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Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield - 15h ago

If it’s on your bucket list to schedule a museum exhibition, volunteer or work at a museum, or see your art in a museum collection, you will benefit if you understand how a museum administration is structured.

While I haven’t been part of the museum world since 2001, I am confident that what I share below can still be helpful to you. Keep in mind, however, that not all museums operate the same way, and there is a vast difference between how small and large museum personnel divide their responsibilities.

©2016 Suzanne Gibbs, Skinny Face from the 222 Faces Series. Watercolor on Italian paper, 5 x 5 inches. Used with permission.

Let’s start with an overview of the basic museum hierarchy.

Museum Hierarchy

Board of Directors
Or University Dean, Provost or President. This official body is ultimately responsible for the overall well-being of the institution.

Director of Museum

Museum Staff


Now we can look at the individual roles of the staff members.


Museum directors are responsible for overseeing all operations. They keep the board of directors informed through regular meetings and as-necessary contact. They serve at the pleasure of the board.

Directors often have art backgrounds, but more and more of them have business experience and political (fundraising) acumen.

The director juggles trying to please the staff, the board, the university (if on a campus), the public, and volunteers.

©Sarah Goodnough, Suspended in Time. Acrylic on canvas, 38 x 53 inches. Used with permission.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Director

In museums with a curatorial staff, you probably wouldn’t have much contact with a director. However, it might be necessary for a director to assume some of the roles below if there are only a few on staff at the museum.


Curators, who answer to the director, are the objects (art) experts on a museum staff and often hold doctorates in art history. Being the objects experts, curators shape the content of museum collections and exhibitions, and write and speak extensively about the art.

Some museums are lucky to have more than one curator. In these cases, curatorial responsibilities might be divided into exhibitions (curator of exhibitions) and collections (curator of collections). Alternatively, they could be differentiated by medium (curator of prints) or eras (curator of contemporary art) or even by chief curator and assistant.

Smaller museums might not have a curator, instead relying on a director to assume curatorial responsibilities in addition to administrative ones.

Curators often perform services for the art community outside their own walls. They might judge exhibitions for organizations or other institutions, sit on grant panels, or contribute text to magazines, brochures, and catalogues.

©Marcela Strasdas, Look Up, Look Up! Oil on canvas, 10 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Curator

Curators are the reason you want to keep excellent records of your work and exhibitions and why you want to become better and better at articulating what your work is about. They will want to dive in to every detail of your career.

If you stumble when writing or talking about your art, join us for Magnetic You.
Online class begins April 12.

If you were to submit a proposal for a museum exhibition, it should be addressed to the curator.

The curator makes studio visits in order to select the work for exhibition. He or she would conduct extensive interviews with you (privately and, perhaps, in a public forum) in order to ensure the intellectual integrity of the exhibition.

The curator is also the person who recommends additions to the collections.

Please note that museum exhibitions and acquisitions are a long-term goal. It takes more than submitting work to a curator to see your art in a museum.


©Kim Roberts, Faeries In The Forest. Encaustic wax monotype with graphite on paper, 12 x 9 inches. Used with permission.

The primary responsibility of registrars is a big one: they are responsible for the care of the artwork. They make sure it’s safe, secure, and in good condition. They might report to directors or curators.

Registrars supervise shipping, insurance, donor forms and condition reporting. They are the meticulous record-keepers of the museum and usually have an art or art history background.

How an Artist Might work with a Museum Registrar

The registrar will ask you for object lists with insurance values. He or she would also coordinate any shipping arrangements of your work and communicate with you if there were any problems with the condition of the art.


Preparators, often artists themselves, are the people who prepare a space and its content for public view.

Preparators are responsible for the physical aspects of storing, transporting, and exhibiting the artwork. They pack, uncrate, move, and install the work. They might paint the walls, put up labels, and build pedestals and other display mechanisms. They also oversee lighting and climate control.

As I said, museums divide these responsibilities differently, but preparators usually report to the registrar.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Preparator

A preparator might check with you about your wishes for installing the work. Is it right-side-up? At what height should the hanging discs in your installation fall?


Museum educators interpret the artwork for the public. They take the art-ese of the curator and transform it, magically, into the vernacular. (You can easily differentiate labels written by the curator from those written or edited by the educator.)

©Marilyn Artus, Her Flag: Number 3. Mixed media collage with hand and machine embroidery, 24 x 26 inches. Used with permission.

