Are you a new artist who is hesitant to put yourself out there and sell your work? Are you a longtime artist who wants to grow your sales? Up until a few weeks ago, I had solely been selling my work online but I just had my first in person sales experience and want to share five tips I learned that you can use to make this process more fulfilling and joyful.
The first time I sold my work in person was an exhilarating and scary experience — but mostly exhilarating. As a new artist, I launched my website almost a year ago and have been focused on reaching out to my friends and family for sales as I got my legs under me (which is how every artist starts out). But I recently got to a point where I realized I needed to start reaching a broader audience. There are many ways to build more supporters online, but I have found it is also important, especially when you are starting out, to reach new people in person. Here are five tips I learned that will make it easier to sell your work in person and grow your customer base!
1. Make your work accessible
Whether you are at an art show, a flea market, or a sidewalk fair it is important to make sure it is easy for customers to get up close and really look at your work. It sounds obvious, but I saw many artists who were not following this basic principle. For instance, I saw many people set up a table in front of their work that they sat behind. The challenge with this is if someone is interested in your work, how can they really look at it? How can they get close enough to truly engage with it? Don’t put yourself in between your customers and your art. Move the table off to the side like I did in the picture below. Make your art the main focal point, not you.
The picture below shows you what it looks like when the work is not accessible (the photo is intentionally blurry so the artist and her work are protected). You can see that from the perspective of a buyer, you first encounter a table, then an artist, THEN the work. In addition, you can see the customer had to bend down to talk to the artist. This makes it harder on the customer than it needs to be.
2. Give the customers some space
As I mentioned above, the art needs to be the focal point, not the artist. So for the same reason that I recommend you set your table off to the side, you should also stand to the side and give your customers space to engage with the work — you can sit when you need to of course, but stand to talk to a customer when they walk up.
If someone passing by stops and begins admiring your work, give them time to look at it without interruption. I will admit I struggled with this the first couple of times because I was excited to ask customers questions about what they thought of the work. But I could feel I was coming on a little too strong and perhaps scaring some people off. So I started using the rule that if someone stared at the same piece for more than five seconds without moving (and I would count to five slowly in my head), I would then gently step in to introduce myself. It felt more natural and helped me choose which customers to focus my time on.
3. Ask questions
When you are selling your work, remember to focus on learning more about your customer. Rather than talking at them about the piece, who you are, your motivations etc., start by asking them questions about themselves. For instance, “What brings you here today?”, “Where are you from?”, “What draws you to this piece?”, “Are you an artist yourself?”. Then as they answer, keep asking questions! This way, you can learn more about what they are thinking and what interests them. Rather than blindly talking about your work, you can invite the customer into a two-way conversation and tailor it to their needs.
4. Take the guesswork out of pricing
As artists, we can be sensitive when it comes to discussing how much our work costs. Our art is a part of who are — when I have my work on display, it feels like a part of my heart is on view for everyone to see. It is one of the most vulnerable things I have ever done in my life. And while it can be hard to display our work, it can be even harder to discuss selling it. So when someone shows an interest in buying a piece, avoid the awkwardness up front by clearly displaying the price. If a customer is truly interested, this makes it easier on them if they are nervous to ask about the cost (they may be so nervous they don’t ask at all and walk away). By being transparent about the value of your work, you both start the conversation on the same page. I found this to be a super helpful way of making customers, and me, feel much more at ease!
5. Get people to sign up for your mailing list
Lastly, if someone doesn’t buy your work in the moment, it doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. When you are selling your work in person, make sure you get prospective customers to sign up for your mailing list. At my show, I held a raffle for a small print. If someone signed up for my mailing list, they got one entry into the contest. If they followed me on instagram, they got a second entry, and if they got a friend to sign up for my instagram account they got a third entry, and so on and so forth. You can also get really creative here. For instance, take a selfie with your customers and tag them on the spot so they can easily find your social media page after they leave. Your email and social media list is your bread and butter so the more you can add to it, the more chance you have of building a solid base for future sales.
If you don’t put yourself out there, you will never grow as an artist — so, if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to give it a try and find a local show where you can display your work!
Questions? Please reach out to me at www.stephaniewadeartanddesign.com and follow me on instagram and facebook. If you have other in-person selling tips that work for you, please share them in the comments section, we would love to hear them!