how to sell art
Back Email Page

 How to sell art

Learn how to sell art on a shoe string budget
"online and offline marketing ideas for success"

Want to learn how to sell your art and make a living from your passion? Robb Scott offers effective online and offline marketing ideas designed to help you build a following, raise your profile and put money in your pocket. You don't need a large marketing buget, you just need to be creative. Learn how to sell your art with these great articles by art and business columnist Robb Scott.



"Networking for the year 3000"
How to sell art - (Article #9)

Networking is about gathering information in order to create opportunities. Opportunities create the possibility for growth. Following up on those opportunities creates success. This is why networking is one of the most important business skills you need. Nobody has built their business empire alone and every successful person has had a ‘lucky’ break or two in their careers. However, hard work creates luck. Talk to enough people, follow up on every opportunity and eventually you’ll find yourself in the right place at the right time.


The world presents us with never ending networking possibilities all the time. No matter how long you’ve been away from your passion you’ll find opportunities popping up the moment you get back in the game. They are literally everywhere. But you do have to look for them as they rarely just jump into your arms. So where do you find these opportunities?


If you’re like I was, networking conjured up bad images of handing out business cards at stuffy business luncheons to people I didn’t know. That’s why I tried my best to avoid it. Although properly targeted luncheons and workshops can be a very effective means of networking, it’s far more dynamic than that. Networking happens the moment you leave your home. Every conversation you have, every time you sit at your computer, every newspaper you read, you’re presenting yourself with an opportunity to gather information valuable to your career.


In fact, one of the best opportunities I’ve come across happened while standing in line at Tim Horton’s. While pretending not to listen intently, I overheard two ladies describing an event I thought sounded worthwhile. I attended, made four good contacts, and eventually landed three big jobs because of it. Schools, books, online forums, workshops, best friends, even dreams, they all offer the opportunity to gather information that could provide you the next big piece of your business puzzle.


So find the goals you want to reach and set the wheels in motion to make it happen. If your persistent enough and know what you want, you won’t have a hard time finding opportunities to advance your career. Remember, hard work creates good luck.



"Learn SEO and reap the rewards from your site"
How to sell art - (Article #8)


"If you build it they will come." This is the hope many of us have when we first throw open the virtual doors of our business. The unfortunate truth is simply building it does not mean they will come. In fact they won't come unless you build your website to be found. There are over 100 million sites competing for our attention and you're guaranteed thousands of competitors promoting a similar idea. The good news is most have little idea about good SEM (Search Engine Marketing) techniques as well.

So how do you climb atop the heap and land on the first page of Google? The three key factors for success include optimizing your text with keywords, updating the content of your site regularly and getting other websites to link to you. Let me explain further. Optimizing your site with keywords works like this; if you create oil paintings than you'll want to select keywords such as "oil paintings, painting, landscape paintings, etc." and build the text of your website around those words. This tells Google what your about and where to rank you with sites featuring similar keywords. After your site is live you'll want to update your content monthly by adding new art, information or products. New content tells Google you're remaining relevant to what their customers search for. Finally, Google loves a popularity contest and it chooses it's winners by finding out who links to who. If your site has a lot of incoming links they'll see that your popular within your community and will rank you accordingly.

By focusing on these three key ingredients you can begin to formulate a plan for success and move up the Google ladder. I strongly urge you to educate yourself further before jumping in and making costly mistakes however. Each of these key steps is a book within itself and youll  need more information that Ive provided to do it properly. I suggest purchasing a book about SEO (Search engine optimization) or reading up on the latest SEO blogs online. Ranking well is not difficult nor confusing if your willing to be patient. With the proper effort you could land on the first page of Google within six months of your website launching.


"Don't sell yourself short as an artist"
How to sell art - (Article #7)

Can relate to this situation? You’re selling at an art festival and the day hasn’t been particularly kind in regards to profit. A potential customer approaches your work and begins perusing your artistic creations. They come upon a piece that catches their attention. They pick it up and smile as if it’s recalling fond memories. They turn it around and look it over. They toss it in the air. They take a bite out of the middle. Basically, they’re showing all the signs of becoming a potential buyer. Desperate for a sale, and sensing an opportunity, you decide to tell them they can have it for $20 instead of the listed price of $40. Their look turns to one of distrust and they quizzically mutter something along the lines of “really, only $20?” After a couple polite minutes they put the art back and walk away.