Educators oversee group tours, studio programs for children and adults, public lectures, label writing, interactive spaces, demonstrations, gallery guides, and other interpretive programs. They are also responsible for docent training.

A large museum would separate the education responsibilities among the staff, so that you might have an educator for school programs or an educator for family programs. Most educators report immediately to the director, but some old-fashioned museums have them working under curators.

How an Artist Might Work with a Museum Educator

Educators hire artists to speak, to give demonstrations, train docents, and lead classes. They might also ask you to volunteer for these roles.

Other Roles

While these are the people at museums that you would work most closely with, you will also come across store managers, volunteer coordinators, development directors, marketing directors, and technology experts.

My hope is that you have a better understanding of how things work behind the scenes in art museums.

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Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield - 1w ago

You know that I’m all about action.

My book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio, is broken up into actions rather than chapters.

While I’m a champion of moving forward, I also slow down to read, research, and learn, which is crucial because my superpower is teaching.

©Melanie Ferguson, Breaking Dawn. Oil on panel, 12 x 16 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

While I could easily bliss out on months of research, the fact is, at some point (not too late in the process), the learning phase must make room for the action phase. No matter how much you research, it doesn’t do you any good until you put that knowledge to work.

I think we stay in information-gathering mode rather than taking action for one of two reasons:

1. We’re afraid to make a mistake (failing), or …
2. We don’t have enough fire in the belly to get moving. We aren’t hungry enough.

Let’s look at these separately and try to move past them.

Embrace Mistakes

You can’t learn simply by reading books and taking classes. The ultimate test of your knowledge comes when you implement.

The only way to grow is to take what you’ve read/heard/seen and put it into action. When you do this, you find out how it applies to your specific situation.

©Bob Sober, Cicada. Combined photographs. Used with permission.

Yes, you’re going to make mistakes. A lot of them. Mistake-making is part of the process.

But you won’t fail. You’ll only fail if you don’t learn from those mistakes and try again.

Instead of fearing failure, you should reward yourself for every action you take – no matter how small or how uncertain you are of the outcome.

Light The Fire

I can teach strategies for building an art business, but I can’t light the fire within you. That desire to thrive burns inside every successful entrepreneur. If you want to earn money from your art, you must tap into this.

Your fire is your art. It is your raison d’être. Your art is what should snap you out of bed in the morning.

You keep your appointment with your muse in the studio because you have something to contribute to this crazy, wonderful world of ours. You have something to say that can’t be conveyed with words.

I know the fire for your work is inconsistent. Enthusiasm ebbs and flows alongside the rhythms of life. As long as you have a lot more flowing than ebbing, you’ll be rewarded with a long and satisfying career.

©Patty Hankins, Peach Ranunculus. Photograph. Used with permission.

If you find yourself in need of rekindling that flame, ask yourself these powerful questions:

What if I made all of this art, grew an impressive inventory of work, and no one saw it? Would I be satisfied?

What if I finally attained my heart’s desire and retired from my day job – but then realized I had to start from scratch because I didn’t have anything in place for an art business to flourish? Would I be okay with taking at least three years to get my new career off the ground?

How do I want to be remembered by my family and community? As someone who waited until everything was perfect? Or as someone who took risks and went after her dreams?


What have you been thinking about for too long without taking action on it?

What reasons (or excuses) have you used to justify the inaction? If you’re okay with your reasons, that’s great. If you believe you are hiding behind them out of a fear of failure, perhaps it’s time to move.

Your first step is to decide. Then you can act – and be divinely content with the imperfect process.

It’s gonna get messy, but you’re an artist. You’ve faced bigger messes and made masterpieces out of those.

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If you’ve been paying attention to what we’ve been doing at Art Biz Coach the last couple of years, you might have picked up on a “big table” theme. Not round table. BIG table. We don’t care what shape it is.

We have Big Table Art Talks, where I show up – free of charge – and talk with your group about whatever is on your minds.

And we have Big Table Art Retreats in various parts of the country. (Santa Fe this May, anyone?)

The Big Table is a metaphor for my life vision, which goes something like this: I want to spend my nights sitting at a big table with artists and deep thinkers. We’ll talk about art and big ideas all night while eating excellent food and drinking copious amounts of wine.

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

So, let’s pretend we’re at the big table. You, Elaine, and me. This is a juicy topic, so don’t forget the wine! (Really good coffee is okay, too.)

