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Two Reasons Why the Majority of Artists are Failing Online

December 8, 2009

Reason # 1:

The old saying, “out of sight, out of mind”, is an appropriate way of describing what many artists will experience in their online marketing and promotional efforts, if they aren’t careful.

The web is a dynamic, ever-changing, real-time, living and breathing entity, and if artists aren’t continually putting themselves and their work out there… well, they’ll soon find themselves forgotten, as another 1,000 tweets and Facebook updates roll on by.

The web is unforgiving this way, and it’s not just potential buyers forgetting about an artist and their work, it’s also the information-eating search engines that will stop looking for new updates from an artist to consume and index – certain death to an artist’s ever-important, must-have exposure on the Internet.

Ever wonder why top brands, marketers and advertisers push the same messages over and over – to an annoying degree?  Answer: Impressions, Reach, Exposure and Reinforcement.  It’s a non-stop effort to gain and retain people’s attention. Building a lasting and successful brand is one of the toughest things, ever.

Reality Check 1: Artists must be online and continually marketing themselves and their work. While not yet fully realized, the Internet will soon become the primary vehicle where art is bought and sold.

Reality Check 2: Loading up 10 pieces of work, to whatever site an artist prefers, and then sitting back to wait for “the magic to happen” is both naïve and unrealistic. It takes continual exposure and constant reinforcement of an artist’s personal brand and work to eventually break-through online.

Reality Check 3: If you haven’t uploaded any new work to the Internet in the last 30 days, you’re already long forgotten, at least online.

Reality Check 4: If you are uploading grainy, out-of-focus, poorly lit, non-cropped images with the kitchen table or back yard fence appearing in the photograph, you will never sell your artwork online.

Solution: Upload a new piece of work to your personal site, a site you are working with… anywhere online… today. Set a schedule for yourself. Upload a new piece of work, along with an excellent description for the piece, at least twice per month – this is the minimum requirement. And make sure the image of your pieces is top, top quality. No margin for error here.

Reason #2:

Somewhere along the line, artists acquired a collective belief that the professional promotion of their work by a third party online should be free. In other words, all art sites should be free of charge to them. This is a ridiculous belief.

No service or product worth its weight in salt is free, including paint brushes, canvases, cameras, clay, developers, foundries, Giclee and print manufactures, and yes, even professional companies who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch and maintain an online art marketplace dedicated to the professional and effective promotion of artists and their work.

Get over yourself artists. If you want free, put your work on one of the thousand free art sites out there. Just remember, these free sites are partially to blame for ruining the entire online art landscape by diluting the marketplace with crappy sites and art and lowering buyer’s trust and acceptance of buying art online.

Reality Check 1: Artists have been burned in the past. They have bought into sales pitches from slick sales people charging unbelievable amounts of money in exchange for promised art sales.  Move on. You made a bad decision. Don’t assume that every site out there is trying to “rip you off”. Work with a company that is committed, and can prove it, to aggressively promoting you and your work. It WILL eventually pay off for you, but only if you are consistent, realistic and are in it for the long haul. Selling art online is a marathon, not a sprint. Most artists are horrible marketers. They need help promoting themselves.

Reality Check 2: Well-intentioned, yet naïve, artists and photographers who submit blog posts telling other artists to “go it alone”, build their own sites and promote themselves online have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Posts like these should be flagged as “bad advice” and “potentially dangerous” to the entire community of artists. Here’s the truth if you plan to effectively market yourself online and expect to consistently sell work online: plan to spend 15 hours per day seven days a week building your personal brand and pushing your work out to the masses. Enough said.

Reality Check 3: Unless your personal art website is fully e-commerce ready, it is not a legitimate tool in your online marketing and sales arsenal. “Contact the Artist” for pricing and sales information is not something most potential buyers are going to bother with. Our world, and the Internet in particular, is a fast-pace, ease and convenience, buy it now, impulsive environment.  If your site doesn’t meet these needs, it’s irrelevant.

Reality Check 4: No one is visiting your personal art website, and when they do (there are exceptions here), they are shocked by how poorly designed it is, how impossible it is to navigate, all the while never really spending anytime looking at your beautiful artwork.

Solution: Seek out and find an online art marketplace or gallery to have your work consistently and professionally marketed and promoted. Expect to pay at least a minimal annual fee to take part. Follow their direction in terms of how to most effectively use their site to be successful. And lastly, lower your expectations just a bit (it’s a marathon, not a sprint), be realistic and never stop uploading your new work as it becomes available. You will soon be successful online.

