I graduated from college back in 1981. That is 34 years ago! Yikes, time flies. I loved my time in college taking fine art classes. Yet looking back on it now, I know there was a lot missing from my art education.
One of the things missing was a class or two (or three) on art marketing and business. I did take a class on advertising but that did not even give me the basics on art marketing.
I have a fine art degree specializing in graphic design but no where was there a class on art marketing or how I was supposed to sell my art or skills. How is an artist supposed to make a living without knowing how to market their art?
I’ve had a dual career in making fine art and doing graphic design/production art for most of my art career. I’ve pretty much had to figure out the business side of making art myself with self-education and taking seminars and classes and doing lots of reading. This article will concentrate on the fine art side of making art.
I think every college art student needs to know how to create a business plan and how and where to sell their art.
Here are some basics to think about that every art student needs to consider.
First, start with naming the top 5 things that you make and would like to sell and where to sell them.
For example, it might be original paintings, prints, clay figures, earrings, wall calendars that you sell online, or in a brick and mortar shop or gallery or all of the above!
Of those 5 products, which one do you like doing the best and want to spend most of your time making and selling? For me, it is painting. Which one is second? For me, it is fine art prints. So I mainly make original paintings for sale and when they are finished, I scan them and create an electronic file that can be used to sell my art as prints.
Artists I know, including myself, need to have multiple income streams so you might want to consider the different things you can make to sell.
Then you need to consider, how much money do you want to make per year from your art?
For example, if it is approx. $40,000 a year. That would be $3,333 per month or $833 per week.
Now how many pieces of art do you need to sell per week to make $833?
There are other things to consider too such as your costs. How much are you spending on art supplies? How much time do you spend and how many miles do you drive to get the supplies? How much are you paying yourself per hour to make your art and get your supplies? Here is a link to a free craft pricing formula calculator so you can figure some of this out.
There are also shipping costs and supplies and time involved to package and mail your artwork. Sometimes you can hire someone else to do that for you. There are also drop ship companies that can make prints of your artwork and send it to the customer but they will charge you to do that.
So all these costs need to be taken into consideration. Don’t forget 15.3% of what you make goes to pay your self-employment tax too.
Here is a document to help you keep track of your monthly expenses for when you do your taxes.
This is simple math but never was this taught in my college classes! It’s hard to believe that figuring these things out was not part of the curriculum.
Then there are also marketing costs. Where will you advertise your art? Will you use blog ads, have an etsy shop and use their advertising, use Facebook ads, send out postcards, use Craigslist or social media?
For social media, you could use the below outlets to get the word out about your art. Many of these are free to use.
Make sure you know how to use these social networks effectively otherwise you are wasting your time. I recommend reading a couple of good blog posts about how to use them. Read some articles like this and this to figure out what to do.
Your marketing plan is just a small piece of a larger business plan.
A good business plan is essential.
You’ll need to establish an advertising budget and figure out who your ideal client is. This is a great post by Lisa Jacobs on Identifying your ideal client.
If you didn’t get a good art marketing class in college, there is still hope. There are lots and lots of art marketing classes online. Just do a search on Art Marketing for Artists and you will find classes to take. I also recommend Leonie Dawson’s 2016 Shining Year Workbook and biz planner or Lisa Jacobs Your Best Year 2016 Biz Planner for planning with your business goals.
I know this is a simple run down of things to consider but don’t NOT do it. I think it is essential if you want to make art not as a hobby but as a real business.
And if you want to get inspired by making art from your soul, try Flora Bowley’s art e-course.
If you have any other recommendations, put them in the comments below.
Best of luck to you with your creativity and business goals!