Studio of artist Elaine Kehew. Photo by the artist.

The Negative Review

Everyone says that there’s no such thing as a negative review. That any media attention is good media attention.

That’s easy to say until someone slams your work.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I’m at the big table with Elaine Kehew, who shares the story of a negative review she received last year and the resulting journey to improve the quality of her art.

The critic who rankled her was someone she knew and trusted, so she took his comments to heart. And they hurt.

This isn’t a story about perfectionism. Perfectionism is crippling, Elaine says. It’s not about aesthetics or beauty. It’s about Elaine’s quest to quantify the quality of her work – to ensure that it is getting better.

Elaine is a repeat student of the Art Biz Accelerator, a class in which my students set goals. When I read that Elaine’s #1 goal for the year is to improve the quality of her painting, I asked her how she would measure that. After all, goals are supposed to be measurable so you know when you achieve them.

This led Elaine to explore quality – particularly the research being done around quality management in the 1990s and early 2000s. (In her previous life, Elaine was a researcher for a law firm.)

Listen as Elaine opens up about what happened after her negative review and shares 8 targets she has identified to improve the quality of her paintings.

Listen to or subscribe on iTunes.

Elaine’s 8 Targets for Improving the Quality of Her Paintings

Text in italics are Elaine’s notes to herself.

1. Prioritize quality.

Make quality my number one priority all the time … and then think about how I will handle the first conflict between my stated objective and a pressing deadline or an attractive shortcut.

2. Identify quality issues.

This is an internal process that involves a, gasp, spreadsheet.

Why were approx 20 of my paintings last year not really successful? Was it execution, paint selection, time and effort or too much of an experiment from my style to be really professional works? Were the materials used sub-par? Was the original concept for the painting too weak to actually carry through a painting?

Elaine Kehew work in progress. Photo by the artist.

3. Gauge response and satisfaction.

This is the external flipside of #2.

If I am getting a 10 out of 10 every time, great! But what about when my reviewer, friend, or customer, or self, is only a bit satisfied, or I get a negative review, or a completed commission is refused?

4. Acquire skills.

Increase skill level through training or education.

Is there a course I could take or a technique that needs more research? Are some applications simply not ready for prime time until I master them? Find out and do it!

5. Set up a Quality Circle.

Elaine’s Quality Circle consists of having a few trusted friends critique her work before it leaves the studio.

6. Dig deeper.

Evaluate every painting in the series on its own merits, and making sure I am communicating exactly what I want, and then making sure that the execution is closer to flawless.

  • Does it represent me as an artist?
  • Is the execution well done, or can I do it better?
  • Are there any wince-worthy passages?
  • Is this a portfolio piece?
  • Are the materials top quality ?
  • Is the concept my own, or appropriated in an original way?

Elaine’s booth at an art fair in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo by the artist.

7. Document my processes. 

As a mid-career artist, to improve quality, I have to get more consistent with my output and my processes. This can best be accomplished through detailed documentation – using journaling and a sketchbook.

I can write down my color palette (instead of picking paints willy-nilly or at random), I can narrow down my canvas size selection, and I can be very deliberate when starting an unusual project (such as an installation or sculptural piece).

8. Analyze what works.

After a show, take time to review and narrow my efforts toward what’s really working. What sells, what gets the best feedback, what juices me up (this will always be important), and what draws people in?

For a few years I have been worried about presenting a consistent look as an artist. At the end of each year I cut and paste what I painted into a pdf, and I make a similar collage for sold work. It’s very revealing.

I sold three “star” paintings in 2017 and didn’t realize it until I made the collage. So those are working, but the large pieces with characters didn’t sell. Do they need more work?

About My Guest

Elaine Kehew is an American artist living and working in Nairobi, Kenya.

She’s now on a mission to improve and ensure the quality of her art.

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Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield - 3w ago

It doesn’t take a genius to understand why nobody came to your art show.

Let’s set aside the bad weather, natural disaster, flu epidemic, or major tragedy in the community. And not count people who are out of town or live too far away, or those who have tickets to the theater or are nursing a sick child.

We’re going to focus on the able people on your mailing list who would be most inclined to come out and support you. Except they didn’t.

©Marianne Gargour, A Single Solitary Moment. Oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches. used with permission.

The reason they didn’t come is because you assumed too much.

Let’s look at 4 ways this might have played out.

1. You didn’t tell them about it.

You assumed the venue would get the word out.