So what went wrong? Were they simply walking down memory lane and had no intention of buying anyhow? Did something more attractive at the next booth catch their attention? Those are possibilities. Though chances are just as good your desperation cheapened your art and turned your customer away. This is a very easy trap to fall into for many reasons, some of them quite legitimate. Bills need to be paid. Your ego needs a boost. The baby needs diapers. But if you want to survive long term as an artist you’ll need to overcome this impulse. You’ll never make a living off the “Freddie flea markets” out there that only look for deals. Respect and money come when you respect your work. Most of us can smell desperation a mile away and will surely know when you’ve been swimming in a huge pool of it.

Find the fair market value on your art and stick to it. Then focus on the other aspects of why customers make buying decisions. Excellent customer service. Superior quality products. Going that extra mile just to name a few. What we need to remember as ARTrepreneurs is that price alone is rarely the reason someone makes a purchase. The majority of us would rather spend $100 on something that’ll last five years instead of $20 on something with a life span of two months. So get out of that smelly pool of desperation and towel yourself off. Your customers are waiting to pay to be wowed!



"What is creativity"
How to sell art - (Article #6)

As an ARTrepreneur creativity is essential to your success. Both from an artistic and business stand point. So what is creativity and how can you become more creative? Let’s start by understanding what creativity is. Creativity can be characterised as the ability to see the world in a unique and original way, to make connections between unrelated ideas or concepts and to put those ideas into action. In reality it’s a two part process; the act of thinking, and the act of doing. A few characteristics common among creative people are a combination of playfulness and discipline, being smart but also naive, tending to swing between introversion and extroversion and being independent or rebelliousness.

"Creativity is the act of thinking, and then doing"

So are we are born creative or can it be learned? According to a study at Exeter University, creativity is learned. The idea that geniuses such as Shakespeare, Einstein and Mozart were `gifted' is a myth. We are all born with natural creativity but as we become older we loss that ability. The average adult generates 3-6 alternate solutions to a problem while the average child generates 60! Learning to be creative is like learning a sport. With practice and a supportive environment your creativity will flourish. No creatively gifted person reached a recognized level of success without devoting thousands of hours of practise. Mozart trained for 16 years before producing an acknowledged classic.

"Creativity is learned"

So how can you become more creative? Creativity is a lifestyle change, not a 20 minute lesson. You’ll need to move out of your comfort zone and try new things. Most of us get stuck in a rut doing the same activities and only pursuing what we are good at. Read a book on a topic that you know nothing about. Learn a new language. Take a new route to work. If you are a painter, take a writing class. If you are a poet, try a music class. Good nutrition and regular exercise are also important to the creative process. The right and left hemispheres of the brain are able to work together more efficiently when the body is active and moving. Most of all remember that many of the great inventions or artwork of our time were initially dismissed as nonsense. Remove that judgemental voice from your head that tells you your ideas are foolish. Be fearless in your ability to think outside the box and don’t dismiss anything. When you do this your creativity will blossom. 

"Caring for your customers"

How to sell art - (Article #5)

There are few things more important to the health of an ARTrepreneur than good Customer service. Succeeding as a working artist will not happen because of your art, it will happen because you understand a happy customer is the best business card you could own.  So how do you keep customers coming back for more? It’s not rocket science. Simply provide customer service that exceeds your customers' expectations. Here are a few ideas that will improve your customer service skills and help you reap the rewards of repeat business.

Know your customer – Don’t become a spy, just learn to listen. During any transaction a customer will provide you with bits of information which you can relate to them the next time you see them.  This could be as simple as offering their name, or telling you a story about how their brother hurt his leg. Next time you see them you could ask, “Hey John, how is your brother doing?” Someone who knows they were remembered will be a customer for life.

Under promise and over deliver – Don’t ever over promise and under deliver.  Think before you give any promises because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one. Instead, under promise and over deliver. If you know you can ship an item in three days, tell your customer it will arrive in five. Once that parcel arrives on day three they'll know you went out of your way for them.

Be honest with your customers - If your customer suspects that you are trying to pull a fast one for profit, you can kiss that customer goodbye – forever! Be up front about all possible defects or problems that might arise so they aren’t caught off guard wondering if they’ve been had.

Keep unhappy customers happy –You can’t provide perfect service each and every time. On those rare occasions when a customer is left disappointed make sure to go above and beyond to correct the situation, even if it’s at an expense to you. Correcting a situation promptly will restore confidence in you as a business person. Remember the saying, “a happy customer tells three friends, an unhappy one tells 10.”

