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

15 Comments

  1. Great article. Here’s a follow-up question.
    Like many people, not just artists, I am excited about what I’m doing. The excitement boils over many times into giving out way too much information, and mostly with no real context.
    “Elevator speehes” I can make after a lot of editing but not on the spot.
    Any suggestions on curbing enthusiasm would be greatly appreciated. I’m aware of Larry David’s show but I didn’t take notes.

    1. I’m there with you! I have been focusing on giving one sentence at a time. If a person wants to hear more, they will ask. In email and social media, i will drop in a link to my blog if a post pertains to the discussion (often one does, because my topics are all over the place.)

      Was that subtle enough? I’ve been practicing.

    2. Thanks again Jason for another excellent post. Stephen, I recommend you read this book or watch some YouTube videos on ‘Building A Story Brand’ by Donald Miller. He’s big on taking the time to boil down what it is you do in order to grab the listener and avoid filling the space with wasted noise and ultimately make a sale. This idea can certainly work for any creatives. I’m a sculptor and looking at ways to incorporate it into my online presence and networking. I hope this help.

    1. Patricia,
      Start your own event(s) !!!!

      Here’s two that I do:
      1. Seventeen years ago, my church built a new building and then started getting worried about how they were going to pay the mortgage on it. (I’ll skip over the part where I strongly urged them to go smaller and less grandiose but they didn’t listen). So someone said, “Let’s have an Art Show and make some money!” They invited all ten artists in the congregation to a meeting and it was obvious they had no idea how to go about this. I had volunteered at enough other shows to know how it was done. I agreed to be the chair on two conditions:
      Someone else had to handle refreshments and publicity.
      I know all the artists around town and I needed an event to invite people to so they could see MY art. We had a fabulous time and actually sold some art. (the church kept a 25% commission on all sales).
      People come back year after year and really look forward to it! Our sales, after the first couple of years, average between $7,000 and $10,000. And we are in the middle of nowhere, not on a main road, in a very small town an hour outside of New Orleans!

      2. There is a craft brewery in the French Quarter of New Orleans that sponsors an art show every month and doesn’t charge you for the space…and they put out free food and craft beer for the Opening! And they don’t charge a commission! You put your phone # on your title card and the client calls you to arrange payment and pickup. They usually open on a Tues or Wed night when they are not so busy. (I think they run this out of their marketing budget to bring in customers who would not come in otherwise). They prefer to have a group do this rather than just one or two artists, on the theory that all the artists in the show will invite all their friends and so there will be a big turnout! So I made up a group name (nobody asks for proof) and invited about 6-8 artists to be in it. We’ve been invited back the past three years. Two downsides: Hanging is not easy and there are not very many sales… but it is a great party…did I mention the free food and craft beer???
      Barbara Shaw

  2. Thanks for the insights. I will be attempting to incorporate your advice going forward. I have not actively gone out to market my artwork. What I like to do is to take live video and photograph my artwork for Instagram and Facebook. I get a lot of “likes”. But no sales. I even had one of my artworks stolen from an exhibit (it was never recovered). Am I not doing something I should?

  3. I heartily agree that it is important to let friends and acquaintances know about your art. One can do that with a email with art attached with a story that tells how you were inspired to paint the art and make sure you include your website address in the email so they can look at more of what you have created. It is also important to show one’s art on Facebook or Instagram to a much larger following of people that are interested in what you post. I have sold several pieces on Facebook after I posted them to friends. One other acquaintance called and set up an appointment to come over to my studio to look at my work to select a piece for their newly refurnished and decorated living room. She purchased an 18X24 original painting. Without friending me on Facebook she would not have known about my artwork. Any way you can use to get the word out that reaches friends or new possible clients is the way to go.

  4. I recently had an opportunity to show in my home town thanks to a supportive cousin and I invited all my old friends and family there. It gave me an opportunity to share my art life with those who were interested enough to come, and a family friend bought two watercolors. Very unexpected! I also just organized an exhibit of arts and crafts by members of a women’s club I belong to. It was a successful event. It prompted a number of members to bring guests, and I’m sure we will do it again. I did not sell, but feel certain doors were opened that could result in future sales. Social media has made it much easier for me to share my new work and exhibits with people who I used to be shy about it with. I can tell from who responds to posts who is most interested, and as I use Mailchimp, if anyone gets an unwelcome email from me, they can unsubscribe. The response I see is all positive, though.

  5. I have a piece showing in an exhibit. Next month is the artist reception. The piece is for sale but I never even thought of inviting people to go see it. This is my first show (it’s a group show) … is it customary to invite guests to the reception? That’s when awards will be announced and the one time frame I know I’ll be there… it would be a good opportunity to talk with anyone interested.

    1. I fuse glass. While I do more than just jewelry, I ALWAYS wear my jewelry. As a result, I’ve sold to people in groups I’m in, friends and just people I meet. I have business postcards with photos of a variety of my work. If someone admires my jewelry, I hand them a card (with email, phone number, website). I may also offer to add their email to my MailChimp list when I do shows. I try to keep it really low key, offer information and let them take the next step. Several people I barely knew have become friends and collectors. People enjoy knowing the artist!

    2. Yes, it is customary for the artist to help promote any show they’re in. The type of venue might determine what kind of help. Check to see if the reception is public or invitation-only. One non-profit I show with relies on the artists helping to spread the word about the show. Many galleries will mail or email invitations to the artist’s list of collectors and interested acquaintances. Start your own list with this show. Make cards with your contact information to have handy. Ask interested people to email you to be added to your list. Good luck!

  6. I make my paintings available to friends, family, colleagues etc, but I take a very low-key approach to sales. Their friendship is worth far more to me than their money, and I don’t want anyone to get the mistaken impression that it’s the other way around.

    If I’m at a gallery opening, art fair, juried show, etc, I invite all of my friends who live in or near that city. If they come then I’m happy to see them, but I don’t “ask for the sale” or talk in a close-the-deal manner with my friends, as I might with other shoppers.

    If friends visit our house, I offer to show them my paintings but only if they have somehow expressed interest. They all know I’m a painter. I don’t mention prices unless they ask, and again I don’t talk to my friends in a deal-closing manner. My friends know that the paintings are for sale and if they want to buy one they say so.

    Quite a few of them have and I am very happy with this. I don’t know if my low-key approach has caused me to lose any sales but for sure it has not caused me to lose any friends. I have seen friendships lost or badly damaged by overselling (other products though, I haven’t seen artists do this)

    I also buy art from my friends who are artists and it has been a joyful thing for buyer and seller both.

    1. I like your “low key” approach, Rodgers. I too think that’s suitable for friends/family. One of my fears/expectations with promoting my work to friends/family with a possible sale in mind is being faced with the old, “What’s my friends-&-family discount?” or “Do you offer a discount to friends/family?” Ugh. If/When that question is asked, what real choice do I have other than to agree to such a discount? And if I agree, the precedent is set.

  7. Art Studio “Open Houses” – I live in Las Cruces, NM. My studio is in our guest house that I converted into my studio. Almost every month I have an open house; inviting people to see my new pieces of art. Always have a guest book – then email all of them to the next one. I serve cheese, crackers, snacks and offer wine and / or lemonade and have some little bottles of water also. Nothing too work intense, but something to linger and talk a bit about my work. Local newspapers have a calendar of events – I put them in there as well. Local publications, free calendars are excellent places to promote them. Jason’s marketing works. Get his book, see the 4 hour video on art marketing. He is also very gracious with his time, I recently had the opportunity to meet him. Thank you Jason!

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