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.

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 the Art Business Academy. 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.

23 Comments

  1. I have sold art to friends and social acquaintances through local shows, facebook postings, and off of the walls of my office. It seems like some people like to buy from someone they know. However, the majority of my sales have been to strangers over the internet.

  2. Three of my last last recent sales have been to family members/friend. One bought one of my larger paintings, she lives in Chicago. She is so excited to have that painting in her home. She later asked to see photos of the ladies I create. Asked me to send one more photo and the price, a week later she said that she wanted that sculpture. That is two pieces within three month to a family member. The other piece I sold just last month, to a friend in California, she had been considering one of my paintings but she said she could not afford the it right then, but she continued to look at my work thru out my home gallery and she fell in love with one of the sculptures. The other sculpture was sold to another friend/ acquaintance in Scottscade ,Phoenix. She is the sister of my daughter in law. So yes I believe that your friends and family member are a potential buyers.

    I have to admit though that there is a sense of guilt on my part , it is difficult to stick to the price your art deserves, but what I explain to them is that the price of the piece they wish to have took me X hours to create , and that I charge by the hour more or less and then I add the cost of the materials. Then I show the final price divide by the hours and they are usually surprised at how little I end up making on the piece. Although my mantra is ” affordable art for art lover” I don’t believe in giving away my art because my time and creativity is worth something.
    Ana guerra

  3. I am a landscape photographer and avid hiker. I’ve invited members of the hiking club that I’m a member of to my Open Studios and exhibition receptions. Not only have they shown an interest in my work by attending my exhibitions and Open Studios, but several members have purchased my artwork.

  4. I have sold mostly to friends and acquaintances and still do a lot. My own sister has bought several pieces throughout the years. I even have friends who have built collections of my work and vie with each other on who has the largest collection. I used to think I might like to “graduate” to selling to strangers, but have come to really cherish that I have so many friends who buy my work. They have helped me sell work to their friends and acquaintances too, but also I get to see my work again now and then when I visit their houses.

  5. Jason,
    On another note, the third image above appears to owe a credit to Antonio Mancini as source material, which raises some questions.
    What is the criteria in which other artists contribution should be noted? And what is the best method in which to acknowledge such a contribution?
    Thanks,
    Chad

  6. I sent an invitation to about 60 people to visit my table at the Winter Market, and about 10 showed up and bought some cards and prints and magnets, but the fun thing is that they were with their other friends who also bought some of my art.
    Most of the people I invited are familiar with my work and come to my studio tour as well, and they have said that like to be reminded of the date and time.

  7. It’s been my observation that there is often a little something extra that puts people over the top and into a decision to buy. Yes, of course they love the piece. But they may also have a particular affinity for the colors or the subject matter, or perhaps a special connection with the place depicted or where the art was made. And knowing the artist — or even knowing that it’s a local artist — is sometimes the best “something extra” of all. Consider the buyer’s pleasure in being able to say that they know the artist (or better yet, are related to the artist!) when someone admires the work. I usually offer a “friends and family” discount, which is my way of taking care of any uncertainty I might feel about profiting from my friends.

  8. Earlier in my career, I gave paintings as birthday gifts to my family and friends. I also collected paintings of artists I studied with. Now, every time they see one of my paintings on display, I’ll get phone calls from them saying “I knew it was one of yours! Your style is so distinct.” They then will promote my work to others in their circles resulting in new clientele. I did have one bad experience in sending an invitation to a person I knew through an online book club. I was announcing my new online gallery and this person took such offence that I sent him an invitation he referred to as “SPAM” that I ended up getting a nasty letter from the club admin. They all knew me as a writer and future cover designer but it made no difference to them. I learned to choose wisely on who I invite online.

  9. I started painting seriously 8 years ago this Febuary. I am a self-taught artist in watercolors, pastels and oil (water soluable.). Over the last 8 years, I have been fortunate to have sold through my website, EBay, galleries and word of mouth. In the beginning of my career, I gave away paintings as gifts to my friends and family only when they expressed a connection/love of a particular artwork. I have never “pushed” any of my art on anyone because I wouldn’t want that done to me. As it happened, I got exposed to others through my gifting to family and friends and that generated “sales” for me. I don’t have the desire at my age or the stamina to do shows anymore and when I think of it, I paint because I LOVE to create.

  10. It was friends and family who convinced me to start painting professionally in the beginning. Straight out of school I was asked by friends to tutor their young children. Later my first proper sale was through showing my dogs, where I was approached by several people to paint their beloved pets. So of course I have always included friends and family in all of my events and yes many have made purchases. I felt uncomfortable at first but I have come to realise that many truly want to own something. They have an emotional connection to the artist and enjoy the work in itself as well. People you know are also great at promoting. My sister has a giant portrait of her dog which she not only shows friends but also her clients. Many have gone on to also make purchases. So I have had friends become great collectors and collectors who have gone on to become great friends!

