Image courtesy of Cory HuffArtists are using the web more than ever before to sell their work and connect with their fans. But monetizing your art can be a big challenge, especially in a space as crowded as the internet. So, some expert advice can be handy. This week, we talked with marketing specialist Cory Huff from The Abundant Artist. Cory is an art blogger and storyteller on a mission: to help artists take charge of their own art business and build a following online.Cory, can you tell us what the absolute must-haves are for artists that want to monetize their art online?
Minimum: a website and a way to take money. Commonly, this takes the place of something I call Art Malls. Art malls are huge websites where artists compete with thousands of other artists. Everyone's page looks mostly the same, and everyone's sales are mostly the same. It's very difficult to stand out in these situations, but they provide an easy way to get started.
Successful artists usually have their own websites with e-commerce or print on demand options. They also maintain an email list and possibly a social media following.
But having a website and a way to make money is only the first step, how can artists get traffic and clients?
Collect emails. Sign up for a service like Mailchimp and display an email opt-in box on every page of your site in a prominent place. This way when people come to your site you can capture their attention and contact them again.
Know whose attention you are trying to get. Are you trying to reach gallery owners? Museum curators? Collectors? Niche groups of collectors? Regular people? Your marketing and storytelling will change based on this understanding.
Beyond that, learn to tell your story and the story of your art. If you understand how to tell stories, and regularly present them in an interesting fashion, then use email and social media to spread your story, you will get traffic.
What are some other ways to build a following and market your work?
There are lots and lots of ways. You can teach classes online through Skype or Google+ Hangouts. You can license your work to companies who want to use it in their marketing. You can sell originals online too - it really does happen.
There are also things you can do offline. A basic one is asking people who show up to your gallery openings to sign up for your mailing list, then following up with an email inviting them to your site. I've seen some artists have success with gathering phone numbers and sending out text messages for secret shows.
What are the most common mistakes artists make when trying to sell their art online and how can they best avoid them?
By far the most common mistake is trying to sell your art to everyone. We all have a specific audience. Talk to them, get them really excited, and they will bring their friends along. Set yourself apart from others by understanding who you are and what you represent as an artist. Every great artist has something to say, because artists think deeply, and feel intensely. That intensity is attractive to other folk.
Be you and your message will act as a beacon to the right people. Invest in yourself as an entrepreneur and learn the business side of art.
How do you see the art space developing in the future, with the changes and tools the internet has to offer?
Every week or so I hear from another artist who has left the gallery world in favor of selling directly to collectors. Artists are becoming more savvy about the Internet and the smart gallery owners will partner with their artists to leverage each others' online presence and create really interesting shows. Gallery owners promote artists to their own lists, and artists should do the same for the galleries that represent them.
Start thinking of the relationship with the artist as a business partnership instead of a dependency, and you'll be heading in the right direction.