Oops! You’ll never do that again. Venues, regardless of the type of venue, have an entire program of artists and exhibitions lined up. Sorry to break this to you: you are but a small fish in their big pond.

What’s important to you isn’t always critical to them.

You can’t rely on the venue to get people to your exhibition.

©Pauline Johnson, Shedding Bark. Oil on canvas, 36 x 18 inches. Used with permission.

2. You relied on a social media post.

You assumed people would see your invitation on Facebook.

You can’t post an invitation once or twice to social media and expect results (especially these days). I don’t know about you, but I miss everything on social media. My mom always updates me on family goings-on when we talk on the phone because I don’t see them in my feeds.

Even if those you wanted to see the invite did, people don’t usually hop on board until they have seen an invitation multiple times.

You need a variety of touch points scheduled for your fans and followers:

  • Send a postcard.
  • Place stacks of postcards in strategic venues.
  • Mention your event in your newsletter.
  • Blab about it on social media.
  • Post flyers.

But the best use of your time would be personal contact with those you want to attend. Nothing – Nothing! – moves people to action like a personal invitation. This could be an email, a text message, or a phone call, but it is sent only to them and comes from the heart.

Never underestimate the value of personal invitations when you seek action from others.

3. You were afraid to send email reminders.

You assumed that a single email would do the trick – and that they would actually read the missive you sent.

You assumed that people would write it down and remember. They didn’t.

Most of my students and members admit to being “afraid to bother people” with an extra email. They reconsider when I share the statistics of how much these last-minute emails increase the sign-ups for my programs.

©Gilly Thomas, Into the Light, Edition 2/9. Limited edition bronze sculpture made in the traditional Lost Wax Tradition, 9 x 7 x 13 inches. Used with permission.

In fact, the highest percentage of registrations comes when I send the “starts tomorrow” email. More importantly, the right people – the people for whom my message was intended – respond with gratitude for the reminder.

4. You let your list get cold.

You assumed you could count on certain people to show up for you even if you have been out of touch.

Scene: Me jumping up and down on the rooftop. Bold letters necessary. You have to nurture your relationships. You must continue to show people you care about them long after they’ve purchased from you, started following you, or asked to receive your emails.

This is why you have a strategy for staying in touch with your list on a regular basis. So that, when you ask something of them (like showing up to your opening), they remember you and are familiar with what you’ve been up to.

©Dawn Normali, Where Are the Birds. Oil on canvas, 12 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

It’s not just uncomfortable for you to contact people only when you want something from them, it’s downright impolite.

Stop assuming so much. There are plenty of people out there who want to show up for you.

Make sure they hear from you and know that they are appreciated and needed.

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Whether you accept commissions for portraits (houses, people, pets), funerary urns, custom jewelry, or garden sculpture, you encounter situations that other artists don’t.

Commissioned artists must meet with patrons, communicate throughout the process, figure out payment schedules, and create documents that outline terms to the clients. All of this on top of making the client happy.

©Heather Robinson, Chevrons Floral 1. Acrylic and fabric on panel, 16 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

Commissions aren’t for everyone, which means there is plenty of room for artists who enjoy and are good at them. If you are one of those artists, follow these 8 steps to land more of them.

8 Steps for Landing Art Commissions

1. Add a prominent link for commissions on your website.

Include steps for commissioning a piece and testimonials from happy patrons alongside images of the finished work.

2. Provide at least two ways to contact you.

See that your marketing materials, including your website, have both an email address and a phone number. According to Matt Oechsli, the affluent prefer phone to email.

At least one artist has lost an opportunity for a mural commission because she didn’t have a phone number on her site and her email was down. How do I know? Because I was the person looking for an artist to help a neighbor with her project.

3. Understand your pricing structure.

Commissioned artwork should be priced higher than your other work because you are trying to meet someone else’s expectations.

©Jeanine van der Loo, Doll 5. Ceramic, white earthenware, manganese wash, velvet, 10 inches tall. Used with permission.

Some artists charge as much as 50% more for commissioned pieces, which is on the high end. This covers the PITA (pain in the ass) factor that often accompanies the commission process. There will be numerous meetings or conversations, along with possible changes that will take you away from your other work.

This brings me to …

4. Develop a questionnaire for potential clients to complete before you meet with them.

Ask for their timeline, ideas, and expectations. This will serve as a way to qualify people – to make sure they are serious and don’t waste your time.

