If you’re an artist who is reflecting on the past year and making goals for the new one, you might be adding a resolution to better market your artwork in 2020. And if you’re like many other artists, just the notion is enough to make you, well, retreat into your work until you’re in a state of perfect flow and forget you had the thought to begin with.
Like all good resolutions, marketing your artwork is something that you don’t feel like doing…but is good for you? That can’t be right. There must be a better way to interpret the prioritization of marketing as a necessary part of an art career.
Not incidentally, Amy Cuddy reminds us that resolutions are often framed in a way that creates feelings of anxiety and damages positive perceptions of self. The social psychologist and Harvard professor would rather your promotional goals be formulated in an encouraging and non-essentialist fashion.
Below are 10 creative ways to market your artwork in the new year, written with particular attention toward Cuddy’s advice. As you read along, don’t denigrate yourself. And try to be mindful of the fact that you don’t have to do all of these things, or even one of them, all of the time. Set consistent, reachable goals and focus on the process.
Some of you might have read the word “regular” and immediately felt resentful and anxious. Stay with me. Set a goal that makes regular attainable for you. It could be one social post a month, one post a week, or one a day. The important thing about your social content is that it should be something that your followers can expect, or better yet, look forward to. You want your viewers to be able to remember you through habit. You want to provide them the opportunity to say to a colleague or their social following, “check out Kate Lewis’s awesome Monday posts of Chicago architecture.”
Similarly, your posts should link to one another, building a coherent message. Think of your social content as telling a story about you, your art, or your process. In an interview with Debbie Millman on Design Matters, writer, artist, and feminist Elle Luna talked about how posting her artwork on Instagram opened up an opportunity to have a show in a San Francisco gallery. Luna says, “that moment taught me so much about how important it is to get our work out of our studios, up off our desks, off the floor, off the wall, and to create an entire experience, an entire mounted body of work, and see it off of the dirty floor, and to see what larger story is being told.” Follow Luna’s advice, and decide to tell your story.
Along with other changes in 2019, Instagram added a Checkout function, allowing users to purchase your artwork without leaving the app, a powerful new tool for marking your artwork. Instagram’s visual nature, along with these new features, has made targeted ads an even more powerful tool for artists.
The major benefit of using targeted ads is exactly what it sounds like–you can choose from a number of categories, such as location, age, demographics, and interest, to target a specific group of its 1 billion active users. If you’re new to advertising on Instagram, Buffer provides a complete guide to Instagram ads in its library, and Facebook also provides a lot of help.
Of course, launching an Instagram ad campaign is a project in its own right. Don’t let that overwhelm you. As Cuddy recommends, focus on the process. If your goal is to use targeted ads, then concentrate on each step of that project as it arises. In effect, your goal has no timeline, and it’s difficult to feel like a failure for not yet having an ad when you are busy working to complete the next step.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
There’s that frightening word again– “regular.” But you already know how to handle it. There might be another fear here, though–submitting your work can be the Scary Terry of your artistic dreams.
As Cuddy suggests, frame your goal in a positive way. Instead of a resolution to have a submission accepted at a specific place, which will set you up for what seems like certain failure when you inevitably experience soul-crushing rejection, make a resolution to complete twenty-five–or 50, 75, 100–submissions. Your goal is now detached from the negative emotions that could prevent you from being motivated and optimistic.
The key to submitting work–besides just going for it–is finding the outlets that best fit your projects. Most places will tell you what type of artwork they are looking for. For example, Colossal, a Chicago-based platform with 10 million monthly readers spanning 6 continents, explains that it looks for project-based submissions “involving a strong visual aspect.” Additionally, if you are shocked by the number of readers Colossal has, then you might also be surprised by how much exposure you would gain from similar submissions. What would Wayne Gretzky say about that? Find somewhere that your project might fit, and take a shot.
Cuddy tells us that we cannot be dependent on outside forces when it comes to goal setting. If you want to market your artwork, there is nothing that gives you more control than physically connecting to the creative scene.
In an episode of The Moment, Brian Koppelman, screenwriter and co-creator of the hit television show Billions, talks with guest Marc Andreessen about this physical proximity of creativity and innovation. Together, they bask in the shared acknowledgment of how important it is for creative professionals to immerse themselves in a scene. This is about connection, sharing a space, sharing your person, and being in what they term “collision space.” Think Patti Smith in New York, Ernest Hemingway in Paris, and Tina Fey at Second City.
Buying art from other artists is just good karma, right? It is also refreshing when people put their money where their mouth is.
Another way to think about the good karma that comes from buying others’ work is that you have done something to inject yourself into a community. It is, in fact, a part of being in a scene. And being in a scene is kind of a gateway to a new sort of exposure, and new ways to market your artwork.
Jer Wat (aka Jeremy) is a printmaker, illustrator, and video producer living and working in Winnipeg, Canada. His love of art goes...October 11, 2021
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