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Sharon Louden (left) with a handful of contributing artists to "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life"Paige Cooperstein/Business Insider Contemporary artist Sharon Louden graduated with her MFA from Yale in 1991 with $115,000 worth of debt. She has since settled all her student loans by selling her own art work, but it wasn't easy. As a professional artist, there was no roadmap to follow as she tried to pursue her craft and keep a roof over her head.
Enter "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life," the book Louden edited featuring candid essays by 40 working artists on how they make a living. "Artists used to come up under other famous artists," EFA Studios director Bill Carroll said at this week's book release event at Morgan Lehman Gallery in Chelsea. "Reubens wasn't just teaching you how to paint, but how to get commissions and work with clients.
" That kind of commercial talk is largely absent in today's art curriculum. Dozens of MFA students are pushed into the real world without a clue as to how to sell their work and themselves. "It feels kind of like bathroom talk," contributing artist David Humphry said of the business side of art. "It's very intimate." The cover of the book Louden edited featuring 40 candid essays about how artists make a livingCourtesy of Sharon Louden The contributing artists shared their stories of doing everything from teaching and painting houses to working Craigslist jobs and investing in real estate to sustain their creative practices.
1. Network with artists, writers, and buyers As uncomfortable as it may be for an artist to leave the sanctity of the studio, nothing gets sold without interacting with writers who will bring attention to the art, the 500 or so well-to-do people who are interested in buying art, and the other artists who can give introductions to their art world connections. "When you're young, you talk to everybody," contributing artist Ellen Harvey told Business Insider.
"Your career gets its own momentum once you start meeting people. Artists rely a lot on other artists and you can't overlook that generosity. I think it's also important to buy other artists' work." When times get tough, artists can sell the work in their collections or trade on the goodwill of being an active participant in the marketplace. 2. Pay attention to your finances and make a budget "Honestly, looking at my finances was the best thing for me," contributing artist Erik Hanson told Business Insider.
"My goal has always been to have an art career. When I got money and I was presented with the option of paying my rent or going to Miami for Art Basel, I would go to Miami," he said. "I got into some really scary financial situations because I thought I had to sacrifice everything for the art. It forced me to soberly look at my money and ask if I'm spending it the best I can." "I've really tried to be more responsible," Hanson said, "and get jobs that pay well.
" He primarily makes money by selling his art work, but also works odd jobs he thinks will fulfill his creative practice. Over the summer, he got a job on Craigslist to work with antique carousels at a carnival on Governors Island, south of Manhattan. 3. Plan ahead and take internships that count "If you wait to think about your career until you first graduate, you're way behind," contributing artist Tony Ingrisano told Business Insider.
"I interned with three galleries and got a lot of experience with the behind-the-scenes work like art selling and handling, even down to things that are good for the website and marketing. When you're working for free [at an internship], you want to make sure you learn something." Ingrisano, the youngest contributor to "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life," teaches drawing at Briarcliff College in Long Island when he's not making massive ink drawings in his own studio.
"People just assume that if you're in a gallery, all that work is sold and you're living well, but that's not the case. A lot of that art goes back to that person's studio. Having gallery representation is not the answer to economic stability," he said. 4. Commit to working as an artist "I decided at a certain point that all money had to be made in the studio," contributing artist Kate Shepherd told Business Insider.
She relies wholly on selling her artwork to make an income. "I did art jobs on an as-needed basis like copying paintings and doing portrait paintings. After a commercial piece, I'd make a work for myself based on that commercial piece. Had I had a waitressing or paralegal job, my hand wouldn't have been moving in the same constructive way." 5. Open a gallery, treat it like a business Contributing artist Austin Thomas started investing in real estate in Brooklyn, and a year and a half ago, she opened a gallery space in Manhattan called Pocket Utopia.
"Owning your own business gives you the most flexibility of all," Thomas told Business Insider. "You decide when you're open and closed. I feel like I'm even more influential in the art world because I sell other artists' works and try to make money for myself and them. Some of the people [here for the book event] I've sold their work for the highest price it's ever gotten." 6. Get used to playing the real estate game "I had to move my studio after so many years there because Etsy started taking over in the heart of Dumbo," contributing artist Jenny Marketou told Business Insider.
"Etsy is willing to pay twice the rent, so I had to move," she said, "Luckily I travel so much that I could move to a smaller space in the same building. Space is the biggest issue for an artist based in New York City. In a few years I'll be completely out of Dumbo. I still have to pay the rent for where I live." Marketou has an apartment in the East Village, and moving into a smaller studio actually lowered her overhead.