You might also be asked to create something that has nothing to do with your body of work because the innocent person doesn’t know any other artists. That’s when you really have to think about accepting a commission to paint Tom’s cat, Neptune, in a spacesuit on top of a mirror.

(Kidding. You don’t need to think about it at all. The answer is Hell No! unless you’re in the habit of painting feline astronauts on top of mirrors.)

5. Make clients aware of your pricing before you spend any time on the project.

When you respond to the questionnaires that are submitted, give an estimated price range of the project. Be clear that you will know more when you meet and have the details, but get their confirmation that they want to proceed.

©Robin Maria Pedrero, Envisage. Acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches. Used with permission.

6. Schedule a meeting.

If all is a go up to this point, schedule a meeting – even if it’s on a video conference. It’s important that you have this face-to-face meeting so that you can look into one another’s eyes and begin to build trust.

In the meeting you’ll discuss details and get a sense of what this commission means to the client – how they prioritize it in their lives.

Do not feel pressured to provide a firm fee or payment schedule at the meeting. In fact, I strongly suggest you don’t commit to anything at the meeting. Give yourself time to think about it and use the meeting to understand the entire scope of the work.

7. Check in with yourself.

Commissions require that you willingly work collaboratively with another person.

They also demand that you mostly enjoy the process – something most artists don’t think about. This is important because you will procrastinate projects you don’t like and end up resenting patrons (for asking you to do the job) and yourself (for accepting the challenge).

Do you feel good about working with this person? If so, you can proceed.

8. Put it in writing.

After the meeting, write a letter of agreement that spells out all of the details including timeline, deposit, and payment schedule.

Begin with this: “Thank you for meeting with me and for your interest in my work. I am delighted to accept this commission with the following terms, which are based on the discussion we have had to this point.”

©Diane Sandlin, Open Heart. Hand-dyed and printed fabric, machine stitched, embellished, acrylic paints and inks, 16 x 20 x 1.5 inched. Used with permission.

In your letter, assure the patron that you can deliver what they’re asking for and that you can meet any deadlines. As the wise business advice goes: Under promise and over deliver. This means if you think you can have it done in 2 months, say it will take 3 months. When the client gets the piece in 2 ½ months, they’ll be thrilled to have it early.

Ask that the patron sign and return the agreement.

Your Turn

Yay! You landed the commission! Now the hard part begins. You must communicate clearly throughout the process and deliver as you promised on time.

What have you learned about doing commissions?

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Art Biz Blog by Alyson Stanfield - 1M ago

Steve Cranford is the creative chairman of the New York agency WHISPER. When I asked him why in the world a marketing firm would be called WHISPER instead of SHOUT, he replied: “The most important information you can share is whispered one-on-one.”

That’s profound. So simple and so true.

©Pamela Lordi, Champagne & Strawberries. Mixed media on cradled panel, 10 x 10 x 1.5 inches. Used with permission.

The most important information you can share is whispered one-on-one.

Think about it.

When you take out an ad or post to your blog and social media sites, you are broadcasting to the world. You’re talking to hundreds or (hopefully) thousands of people who might see your message.

Because of this public forum, the language is less personal than you would use in a private conversation. Everyone knows you’re talking to everyone else.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but when you want results, I encourage you to whisper – to communicate with a single person.

©Pamela M Roberson, Separate. Pen & ink, watercolor, 21 x 15 inches. Used with permission.

Anatomy of a Whisper

A client told me she was getting great results for her special sale by contacting people individually, but bemoaned that her broadcasts weren’t achieving the same response.

It makes sense, I said.

People like to be treated as individuals. We like to know that you care about us and want a personal relationship.

Broadcasts – whether through email, Instagram, Facebook, or a blog – will never equal the power of personal attention.

If you are worried about bothering people on your list or if marketing has become a drag for you, it’s time to get more personal. It’s time to whisper.

Sending out hundreds of emails or postcards should absolutely be part of every marketing strategy today, but this shouldn’t be your only method for encouraging people to act.

Whisper to individuals on your list in the following four ways.

1. Add Personal Messages

Add personal emails, texts, and Facebook private messages to your marketing mix, like those my client wrote. These are messages that are addressed to a single person using the person’s name. Hi Sally, for example.

You can send personal messages to invite an individual to your event, to tell them you were just thinking of them, or to share information that you know will be helpful.

