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Being an artist, whether you make music, pottery, or kinetic sculptures set inside elaborate dioramas, has almost always involved an uneasy courtship with the Almighty Dollar. Making work requires money and marketing that work to an audience does, too, but if an artist focuses too much on getting paid, she can lose the vision and drive she needs to make her art at all.
Artists and musicians of yesteryear counted on patrons, gallery owners, and record labels to stay afloat, and while these options still exist, thanks to the Internet, they are by no means the only routes to sustainability. If you’re an artist hoping to generate enough income from your art to pay your bills and keep making it, you’re in luck. Here are five e-commerce tips that just might help you do that.
1. Accept money in every way you can
Some artists prefer to accept cash and only cash. Not only is it immediately usable and available, but it also allows artists to exist in that seemingly gray area where claiming income and paying taxes on artwork that’s sold is optional. Why? Cash transactions don’t leave an electronic record or a paper trail, which means they’re difficult to audit, but sticking to cash is limiting in a number of ways.
Besides the potentially problematic legality of not claiming all your income, when all you accept is cash, you’re destined to miss out on sales. Accepting credit cards, utilising PayPal, and even accepting personal checks can all dramatically increase your income, whether you’re selling your work in-person or online.
2. Aim for mobile
For the artist who’s already set up to sell online, it’s time to seriously consider mobile commerce. Overall sales on mobile devices are projected to reach more than US$100-billion by 2017. The art world has already seen a massive uptick in online sales in the last few years, and as mobile commerce grows, it makes sense for artists to target mobile as a selling platform as well. Whether it’s through the development of an app that allows mobile users to purchase art and music directly or it’s by choosing to be represented by galleries and other venues that have apps in place, aiming for mobile is a smart move that should pay off in terms of sales.
3. Be social nut not salesy
Almost every business is working hard to properly leverage social media in order to turn Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter into sales, and there’s no reason artists can’t do the same. That being said, using social media as an overt selling platform is likely to turn people off and hurt your brand. Instead of selling, artists should use social media as a way to keep fans in the loop. Alert followers to tours, shows, new pieces, and new projects. Post content related to your work. Respond to questions and comments. Be social without being salesy, and those who are interested in your work will seek you out when they’re ready to buy.
4. Regular content
One of the most important tips for the 21st century artist is to regularly reach out to fans and potential customers via digital means. Whether you post twice a week on your blog about the pottery you’re making, or you post progressive pictures to Instagram as your new fashion line takes shape, providing regular content will give people a reason to keep checking in with you.
It will build interest that should translate into sales when your new line or album is finished, and regular content that’s well-crafted and well-curated will build loyalty — something you’ll keep needing down the road.
5. Make free an option
Whether you already have a Web store up and running or you just have a Facebook Page full of likes, consider giving something away to lets fans and customers know you appreciate them. Musicians can give away an unreleased digital song as a “thank you” to everyone who signed up on the email list in the previous year. Painters can offer limited edition prints as a freebie with purchases that are over a certain dollar amount.
Fashion designers can join forces with one another and give away smaller items to one another’s customers as a way to cross-market and thank customers for buying. In many ways, ecommerce is just like regular commerce: It’s important to find unique ways to appeal to customers and keep them interested in what you have to offer. Giveaways, if they’re strategic, can be incredibly helpful in this regard.
So, don’t lament that you’ll never have a patron like Beethoven had. With some time, effort, and savvy, you can be a successful 21st century artist.