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.
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 ! : ))
Artwork Sold to Birgit’s Rowing Mates
The next time your work is being featured in a show, open studio, or some other event, 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.