You might also send a private response to someone else’s bulk email – perhaps one you never requested. Rather than being annoyed, use the moment as an opportunity to connect: This looks wonderful. I wish I could be there!

©Dianna Frtizler, Merrymaking. Acrylic, pastel, and charcoal on gallery wrapped canvas, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

2. Send Real Mail

You know that I love real mail, but postcards can look almost as impersonal as bulk email. Send postcards one at a time rather than in bulk. This helps you focus on and appreciate the individual recipients.

Writing on the back of your postcards automatically makes them more personal. Anything handwritten will also receive more attention than printed-only mail.

3. Pick Up The Phone

When you receive an email inquiry about your art, pick up the phone and call instead of responding with an email. Your email looks like everything else in an inbox, but your voice – full of warmth and gratitude – is uniquely your own.

Wanna take it a step further …

4. Make a Short Video

You’ll stand apart when you send a video to someone who:

  • Is having a rough time.
  • Has a big presentation, performance, or exhibition.
  • Is celebrating a birthday or anniversary.
  • Did something special for you.

©Marta Ribes, Las Tres Gracias. Acrylic on canvas, 40 x 28 inches. Used with permission.

Listen To The Whispers

Sharing your message in the above forms is a good start, but the most powerful attention you can give someone is to stop and listen rather than always being the message deliverer.

What’s important to them? What struggles do they have? How can you be of service?

Marketing to individuals rather than only in bulk takes more time, but yields a higher quality list of contacts. When in doubt, whisper.

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Do you need to be concerned about copyright? Trademark?
Is it important that you have tight contracts?

It depends on your definition of success and what your business goals are.

I know that “it depends” isn’t a satisfying answer, but it’s the truth. I don’t want you to pay buckets of money to attorneys when you don’t have to.

In this episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I talk with photographer and attorney Kiffanie Stahle about legal concerns for your art business.

Kiffanie, who is the founder of the artist’s J.D., has developed the Creative Business Model Canvas to help you home in on legal priorities. Find it here and follow along on this episode.

About My Guest  

Kiffanie Stahle is a photographer and attorney. She helps you confidently take the next step to strengthening your art business foundation by sharing her experiences and knowledge. And she happens to firmly believe that there can be ease in the legalese of running your creative business.

When she’s not taking photographs she’s reading any contract she can find online in order to find the holes in it. Total legal nerd.

Connect with her at the artist’s J.D.

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Your marketing mix is a blend of actions you take – both online and offline – to promote your art.

Your ideal mix is your ideal mix and nobody else’s.

©Kerry Schroeder, Released. Acrylic and graphite on panel, 52 x 52 inches. Used with permission.

You have to figure out what works best for you. At the same time, all of the options for where to spend time and energy could drive a person batty.

Should you be on Twitter?

Should you purchase an ad?

Should you send another email?

I suggest considering 3 criteria for deciding whether or not to make a task part of your marketing mix.

1. You are seeing results.

After you have implemented a marketing task consistently over time, are you benefiting from it?

Notice the words “consistently” and “over time.” You can’t try something once or twice and say it didn’t work. You have to have made a commitment to doing it on a regular basis. Perhaps you do it monthly for a year or weekly for 6 months.

©Kathryn Hansen, For Lease. Graphite pencil on paper, 7.5 x 9 inches. Used with permission.

Sporadic action doesn’t result in a good test sample.

The benefits you seek from your marketing might include any combination of the following:

  • More sales
  • More opportunities for teaching or exhibiting
  • More sign-ups in your classes
  • More names on your mailing list
  • More engagement from friends and fans
  • More referrals
  • More connection to others
  • More visitors to your site

After doing the task consistently over time, do you see any of the above?

When we get results, we are more likely to enjoy the task and improve at it. This brings me to the second criterion for deciding what to add to your marketing mix.

2. You enjoy it.

There are marketing tasks that you must do – regardless of whether or not you enjoy them. For example, you must create, maintain, and use your mailing list because it’s your most important asset.

©Deanna Krueger, Oceanus. Acrylic monotypes on recycled medical diagnostic film (X-Ray/MRI film), staples, 45 x 63 inches. Used with permission.

While you won’t like all of the tasks that make your business hum, you won’t be effective if you absolutely detest doing something – even if you’ve seen it work for another artist. Pouring that kind of rotten energy into a job that’s supposed to be about connecting people to your art has disaster written all over it.

Don’t waste your time on such tasks, and don’t waste your followers’ time.

