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Two Myths about Selling Your Work 
and Better, More Attainable Alternatives--Part 2



The August 2013 Window on Photography reviewed some of the myths and realities associated with seeking gallery representation or acquiring an art representative as the magic solution to your marketing strategy. A logical pursuit; after all, they do all of the work for you. Right?

If you have not read Part 1 of this review you may want to before reading on. Part 1 can be found here.

Last month, at the end of the article I indicated that there are many more accessible and lucrative opportunities than galleries and art representatives. These alternatives can provide you with short-term success and the beginnings of establishing your reputation; they also offer long-term opportunities that may greatly exceed those derived from representation.

Keep in mind the following:
1. There are no shortcuts. Success requires high-quality innovative work, research, a plan that you follow and persistence. If it were easy, everyone would be a success.
2. Think outside of the box. Many successes come from such a strategy. Failure to thrive is very often due to repeating the same unsuccessful tactics over and over again.

Lucrative Alternatives


1. Brokers represent commercial clients who purchase art for a variety of reasons, such as to adorn the walls of a hospital. Brokers are always looking for new artists with a fresh style to offer their clients, who may be in your community or across the continent. It is not uncommon for brokers to choose a selection of work from a single artist for a given environment, such as a hospital's maternity ward. Similar to galleries and representatives, their fees range from 35 to 50 percent of the sale. Brokers are most often found in major cities and art markets. However, that does not preclude them from presenting your work even if you live across the country.

2. Commercial establishments, such as major banks and office buildings, often purchase artwork for their walls and offices or rotate artwork on loan once or twice a year. The latter provides you with an exceptional opportunity to have your work viewed by prospective buyers, as long as your contact information is readily available. If you choose these opportunities carefully, you will be able to select the cliental who will view your work. For example, if your work is in a prestigious law office, many of their clients will more readily purchase your art than if it were hanging in Joe's Eatery.

Besides banks, law offices and hospitals, there are many businesses that have wall space appropriate for your work. And if Joe's Eatery is a four-star restaurant, it should also be considered.  

When looking at commercial sites as I described, look at the lighting, the typical viewing distance to your work and the traffic patterns.  A worst-case scenario would be a narrow hall with dim light and little traffic. Conversely, a best case would be a lobby or wide corridor with track lighting. The bottom line: it is going to cost and take you just as much time to prepare your work for a very good location as for one not so good. Be choosy.

3. Art fairs will expose you to tire kickers and genuinely interested buyers. If they were not successful, they would not occur every year. The best preparation for exhibiting at an art fair is to visit it the year before applying to exhibit.  Spend time observing how people interface with the exhibit space. Do they walk inside the tents or just look at what is presented on the outside? Where do the artists sit? What materials do they have to handout? What sizes are exhibited? Spend time with artists who work in your media. Ask how many years they have exhibited at the fair. Has the trend been increased traffic and sales, or has it declined in the past three years? These two bits of information will tell you if you should consider the art fair the following year.

4. Open studios as part of a community-wide event are another way to introduce yourself and your work. Those who make the rounds from one studio to the next are those who appreciate art. That's a big advantage! If you have not attended an open studio event, follow the same procedure as I outlined with the art fairs to determine whether it is right for you and how to make your best showing.

5. The Internet is the gallery exhibition you always wanted. I'm not going to go into how to style your website; I've discussed that in ARTICLE NAME-LINK. Although I will say this, it wants to be your website, not one of the hundreds, if not thousands, that claim to represent your art along with a gazillion other artists on their site. Controlling your own site means you have control of how your work is presented. You are not lost in a sea of visual distractions, and you own your web address, which means any marketing materials you distribute today will lead people to your website ten years from now.

Cole Thompson (colethompsonphotography.com), an accomplished black and white photographer, is a good example of one who diligently markets his work via the internet. "Several years ago I realized that the Internet was going to turn the traditional sales model on its head. I wasn't exactly sure what that new formula would be, but I suspected that it meant a diminished role for galleries and increased direct sales via the Internet. So I set about to improve my SEO (search engine optimization) to the point that I'm usually number 1 or 2 on my targeted search phrases. I improved my SEO by following a few simple tips from a friend.  Surprisingly it was not very difficult as evidenced by the fact that I had zero SEO or website experience. As a result of this work, about 50% of all my sales come from organic search results." Cole Thompson

6. Foreign markets often hold artists in higher esteem and have a greater appreciation of art. If you have the means and prearrange your meetings with galleries, brokers and representatives in England, France and Germany, it could be a very productive excursion.

7. Grants can be financially helpful for emerging and established artists. There are a number of websites that list grant opportunities. Just know that the process of applying is time consuming. And be sure that its requirements closely align with your work and style.

Before you run out the door with your portfolio, please do the following -- if you haven't already:

1. Determine if you are ready to present your work to the markets I've mentioned. Being ready means your work is competitive. How will you know? Have your portfolio reviewed by several qualified people: successful artists, attend critique reviews (which I highly recommend), art professors, etc. Unfortunately, friends and family are seldom qualified or able to offer unbiased critiques.
If you are not ready, continue to improve your work until you are. An early marketing launch will waste your time and possibly leave a lasting, undesirable impression with those you meant to impress.

2. Create a 12-month plan. Decide which opportunities you want to pursue, in what order, who you want to see and where you want to exhibit your work. Then follow the plan making only minor tweaks as necessary. But stick to the plan for a year.

3. Provide the work people want to see. Find your audience. People who purchase art do so for their reasons, not yours. You cannottalk a person into buying your art. If you try, you may never to see them again.
4. With today's technology, you should always have an electronic portfolio with you. Tablet-size screens are much better than that of a smart phone, but a smart phone is a lot better than nothing. You never know who you will meet or where. Always be ready!

4. If you have been following my articles for any length of time, you know that I stress that you should always have professional business cards with you.
This is not an exhaustive list of alternative opportunities to market your art. But if you start to explore those that I have suggested and think out of the box for other ideas, you will be on your way to an exciting year.

Luck is what you make it!