Selling Your Art and Yourself Without Compromise

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Selling your art does not have to be painful. Most artists don’t like to use the word “sale”.   Okay, but, you can only hang so many of your own work in your home before you start running out of space. Most artists, if not all, want to be successful, but are reluctant to self-promote.

“All art is either plagiarism or revolution.” If you’re not an artist, this is merely an interesting quote. If you are an artist, it can be the difference between prosperity and poverty. Plagiarism sells, revolution, not so much. Maybe after you’re dead, but that doesn’t put food on the table.

The tough question is, what to do? Compromise? Sell out? These are issues with which many artists wrestle. My advice? It’s up to you. Yes, I know; that’s not a satisfying answer, but, in the words of Bill Belichick, “it is what it is.”

So, let’s look at it as it is. When you’re “selling your art” you’re selling yourself (or some part of you). Selling is all about “value”, or “perceived value”. Now comes the hard part. To convince someone your art has value, you must convince them that you have value. Yes, I know, it’s crass and even a bit demeaning. I’m sorry; but is it realistic? I think so. The good news, you don’t have to agree with me! Write the magazine and tell them I’m full of crap. Any (civil) discussion always reveals more than it conceals, right? However, let’s not start the argument right now.

To communicate value, the “speaker” and the “listener” must share a common “language”. Notice the quotation marks? What this really says is “…the artist and the buyer must share a common understanding.” The artist doesn’t have to be a skilled public speaker, but they should at least have a “elevator speech” or pitch prepared.

Does the buyer understand what it is you’re selling? If you’re selling number 2 pencils, no problem. If you’re selling artwork, you may have to look at what “language” you’re using. You have to walk that fine line between treating the customer like they are completely ignorant (“this is a paint brush”), and they are an expert.

Reveal a bit of your “artistic process”, in a clear way that will enhance the buyer’s understanding and appreciation of your “product”. Give them a “peek behind the curtain.” Practice explaining your art to a non-artist. If they still look confused, try again. When you see their eyes open wider and they say “oh…,” you’ve done it. Once you’ve got the conversation going, it’s fun! Oh, and by the way, you just “sold” something.

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