Arts Career- how to educate and add value!

Last week I had a little rant about pricing products as a business. I’d love to see artists and crafters charging what they deserve (and NEED!) to charge for their fine work! But this of course raised a lot of other issues. So as an artist, if we start charging more for our art, how do we get people to pay more? Here are my thoughts on this, and a few other related things!
Art is a Unique Commodity- There’s a lot of art out there at the moment. But unless someone is directly copying your work (which does sadly happen!), your art is YOURS and no one else out there has that to offer. If someone falls in love with one of your paintings, and you’re charging say $50 for a print of it, they can’t turn up their nose and go, well, I’m going to go and buy it off that artist who sells prints for $8. They can’t, the other artist doesn’t have YOUR work.
This is good! But there is also bad! While you’re not in direct competition with other artists, the other artist might have something else that customer might like. And customers will sometimes compromise on their favourite to get something a bit cheaper, there’s no doubting that. Particularly when the other artists work might be a bit similar.
What do you do?
Quality and Innovation– Firstly, differentiate yourself and your product. Create something that is of a level of quality and innovation to stand out from among the masses. Too many people painting fairies? Paint fairy cats! (Waves to Tigerpixie!). Too many people doing Pet portraits? Do ASCI art pet portraits (I’ve seen someone doing this, it’s cool!). Expand your artist horizons, explore what your inner artistic drive is capable of and loves doing!
Be the best you can be– I see some artists who never stop bemoaning their lack of sales and desire for more customers. But at the same time, I never see these same artists bemoaning their lack of skills in their craft and desire to be better. Most artists whose art or craft I admire, who I see succeeding and improving all the time are neurotic at best about their skills. We never feel good enough, we are always trying to improve, we are always challenging ourselves and living through the torture of not meeting our expectations of where we want our skill level to be. Of having to learn a bit at a time, learn through our mistakes as well as our successes. This may sound overly dramatic, but when people talk about the “tortured soul of an artist”, this is where the truth of that statement is for me, personally, in that drive to always be BETTER! So be better, improve your art. It is, after all, your number one commodity!
Learn what makes art GOOD– Ok, this is a seriously touchy subject. Some people will defend to the teeth the concept that ALL art is good simply by being ART and being created by an artistic soul. I wonder whether these people are as quick to defend those modern artists that use dead cat heads in their art as they are to defend the amateur artist who they call friend? There are certain things that by design, by our culture and by our very biology make something visually appealing… or not. It doesn’t mean style or genre or how deep or lovely your concept is. It’s about values, composition, colour choices. There is a science behind the image that every artist should understand. Some artists are blessed with an eye and talent to creating perfect compositions innately, but EVEN THEY should understand and be aware of the science behind it. Study it, learn it. Never stop learning.
Educate the Customer– Your work takes a certain skill and vision that is unique to you, it takes time, energy, care and when someone else can see and appreciate that the resulting product or artwork will have greater value than any mass produced item. Show people how you work. Show how you never stop learning! Explain how you find your inspiration, the lengths you go to researching your craft. Tell them about the grand design and theme of the artwork. Why do you think abstracts that have pages and pages of frou frou outlining the artists motivation for the artwork sell for thousands? People want to fall in love with an artwork, they want to feel an emotional response and personal connection to it, and the artist who created it. Artists succeed through personal contact. Yes, you need to always be professional, but also just be yourself! People want to know the real you. Building real relationships with customers can turn them from a casual viewer into a buyer and collector, as well as a friend. 🙂
Don’t be a boring commercial break– No one likes blatant advertising. When you’re trying to explain to people the value of your craft, focus on the BENEFITS the artwork or item has for them, not it’s features. That artwork there? It’s 50cm by 50cm in size… yeah who cares… Will it look great on my wall and make everyone who comes into my home jealous?? Yes it will! There’s the benefit! That necklace is made of silver and glass. Great, whatever. But did you also know it will be an awesome conversation starter and accentuates your…. er… eyes… yes, your eyes. Benefit!!!!
Still include the details and features, of course, people want to know these things, but they aren’t the where the VALUE is.
Offer alternatives– If a customer loves an image, they don’t always mind what format they get it in. If they can’t afford a $50 print, maybe a $5 greeting card will do it, and yes, let them know they can frame the card! Or wait, if they want the print, how about lay away options? Or be even more innovative. Start a prints club for customers. I read about this one in the Artists Marketing 101 handbook (I think! It’s still packed away so I can’t check). It’s a neat concept of charging a subscription fee to customers monthly, for which they get to pick an art print to receive each month… or save up to receive an original… at the same time as receiving other perks like newsletters, etc. However you want to work it! People can often feel better about expenses when it just *poofs* out of their account a little bit every month.
Be a pro– Being professional isn’t about the $s you make or just throwing the word around. It’s about all the things I discussed above, and more. It’s pushing your mind to greater limits, behaving respectfully, being innovative, always learning, researching, studying! Do you think I wrote all this by pulling it out of my… hat? Nope. I learned it from books and other websites and experience. I spend large amounts of my time still learning. I’ve been learning this business for almost TEN YEARS now. And I still feel like an amatuer in every way, not fit to run a business, lol! But I know I’m always getting better, slowly and steadily, in both my art, and my sales!

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