Back to the top


"To give is to receive"
How to sell art - (Article #4)

Giving freely of yourself without asking anything in return often returns more than you could have asked for. This is true not only in life, but also in business. Here are five great ways to practise the gift of giving. Follow them, and your business will grow faster than you could have imagined.

1.       Radio station promotion give-aways:

Radio stations know a lot about the art of giving. They routinely give away prizes in order to reward and retain their listeners. So where do these prizes come from? They come from people like you! Contact the head of promotions and ask to donate your art. The 30 seconds of mass exposure will be well worth your donation. 

2.       Volunteer your skills:

 Go into schools, community centres, workshops or other organizations that teach courses and ask to volunteer your talents. This is not only an effective way of spreading your name throughout the community, but it can also provide valuable feedback that can improve your abilities as an artist and business person. 

3.       Volunteer your knowledge:

Contact the editors of newspapers or online blogs and offer to write articles that teach others about your expertise. The return you’ll receive from of a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly column will be well worth the few hours it takes to write a column. This is a great way to tap into a large audience and build up name recognition.

4.       Donate to charities and auctions:

Give till it hurts. Properly targeted charities and auctions can serve multiple purposes. First, you’ll build your reputation as a community person who cares about others. That in it self will do wonders for your business. Secondly, you’ll ride the wave of free advertising that comes along with these events. Always try to attend the events if possible and bring your business cards as well.

5.       Give away promotional materials:

If you frequent craft shows, trade shows or other events where you sell your work, be sure to bring promotional materials. These items should not be expensive but they should include your contact information and website. Ideas could be postcards, key chains, magnets etc. Giving away an item to someone who hasn’t bought anything will create goodwill and give them a reason to talk about you to others.

Back to the top

"Learning to see"
How to sell art - (Article #3)

Famed American-Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran once wrote, “The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose”. If this quote was written to describe the visual artist it would have ended by saying, “The visual artist sees neither the thorns nor the rose, but an intricate web of lines and shapes." Here is a technique that will help train your eyes to see more clearly. Find a photograph you want to draw. Divide the length of time it will take you to finish this drawing into four equal time segments. For each segment, draw the photo from a different angle beginning with the right side up. After devoting your allotted time to drawing this way, turn the photograph and your drawing upside down. Then turn it on its side and so on. With enough practise this will train your mind to see past the surface of your subject and into the deeper detail that gives the subject its true life. Soon it will become as normal to draw upside down as it does drawing side ways.

"Drawing is the backbone to most forms of visual art."

Drawing is the backbone to most forms of visual art. If your goal is to improve your drawing ability, than you must learn to stop and smell the roses. Or in this case, stop and observe the roses. When you learn to see things as they are you’ll come to understand that a rose is much more than a few thorns, a stem and some pedals. It’s in fact a multitude of shapes, lines and circles which combine to give the rose its outward appearance. Without this intricate web of shapes the rose could not exist in the form that we perceive it. It would have no foundation in which to be a rose.

"learn to see things as they truly are, not as they appear to be."

Once you have command of this technique you’ll see that a portrait is no more difficult to draw then an apple, or a glass, or a tree. In the end everything is made up from a series of shapes and lines, and no shape is any more difficult to draw then another. So next time your out for a walk stop and observe the roses. And draw one for me. 

Back to the top

"Starving artist to ARTrepreneur"
How to sell art - (Article #2)

I've often wondered why of all the professions in the world it's only the artist that's been given the label of 'starving'. Heck, I've been trying to coin the phrase 'starving carpenter' forever now but it just doesn't seem to be catching on. The truth is anyone who isn't particularly adept at the important aspects of their job will eventually fail. So why has the artist been left to starve while other professions flourish?

I have a few suggestions. First, for others the 'starving artist' makes for great imagery and adds to the romanticism of their profession. We've all watched the musician playing their heart out in an empty bar, or the artist painting on a busy street corner, and admired them for doing what they love. Secondly, the right brained skills so prominent in the artist, such as imagination and intuitive problem solving, are in stark contrast to the organized and well planned mind that characterizes the left brained business person. Lastly, I believe that many artists set themselves up for failure through the belief that business and art should never mix, and in turn lose valuable opportunities to advance their careers; leading to frustration and failure.

"I believe that many artists set themselves up for failure."