By example, I saw great benefit in doing my weekly podcast for 2.5 years, but I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like reading the same text I had written for my newsletter. There were other ways I wanted to spend my marketing time and additional ways I wanted to add audio to my offerings.

I discontinued the original Art Biz Coach podcast in 2011 and revived it in an updated format (that’s more fun for me) in 2016.

There are plenty of things you could be doing to promote your art, so why waste your time on something you despise?

Again, you can’t enjoy every aspect of each ingredient in your marketing mix. Hopefully you will enjoy most of the process or at least appreciate the benefit you receive from doing the work.

3. It’s the best way to spend your time and resources.

©David Paul Bayles, Falling Tree #15. Photograph. Used with permission.

Here are three examples of what it means to use your time and resources wisely:

  1. If you are GREAT in person, you should be out there networking and meeting new people. Plenty of people build businesses in this traditional manner rather than spending time on social media. Work to your strengths.
  2. If you have only $500 to spend, it’s better to send postcards to your list instead of buying an ad. You have to consider long-term benefits, and the list (your most important asset) always wins when it’s one of the possibilities.
  3. If you’re at the point in your art career that you seek gallery representation, you’d get much more from visiting and networking in galleries than from sending a bunch of emails. Yes, it takes even more time and effort to do this, but it rarely works to send a bunch of emails to people who have no idea who you are.
Your Turn

What’s your ideal marketing mix?

Do you have a list of tasks you implement consistently?

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It’s the darndest thing about having a website: people aren’t going to visit just because you build it.

Creating a website is just the first step. Now you have to attract people to it, and driving traffic to your site is an ongoing task.

©Carolyn Caldwell, Mail Boat. Pastel, 22 x 18.5 inches. Used with permission.

Add some of these ideas to your marketing mix for more eyes on your art.

Best, Basic Practices

1. Write a newsletter article with a hook, which requires recipients to visit your site to read the end of the article.

2. In your emails and social media posts, tell people why they should click. What’s in it for them? Why should they interrupt their focus and visit your site?

3. Give something away to people who visit your site and sign up for your list.

4. Mention your website address on your voicemail.

5. Add your website address to the back or underside of your art! If an attached piece of paper disappears, the website will still be with the piece. (If you work through galleries, run this by them first.)

©Brooke Harker, Downtown Stride. Ink, oil and acrylic, 90 x 60 inches. Used with permission.

6. Blog regularly. People are more likely to return if they know there is going to be fresh content.

Social Media Strategies

7. Ask a few bloggers you admire if you could write a guest post for them. Include the link to your website in your byline.

8. Make sure your website link is visible to the public on your personal and business profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. I’m surprised at how many artists don’t do this. (See more about this under One Final Lesson at the bottom of this blog post.)

9. If you have a business page on Facebook, see that it is your employer on your personal profile. It’s easy to do. Click on “Edit Profile” and then “Add a workplace.” Start typing in the name of your business page and save.

10. Change your website URL frequently on Instagram. Feature links to different pages or artworks in the bio area that is hyperlink-able on the platform.

11. Become an active member of a Facebook or LinkedIn group for your niche market. The more you comment and post, the more people will be able to connect with you and be exposed to your site.

12. When you pin your art to Pinterest, pin it directly from your site so that your URL shows up with the pin. If you upload images to Pinterest, type your URL into the image description.

13. Leave thoughtful comments on blogs with an avatar that is an image of your art with a link back to your site if you can. Get your universal avatar for all WordPress blogs. (See Final Lesson at the end.)

Stop Sending People to Your Home Page

Can we agree that almost every other page on your site is more interesting than your home page? If so, then why do you keep encouraging people to land on your home page? Instead …

14. Switch out the URL in your signature block to point to a specific page or piece of art on your site. For example: My new body of work celebrates working women → http://…

15. Send tweets that entice followers to explore the interior pages of your site and blog posts.

©Jane Dickson, Celebrate Your Leap of Faith. Acrylic and pencil on watercolour paper, 22 x 30 inches. Used with permission.

16. Use QR Codes on exhibition labels that lead art viewers directly to a page on your site or blog with a description of the piece they’re looking at.

Crazier Things Have Been Done

Let’s face it, the best way to get people to your site is with some kind of online communication because it’s easier for people to click than to remember to type in a URL in their browser.
Still, you might consider ordering custom items with your website address printed on them, such as:

17. Bumper stickers

18. Tire covers

19. T-shirts

20. Baseball caps

One Final Lesson

The artists featured on this post (with the images linked to their sites) appear here because they left a comment on my blog or Facebook page, and I could find their websites quickly.

