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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Susan Jerke, WSBDC regional director
"I am a contemporary western artist. Can you give me some ideas to help promote my art business?" David, Cody
To have a successful art business, you must get the artwork in front of potential customers. Many artists believe that their work stands on its own merits and will be wildly successful once their art is "found."
However, artwork is really no different from any other product -- it must be packaged and presented in a way that is enticing that the audience will want to pursue it. Perseverance and determination are keys to success, but here are a few other thoughts to consider when building an art business.
-- Keep your audience on its toes. Engage the audience with a great Web site and effective social media, including Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube and blogs. Give a glimpse of your inspirations, passions, processes and purpose.
Allow the audience a chance to get to know and understand how and why you create artwork. If you have an exhibit, won an award, or just finished a new piece, send out a media release. Take informal surveys to find why people like your work, where they buy it and where they think it should be sold.
-- Successful professional artists take their businesses seriously. This means they have taken the time to create a foundation for their business by building a business plan, have researched pricing, have an understanding specific target markets and collectors and have effective accounting systems in place.
-- Find your distinctive style and do it well. Bev Doolittle hides images within her paintings. Ansel Adams used the power of black and white photography to portray powerful landscapes. Sarah Rogers paints "tropical western wildlife" using vibrant watercolors and a distinctive style. Whatever the style, use unique creativity to make it recognizable as your own distinctive artwork.
-- Price your work consistently. Consider where your artwork is selling. Galleries typically charge a commission of 35-50 percent. If you choose to sell in a gallery, consider the fee as a cost of doing business.
If you also sell your work on-line or in art shows, make sure prices are the same in all venues. The relationships built with gallery owners are invaluable to the promotion of your work -- do not risk losing support by undercutting their prices.
-- Be wary of giving your artwork away. Many people have the perception that art is something one pursues as a hobby and believe an artist is happy to donate work to "get their name out there."
This assumption tends to undermine the value of the work of a serious artist. If you are asked to donate to a fundraiser or auction, ask yourself whether the audience is likely to be a target market. If the art is sold at an auction, request a minimum bid price.
-- Do not forget the power of networking. Build those one-on-one relationships that help interact directly with customers. Invite existing customers to small, private art showings. Take time to visit galleries, attend artist receptions, teach a class, or join an artist group. See what other artists are doing and connect with their positive energy.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.