about this process? Leave your experiences, thoughts and questions in the comments below.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

11 Comments

  1. My family members have been some of my best customers for my custom, handcrafted jewelry designs. Some have been purchased for personal wear and others as gifts for additional family members. They know that I do beautiful work and truly care about their happiness with my creations.
    I think having a relationship with your customers is a perfect place to start…

    Marcy Pendergast

    http://www.TheEnergyGarden.com

  2. I have a marketing letter I send to business owners in my circle (real estate brokers, builders, lawyers, other professionals) suggesting when they have a special client, a proper “thank you” gift to represent their business, our state, could be one of my Traditional Baskets for their home or office.

  3. I definitely promote to friends and relatives via my social media posts and email newsletters. That’s all I had when I started my studio practice six years ago. Some of them buy, some don’t, but either way, they are supportive. Many of them have brought their friends, people I didn’t know, to my studio events. A number of those “friends of friends” have purchased work. If you don’t have a huge network of art-loving “strangers”, starting with friends and family is a must–you go with what you have and build your community organically.

  4. I agree that friends, coworkers and family should be included in art events. I have only been painting for five years and have sold about 15 paintings. Those sales have all been to friends ,coworkers and family. I started to feel kind of down about it recently thinking it isn’t as meaningful as it would be to sell to a complete stranger but then was reminded that Van Gogh sold nothing in his lifetime and only because of his brother Theodore do we have any of his work. There is a special relationship between an artwork and collector when there is a personal relationship between the collector and the artist. In fact the first piece I sold was on my Facebook friends connections and it was to my first boss that I worked with years ago. It was so ironic that 30 years later after hiring me for my first teaching position she would be my first collector. As others have shared people have the freedom to accept or decline your invitations but they can’t if they are never informed or invited.

  5. Absolutely! Not only have friends and family bought my art, but by posting my work, they have also referred me commission work. I mostly post friendly “here’s what I’m working on…” type of posts and not a hard sell.

  6. I agree with you and with Laura Hunt’s comment here. I’m an expat and hobbyist in Austria. I’m not truly interested in parting with my paintings (“my babies” LOL ). But I am open to showing my work and seeing where things lead.

    Here is where my Austrian friends and their networks come in.

    I have a dear friend here who is one of my biggest cheerleaders. I had dinner with her and some of her other friends last night and she started bragging about my art works (it was her birthday and I had a mug for her made showing two of my paintings. This gift and distributing my art calling card got the ball rolling.)

    She reiterated to her friends how much she wants me to have a show before I retire and leave the country.

    Well, another friend at the table works for the local utility company and it turns out they show art work in the foyer of their large company headquarters … and he knows the secretary who sets up the installations and vets the artists, and, and, and…..

    Sadly, he informed us that the corona virus scare means that they are currently not planning new installations (discouraging gatherings is a Thing here right now). But he asked for my calling card to give to the woman who’s involved.

    If I had not been showing my work to my friends and they had not been interested …. you get the drift… 🙂

    I know from other ventures I’ve been involved in over the years — it pays to have multiple irons in the fire and to explore multiple avenues. You don’t have to charge down them with loud trumpets and fireworks. But knowing for yourself where the dots you are interested in are located often helps to connect them, sometimes in surprising, and surprisingly easy, ways.

  7. I am presently exhibiting my art in a large guild member show for the first time. I posted my two paintings on Facebook and invited everyone to come to the gallery event. I told them that more than 100 artists were exhibiting and there would be food and a cash bar at the opening. I provided the location and dates of the event. I felt ok doing this because I wasn’t promoting myself, but the show.

  8. FB has been a boon for ex-river rats who moved from our small community on the Mississippi. They love my “folk art” stuff of local scenes of home. My stuff is coast-to-coast!

  9. I too have sold pieces to a handful of family and friends — purchased both thru a gallery and direct from me. It’s the direct sales (and promotion of direct sales) to F&F that I admittedly shy away from a bit because I fear the [inevitable?] expectation or inquiry from them for a “friend and family” discount. (They often do and have!) Naturally, I’d rather not extend a discount, not just because i want the extra $, but because i value my work and am a firm believer in value perception. I’m more confident standing my ground on price with a stranger than with F&F. So with the latter, how can one best handle those awkward requests for a discount? Being able to do so would ramp up my self-promotion to F&F.

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