3 Ways You’re Sabotaging Your Art Business

Have you ever been frustrated that you have paintings collecting dust, and you can’t understand why they’re not selling? Have you ever found yourself having to make changes to an already-finished painting that you knew were not artistically best (but you did it anyway)? Do you have to supplement your art business with side jobs in order to support yourself? 

If you answered YES to any of these questions, you’re in the right place! 

I bet you can sell more art! I bet you can streamline the way you work with clients, so you don’t have to work against your better artistic judgment. And they’ll have a more satisfying experience working with you. Most importantly, I’d like to empower you to take steps toward making your art business your main source of income. 

Artists are notorious for passively waiting for sales to come to them. Does that sound like you? I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and be proactive. Go out and create the sales you want! Don’t beat around the bush—be direct but tactful, confident but tasteful—and make it easy for your clients to purchase your work. 

Here are three ways you’re probably sabotaging your art business and suggestions for how you can get out of your own way and better serve your clients.

It’s All About You

Because our work as artists is very personal, it can sometimes become “Me, Me Me!” all the time. But I’ve found the most success in selling work when it becomes personal to the customer and meets their needs. Here’s what you do: find out what their needs are and show how you can help fill those needs. Are they looking for a special birthday gift? Something unique for that person who has everything? Are they renovating their home and need a strong statement piece? Make it about them—not about your work! How can YOU and your work serve them?

Too Many Choices

Many artists lack the oomph—the authority needed to guide their clients and give direction. Remember, YOU’RE the professional! They’ll be looking to you for guidance. Be prepared to explain exactly what you’re offering. YOU are in the driver’s seat. Too many options leave clients frustrated and paralyzed. For example, for a custom piece, limit the number of size options. Have a base price for your smallest pieces and build from there. Let them know at what stage they can collaborate and when that time is over. Make your process and expectations clear—because they don’t know! I’ve found that clients respond positively to confidence and decisiveness. Keep in mind that they lead busy lives too, and too many choices can lead to paralysis and may even cost you the sale.

You’re Not Charging Enough!

Now here’s the scary one. You’re probably not charging enough for your work. I see so many talented artists charging far too little for their work. This undermines the quality and value of your work. VALUE YOUR WORK, YOUR TIME, YOUR EXPERTISE and learn to price your work accordingly. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices. Remember, other professionals charge for their services—you are offering both a service and a product. You want to sell your work to those who highly value and appreciate it. The “starving artist” syndrome is self-imposed and self-afflicting. It has no business in your business!

So, in review:

Take some risks and find your market. Ask them how can you best serve them? How can their needs be met as ONLY YOU CAN? Go to them—don’t wait for them to come to you!

Know exactly what you’re offering and communicate that clearly to your clients. Anticipate questions and be ready with the answers! They will appreciate your confidence and your guidance as you help them decide on the piece that’s right for them.

Finally, be sure to value your work, your time, and your expertise and price your work accordingly. Unapologetically. With poise and confidence. Remember, YOU are the artist, YOU are the professional.

Follow these tips, and you’ll be on your way to building a successful art business rather than sabotaging it!

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Hi, I'm Jen!

I’m an oil painter, illustrator, art educator, and art business woman. I specialize in painting horses and pets, but I love to paint and sketch many things.

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