©Karen Phillips, Energized, Mind Travel series. Mixed media on paper, mounted on board, 10 x 10 inches. Used with permission.

When I first started including artists’ work in my posts, it took me at least an hour to find images to feature when it should have taken about 15 minutes. I would spend time clicking on artists’ names from my Facebook page that led nowhere.

I wasn’t “friends” with them, so I couldn’t see their site (if they had it posted). Also, my policy of “no watermarks” limited my choices.

If those artists had commented as a business page while on the Art Biz Coach page on Facebook, it would have made it easier because I would have known that I could access their information.

Since then, I have come to only use art from artists who comment on my blog and leave a website link. I don’t think I’m alone in not having time to fish around for contact and website information. There’s always other art to look at.

Make it easy for people to find you and your work so that you don’t miss out on opportunities to share.

How do you get traffic to your site?

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It’s unnatural for many artists to talk about money – especially when the money seems like barely enough to bother counting. And, yet, you can imagine how important it is to have a cozy relationship with money when you need it in your life.

©Trudy Rice, Bird Watching, Black Cockatoos. Solar plate etching, 70 x 89 centimeters. Used with permission.

What I share here is one of my favorite things to teach because I know that if you go through this process earnestly, your art business will be transformed.

The transformation occurs because you commit to a new relationship with money – one that puts you in charge of your destiny.

Let The Transformation Begin

One of the best things you can do to improve your chances of success in any area is to create a plan. If you’d like to make more money, that means you need an income-boosting plan.

Before you object, I know what you’re going to say because I have heard it many times before: How can I plan for money when I don’t know when my art will sell or who will buy it?

©Kristen O’Neill, Butano Creek #2. Oil on canvas, 19 x 12 inches. Used with permission.

You make a plan because you’re the CEO of your art business and that’s what CEOs do. They make business projections. They have to in order to attract buy-in to their products and services.

But first things first – in order to boost your income, you have to know what it is currently and where it came from.

For the purposes of this exercise, you’re going to focus on your gross sales. Ready to get real?

Where Did The Money Come From?

Gather your sales figures for the past 3 years.

What are your streams of income? These are the sources of your income and vary from artist to artist. Your income streams won’t be identical to your studio mate’s.

Examples of income streams include:

  • Sales of original works
  • Sales of reproductions
  • Teaching
  • Licensing
  • Merchandise

If you sell only original work, your income streams might be categorized according to venues. For example, arts festivals, personal website, social media, and galleries.

Likewise, if you sell original work only online, you might break down your income streams into how people found you. This could mean your income categories are your blog, Facebook, and Instagram.

What are the sales totals for each income stream? When you have that number, determine the percentage of each in relation to your total sales.

For example, if your gross income for one of the given years was $10,000 and $1,000 of that came from teaching, put 10% next to teaching.

©Sally Evans, Thrive Leaf. Acrylic, oil pastel on canvas. 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Analyze Your Numbers

Your next step is to spend time looking at the numbers in front of you. They might not make sense at first, but I guarantee that a story will emerge as they become familiar.

What are the trends you see across the weeks and months?

What events happened to lead to your results?

What surprised you?

Where do you see room for growth?

Set Your Income Goal for the Year

The final step in your strategy to increase your income is to set your goal for the next 12 months. This is where those CEO projections I mentioned earlier come into play.

Did you learn from your numbers that you’re naturally increasing your income 10% every year? If so, shoot for 20% this year because it’s a stretch, but not out of the realm of possibility.

©Jean Sbarra Jones, Bloom. Acrylic on panel, 36 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

After gathering your numbers and analyzing them, you aren’t pulling a number out of a hat when you set an income goal. Your goal is based in data from the past and thoughtful consideration of what is possible in the future. It’s realistic.

Artists who go through this process have told me that it is empowering. They see how their goals can happen.

This is powerful stuff that I hope you’ll take seriously and implement right away.

We go through this process in depth in the Art Biz Accelerator class,
which begins on January 23.
If you’re serious about increasing your income this year,
get off to a speedy start and join us!

Tell me more about the Art Biz Accelerator.
I’m ready to increase my income!

I’d love to hear your comments about this process. Have you attempted it in the past? What results have you seen?

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