It can be really frustrating when you are just starting out on social media and you see people with 7 posts and 25k followers. People, those are fake followers. They were bought for $14 and anyone can buy them. You can also buy likes. Do not buy your followers. Fake followers do not buy things. Experienced instagram users can spot a fake a mile away.
1. Send an email or post on facebook that you now have an art page (or whatever you make) and simply give people the link. If you are posting on facebook, spend a few dollars and use the "boost" post option. It's better to spend on advertising to people who might buy than buying fake people.
2. You have to actually be social. You have to engage with people. Follow people back when they follow you (if they are real). Look at their photos and COMMENT! I don't have a huge amount of followers on social media but have gotten many clients, buyers, and made wonderful connections just by being myself and interacting.
3. Never, ever, ever comment "look at my page" or "follow me back" on anyone's instagram page. NEVER! Someone else's instagram page is not about you. People will look at your page when you comment and are nice.
4. Pay attention to your DM notifications. True business deals often come via DM and not comments on Instagram.
5. Don't post once a month and expect a response. You have to be consistent, patient, and put the effort in.
In order to sell your art, people have to see it. If you are reading this online then obviously you know how to use the basics of instagram or facebook. That is half the battle. Times have changed and unless you want to stay stuck in 2005, waiting until your blog or website are perfect to show your art, you are going to be way late to the game. People do not go to new websites as much as they did years ago. You need a place online where people can find you. It does not have to be a website immediately, especially if you are on a budget. Set up a facebook business page or an instagram page (both free). It is important to have these set up before you start your marketing plan. I am going to discuss on-line issues, though I think it is as important to take an active role locally and will discuss that in a later post.
Who do you want to see your art? Do you want love or do you want sales? Take a look at your art or product and think about who would buy your art, not just who would like it. Say for example you make ceramic vases. Who buys those? Gardeners, florists, event planners, interior designers, restaurants, new home owners, all may have an interest in buying vases. Those are the people you want to see your art. Your tagging should target those potential buyers. By tagging I mean in whatever shopping platform you are using, facebook, and instragram. For example, you could tag #vasesforflorists #weddingvases #restaurantdecor #handmadevases in addition to the tags (or keywords) relating to color and style.
Teenagers have these super odd rules about how often to post on social media. Do not follow the rules your kids use. Post the hell out of your art. Do not, however, post more than one photo in an hour (unless you are using stories) because then you will annoy people. Just talking about your art or saying daily you are "going to the studio" without showing photos of your art in process (or complete) sounds really artsy but that won't sell a thing. Text only status updates are not enough anymore. Post multiple times in the day and be sure there is a link to your shop in an easy to find spot. Facebook and instagram do not show posts in real time anymore so if someone missed your morning post, you can catch their eye in the afternoon- and this is another reason tagging is essential. Buyers often search by tags/keywords.
Now you have created a bunch of art, done your research, you know how to describe what it is you create. You can just fill your etsy shop with well-tagged art, tell people once about it, and the cash will start rolling in and your existence as an artist will be validated. Your instagram and facebook following with be in the hundreds of thousands. Your phone is blowing up with likes. You will be able to quit your day job and live off your riches.
Not so fast.
Before going in to business, you have to get your head into the business. Selling your art is a business! The next time you are out, go to a few of the stores you love. Go without the intention to buy. Just look around. Are the stores full of stuff or are the shelves all empty? Are all the people buying things? Do you see things you love that you but have no room for or can't afford but you love them still? Is not buying things in stores you LOVE in any way a reflection of the store owner's value as a human being? Do you love Target even on days you do not buy things? When you go to etsy, is there a notice on the home page saying SORRY NO MORE THINGS TO BUY? Of course not.
Here's the deal: In most cases, you will not immediately sell all your stuff. In most cases, you may not even sell one thing a week. If all the good stuff sold out every day, the stores you just visited would all be empty shelves. Keep this in perspective as you start to put your stuff up for sale or out in the world. It is possible that 3498 people might like a photo you post on instagram but still not go buy the real thing. A huge following does not equal a huge bank account.
Not making a sale is not about you or your legitimacy as an artist.
Next up: social media, tagging, followers, and what to do when nothing is moving.
In addition to stepping away from social media for a few hours to learn about art history, take a look at your bookshelf. Are there books about artists you like or are there mostly how-to books? Of course by books, I mean on the kindle, too. Whatever you read and however you do it. Technique is important but at the beginning stage of how-to be a working artist, they do not matter. What matters is you being able to describe what you do when asked by a potential buyer. Step-away from the craft and hobby section of the book store and visit the fine art section. It does not matter if you are into watercolor landscapes, mixed-media assemblages, rosemaling, quilting, or black and white photography. There are fine art books on all these subjects. Look through the books and read about how the artwork is described. What descriptive terms are used?
The more you know about your style the better you can describe it to potential buyers. The more you know about what category your art fits in, the better you will be able to tag your work online so google (and buyers!) can find it. The more you know the more confident you will feel. You need to be an expert about YOUR ART in order to sell it.
Sometimes it seems it sounds more cool to say you are a self-taught artist. This makes no sense to me. Even if you go to art school (I did), you have to have a portfolio and skills before they accept you. You get into art school because you are an artist. One of the most important skills to have as an artist is knowledge about art history. This gives you insight into what YOU like and will help you be able to express yourself. Art school is heavy into art history long before the technique classes. No matter what stage you are in your career, there is always time to learn more. If you have access to Netflix or Google, you have a free ticket to art school without leaving home (though I highly recommend visiting your local museum). The true lessons about how to succeed as an artist are not on Instagram (we will discuss marketing later). Close your app and dive into history. Go to the documentary section on Netflix and choose one to watch. There are documentaries about all the masters. It doesn't matter what your passion is. There are documentaries and profiles on every kind of artist imaginable. Search for Henri Matisse, Gustav Klimt, Andy Warhol, Diane Arbus. Or search subjects like typography, pottery, or photography and see what sparks your interest. There are documentaries on every art subject. Google art styles like art deco, expressionism, impressionism,pop art. The more you know about art and art styles, the better you will know how to describe YOUR ART. You will learn what you do and do not like...and you will see that all of these artists succeed without counting the number of likes or thumbs up on a photo. Research and exploration into art history are essential art supplies for your mind.
If you discovered an inspiring documentary, come back here and tell me about it.
Lately my feeds have been flooded with artists promoting "instagram for artists" classes they are teaching instead of sharing or promoting their art. I cringe when I see this. I feel bad for every new artist struggling to figure out how be in business as an artist, and I cringe for the artist teaching "secrets" for $200. It's a combo of different types of desperation. I know it is a sign of the economic times and that people are eager to make money on any avenue they can. "Instagram For Artists" is the current popular avenue.
I am going to be 48 this year. I have been selling my art since I was 15, long before the internet and instagram. I started selling my art online in 2000 and have never stopped. I have met all the career goals (huge goals, medium goals, tiny goals!) I set for myself so far. I am still setting new goals and going after them. Maybe some of the lessons I have learned along the way will help you. I will be posting art career tips under the hashtag #LindasFreeAdvice. I will post here and also on my instagram so you can read when it is convenient for you. Look for those tips to start soon!
Copyright 2000-2014 Linda Woods and Karen Dinino.All Rights Reserved.
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