Sunday, December 12, 2010

Marketing Your Work

Wilson Mountain Sketch, 9x12, pastel - $100 - SOLD

Imagine a beet farmer with lots of beets to sell but no truck to get them to the grocery store. It's like a painter without marketing skills. Marketing is the engine that sells the beets - or paintings - and puts money in the bank. It allows you to keep on doing what you love best.

It's tough being a self-employed painter in a free-market economy. There's enough to being a painter without having to market the work, too. Just think of all the details that occupy your day in the studio - ordering paints and canvas, wrestling with composition, color and brush-handling, framing the work. I sometimes yearn for the days of Soviet-style, state-supported arts in which an artist could just make paintings and not have to worry about marketing it. (Of course, then I'd have other problems to worry about, such as whether I'd have to give up painting for a few years to go work on a collective farm, harvesting beets.)

In the old days, you got a gallery to do your marketing, and it wasn't much. They had a mailing list and perhaps placed an ad in some glossy collectors' magazine. You might also have hung out a shingle advertising your studio. But today, marketing - and the economy - has changed. We haven't totally abandoned mailing lists, magazine ads and shingles, but now we also have Facebook, Twitter, eBay and Google Adwords. Figuring out how to market turnips is a lot harder now, especially with so many ways to do so and with many of them, such as Facebook and Twitter, still unproven.

So what do you do? As you've always done - establish a marketing budget that fits your business projections. In that budget, be mostly conservative in your marketing venues, but leave yourself a little room for new marketing opportunities. Something may come along with a lot of buzz attached to it, and you may want to try it.

And, please, let me know if you find one that really works!


rdglo said...

Hi Michael! Don't forget that when the market is flooded with way, too many turnips and beets, the price will drop drastically! What does farmer John do to stick out in the crowd of generic beets? Should he present his beets in a new way, like "organically grown beets" etc.?? to add a little more appeal to his product while at the same time casting a bit of a shadow on the quality of many of the other beets and turnips, and outright potatoes out there competing with him in the global arena?

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Indeed - and many farmers are unwilling to drop prices of their beets, even though there is a surplus on the market now. Perhaps we'll see that happening soon. As for standing out from the crowd - or, I guess, from the grocer's display - there are lots of tricks. But I dislike tricks. And can the free market really create a better beet? (Or does it just create a better marketeer?)

Nancy Asbell Arts said...


Anonymous said...

This is an ever evolving issue; as you mention, there are many new avenues of marketing that are unproven, and the online work can take so long, not just to learn, but to implement.

As artists find solutions, or create a plan perhaps they will turn to the Maine Arts Commission's marketing grant to make that a reality. This grant, called the Arts Visibility grant will help you with setting aside your budget, and will fund artists who are trying to increase their visibility in any way.
Check it out online and apply.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

You're welcome, Nancy! Anon - I don't live in Maine, but that Visibility Grant is a great idea!