11 Cost-Effective Ways Market Your Art Business in a Down Economy

Published on Apr. 9th 2009


For artists and art galleries, a recession is often a scary time. But economic downturns can still provide great opportunity—the trick is to chip away at your marketing and business goals, now, while you have extra time.

On the business side of things, you can update your website, create postcards, photograph images, update your resume, create effective electronic files for your art with title, size and price of each image in jpeg format (low res for emailing), produce an online and offline portfolio for presentations to galleries, re-organize your studio, etc.

And when it comes to marketing, you may actually find it easier to get your message across than before. Everyone has the money (and bravery) to seek out clients in good times—which often creates an atmosphere of extreme competition. NOW is the time to reach out to your customers and secure your success in the future.

Here are some easy and cost effective ways to market your art now:

1. Build your database of contacts

I can’t express how important it is to build a powerful email and mail database. Get all those business cards you have in a pile on to your computer—especially those with email addresses—and spend one day each week adding new contacts to your database. Treat that database like gold and back it up often.

Email is the most effective and inexpensive ways to market a visual medium like art—so use it! I recommend Outlook (PC) or Entourage (MAC) for an excellent email and database system.

2. Submit articles online

Everyone knows about the internet, but not everyone knows the free ways to get exposure on the internet. You can write an article about your art, your process, your niche—anything interesting or newsworthy about your art—and submit it to one of the many sites that accept them.

At the end of every article you should have one succinct paragraph about yourself. That’s where you’ll mention your art business and have a link to your website. Each site has it’s own guidelines on how the articles are to be written and submitted, so make sure to follow them.

Submitting articles online will help establish you as a leader in your industry, at least as long as the information you share is helpful and not self-promoting. Go beyond art websites (big competition) to sites like www.searchwarp.com.

3. Use guerilla marketing techniques.

Use www.overnightprints.com or www.modernpostcards.com to have some postcards made (and business cards too!). Go down to your city art walk or a busy cultural event and hand them out. This puts your message directly into the hands of prospective customers.

Make sure you have an attractive offer. . . perhaps a discount on your art or a small art card giveaway. Be creative and entice people to visit your studio, gallery or website.

4. Take care of your best asset—previous art buyers.

Client retention is the best form of marketing there is. . . I’d say that finding a new art buyer is 100 times harder than selling to your existing or past clients.

Treat anyone who has bought art from you like they are a cherished relative. Send them a Christmas card that you make yourself, or which features your art. Throw a “client appreciation” party in your studio or home. Stay in touch with them and build your relationship into a solid friendship. Their referrals and future purchases are your very best asset.

5. Max out online opportunities

Set up accounts on www.myspace, www.facebook and www.linkedin. Any social networking site gives you the opportunity to share information about your art business (for potential buyers) as well as helping you connect to other artists.

6. Start a blog

But don’t just start one—update it often with new work and thoughts about your process of creating. Use www.wordpress.com. It has lots of template choices, it’s user-friendly and it’s FREE.

There are even ways to add video to your blog, so you could have someone record you in your studio talking about why (or how) you create your art. That’s a great way to create a bio that sells. Add it to your blog. Add it to your website. Add it to www.youtube.com.

7. Change your website address

Your website address should be YOUR name – this will help it show up when people Google you. To buy a new domain name or see what’s available, go to www.dotster.com or www.verio.com. Have your new domain name DNS directed to your existing website.

Editor’s note: To clarify, if you’ve already had your website for a while, it won’t be beneficial to change THAT domain name. But purchasing "yourname.com" is always a good idea, and forwarding it to your current website is one way to use it.

8. Cross pollinate with other businesses

If you’re feeling the pinch of the economy, most likely other businesses in your area/industry are feeling it as well. Find other businesses that don’t compete with you but have similar clients. Offer to hang your art for free in their location, or exchange postcards promoting each other’s business.

There are opportunities for cross-pollination online, too, but be selective in who you work with—both online and in the brick and mortar world.

9. Consider licensing your art for prints, or publishing

Not all artists will want to go this route, but doing so will get you exposure and possible a small but steady income. Check out www.editionslimited.com for a great example of quality and popularity.

10. Send out press releases

Press releases can be a very effective way to bring attention to your art business. If you’re doing something that impacts the community then write a press release about it (or have someone write it for you). If you hire someone to do it for you, make sure they know how to write and distribute it. Always keep your topic community-oriented. . . nobody wants to read a self-serving piece that just promotes your business.

Personally, I like www.fineartamerica.com for press releases. It is free and fairly easy and art related. It also gets picked up readily by Google. Here are five other PR websites you could use, although there are many more as well:

www.prndirect.prnewswire.com

www.i-newswire.com

www.betanews.com

www.npr.org

www.usnewswire.com

There are also a few paid services that will submit your press release to specific regions or trade publications. It is worth the cost if it is an important release, and in my opinion, PRNEWSWIRE and BUSINESS WIRE are the best if you are going to pay:

http://www.businesswire.com

http://www.prnewswire.com

11. Create a new body of work

If your current body of work isn’t selling, take this time to open yourself up to new ideas and let the creative juices flow. Keep marketing your current body of work, but play around with new ideas, too.

Personally, I believe that with a recession comes the desire for uplifting and inspirational colors, art and ideas. Perhaps your art could answer that need—if so, don’t be afraid to try.

Remember, the economy doesn’t have to keep you from marketing and selling your art. There are always ways, if you take the time to look for them.

Janelle Baglien is an artist and 20-year marketing veteran, as well as the president of Studio Art Direct. To learn more, please visit StudioArtDirect.com

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