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The Right Buyer for your Art Already Exists - You Just Have to Find Them!

How to Find the Right Buyer for Your Art and Discover your Target Market.

Art is an expression of thoughts, perspectives, and emotions blended together to captivate the eyes of its beholders. More often than not, artists are concerned about finding the right buyer for their art.

You may feel overwhelmed or that this step is too difficult, but in reality, artists today have an abundance of opportunity that would not be available to them just a few years ago. When feeling discouraged, remember there was a time when the only way to sell work was through a gallery and that getting into galleries depended on your artistic style, age, geographical location and even the mood that gallery curator was in on that day.

While there is no doubt about the sheer volume of collectors in today’s world, finding them can seem arduous. Don’t be discouraged, it is not because you are not putting in the right amount of energy and time, but because you are putting them in the wrong direction. In this article, we will try changing your perspective while finding authentic art collectors and explore the myriad of ways that can make this journey easier!

1. Pinpoint Your Ideal Collector

This quintessential step will help you distinguish this attempt from all your previous attempts. If your focus has revolved around promoting your art to other artists, you might be misdirecting some part of your efforts. While garnering appreciation and admiration from other artists is crucial to boosting your self-confidence, do not forget that other artists are not equal to your potential buyers.

You should be highly focused on who your ideal buyers would be. Once they have taken shape in your mind, you can start devising a custom and tailored plan to depict your art in the world. It could be helpful to write down answers to the following questions:

  • How much do I want my art to sell for?

  • What is the age range of my ideal client?

  • What does my ideal client do as their occupation?

  • What are my ideal clients’ hobbies?

Although many of these points might seem irrelevant to your art selling journey, being able to accurately identify each of these areas could increase your chances of putting your work in front of the correct buyers.

For example: If you want to sell your art for between £1,000 and £3,000, your ideal client is likely in their late 20s or early 30s. They would likely have a job that supports a modest amount of income that can be delegated to art. Perhaps they are a teacher who enjoys writing their novel on the weekends, attending book club meetings and going jogging whilst listening to their favourite motivational podcast. If this is the profile of your target buyer it can even be helpful to name them. Let’s call her ‘Chloe’. With this profile personified in your mind you can begin to speculate on where Chloe might get the chance to enjoy your art. Perhaps Chloe would find your art in local bookshops. Can you approach independent bookstores and offer them free art for their walls in exchange for a small commission when it sells? Can you do the same in independent coffee shops where book club meetings are advertised? Can you offer to design the episode covers for a popular motivational teaching podcast?

I often create multiple target markets for different sets of my work. For example watercolours that are quick to produce but provide vivid colours for interior decoration are aimed at the student market whereas large scale oil paintings are marketed at older clients who have large, beautiful homes and require art work to match.

Get this step right and your potential buyers will be drawn to your art like bees to honey!

2. Target A Limited Niche

As an artist, you will be quite aware of what sets your artwork apart from the rest. Do not try to change this to expand your buyer base because this can ultimately dilute your brand. Ensure that you follow a consistent marketing plan to make your brand more recognizable to the people who fit your buyer persona.

Although you cannot make everyone love your art, you can retain that limited niche of zealous buyers interested in acquiring your masterpieces. The niche might be smaller than you first intend. For example when I began working in oils I was always painting gothic fantasy and believed that it was a small niche, not so. It is actually way too broad as I was creating gothic dnd characters in one style, tattoo designs in another style and large epic oil paintings in a third style. All three of these areas that I explored were outside of my target market (see previous point) because I wanted to sell locally and there wasn’t a large gothic subculture in my quaint little town.

Naturally as a creative person, you’ll want to explore different styles and I’m not discouraging that. However, for selling your work imagine your niche and then see if you can half it. It will not dilute your brand, but strengthen it. Do you make 60s style vector art? Can you print it primarily on surfboards? Do you draw line drawings of buildings? Can you create line drawings of New Orleans Garden district architecture? Do you do impressionist flower studies? Can you do impressionist flower studies of native Latvian flowers?

When narrowing your niche, ensure it is a subject you actually like and can produce lots of work in. I often think of the art of Alan Lee and John Howe who were both huge fans of the work of JRR Tolkien, so much so that they produced hundreds of drawings between them of the characters, landscapes and architecture. They produced so many illustrations from Middle Earth that their careers were built around them. It also meant that when Peter Jackson was making the movies he asked them to be involved in running the art departments because they were so secure within that niche.

A practical tip I’ve found for claiming your niche is to do a 100 day challenge and document the process online. For example if you do primarily portraits in coloured pencil could you do a portrait a day for 100 days and post them consistently every day. (Batch scheduling on social media can be a life saver for those days when you are too busy to draw something.)