So how do we overcome these obstacles and find success as ARTrepreneurs?Unfortunately there isn't enough space in this column to adequately address this question. The needs of a working artist come in all shapes and sizes with no generic plan to fit every one. However, there are basic fundamentals that should always be followed no matter what your chosen profession. To be successful at anything in life you need a plan. A plan based on small attainable goals which eventually lead to a greater achievement. As an artist you should know where you want to be in ten years, and set many small realistic goals to get there. You also must be willing to make sacrifices. How far you want to take your career will depend a great deal on what your willing to sacrifice. Some sacrifice their social lives. Others, their favorite TV show.

"If your willing to sacrifice nothing then chances are your career will not last."

If your willing to sacrifice nothing to make your career happen then chances are your career will not last. Hard work is possibly the most important fundamental you need to follow. As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that hard work will always get you farther then talent alone. If your willing to outwork others in your field you can expect to surpass them, even if their talent is greater then yours. Finally, I believe you should be willing to learn from your mistakes. Successful people who learn from their mistakes never truly taste failure. Always be willing to learn, always be willing to adapt.As artist’s we’ve volunteered to become business people whether we like it or not. Until your lucky enough to land your dream job, or find an agent willing to market your career, all aspects of keeping your business afloat are on your shoulders. Build a plan for success through attainable goals, work hard, be willing to make sacrifices and learn from your mistakes. That is a recipe that any ARTpreneur can use to find success.

Back to the top


"Preparing for a solo show"
How to sell art - (Article #1)

Congratulations! You’ve bravely bared your soul as an artist and now you’re ready for a solo gallery show. As ARTrepreneurs our goal as always is to produce great results from a limited budget. For $250 or less, you can plan an exciting two-day exhibit that will make you money, build a following and leave people wanting more. So how do you go about it?

Ideally you should plan three months in advance. Your first objectives will be booking a location and setting a date. The location cost will be your greatest expense, but don’t exceed $150 if possible. Search out an area that provides walk in traffic allowing you access to potential customers unreachable through your advertising. When setting your date, plan for the middle of the week and avoid the summer months. Unless you’re in an ideal tourist location you’ll miss a large portion of your potential audience to vacation. Once completed you’ll then develop a theme for your show. Always present your exhibit in a way that leaves visitors with something they’ll remember. For example, if much of your art is about beaches, oceans or waterscapes, plan your decorations with that in mind. Bring in buckets of sand, seashells and rocks. Add a beach chair with towels and an umbrella. Play ocean sounds in the background, and wear shorts and a t-shirt to top it off. If you’re having fun, others will notice and respond positively.

"Always present your exhibit in a way that leaves visitors with something they’ll remember."

After you’ve developed a theme, you’ll need to get the word out. ARTpreneurs love no budget marketing and you’ll be surprised how much free advertising is available. However, we’ll want to set our budget at $40 to allow for printing costs. Print 100 or more fliers announcing your show and distribute them to businesses and community bulletin boards throughout your area. Plan to have this completed a month before your show and take advantage of the free advertising provided by community cable, radio and newspapers. You can give your information online or through a phone number provided by these services.

"ARTpreneurs love no budget marketing and you’ll be surprised how much free advertising is available. "

Finally, contact your local newspaper(s) with a press release. Provide the who, what, when, where and why for your show but make it interesting. Editors want stories their readers will be interested in hearing, not sales pitch. Add your contact number and send it to the editor. You can research sample press releases on the net for proper formatting. Make sure you have this done a week in advance to allow the papers to fit you in. Hopefully you’ll be contacted to do an interview, but there is no guarantee. Feel free to independently contact journalists if you don’t hear back within a few days.

So now you’ve booked your location, set a date, developed a theme and advertised your show. Now is the time to tie up the loose ends in the final week. Plan to spend $30 for finger foods and beverages. Don’t go gourmet, but don’t be cheap. Show your customers you care about them, even if they don’t make a purchase. Make sure your art is completed and ready to hang and everything priced properly. Something I highly recommend is writing the history behind each piece of art, along with the name, price, size and medium, and posting it next to work. Again, people want to buy more then your art, they want to buy the experience of you as an artist.

Back to the top



Nova Scotia artist Robb Scott
2221 Lilyvale Road
Greenfield, NS
B6L 3T9
All images copyright 2001-2008 Robb Scott ©

| Back to Top |

Featured artist

Drawing tutorials

Art resources

How to design a mural

Sign up and receive savings on with each newsletter released. You can opt out at any time.
Delivery Preference
Html Plain Text

Related Links