3 - VALUING
Perception is reality so make sure that the perception others have of you and your art is not distorted. I have written about this before but I just cannot emphasize it enough because there is such a common and unnecessary disconnect. Selling art is serious business, requiring more marketing savvy than most businesses. If you want it to run a profitable art business then understanding that “perception is reality” is even more critical. Just like framing a painting, you want to frame your professional image. You want a frame that that doesn’t look cheap. You want a frame that’s simple so that the focus is on your the work. And you want a frame that is carefully considered so that it elevates the art that it protects. This means that you need to manage every touch point that patrons and prospects have with your business so that you convey a positive and professional image. Some of the ways that you can convey your professionalism are:
- Answering the phone professionally. For example, “Hi, Jane Smith’s studio. This is Jane. How can I help you?”
- Your recorded phone message.
- Your website, actually your eCommerce site. It should read visually like an art gallery or museum. Too many artist’s sites are over- and ill- designed. Don’t distract from your art, elevate it. Hire a professional. You and your business is worth it and you’ll sell more work online.
- Your business cards. These should be professionally designed, including the logo. Don’t skimp.
- Your promotional photo. This should also be professionally shot. And no sunglasses or berets, unless you really are French.
- Your personal style/dress. I’m not suggesting that you purchase business suits, simply that you look and feel your best.
- Your email address. For example, what’s more professional? [email protected] or [email protected]?
- Your email signature. This should include a link to your website, social networking links, and all of your contact numbers.
- Your Facebook fan page. This is a huge and free marketing tool. Link to it from your eCommerce site.
- Your LinkedIn profile. Take the time to complete this. And follow the rules. Only ask people to join your network if you actually know them. Take the time to write a request for others to join your network. Don’t use the default message. It reads. “Here, join my network. I’m too lazy or I don’t care enough to actually write you a simple message.” It’s not a contest to get to “500+” contacts.
The bottom line is this. When you’re selling art you’re asking patrons to part with their money. So give them reasons to feel confident with each transaction. Professionalism is not an area that you have creative license.
How are artists taken advantage of and preyed upon? Here are five ways. 1. Artists are not only asked pay to enter art contests, but they also pay in materials, framing supplies, and shipping. Artists are exerting a tremendous amount of effort, time, and money for the false hope of winning a pointless price. One that they’re very unlikely to win. Who wins here? The art contests the organizers. If you know your niche, you won’t fall for this and other scams, you won’t fall for this. You don’t look for prizes you look for sales. 2. Artists are asked to donate their art all be it for a “good cause” but without the benefit of a tax deduction under the false guise of exposure. If you know your niche, you won’t fall for this and other scams because you know that when your art sells at a discount at a charity auction, and it will, the value of your art declines. 3. Artists are pressured to give a discount, even to friends and family. If you know your niche, then you know that your enterprise is part of the luxury retail market. Discounting your art is shooting yourself in the foot. You’re degrading the value of your offer. You also know that it is unfair to you and to the people who did pay you full price. If your family loves you and if your friends are your friends, then they will not ask for a discount, and you should never offer it. Bake them a cake or take them out to lunch but do not discount your art. 4. Artists are asked to work for free under the false promise of exposure. Who works for free? Slaves and indentured servants. If you know your niche, you won’t fall for this because you know this is just a way for someone to get something for free. If someone values your art, then they should pay for it. 5. Artists are tricked into donating their copyright again under the pretense of exposure. If you know your niche, you won’t fall for this because you know that your copyright not only represents your brand but it is a real financial asset that represents current and future income. Two things I haven’t mentioned.
- Artists routinely are the recipients of email sales scams.
- Hopeful art students and their proud parents are lured into a lifetime of inescapable student loan and credit card debt by art schools.
These are just a few ways that artists are preyed upon. Don’t let this happen to you or other artists. The best way to protect yourself, and to thrive, is to know the clear value that you can offer to a specific market. Have you been taken advantage of? Please share what happened to you in the comments below. The truth will set you free and it could alert other artists about common predatory practices.
We all want to be loved, heard, and seen. But the art establishment is only going to recognize a very select few. Because our art is so personal, when it’s rejected we feel rejected ourselves. For most artists, it’s daunting to maintain a healthy separation between our “product” and ourselves. What happens when we don’t? Paralyzed by criticism, artists move to protect themselves from hurt. They can develop an inflated ego, arrogance, or become ridgedly perfectionistic. You can often tell how far gone they are by the “snoot factor” in their manner of speaking. But perfectionism will not protect you from criticism because perfect just doesn’t exist and perfectionism kills creativity. I see five reasons why artists become jealous of each other and overly competitive.
- When an artist submits to the permission-based art establishment they marinate in scarcity. Instead of taking control of their own success, artists strive to make themselves dependent upon others who don’t have a serious stake in the their success.
- Scarcity breeds competitiveness. Because there’s always a loser, and because the winner can seem arbitrary, it produces jealousy.
- When an artist makes art for art’s sake then it’s primarily for their own amusement and entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with that but if it’s all about you then why should anyone else care? Can you blame them? If you have no clarity on why your art matters, yet you’re working so very hard at it, you’re going to be insecure. At their core jealous people are insecure. They believe that you have something that they can’t get.