She works in a lot of different countries where her work has been commissioned for biennials, after creating an international network of curators since she came to the city for art school in the 1980s. 7. Only go into teaching if you love it "If you don't have a passion for teaching," contributing artist Carson Fox told Business Insider, "absolutely don't go into it. The college level is outrageously competitive.
" "I was on a search committee for one sculpture instructor position. We received 300 applications and 80% of the people were right out of grad school. The people with little to no experience like that just don't stand a chance." Fox works as an associate professor of art and art history at Adelphi University in Garden City, N.Y. She advised applying for grants and residencies to diversify an artist's income outside of teaching.
8. Take advantage of the down economy "The art market crashed in 1986 along with the economy," contributing artist Brian Tolle told Business Insider. "It wasn't a great time to graduate, but the depressed economy meant the market was looking for cheap talent, and young artists benefitted as a result. The expectations were so low that it was easier to break in and when the economy started to recover, we were already in place.
" Now Tolle routinely manages to create work on the budgets of public art work committees. He often gets a flat fee that has to cover his time and expenses in generating these massive projects. Tolle has three public works he will install this spring: one in Canada, one in Houston, Tex., and one in Brooklyn. SEE ALSO: 8 Ways To Invest In Art That You Probably Haven't Considered
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UPDATE from Cory: While this post is a few years old, and Facebook’s algorithms have changed, the principles outlined are still relevant. The idea of creating a conversation, engaging with your collectors, and using solid marketing techniques all still apply. If you are concerned about getting buried by FB’s algorithms, the only surefire way around it is to learn to use FB’s ad platform. Ultimately, it’s now a pay to play system and you have to play by their rules if you want to see consistent, scalable success.
We have a course on FB marketing that is updated twice per year to keep up with the latest trends. For the last 8 years, I’ve offered my work online through various venues, with the support of my own website and organic marketing (social media, word of mouth, etc.). But it was in 2010, that I recognized a potentially sustainable source of income in one particular social network. I have made over $50,000 selling my art on Facebook, and I will show you how you can too.
Facebook, despite it’s constant scrutiny, is a growing giant and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. According to allfacebook.com: Facebook currently has 845 million active users. Facebook accounts for 1 out of every 5 pageviews on the internet worldwide. Facebook users share over 100 billion connections collectively. Over 50% of the population in North American uses Facebook. 250 million photos are uploaded to Facebook daily.
There are 2.7 billion likes every single day on Facebook. Since they’ve gone public, along with it’s growing integration into every website and social network in the world, it’s becoming a force we cannot ignore. Everyone’s mom, grandfather, cousin, dog is on Facebook. It’s becoming a rich resource for finding current and new audiences. Everyone is on getting on board. HOW I BEGAN A year after I created my own page, I began to actively post and correspond with fans.
People loved to share pictures of their favorite art or ask me questions about my work. I wasn’t really into it too much, and didn’t see the potential of the site so I rarely logged on or answered questions. I had no idea how effective or useful it would be. Within a year, I had stopped selling work on sites like eBay or Etsy and took time off to work on other endeavors. When I wanted to sell an artwork or offer prints, I’d just post them on there to see if anyone was interested.
To my surprise, they WERE. By 2010 (a year in), My fanbase grew from 300 to 1000 as old followers and new found me on Facebook. I began to share the link to my page on Twitter (where I had 4000-9000 followers) and on my blog, which I’d been writing since 2006. I realized the potential and began to experiment on what worked and didn’t work for me and my personal following. By 2011, I was selling art on Facebook exclusively, making over $50,000 in sales from my original paintings and fine art prints.
So, HOW exactly did I make this work in 2-3 years? Here are some practices/methods I’ve used that helped not only build my fanbase, but increase engagement, develop interest and increase sales. 7 KEYS TO CREATING YOUR FANBASE AND SELLING ART ON FACEBOOK The first thing to understand is, it’s most important to develop a reputation with your collectors/fanbase before you can really start selling your art.
It’s important to engage with your collectors and build relationships. This is particularly wonderful for us as artists, because you really don’t have this opportunity in a gallery setting unless you have the time to be out and about all the time! ENGAGE 1. Start conversations/use engaging tools: – Post a photo of work you are developing (Progress pictures). – Post an artwork from your past, childhood, present.
Show where you’ve come from, what you’re working on (series) or an artwork you want to offer. – Ask a question: ask them questions about themselves, ask about your work, ask about current topics. Use topics that relate to your work or your personal audience. Everyone is different. – Start a topic: talk about your process, what you’re working on, what you did today, etc. People respond most to things that are visual or involve THEM.