Brian Walker is owner of DiscoverdArtists.com. He is always available for discussion and questions.

brian@discoveredartists.com or (877) 711-1167

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 1:14 pm

    A great article that just cuts to the chase.

  2. December 11, 2009 1:58 pm

    I loved your article. Great advice; difficult to put into practice. I fit right into the category of a lack of pricing and ability to conduct sales easily. If you have time, though, I was wondering if you have any comments on my site. One thing, is that it’s poorly outdated.
    Happy Holidays,
    Laureen

    • February 23, 2010 10:32 pm

      Hi Brian – it’s me again.
      These are the most true expliion of “arketing your art”
      I have read. There is just one problem – “Everyone should have a persoal Brian Walker”at hand at least an hour a day. Thanks for spreading your valuable insight with the artists. I just hope, they will read it.
      Peter

  3. December 11, 2009 6:11 pm

    Thanks for this great advice and I will certainly take advantage of your expertise. -Gail Savage

  4. February 24, 2010 10:05 am

    Wow-Brian that was a shot in the arm and a kick up the backside. Well written.

    Keep up the good work.

    Gary Hall

  5. February 24, 2010 10:15 am

    Thanks, Gary. I hope it isn’t too harsh. But as a creative myself, I realize that we all need a “good shake” from time to time.

  6. Edward J Payton permalink
    February 26, 2010 4:05 am

    A very interesting read. For a new artist like myself this advice is invaluable.

    I have found comparing and choosing a paid-for gallery a very difficult decision. Discovered Artists seems to be constantly promoting new artists which appeals to me.

    That said, an artist who is truly passionate and devoted to their art should have no problem marketing and networking to promote their own work.

    EJP

  7. March 11, 2010 11:30 pm

    Wow. Good information. Another artist shared your site. Glad I found you.

  8. March 15, 2010 2:56 pm

    Brian, I found your article correct and to the point, and I thank you for posting it. We, as artists, need to be told the truth and really need to comprehend what you had to say. I see where my mistakes have been and are ongoing, because I’d rather be creating art than stuck on the computer, marketing, searching and researching where to be. In my few years of being on-line, I put my website up to exhibit what I do, ( I create 4 or 5 large collage pieces per year). Those who have the ‘disposable’ income for art are, for the most part the customers, unless one has smaller, less expensive price points for the ‘Everyman’.
    After years at this, my thought is that an artist must ask themselves, “Do I want to sell my work, or show my work?” And “Free” is never free and hardly ever gets one anywhere. I realize that one can pay a brick and mortar gallery the 40-60% commission, and (they are in the business to create turnover, and wall space costs them money), or you can do it yourself spending hours upon hours when you’d rather be in the studio, or you can pay for a site to exhibit that already has the buyers’ or collectors’ and advertises to them. But some of these sites are sometimes just taking your money with little result. Then there is the “Esty” way of marketing, which I gave a try for smaller items just to see how it worked. A disappointment after all the work involved. But you get what you pay for. A good artist is lost in the thousands posting daily from the mediocre, to the hobbyist, to the downright junk, and quality art, (and there is some there), is lost unless one pays daily to be on the front page which changes by the minute. Sites such as these reap the benefit of the thousands who want to show, but you do all the the work. These sites abound. Links and Facebook, etc. is important, but I find only “friends” are linked, and friends don’t buy much art. How to find “friends” that do? Artists have a most difficult road exhibiting and selling their works as there are millions worldwide vying to be noticed, from musicians, to artists, to writers. Researching sites and reviews of art sites is key before putting out money. Networking through workshops, museums, exhibits, galleries and top artists helps too, but can be an arduous process.
    I will now work on my price list and e-commerce as you have suggested, and work on posting new art as you suggested. Thank you for this “kick in the pants!” And have a great day! Kate

    • March 16, 2010 7:32 am

      Kathryn,

      Thank you for your insightful feedback to the original article. I am so happy that you found some points that struck a chord with you.

      I wish you the best of luck this year. Never stop promoting to those who stop to listen…

  9. April 21, 2010 10:22 am

    Excellent excellent advice. I’ve been online since 2003, and was laughed at when I started selling my work on ebay and then moved over to Ruby Lane. Over 1000 pieces later, I am now approached by people who say, how do I get online and be successful?
    Especially love Reality Check #3. Many artists think that a Contact for pricing link is sufficient. They need to give their heads a shake and stop with the ego already.
    Your articles are insightful, and straight to the point. Love that.
    Julia Trops

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