Getting the Word Out: Artist Marketing

One reason for pushing the timeline forward to launch my website was because of a significant life change—one that has made me question my financial future. I thought it might be a good idea to start promoting my work and taking commissions again, just in case. It turns out things will likely work out, but it couldn’t hurt to pursue a side career while the smoke clears.

A common question for most artists is, “How feasible is it to make a living creating my art?”. The answer for me, at this moment of my life, is a resounding no. It’s not financially feasible for me to make a living entirely from my art. I’m not there yet. It’s a goal I’m slowly working towards, but there are a lot of steps I will need to take.

If you’re in the same boat, you might find it reassuring to know that within a month of launching and promoting my site, I have two drawing commissions and several other opportunities that are quickly forming. When you are passionate about what you do, people will notice, but not if you’re pursuing your passion in a vacuum. It takes nearly as much work to promote yourself as it does to create whatever it is you do.

I’m am learning to embrace marketing when it comes to my artwork. The hard truth is: if people don’t know what you’re creating, they won’t care, and you won’t succeed. Marketing as an artist is very simple, get your work in front of people and give them a chance to buy it or hire you.

Many artists will bristle at the words marketing or advertising, and with good reason. We live in a world where we are bombarded by ads and sleazy or manipulative marketing campaigns. It’s a delicate balance to remain authentic with your audience but aggressive enough to make a living. How you market yourself is difficult because you want results. It’s easy to jump on a new marketing technique that over time turns people off and makes you look overly “salesy”. It’s even easier to avoid useful marketing methods out of fear of being too pushy. If people like what you’re doing, they usually won’t mind a promotion—if it’s not sleazy.

There are infinite avenues for getting your work in front of people, be it social media, a website, art showings, print and digital publishing, or running down the street naked with a canvas in each hand and pricing painted on your skin (if you do this last one, I applaud you). Promotion takes a lot of time and work, but it will be worth it. The important thing to remember is to keep promoting and remain flexible. If something doesn’t work, try a new approach. It takes time and energy to build an audience of fans who will love and support your efforts.

Working a full-time job creates obvious limitations on the time and energy I can spend creating and promoting my own artwork. I’m realistic about how much I can do but I’m motivated to do as much as I can. Luckily I can draw upon my past efforts when I was primarily working freelance, so I’m not starting from scratch. What happens now is anyone’s guess. Over the comming months I’ll be trying out several of the above-mentioned methods of promotion and I’ll make sure to write about what I liked, disliked and how they performed.

Have experience promoting your work? Let me know what worked for you, what didn’t, and which marketing methods bother you.

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