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 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

23 Comments

  1. These are very good points. While I usually meet people at art events and develop acquaintances and friendships, I rarely think to invite my non-artist friends or acquaintances to my art events, other than family (and those old friends who NEVER attend). It makes much more sense to invite the non-artsy people, and introduce them to new circles of friends! Definitely food for thought. Thanks!

  2. It’s always nice to get positive reinforcement! I just opened an exhibition this weekend. The gallery did worked hard at promotion and so did I. Because the show is in a city I used to live in but is about 4-1/2 hours drive away from where I live now, it seemed that more than just word of mouth was required. So I sent out about 50 personalized emails with the invitation attached, and for the last two weeks before the show, I posted regularly on Facebook, to friends and friends of friends, and on Instagram. I didn’t try to “sell”, I just invited people to join the celebration. And they did. The exhibition reception was lovely, with support from a wide range of friends and acquaintances from over 25 years of city contacts, and about half the sales came from my original contact list rather than the gallery’s. I think people enjoy being part of an artist’s insider group!

  3. I often sell to friends and acquaintances. Usually they are smaller pieces, but it makes me happy that the pieces will be loved. I also make sure people know that I can put them on a payment plan so that if they are longing for a specific larger work, that it is no out of reach.

  4. One of my best collectors is a friend who has done so much for me in the past. I need to get over feeling uneasy about friends buying. It is my first impulse to want them to have it free or at a deep discount.

  5. I have no friends right now, but some fellow artists from a couple of coop galleries where I am a member. Using mailchimp I regularly invited them to my solo shows and several workshops, but only some of them came. Most just ignored me.. it is really sad, but I guess the reason that most of them just don’t take me as a serious artist or even if they do, they have other plans..and I never sold a piece to anyone I know..I used to sell more to my Russian friends when being in Russia.. though my husband managed to sell some art to his coworkers here in the US

    1. Julia, I learned a lesson from my mother who used to love giving small parties and inviting everyone we knew. She said that only a small percentage of people invited would be able to come, so she always invited twice as many as she thought would attend. At first this was true, but as people learned how much fun her parties were, more came! I think that principle works for art shows and book signings as well.

    2. Julia, consider the possibility that you you might sell more if you charged more, at least for your pastel landscapes. The prices are so low a viewer might get the impression you don’t value this work very much, but it’s lovely. I strongly recommend doing one of Jason’s market studies of similar work and pricing – you might be surprised. If the work isn’t flying off the walls now, what do you have to loose? You are way, way underpriced.

  6. I always invite my friends — they want to know what I’ve been up to, and even if they don’t purchase anything it’s always encouraging to see them if they attend.
    One of my most ardent collectors is my good friend and neighbor. She would be insulted if I didn’t let her know where and when I’m showing.

  7. I have sold about one quarter to friends and acquaintances. One friend has become somewhat of a “patron”. A sale is a sale, but I would like to grow my fan base to include more strangers so my work gets a broader viewing.

  8. I have a Facebook page set up for my art where I post often, but I usually only post about my art on my personal page when I’ve completed a new project that I can show off. (Also – I will only post about artwork that a client has already received and is happy with… especially if they might be giving it as a gift. I like the surprise that comes when a person sees their piece for the first time.@

  9. I send email invites with the postcard to almost everyone on my contact list. I also give the gallery a mailing list for people not on email or fb. I also post my show postcard on my personal and art fb pages. I also ask my good friends to share the invite on their fb site.
    My biggest collector just emailed me to say he’s looking for more art and wants to come to my studio.
    I don’t sell much at exhibitions but the owner of my galleries always buys a
    Piece when she has a show for me.

  10. If you don’t have a Studio big enough for people to view your art, would setting up your double garage be a good idea? including wine and nibbles!!

    1. Absolutely. I have had several successful shows in double garages with about 150 people at the private views. We made screens so it looked like a gallery and had seats and (borrowed some extra) in the garden. Friends took turns serving wine and fruit punch. We had room for a small marquee to the side.
      We did this about 4 times and had lots of sales. And the weather was kind every time. We were lucky to have enough parking nearby and put parking info on the invitations. Good luck. Hope it goes well for you

  11. I have sold few pieces and they have gone mainly to friends who have been invited to shows i’ve mounted in libraries and a local diner with an active community gallery space. I have a list of invitees that I keep building. I have felt squeamish about the sales but one friend said to me, “Look, I want the painting and itv’s worth the price so don’t bargain with me, OK.” After that I was OK with my pricing and inviting friends.
    I learned that my friends and I have a mutual social trust.

  12. I have always been truly supported by family and friends, and I have always been grateful! One of the pleasures is seeing my artworks displayed when I visit them. I give this advice to younger artists: Friends and family love you. They want you to succeed.

  13. The internet opens up a world of artists putting up their work online, and I wonder how they get on in their local communities. Around me I have noticed many people will take art up as a hobby later in life, but generally, I haven’t known many people throughout my life who were all that interested in it. Now I can count on one hand the people I know who are interested in art.

  14. I regularly sell to my circle of friends, and to my family. I just had an email this morning from a friend/collector that she purchased a painting from the co-op gallery where I show my work, and sent it to her brother for his birthday!

  15. I’m just starting out on my Art journey, and my friends and work colleagues have been a vital role in my success. Through them I have made many sales (some have become repeat customers) allowing my hobby to become self funding, and this has given me the vital funds required to enter exhibitions to promote my work to the general public. I didn’t show them my art work, with a sale in mind I just was keen to share with them the work I was producing. I don’t think they will ever be truly aware, of the vital encouragement they have given me.

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