10 Avoidable Marketing Mistakes Artists Make

10 avoidable marketing mistakes artists make

For me, as a business owner, one of the most exciting parts is marketing. What makes it so exciting is that there isn’t just one way to promote a business. In fact, the possibilities are endless. There are countless ways to get the word out about your small business. And the best part is that you can tailor your marketing activities to what works best for you and your art. 

While I believe that, in general, mistakes can be a positive experience (they help you learn in a lasting way that promotes growth), you can save a lot of time, energy and money if you avoid some mistakes before you make them. Here are ten common marketing mistakes that I see artists making that you should try to avoid in your business.

10 Avoidable Marketing Mistakes Artist Make

Marketing Mistake #1: Not Marketing Your Work at All. 

Many artists who are new to the game, young and old, forgo marketing because they simply don’t know they should be doing it. Think back to those branding and marketing blogs we did a couple of months ago.

A big part of my learned experience through the years is simply by doing. My art consulting business wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t put myself and my brand out there through marketing.


Marketing Mistake #2: Thinking You and Your Art Are Above Marketing

On the flip side to those that don’t even know they should be doing marketing are those artists who believe themselves above it. Some artists believe that their artwork speaks for itself and therefore they don’t even need to conduct marketing altogether.  This is also a bad perspective to take. Unless you’re creating simply out of the pure joy and not wanting to make a living off your art you can’t have the mentality that, “I will create, and they will come.”


Marketing Mistake #3: Not Having a Marketing Plan

I know time and budgets are limited, but I urge you to set some time aside every year to think strategically about your business. Trying to promote your business without a marketing plan is like trying to get dressed in the dark. You may get lucky and end up with the results you want, but chances are you will be wasting very limited resources. So take some time and set realistic goals for yourself to accomplish with a little bit of work.  


Marketing Mistake #4: Getting Overwhelmed Before You Even Start

So often I see artists stop before they even start because there are too many avenues to market their work and too little time or because they lack the confidence to promote themselves. Since it’s baseball season here in Cincinnati I can’t help but think of the famous Babe Ruth quote, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” You don’t have to hit a grand slam on your first go-around, just start small. Maybe it’s just to get a website up and running. Or limit yourself to just one social media platform. Or perhaps try testing out a subscriber list and email blast. Again, having a marketing plan in place will help set more manageable goals for you to achieve and grow your art career.


Marketing Mistake #5: Relying on Your Gallery to Do All the Marketing

This is a common mistake I see artists making all the time. Artists who have had gallery representation over the years rest on their laurels and let their galleries do all the marketing for them. Artists who do this are missing out on sales big time because they are relying solely on one avenue for sales. The marketing your gallery does for you should be supplemental to your own.


Marketing Mistake #6: Confusing Marketing with Hard Sales

I cringe every time I see an artist post an image of their work with the title and dimensions saying, “Available NOW! DM for pricing details.” This is the absolutely worst way to market artwork.  One of my favorite aspects of marketing is storytelling, and it’s so easy for artists to capitalize on this. Every piece of artwork you create has an incredible story behind its inspiration. This creates a stronger emotional connection between the piece and the viewer.


Marketing Mistake #7: Trying to Sell to Everyone

Not knowing your target customer is another avoidable marketing mistake. When I ask artists who they are trying to sell to often I get the response, “People with money.” Everyone with money can’t be a potential customer because that’s the entire world, and that’s a lot of people to reach. While it may be true that the type of artwork you create appeals to a broad audience when it comes to marketing you need to narrow down your target to a recognizable group so you can use messaging and marketing approaches that reach them directly. Take for example my book Secrets of the Art World. I wrote this book specifically to guide artists through the obstacles of a creative entrepreneur and build a thriving art career. If I tried marketing this book to “people with money” my resources would be wasted trying to convince accountants or investors to buy a book that doesn’t fit their needs.


Marketing Mistake #8: Being Too Opinionated on Your Business Account.

Social media profiles created the option to have a personal and business for a reason. It’s to keep your personal opinions and daily activities separate from your business. While there is a difference between having an opinion versus being opinionated, there’s still no place for it while promoting your business. Artists who are overly opinionated on their business profiles run the risk of losing customers.


Marketing Mistake #9: Poor Quality Imagery

This is a frequent topic that we address on the blog because it’s so important! So many artists submit poor quality images of their work to the gallery for potential representation or to our annual art competition and exhibit Art Comes Alive.  These images are dark and mute the true colors, uncropped so you can see everything in the background, or blurry so the details of the piece are lost. I know it’s a sensitive subject with some artists, but even images with a giant copyright watermark slapped across is very disruptive to the viewer.  If the images of your artwork do not represent what the piece looks like in real life how is anyone supposed to be persuaded to inquire or buy online?


Marketing Mistake #9: Posting Without a Purpose

This point ties into having a marketing plan and knowing your target audience. It’s easier to post with a purpose once you know. One day an artist shares an image of their coffee or a flower that they think is beautiful. But your followers don’t care. They started following along in the first place to experience your artistic journey with you. But if there’s a story behind the image of the coffee or the flower that relates to you as an artist, then there’s a post worth sharing.


Marketing Mistake #10: Not Regularly Checking Analytics

As a business you need to be savvy as to what’s working and what’s not and how you can shift your approach, otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money.  Make sure you have Google Analytics connected to your website, and that you’re checking your analytics on Facebook and Instagram regularly to see if the content you're putting out is effective.


The big takeaway from today’s blog? Don’t be afraid to try new marketing approaches. Remember at the beginning of the blog I mentioned it’s okay to make mistakes if you’re always learning? So, there may be times when you try something new and it doesn’t work. That’s okay. You might try something new and it will be wildly successful for you and your business!

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art comes alive

Known as the “Academy Awards for Art,” Art Comes Alive (ACA), ADC's annual art competition and exhibit, is embarking on its 10th year of helping artists get their work in front of art-industry professionals such as interior designers, art galleries, private art collectors, and corporate collections. Each year the art competition gets bigger and better, and this year over $300,000 in awards will be given to artists through gallery contracts, purchase awards, publishing contracts, and more!


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