People love to talk about themselves, and they’ll be interested in sharing their own stories, thoughts, interests! Get them going! 2. Make it fun: – Create contests: photo contests, commenting contests, liking contests. You want to create things that inspire them to share or participate in. With the new Timeline, other people are going to see their friends’ likes, shares and comments. Offer an incentive: Winner gets print of the month (or choice), someone gets discount in your shop, one of 10 commenters will get a free print, etc.
– Encourage fans to share pictures of their collections, favorite artwork or their dog. Whatever it is, that could be related to your artwork, your brand or your web presence. 3. Don’t ignore the stats: – Research your audience: Use Facebook Insights to understand the type of people that are “liking” and engaging on your page, and from there you can learn and develop your audience. – Study how to use insights so that you can better read the data that is offered to you.
Find other tools that might help you engage with your audience. BE CONSISTENT 4. Create a schedule/system: – Decide what time of day, how many times a day, how many times per week you will post. And what ‘type’ of content you will post. – Create a day/time for what content is shared: New art on Fridays? Studio Sales on Sundays? Illustration of the day Tuesdays? Fanchat Thursdays? 5. Sell your art with a plan: – Create sales goals and develop a system that will help you reach those goals.
– Determine what you are willing to sell your artwork for. Will you offer prints? Will you offer just small artwork or everything you create? I never allow an original artwork to sell for less than $200, but this is all dependent on your fanbase, how many follow you on Facebook, what you offer, how long you’ve been an artist and who your audience is. – Do you want to offer your art directly on Facebook or promote your other sites where the art is available? CREATE URGENCY 6.
It’s important to create an urgency and rarity for your work on a social network because everything is posted in real time, exposure on Facebook is short term and not every follower will see your posts. – With original art, I’d give them a chance to make their price: I say: Make an offer & it’s yours! which creates an open opportunity for them to name what they’d pay. Allow yourself as much time as you want to see how many offers you get.
The longer, the better, but if you feel it necessary to keep short, do so. I only offer originals for up to 24 hours for bids. After that, if there is nothing, I delete and move on. I might offer the original later a different day and time because some days are either bad timing or most people aren’t really on their Facebook. – Use sayings like “The first (number) of people to comment-” or “The first one to say “SOLD!” can purchase-” to create the urgency to reply.
I’ve found that if I simply post payment information for artworks or link to an artwork, there is less of a chance at making a sale. – Create rarity with limited times or limited offers: Certain prints or specials will be available from this day to that day, or for 24 hours, or until the Friday of that week. Something of that nature, where the special will not be available anywhere else and is not done on a REGULAR basis.
It’s completely genuine and legitimate as a form of selling art. Disney does this with their classics and it has worked well for them. Creating urgency not only helps keep your fans’ attention but help increase engagement which in turn will help increase the exposure of that particular post across other timelines. More likes, comments or shares equals more exposure for that post. INVEST IN PROMOTION 7.
Advertise your page – I’ve found that with even the smallest investment in advertising, you can increase your fan base as well as potential sales through the use of Facebook ads. Really study your Facebook Insights and determine the best plan for advertising. Sometimes I only advertise with my spending limit at $30-50. at a time. Facebook offers a wonderful system that makes it simple even for the novice.
Play around with the advertising system a few times and you will get the hang of it. From there, decide how much you’re willing to spend each month, every few months or year. Perhaps you only advertise for a week or few weeks around a special event or artwork you are working on. 8. Promoting posts really works! – You are able to promote a particular post (perhaps you are offering a limited print or original artwork for sale) for anywhere from $5.
00 to $30.00 to reach a certain amount of your audience. That particular promotion will last anywhere up to 3 days. Promoting pages increases the chances of that post to be seen by your fans for a longer period of time. This is great because, in reality, not everyone will see that post. People log on at different times, for different lengths. Not everyone goes directly to the page to read what’s happening.
I have fans who follow me regularly but might miss one post or they happened to be on vacation that week or don’t see that artwork I offered three times that month. – And if, at any time you wish to cancel or pause a promotion, you CAN. Sometimes I’ll reach a certain amount of sales that I wanted and pause the promotion. You might only spend 30 cents or $1.40 when you promote a post. So, how do I do it? – I post regularly – almost every day.
– I offer art weekly, through Studio Sales, special limited edition offers and print sales. – I promote my Etsy shop, eBay auctions and other sites through Facebook. – I revisit old events, old artworks and past experiences for content. – I syndicate my blog and social networks to the page to increase content, social engagement and product awareness. Check out the Course UPDATE from Cory: This post was so popular that we put together a course on How to Sell Art on Facebook.
Click here to check it out!
Title: How To Make Money Selling Art