A question I tend to get a lot from beginners is, “when will I know I’m good enough to sell my art?”, and the answer to me is SO obvious.
I get it though. I know that as a beginner you can experience all the feels of not being good enough, not knowing HOW to sell, not knowing where or how to find clients, not knowing how to price your work. Basically, completely unsure where to start.
However, the answer as to “when” is… as soon as someone asks you!
If someone sees your work in the wild (like on Instagram) and says to you any of the following:
- “I LOVE your work!”
- “You’re so talented”
- “I would love this for my house”
- “You’re so good!”
- “This is amazing”
And the big ones:
- “Can you make this for me?”
- “Do you take commissions?”
Those comments are TELLING you, BEGGING you to create and share your work with the world. There is no greater sign.
If someone sees your work and loves it, wants it and needs it – this is your time to give it to them. For money though, not free. You’re not a charity, and I don’t want to hear “but I just LOVE making it, it doesn’t matter”. If you’re reading this blog you should be thinking like a creative business. As a side note, providing free or cheap work also brings down the industry as a whole, so don’t do it.
Reverse scenario: if you’re constantly trying to push your work, chase clients or are doing things you don’t love… you’re doing it wrong.
…in my opinion. I believe that you shouldn’t be doing the hard-sell on art. People should come to you. You may not agree with that, and that’s fine, but the most successful artists I’ve seen are not the ones chasing down clients, begging to work for them. The successful ones know their value and are confident in themselves and their skills. This attracts clients to them.
I see people all the time so desperate for a buck that they are chasing and taking on work that doesn’t set their soul on fire, for people who don’t appreciate their craft, and they end up resenting both the client and the job. They’re making stuff, ANY stuff, that they very clearly don’t have the passion for. If I can see it, you bet the target market can. Customers will steer clear if it feels like a hard sell.
They’re so focused on making a sale and getting work, that they aren’t even creating something they’re proud of. I’m sure I could make more money if I did the same thing, but I know it makes me unhappy so I don’t do it. Instead, I focus my energy on creating new and exciting things that *I* love because if you’re wildly passionate about something, people see that and are attracted to it. They will know how much you love it and they’ll want to love it too.
Since working in the creative arts, I’ve learned that nothing is more important than finding clients who get you and appreciate you. It will make your life a million times easier, and your creative “job” so much more enjoyable. I’m betting you didn’t get into the creative world to make a jillion dollars, but I guarantee you didn’t get into it so you could hate what you do as much as any old other job. Creating should make you and others happy. Remember that.
There are places these days like Facebook and Freelancer websites where people post about jobs or are seeking creatives (especially at this time of year when the Christmas panic sets in), and whilst that might seem like a good place to find work, I guarantee it’s not going to be ANYWHERE near as enjoyable as if someone approached you because they like your work.
If someone approaches you, it’s because they love what you do, they appreciate what you do, and they VALUE what you do. These people are the ones you want to work with and will give you the most creative license, as well as compensate you in a way that you deserve.
If you hunt down clients who already have an idea in mind and don’t know who you are, they aren’t going to want to do anything in “your” style nor listen to your design advice, they won’t appreciate your skills, and generally speaking are the clients who want to pay the least amount possible, yet have the highest amount of revisions. If this is still something you’re willing to explore, I beg you to have a solid contract in place.
The message I want to get across, is to focus on building your brand. If you build your brand, become known for a style, and have an online presence – people are more likely to find you and chase YOU down for your services. “If you build it, they will come” as they say. This means you aren’t going to have to sell your art, it will sell itself.
I can completely appreciate your reaction to this may be “well that’s easy for you to say Emma, but how does someone starting out do this?” It’s a fair call, but please don’t think it’s not possible. I didn’t build a social following nor my business by accident, there have been strategies around it since day one, and you can implement strategies too. But that’s a topic for another day.
In the meantime, here are two things you can start working towards TODAY to begin building your brand and to attract clients to you, so that you don’t have to do the icky hard sell or things you don’t enjoy.
Get really good at one thing in particular, so it’s known as “you”
Having a broad range of skills is great and means you can take on all types of jobs, but what do you ACTUALLY love doing and what are you good at? I bet if you think of your favourite artists, you’ll attribute them to a particular style, skill or tool. It could be pointed pen, modern watercolour florals or a recognisable bouncy script. Whatever it is, they all have a something which clients love and always want from them. What’s yours going to be? You might not know this just yet, and it might change over time, but pay attention to what people are saying to you. Are you constantly asked for your advice on the same thing? It’s likely then, that that is your thing.
Promise me though that you won’t read this and think that you suck, or you’re not good enough for a “thing”. Ever. Practise, practise, PRACTISE. Whatever it is you DO, and want to be known for, do it well and have full confidence in it. If you don’t have full confidence in it yet, research and practise until you feel that way. The only person stopping you, is you. No one became an Olympic athlete because they woke up that way one day. They trained hard and had a lot of influential people in their life. Art is no different.
Keep learning and make connections in the community to help better yourself and your skills. Read, watch, study.
One of the best ways to gain confidence in something and to show yourself how much you know, is to be able to teach it to others. Grab a friend or family member and try to teach them your craft or just a particular technique. I promise this will have you feeling more confident.
The more confident you are, the more knowledge you have, the better placed you are to become an authority in that field. People will KNOW you know your stuff, and put their trust in you because of that.
Have an online presence, and continually show up
If you want to be attracting clients, you need to be in their world, and that world is online. Be where the people are. Instagram is one of the easiest ways to get started and is a completely visual platform, so if you aren’t already sharing your work on there, what are you doing?!
You need to show potential clients they need your thing, even if, ESPECIALLY if, they didn’t know they needed it. Am I, as a customer, going to randomly Google “cute print for my house”? Probably not. That sounds like spending money! But if a gorgeous print pops up in my newsfeed (and the caption is more like “totally loving our new print” *love-heart-eye emoji* and doesn’t scream “buy my shit!”) I’m probably going to be like “DAAAAAMN” and stalk that artist and convince myself I need it. This is how people shop these days.
You also don’t know what people could think of, simply by seeing your work. When I got started, I didn’t imagine I would be live-lettering or creating murals or even running workshops. By having a presence, it increases your opportunities and the TYPES of opportunities. Share your work so people know what you can do, and then they’ll end up surprising you with new opportunities you’ve never dreamed of.
You also need to be there regularly and be there as YOU. What I mean by this (and I’ve written about this before) is show yourself. Don’t just be a brand with a logo, be a creative PERSON with a name and a face so people can get to know you. The real you, people can see straight through a fake persona.
Post as often as possible, every couple of days if not daily, and stay in touch through other means such as stories (on Instagram). Stories are the behind the scenes to your business that let people get to know you, which in turn builds trust, which in turn makes them like you and need all the things you’re creating.
Has this post helped you? Let me know! If you have any questions regarding selling your art, please leave them in the comments below so I can address them in a future post.