Making Art a Business – How to Sell Your Paintings

I’m learning a lot this year about how to SELL my paintings. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

1) It’s all in your mind. For various reasons in the past several years, I haven’t had the right frame of mind. If you’ve read ‘The Secret’ or believe in positive visualization, then you know what I’m talking about. For you to sell paintings, you have to believe that your paintings have value, that they are worth the prices you set, and that there are people out there ready to buy them. You have to trust that they will be sold and see it happening in your mind.

For me, I used to say “I don’t really think I will sell paintings” or “I can’t imagine anyone spending this much money – I certainly wouldn’t”. That was definitely a losing attitude. At the same time, I knew my paintings were exceptionally valuable, and that one day they would sell for lots of money, I just couldn’t imagine it happening now, here, in the places I was showing. Once I realized and corrected this mistake, I found that paintings weren’t that hard to sell.

2) Be ready to let them go – and price accordingly. It was always hard for me to let a painting go – especially for a low sum like a few hundred dollars. I had wanted to save them until I was famous, and sell them for thousands of dollars; but it doesn’t work like that. Prices will be lower until you’re established. Keeping the prices high in the beginning doesn’t work for you; you need to sell in order to please galleries, to appear successful, and to make some money to keep going. You will always paint new stuff. Hold onto a few favorites if you must, but be ready and willing psychologically to part with a painting. Cut your emotional attachment.

3) Think like Google – it’s all about impressions. This isn’t about making a ‘good’ impression – it’s about making any impression, period. People need to see your name connected to your work, as much and as often as possible. If they see it 4 or 5 times in different places, and actually kind of ‘know who you are’, they might actually come to a show. The first time they hear of you, they’ll most likely

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pass you by. Become recognized by showing a lot, all over, whenever you can, wherever you can.

4) Network. You cannot sell paintings without people working with you. Go to shows and openings. Meet other artists, curators and gallery owners. Never push your work, although you can say ‘I’m an artist’ and casually hand a business card. Never ask for help though. Network especially with other artists in your area – and give more than you receive! Let them know about exhibition opportunities or events, then they will do they same for you. I used to try and do everything on my own, but I was an outsider. Now, just by meeting a few people in my community who are also involved in the arts, doors are opening quickly.

5) Invest in yourself. You have a PRODUCT that you are trying to sell. Think like a business. Are you willing to spend $300 in advertising to sell a $500 painting? You should be! Don’t focus on making a profit – reinvest any income into your career. Advertise exhibitions or shows in the newspaper or local media. Spend more on nice fliers or putting together a mailing list. If you can spend $3000 on promotion and advertising, and sell 10 paintings for $500 each, you’ll still make a huge profit. Isn’t that better than just selling 1 or 2 paintings? Do things BIG, and well.

6) Do things the ‘right’ way. Get things right. Have prices, descriptions and sizes of all paintings handy. Have a pricelist/catalog made. Sell cheap posters or prints. You can make a considerable amount of money this way to offset spending. Learn how to talk about your paintings and present yourself.

7) Presentation – mix up sizes and prices. Space the big, expensive pieces with little, cheap ones. It’s visually more engaging (although counter-intuitive, I liked to group by size before) and it makes the cheap paintings seem very affordable. Make sure half of your paintings are simple and affordable – these are the ones that will sell, and keep your main ‘signature’ pieces big and expensive.

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