Art Students, There are Lots of Ways to Market Your Artwork for Free
One of the stereotypes of artists is that they are “starving artists.” In truth, that can be true at the beginning of an artist’s career. When an artist first starts out, they need to learn to market their work. Marketing is not one of the classes taught in art school. In my opinion, artists should be given some basic business skills in art school, but I guess that would probably add another year to the program.
New artists can do well by using the free marketing available to them. There are lots of local and online services that are free or almost free that artists can start out with until they are earning enough income to pay for more expensive marketing. Learning to market oneself as an artist is critical and will save an artist much disappointment.
What Types of Free Marketing Do You Take Advantage Of?
- Word of mouth
- Article writing
- Home parties (like Tupperware parties)
- Displaying your art in local shops
- Wearing your work (if it is wearable)
- Putting a sign on your car
- Writing an email newsletter (collecting emails)
Start with People Who Know You
Everyone has a personal network of friends, relatives, and acquaintances. Start with them and let them help you market your work. Here are some suggestions of how you can do this:
- Give them samples of your work to wear, put in their office, or have in their home.
- Ask them if you can have a showing or party in their home or office. They invite people, and you sell your work. This can be a “Meet the Artist” event or a “Girls Night Out” or even a fundraiser.
- Ask them if they know of any local shops or offices that would be willing to display your work.
- Ask them for referrals to their friends and acquaintances.
Create a Free Store on Zazzle
I love Zazzle! Zazzle is a print on demand site that allows you to upload any images that belong to you and create items like cards, posters, t-shirts, and much more for absolutely no fee. Any time you sell an item, you get a percentage of the sale that is predetermined by you.
It is a great way to get known globally and only costs you the time to load your images and create products. They even have a global product create button to create a bunch at the same time.
You can add links to your blog or website or how to email you directly for custom products, and you can earn some extra money by selling products on Zazzle.
Blogging is Word of Mouth Online
Blogging is a terrific way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time, and is also free if you use a blog service or about $10 per year if you host the blog on an outside site. As an artist, you can blog about how you create your pieces, what your creative process is, what you learn along the way, show pictures of your work, and actually sell your pieces right from your blog.
You can advertise your blog for free on forums, via Twitter, and through email. You can also invite guest artists to participate in your blog to bring attention to the blog. Blogs work best if they are related to a niche subject that people are searching for.
With a blog, you can create an RSS feed and send it to Twitter or other sites as soon as you post to the blog. This will create a following on each site that you feed it to. The more interest you create around your work, the more you will sell. Think of this as “word of mouth” online. It works just like “word of mouth” does. One person tells a few others, and the word escalates exponentially instead of one at a time.
Display Your Art in Neighborhood Shops
You would be surprised at how many neighborhood shops are willing to display your art for you for free. If you are a painter or photographer, try coffee shops and restaurants, possibly bookstores.
If you are a jeweler or fabric artist, try salons and spas. There are also many galleries that offer consignment programs. They may or may not have fees for this. It is worth your time to find out.
I own a gallery here in Cleveland, Lake Erie Artists Gallery, but I don’t have enough room in the gallery for all the flat art I have here, so I asked the coffee shop two doors down if they would allow me to hand art there. They loved the idea, and it is free advertising for the gallery. Think of how many people come in and out of a coffee shop every day. A lot!
Email is a Terrific Tool When Used Correctly
This day and age, just about everyone has an email. Email marketing is very popular, and here’s why. It is totally free. You can create an email mailing list by asking all your customers and potential customers for their emails. You do have to ask. They won’t just give it to you.
When you are first starting out you can just create a brief email newsletter on your own email and give information as to where you will be showing your work or how they can have a party in their home or whatever else you are promoting. You shouldn’t send more than one or two per month because people get tons of email and if you flood their inboxes they will remove you.
It is important to give people the option to remove themselves from your email list. If you spam them, they will never forgive you.
Make your emails positive and colorful. Try to grab their attention in the first few lines. People do read these even if they don’t read every one. This is one of the best marketing techniques out there for free.
Once you are making more money you can get a service like Constant Contact to send more professional emails. I use this service and it provides templates for emails, and is really easy to use. They do offer a free 60-day trial that you can try out for free.