  11. well I do have observational experience, being a member of a co-op I have had plenty of chance to see this in action……..what I’ve noticed is that usually in a members first show, because they don’t have a client base so they invite friends who, if they can afford it purchase from them. Generally your friends will purchase from you at least once…….once sometimes twice but that’s all. We just had a member who was new last year and almost sold out her last show (first show ever) this time she sold some pieces but not nearly as much. This happens a lot. Good news was, she raised her prices and she sold about the same money amount, not quite but pretty close. We all keep tabs on who sells and who doesn’t and how much they make….sort of a co-opy thing… 🙂

  12. I love my family and I love my friends but sometimes I would rather not have them at the Opening reception, because I feel obligated to entertain them. Acquaintances on the other hand are good to have around at the reception, if you haven’t had a chance to spend much time with them it’s a good way to get to know each other in different than usual circumstances. Plus they do feel comfortable enough around you already and would like to make a further good impression. I understand that what motivates them to make a purchase. Now you would think I am highly materialistic girl that doesn’t want to see her family and treats everybody as a potential buyer, not really. I treat everybody as a potential friend and a sale always comes as unexpected pleasant surprise. When existing friends are around it’s harder to make a connection with a potential friend as I always feel like a traitor and worry that they take it as I abandoned them to hang out with others.

  13. Jason, I must be doing something wrong. I had a consistently exam by you, read your book, applied twice to your brochure, in your on line gallery, talk to my friends about my art. Invited people to my opening, post on FB,Twitter, and Pinterest and yet I have only sold a few things. I have entered shows this past year and a half. I get really good comments about my work from visitors and other artists as well. I even worked with Daniel Edmondson on technic and getting my painting gallery ready and marketing. I just do not know the next step.

  14. I’ve sold to family and friends over the years. Relocating will hit your client base and you must develop new social connections. Now, I’m planted for good in the Hill Country of south central Texas. I had one unlikely collector I actually had the bad taste to ask if she was serious … my housekeeper. Talk about embarrassing … I didn’t know that previously she kept house for a former artist that left her six works in her will. Rosemary asked me questions about my work while she cleaned and I thought she was only making conversation. She dearly loved art and bought three giclees. Trust me, this lady’s monthly income was enviable with her commercial accounts. Don’t ever pre-qualify a potential buyer.

  15. i have sold to friends and strangers.i,d rather sell to strangers,because friends want to pay later and then they forget to pay
    i,d like to ask another question.do artist put a price and title on the front of the painting
    or list them and put the list on the wall?
    thanks,
    alice harrington

  16. Strangers have bought my paintings previously through outdoor markets and such like occasions. One person contacted me online to buy a painting, but when she discovered that I live on the other side of the world to her, she immediately backed off. Lately it has been mostly friends and family who have supported me by buying paintings.

  17. I invite everyone, almost! I don’t expect them to show up to every event, or to buy work, but I want them to know what I am doing in my art. That said, I am always delightfully surprised when a friend buys my work. I have several who are multiple collectors! Once they have lived with a piece for a while and know what daily pleasure it gives them, they are open to buying again. Friends and co-workers have bought my work because they saw it in the office (in the days when I had a day job) or because I posted a “hot off the easel” image on Facebook, or even because they saw it on the wall in my home. One audience I neglected early on is other artists. When sending out surface mail invites, that was an area where I cut costs, not realizing how many of my fellow artists are also avid collectors of each other’s work. It is less of a financial issue with email invites, but I still mail out a postcard for at least one show a year, and usually more. Now my fellow artists are included in my invite list. I don’t think any one of my friends and family has ever felt pressured to buy my work – my approach is really to share my joy in what I am creating and wanting to show it and talk about it. Because it is easier for me to be effusive about it to someone I know, those strangers also attending benefit from my unselfconscious enthusiasm with people I do know. It helps break the ice, so to speak. I have more trouble allowing myself to be that excited about my work with a person I don’t know.

  18. Absolutely! I just had a fund raiser at my church and sold 14 originals ,and 14 prints,many of them are friends,acquaintances, and serveral repeat buyers and buyers of multiple works! And a very young couple bought 3 of the more expensive paintings… All of which were older works.. It helped to clear out some inventory, get my name out,and totally fund the mission trip!

  19. I always invite my friends and acquaintances even if they haven’t shown to an event yet. Sometimes it’s not a good time for them and they can help spread the word about the event. Love comment above by LouAnn. That is an awesome response.

  20. Hi Jason, I am not having much luck in landing sales. Yet I have had a few huge ones every few years. Ranging from a few hundred dollars to $15k per painting and or bronze sculptures. For example…I usually get comments like….wow I love your work…or ….why haven’t I heard of your name before… Or….I could never afford your work but I would love to have it (yet they don’t even ask the price).
    For example, this past week I had a show in which I won the People’s Choice Award and yet only one piece sold in 4 days. Yet so many people went out of their way to tell me which pieces they fell in love with. Also other artists wanted to know my formula for my ConFresco art panels I create to paint on.
    I’m truly frustrated! Because I have been very educated in New York and Europe in art and have had the privilege of having my work in the private collections of President GW Bush and Vanderbilt University among a few others private collectors.
    I connect well with people for the most part but for some reason I just don’t get regular sales. I have to get my sales up. What am I doing wrong?!

  21. Since my beginning as an artist in 1990, friends, girl friends, and family have been time and time again some of my best repeat customers, and they were at least 50% of the ones that showed up to my two solo shows I have done so far with my paintings. This year has been no exception. Same formula holds, a couple big show pieces, some medium sized pieces, and plenty of under $100 items.

    Mason

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