- With the exception of a few unicorns, most artists are going to be unable to secure the representation that they need to make a decent living. The art market is so over saturated and there are very few decent representatives. That means that 99.9% of artists will be rejected by the art establishment. The art establishment’s rules seem arbitrary so artists interpret their rejection as unfair. Not only do artists feel rejected, they can feel victimized by perceived injustice.
- So who are artists generally surrounded by? Other artists. Jim Rohn was right,
You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
If you’re surrounded by people who are secretly or outwardly jealous of you and who are in competition with you, how are they ever going to genuinely support you? Bottom line. The scarcity and permission based art establishment breeds jealous, petty, over competitive artists. In The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester community we don’t have jealousy or competition, we have mutual support and respect. How is this? Because these artists are focused on determining their personal purpose, their mission, and their unique value proposition. Everyone is so different, as is their target market, so there so there is no competition. To keep our conversations focused on the business of art, I maintain an art agnostic policy. Meaning that students are not permitted to post their art in our private Face Book Group. As a result, our community is vital and thriving. Are you now, or have you been, jealous of other artists and their success? Do you wonder why you were not picked? The truth will set you free. Share below.
Fine Artists: Debbie Baxter; Cambridge, England
QUESTION: What did you find in art school?
Debbie Baxter: When I went to look at the art schools, which filled me with dread.
Ann Rea: What filled you with dread? When you looked at the art schools, like, give me one specific example.
Debbie Baxter: So, if you go to St. Martins on the Fields, which is one of the biggest art schools in London, it’s a bit like a warehouse. You walk in, and it’s a labyrinth of rooms, chambers, corridors, all whitewashed. Big windows, big, sort of areas dedicated to each student. So, basically, they’d have a big wall space, a corner of a room, and all their equipment, and they’d be there for three years.
Ann Rea: Wait, it reminds me of my school, which was, part of my school, was a renovated Model T car factory, and we had that same sort of set up. Whitewashed partitions and our own little space to create–
Debbie Baxter: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the feeling of dread, I remember it, because I happened to walk past a tutor working with a student and the whole atmosphere felt depressed. I felt depressed the moment I walked in, and I overheard him say the words, “So, tell me about your feeling, tell me about the thing, express your feeling, You know, talk to me about how did you feel when you made this?” You know, and immediately, it’s like my bullshit radar picked up and went, “This does not feel good.” You know, I don’t know what it is, but I don’t want to spend three years of my life hidden in this dusty corner trying to explain to a complete stranger the reason why I made a mark. It felt empty. It felt like it was just playing, you know. It was a joke for an education. I wanted something more disciplined.
QUESTION: What did they tell you about making a living?
Debbie Baxter: At the end of the interview, I asked her, “So what do you do in terms of business? Do you do any training in terms of business? Like after my degree, what do you offer as a next step?” And she just flat-lined. She couldn’t, there was nothing in her cache that could give me any inform, well, she went, “Uh, uh, um, well, we don’t.”
Ann Re: They don’t. Exactly. They don’t. They don’t, and you know, to be fair, they just don’t know how.
Debbie Baxter: If they knew how–
Ann Rea: They don’t know how. By and large, By and large, they wouldn’t be teaching in an art school.
Debbie Baxter: Yeah.
Ann Rea: Because they would be making their art and selling their art. There are some exceptions. I had a mentor who was a very famous, he was a really Renaissance man. He was a very famous industrial designer, painter and ceramicist. But he was a complete entrepreneur. So he was a ceramicist, but he owned a ceramic factory.
Debbie Baxter: Wow. Wow.
Ann Rea: He was an industrial designer, but he owned the patents and he resold them at a profit.
Debbie Baxter: Wow. So, smart guy.
Ann Rea: So, very different mindset. I regret, His name was Viktor Schreckengost. I regret that he never formulated a curriculum around his mindset and how he went about making money, because he made a lot of money, but I can tell you that I was definitely influenced by him, just by watching him. Although he didn’t teach me anything about the mechanics of how to build a business, I could see that he was. And he was different from all of the other art professors, and he was the most favored, most celebrated professor in the entire school. So isn’t that interesting?
Debbie Baxter: Yeah.
Ann Rea: So I would say, I would like to acknowledge and credit his influence for what I’m doing right now. Because I found it completely frustrating, soul-sucking, daunting to not receive instruction, and to get messages from professors that were so disempowering.
QUESTION: What was the underlying message?
Debbie Baxter: You have to be found. That’s the main content of the teaching at the beginning, is that you just keep painting and painting and painting, until you’re found, and–
Ann Rea: What a passive, What a passive way to go about life. Someone find me while I’m hiding in my studio.
Debbie Baxter: Yeah, the more I think about it, there was this passive underlying message. And that is, you’ll never be good enough until you can prove it to the whole wide world that you are.
Ann Rea: And you don’t need to prove it to the whole wide world. You really just only need to prove it to a certain number of very select collectors.
