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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Adding Value to Your Art

So many artists wonder about pricing their artwork, gaining exposure and name recognition, seeking out new clients and getting into galleries. The quick answer is, get ready to work hard, grow, have courage, reach out and be a professional. These things take time and persistence, but are well worth the effort. Lets break it down into some manageable baby steps.

1. Be professional- Create business cards, prepare an effective artist statement and build an impressive resume. No artist worth their salt is without these basic tools of the trade, yet at least half of the professional artists I know are lacking at least one or more of these.
When arranging a commission for custom art, put things in writing, ask specific questions, collect a deposit before you begin, create a receipt for any money you collect, keep records for taxes and keep your client posted on progress and completion. Let them know if framing is included up front.Insist on payment upon completion, not when they think they can pay you. Put that date in writing and honor it. Meet deadlines and don't make promises you don't intend or can't possibly make good.
2. Price your work considering; the local market, your training and or experience, size, materials used, reputation, gallery representation, resume and your artistic talent. Be honest. Don't give your work away. People get a sense of the "perceived value" of art. If you price too low, they think your work is not good enough, too high and you will miss sales. It takes time to hit the sweet spot. Adjust higher first, then lower. Give changes time to take affect.
3. Keep a digital inventory of your work as you complete it, size, medium, title, date and when it sells. This will allow you to be ready for opportunities as they come to you. Often you need to react immediately to a request for images, bio, statement, etc. Don't let your lack of preparation get in the way of your success.
3. Connect, reach out, join in and enjoy your profession in real-time and in-person. Get out of the studio and go to a gallery opening, live performance, art fair, art walk, whatever. Make connections to fellow artists, professionals in your profession and collectors and clients and use social networking sites. No one is going to discover you if you are in hiding. I read that the ideal percentage of art creation and promotion is 80/20. That means you need to spend more time promoting your work and than creating it. That 80% includes preparation, investing, learning, connecting, advertising, and all the other stuff that doesn't include creating. I know it sounds painful, but you will see results from all that hard work.
4. Invest in your profession. Buy a digital camera and tripod. Use only quality, archival materials. Advertise on some level, (more on that later).
5. Develop thick skin. Rejection is a part of the game, get used to it. Learn from it. Keep it in perspective. Keep your chin up. Try again.
6. Treat your clients like gold. Listen to their needs. Let them know how to help you, be patient with their requests and make them happy they chose your work to collect art. I offer all clients 15% of any future art work they purchase from me. I want them to know I value their choice when there are so many other talented artists in the area.
7. Stay away, far away from that "starving artist" persona unless you want it to define you. Shame on promoters for creating those events! You wouldn't expect an electrician to give you a free day of service, yet we throw artwork to events all in the name of exposure. We can't define ourselves as professionals and allow others to treat our profession like a rummage sale. Sometimes we give someone a deal or offer to take payments on time. Do what you have to do without diminishing the value of your work. Donations are a part of the profession. I'm not saying do not donate your work. Just consider some of the following methods instead:
a. Ask those requesting donations to buy your artwork at a discount. They can write off that donation on their taxes. Artists can only deduct the price of materials used in its creation. Buyers can deduct the full value of the sale. Instruct those requesting donations of this unfair legislation. Perhaps we will gain an advocate if they have to pay for the injustice.
b. Consider giving a gift certificate for future work. If you want the exposure, it often helps to send an original piece of artwork as an enticement for a better donation. I've found that gift certificates are the perfect way for me to donate. For every 5 certificates I donate, only one requires me to produce artwork. One of those works was one of the most difficult clients I had, but I treated her as I treat every one else. If you offer to do the work, honor that promise.
c. Ask that any organization that relies on art as a funding source set up a percentage on consignment, so the artists receives a portion of the donation. They will eventually gain better and more artists who participate in their fund raising efforts. Its a win-win situation.
d. Insist that you, the artist, be allowed to be at the event. Any ticket price should be waived. This will allow you to connect with those who donate. It is a fact that people will be more inclined to buy and pay more for work when they can put a human behind the work and learn about its creation and inspiration. This is another win-win situation. They don't have to feed you, but they should be happy to have you there.
8. My final advice for this very long post is to say you are never to smart or too old to learn. Understand your medium and continue to learn more about the materials you use. Keep up on trends and color forecasts. Learn about the organizations and art venues around you. Don't approach a gallery unless it is a good fit for your work and you can live with the terms of the gallery's sales policies, (more on that later). Learn about the unlimited resources and sales venues waiting for you to discover. Some websites are free and offer credit card and other payment options. Many local organizations are filled with kindred souls and exhibition opportunities galore. Take advantage of groups developed to assist your art. Look at my list of links for just a few. Look at their links they list to find more. Look even further because we are not in this alone.

Good luck!

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