An artist I follow who does this really well is Kate Rhees (@Katerhees on Instagram) who consistently posts new textile pattern designs daily. Her work is instantly recognisable because of the colours and line weight she uses. Not to mention the sheer volume of her work makes it impossible to ignore. Every morning I find myself going straight to her social media to check out the new piece.

3.Put Yourself Out There

Generating a reliable mailing list is always a good way to contact your potential buyers but getting the balance of quality to quantity is crucial. Spamming emails is the number one way to turn potential customers cold to you and your work.

I get around this by only mailing my list when I have;

1. Genuine and objectively exciting news about my work or practice

2. Restocked my entire store to customer demand

3. Have an upcoming exhibition

Outside of these three elements I don’t interact with my mailing list as those who wish to know the daily updates will subscribe to my blog or follow me on social media. Putting yourself out there does not mean it needs to be intrusive.

Generating an email list is a gradual process but in this case organic growth is preferable to sudden spikes. Your mailing list should be made up of loyal buyers, friends and collectors who support your work. These leads are usually the product of good old fashioned conversation. Yes, that’s right, even artists have to talk to people eventually. Art markets and galleries are good for this as you can strike up conversations with people who are already interested in art.

Keep a stack of business cards on you at all times with the intention of generating suitable candidates for your mailing list rather than buyers because people can sense desperation a mile away. If you are chasing sales rather than interest in your work you may lose repeat buyers who will invest in your career long term.

When it comes to putting myself out there I like to start locally and branch out according to your desired target market. For example, I’ve started putting my original oil paintings in local coffee shops and have seen a steady climb in website traffic because of this. A common comment I receive from this type of passive presentation of my work is “I’m calling you because I always sit under your paintings when I have my morning coffee and I’d like to see your other work” or “I saw your paintings in [insert local coffee house] and I have grown attached to them” etc. This is where the work speaks for itself and no further marketing is needed. Often art is not sold because art is not seen. Brainstorm 10 different places you could hang your work locally that has good footfall (Preferably somewhere people spend a bit of time in). Museums, cafes, and shops related to your niche are always good places to start.

Avoid purchasing a random list of buyers from online sources or going on a hunt to obtain a coveted list of buyers and collectors as this will not help you connect with them. Every art piece is unique and what sets it apart is the connection that it builds with its potential buyers. The world of art is all about forging relationships. Contacting a random buyer out of the blue might spook or, worse, annoy them, which will harm your sales. Instead, you need to put yourself out there in person and build relationships with your potential buyers.

Do not squander your time running behind buyers who seem disinterested in staying connected with you and your art. Remember that not every buyer has the eye to perceive the depth in your art. This is why you should focus on the people who express genuine passion for the art created by you. You can easily find the list of these people by skimming through the list of people who signed up for your mailing list or contacted you through social media or art exhibitions. Be an active member of your art community and nurture the bonds. Although it is a slow process, you will be intrigued by the results.

3.Harness The Power of Social Media

Digital and social media have become a boon to all the artists promoting their art and is an undeniably useful tool to promote your work. The best way to gain traction is to stay active on your blog and social media. You’d be amazed at how well an active and consistent blog can do especially if you add a unique touch to it. Ie: Illustrating your blog thumbnail pictures so people come back to see the new drawing. Have nothing to share? You can simply share your journey, thoughts, or snippets of your artwork that can pique your audience's curiosity. The most popular type of artist content is the boring stuff you do such as ‘studio tours’, ‘day in the life of an artist’, ‘watch me pack orders’. What boring part of your art journey would non artists love to see? Have you seen how popular varnishing videos are? No seriously!

Posting regularly also ensures that your artwork is being proliferated to a larger audience base, increasing conversions.

Of course this point deserves an article of its own to fully do it justice as there are multiple steps to maximising the algorithm on each platform and I will flesh these points out in future articles, designed specifically for artists.

However, if you are oblivious of how you can use social media to your benefit, hire marketing professionals who are adept in digital marketing. There is no shame in outsourcing the areas you dislike or are not good at but there is no longer any excuse to avoid social media in the art market as it is the primary place buyers go to find new collections to invest in.

Final Thoughts

Art is a way of life. It is an eclectic blend of vibrant hues, creative thoughts, and unique perceptions that makes life more glorious and vivid. As an artist, do not let your artistic flair perish due to challenges when it comes to selling your work. For many of us there is no alternative to living a creative life but that means we must implement equally creative strategies to accompany it to ensure a good living. I no longer believe the trope of the starving artists; I believe there are artists who are using the endless opportunities available to them and those who are not.

Lastly, although these tips will help you maximize the number of potential buyers, in the end, it is just your art that casts a spell on your potential buyers. Ensure that you put out all your passion when creating artwork to enchant art collectors. Build loyalty and trust with your potential buyers and focus on the authenticity of your artwork. These factors will go a long way in making your brand eminent and celebrated!

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