Debbie Baxter: Well, he read the message. He conveyed the message so well, that I walked away. I actually stopped painting. I just thought, “Well, okay, then I’m defeated.” I couldn’t find it in myself to put myself through it. I couldn’t find the way that meant what I needed it to mean, because I felt lost.
QUESTION: What was the underlying message?
Ann Rea: You have to go find your, you have to go find your target market. They’re not coming to find you. They have other things to do. So, if that–
Debbie Baxter: See, that never, I never knew that. I never knew that, I suppose in a way, I was, you always have your head pointed towards the outside world. You don’t have your head pointed towards who you are. And I don’t believe, and I still get this from people who’ve done a fine art degree, is that they come out more lost with themselves–
Ann Rea: Yes.
Debbie Baxter: So they wouldn’t really know where to go, what to do. They don’t have the skill base, so that, some of them, I’ve actually been on courses with, where they’ve said to the tutor, “Do you know, they never taught me this, that art degree course.” You know, “They never taught me how to mix color, they never taught me how to do composition. I never really knew the importance of this, that, or the other.” Which is just basic, you know, training. So that was never put across, and plus the fact they didn’t know what to do. You know, they come and do a course, and they don’t know what to paint, because they’re so far removed from themselves, they don’t know what to connect to to start the process.
Ann Rea: Unfortunately, I hear this a lot, that people spend enormous amounts of money and time in investing in a fine art degree, whether it’s a Bachelors of Fine Art, or a Masters of Fine Art, at least here in the United States, and they come out not knowing really basic, basic, basic stuff. If you went to, if you went to any other school to acquire any other degree, that would be completely unacceptable. I mean, they would be simply shot down.
QUESTION: How is this program different?
Ann Rea: You know, I love watching my students take their power back. It’s fun. It’s really fun from the other side. I get to see them, you know, cheering each, you guys cheer each other on.
Debbie Baxter: Yeah, I’ve got some really fantastic study partners, but, you know, I look forward every time we book, and we do it every week, I look forward to knowing that I’ve, someone’s got my back. Someone’s gonna support me emotionally through all of the steps that we’re going through, and once you get to know them and you know how they work and you know their art, you feel like you can support each other in a way, I’ve never ever had that before. You know, to this degree. And someone you really like talking to and hanging out with and sharing and moving through it’s fantastic. This is, for me, the beauty about the course, is that when I say it’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s that I never expected there to be so much depth to it, or so much content that would keep me moving in the right direction. I mean, sometimes your paying for a course and you’ll get, you know, you’ll get it shown to you and you think, okay, there’s maybe three chapters’ worth of work, but it’s quite shallow.
Ann Rea: Right.
Debbie Baxter: And in this course, what blows me away, is the level it keeps going through in order to get where you need to get to to get what you want. That blows me away. I never expected, and I have to say it’s very good value for money, when I think about the content, if I’m still only halfway through.
QUESTION: Have a hard time calling yourself an artist?
Ann Rea: You know, I want to encourage artists, if you’ve quit making art, and you have a hard time calling yourself an artist, it’s okay. I mean, so many artists, for various reasons, had to quit. They had to put it on pause, and it’s not too late, no matter how old you are, it’s not too late. You can, and even if you haven’t made any art, you can still join this program and you’ll be inspired to make the art, and you’ll sell it. As, you’ll sell your homework. You’ll sell some of it, you might not sell all of it, but that’s, you don’t need a body of work to start this. What you need is the right mindset. What you need is a support system, and you need a proven road map that actually has been proven, time and time and time again.
QUESTION: Should other artists apply to enroll?
Debbie Baxter: The first question I would ask them is, “What do you want? As an artist, what do you really want?” And I can, you know, be absolutely certain that whatever they want is there for them in this course. And I think that would be the most simple way of doing it. It is, you know, what do most artists want? They want recognition. What does that mean? Does it mean to sell more paintings, or does it mean to be known in their environment? So, it’s actually, it’s not the painting that they want, it’s something within themselves that they want to express, and that’s what all artists are doing. They’re trying to find something inside of themselves that has meaning for them. And that’s why they’re calling for recognition. It’s not almost as if, they don’t need the outside world to give them the recognition, they need to find their own recognition in order to get their, to satisfy that part that they’re looking for.
Ann Rea: Yeah–
Debbie Baxter: That’s what I feel.
Ann REa: I always say, it’s not about you. It’s not about you, it’s about your target market. If you make it about them, then it will be all about you. But you have to make it about them. You have to give them value. And by the way, it’s not just for painters. We have, I mean, I’m sure I have artists who come from more than this number, but I’ve counted 17 different types of creative discipline. So I’m a painter–
Debbie Baxter: On the course?
Ann Rea: Yeah.
Debbie Baxter: Oh wow. Wow!
Ann Rea: 17 different types of creative, you know, jewelry design, we’ve got jewelry designers, we’ve got glass blowers, we have sculptors, and now we’re up to 19 different countries. So I’m, you know, I’m American–
Debbie Baxter: Cool.
Ann Rea: You’re British. We’ve got, there are 19 different countries now!
Debbie Baxter: I teach, and I understand the value of education. And the value of education, when it’s done properly, is like a gift from heaven, really.
MAKING Art Making MONEY
Someday is Today