Jules Webster: Mindshare before marketshareWritten by Jules Webster | | email@example.com
Welcome to the first installment of “Minding Your (Creative) Business.” The information shared in this column is intended to assist aspiring and practicing visual artists of all education and skill levels increase their public visibility and in turn, increase the sales of their work. I’ll also share some operational practices I have developed that can help you keep more useful financial and client records for your business.
Professional development is critical for individuals within any industry, but is often overlooked by those within the artist community. Many artists hold tight to the romantic notion that they need not advertise or promote themselves or their work, waiting to be discovered by a gallery or agent that will put them on the fast-track to sold-out shows and international fame. Unfortunately for all of us within the visual arts, these miracle agents and galleries exist in extremely small numbers compared to the number of working artists in the field.
Marketing and record keeping are understood to be the foundation of all other forms of business, and the arts are no different. Start to think of yourself as a business. There is such a strong emotional connection to the product that we (artists) create, that it can be difficult to think of our product objectively and apply standard economic procedures to our production, product development, promotion and business practices.
Another hurdle somewhat unique to the industry is the fact that many artists offer products that aren’t easily integrated into standard retail storefronts. It is also sometimes necessary for the artist to create a retail environment, or selling platform, such as a booth at an art fair or guerilla exhibition at a non-traditional gallery space to get their goods into the hands and homes of their consumers. The artist is therefore the creator, merchandiser and retailer of their goods.
The increased responsibility of creating the goods and bringing them to market can be overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. The positive news is that the resources on the Internet and the prevalence of social media in the consumer culture offer an abundance of easy-to-use, cheap if not free, technology that makes selling work, starting and growing a business accessible to everyone with a computer. Many local businesses (outside of the gallery scene) are also eager to work with, showcase and promote local artists who are frequent customers of, or share the same values as, the business. Suggestions for ways in which artists can partner with other small businesses to contribute to the social and economic growth of their communities will be featured throughout future columns.
Setting up temporary exhibitions and creating an online presence with a portfolio of pieces available to collectors are two extremely effective ways to share your work with the public. I like to think that I have the privilege of creating the terms of the sale of my pieces over allowing another party to be in control.
This translates to a more unique sales experience for
me and my clients, which reflects the vision and values of my work, and allows me to retain a larger portion of the sale price of my pieces instead of paying gallery commissions. These statements aren’t meant to undermine the value and necessity of working with traditional galleries to promote and sell your work, only to suggest that artists can reap large returns in the form of increased visibility and direct sales with a modest investment in personal branding and promotion.The most assured way to gain a reputation within your art or craft is to develop it yourself; build, compose, and edit it (your reputation) as you would any of your other pieces. The ability to market your art products by branding yourself as an artist with your aesthetic is just as critical to being financially successful as good business record keeping.
This column will share tips and techniques helpful in marketing and recording sales of artwork, with an emphasis on continual and evolving development of these processes. I hope to inspire greater artistic and economic production from my friends and “family” within the creative Toledo community, which has expanded exponentially in the past year.
There is no doubt that the physical, cultural and economic climate of the city and surrounding region is continually evolving. With proper professional cultivation of our professional as well as artistic talents, we can create both aesthetically better art as well as a new economy built from the cultural capital of our hands and minds.
Jules Webster is owner of Shine Ceramics and Shine 419, a division of the business created to promote the Toledo area’s vibrant creative. Visit www.shineceramics.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.