How to Sell More Art in 2024

Planning your art goals may not be very exciting, but it’s more exciting when you plan to have more money at the end of the year — so start now.

Here are a few things to think about right now:

1. Write down all your goals for 2024.

Now put them in order, from most important to least important. Pay special attention to the top three.

Chances are that one goal will stand out as about 80% more important than any other goal. (Remember, goals are not a “to-do list.”) Pick your number one goal. If you could focus on achieving only one goal, this would be the one.

2. Thinking about that goal, ask yourself…

Is it measurable?

For instance, if your goal is “make more money,” decide how much more money. Be exact. It’s hard to know how to shoot for a target if you can’t see the target.

Is it obtainable?

If you’re making $50,000 and you set a goal to make $1 million, that is probably unobtainable this year. (But it might make a great 5-year goal.) What IS obtainable in 2024? Is 10% more money obtainable? 20%? 50%? 100%?

When you ask yourself about each figure, is there something in your gut saying, “That’s not possible”? That’s where your limiting behavior will kick in, and it will sabotage you every time. Consider the number you believe you can achieve, and shoot for that.

But before you give up on a bigger number, try breaking it down into weeks. I like to use 50 weeks. So if your goal is to go from $50,000 to $100,000 … divide $100,000 by 50 weeks. That’s $2,000 a week. You’re already making $1,000 a week. So, does adding an extra $1,000 a week seem doable?

The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Is there a WHY behind your goal?

Goals are rarely met unless you know why they are important to you. Whether your goal is to double your income because you need to do that to buy a new house and make the payments, or if you simply need more to survive, then you’ll work for it. But if there is no “why,” chances are you won’t do the work.

3. Manifesting and Planning

Manifesting means envisioning yourself at your goal. Don’t say “I’m gonna make $100,000 a year,” say, “I make $100,000 a year.” Your mind has to believe it, and if you repeat it enough, your mind will find a way to make it happen.

Manifesting without action isn’t enough. You need to build a plan. A plan makes it believable. What can I do to add an extra $1,000 each week? Or an extra $200 each weekday? Come up with 20 things, and pick the best ones.

Build the steps of your plan into your calendar. You need to have them in there to remind you to do them. Don’t ignore them. Block out time to work on the actions that will help you hit your goals.

Don’t let a week go by without doing the extra steps toward your goal.

Hold yourself accountable for $2,000 every single week. Don’t stop working till you hit that goal.

Read your full list of art goals once a week. Most people don’t keep reading them, and as a result, they don’t obtain them.

Goal-setting tends to get overcomplicated. The billionaires I know focus on only three goals at a time, with one big one. They have a relentless focus on number one until they achieve it.

I believe any artist can double their income each year. I outline some of these things in my book.

Don’t overcomplicate goal-setting.

In summary…

  1. Pick one big thing that, if you accomplish it, will change your life.
  2. Break that one thing down into weekly goals.
  3. Meet those art goals every week, no matter what.
  4. Put them in your calendar and devote time to them in pre-planned blocks.

I hope this is helpful,

PS: I have a ton of things you can find for free here on Marketing and selling does not have to be overwhelming, and it will change your life once you accept that it’s a fact of doing business.

By |2024-01-09T07:29:41-05:00December 28th, 2023|Business|0 Comments

Sleazy, Slimy, and Coldhearted

A message about art marketing from Eric Rhoads

I used to cringe when anyone suggested I go into sales.

To me, a salesman was sleazy, slimy, coldhearted, and filled with lies.

I did not want to become that, and that’s why I resisted sales for many years.

Then one day a mentor pointed something out…

When your doctor is recommending surgery, she is selling. But you don’t look at it as selling, you look at it as prescribing.

A fresh way to look at selling is serving.

You and I buy hundreds of things in our lifetime that we did not know we needed, yet turn out to be some of the best things we ever bought.

I resisted a dishwasher when I was first married. Washing by hand is easy, and fun. But someone talked me into a dishwasher, and now I’d never want to live without one.

Was the person who sold that to me being sleazy, slimy, or coldhearted?

Of course not.

They offered a service, walked me through the benefits, listened to my issues, answered my questions, and helped me realize how much I really needed it.

I’m living in the greatest house ever. I did not want it, because of the price. But once the benefits were pointed out, I bought it, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. It’s brought years of joy and has been even more perfect.

Was the real estate agent being sleazy?

Many artists are resistant to the idea of selling their work because they cannot self-identify with the idea of being a seller.

The reality is that 99% of people selling something are simply trying to help people find products and services that they know will help them. Sometimes they have to help people see the light.

Selling is serving.

Perhaps 1% of the people selling fit the mold of high-pressure, obnoxious, sleazy, slimy, and coldhearted. 

Sometimes people need some help making decisions. Pointing out the joy and benefits of buying your painting is not evil. Some people just need a nudge. 

As I look back, I can think of a few paintings I wish I had bought, but fear got in my way because of the amount of money. I now wish those people had nudged me a little more, made it easy to see the benefits.

One painting I almost bought for $1,400 recently sold for $150,000. I’m wishing I had been talked into it. And though I never get talked into something I truly don’t want, I often allow myself to get talked into something I want. Sometimes I need a nudge.

Selling isn’t evil. Selling is serving. If you’re doing your job, you’re helping others see the benefit of owning your artwork.


PS: Remarkably, the entire auditorium will be filled at 6:30 in the morning when I offer three mornings of Art Marketing Boot Camp at the upcoming Plein Air Convention. Each year is different content designed to give you the latest ideas and techniques to sell artwork. I’ll see you there. 

Yes, I’d like to attend the Plein Air Convention and the bonus Art Marketing Boot Camp sessions.

By |2022-04-06T13:27:47-04:00April 6th, 2022|Business, Sales|0 Comments

10 Art World Predictions for 2021

10 Art World Predictions for 2022

Though my crystal ball is cracked and I’ve shaved my Nostradamus beard, I have some thoughts on 2022 from the perspective of an art publisher who is in constant dialogue with artists, collectors, galleries, and art experts.

Everyone is in agreement that all bets are off for predictions in the event of another massive lockdown or spread of the virus, but we’re observing that people are starting to normalize and gain confidence in being out and about.

1. Money in the Marketplace

Though there will always be people who never seem to have enough money, it appears that money has become a secondary issue for some others. Most people remained employed, but the employed were not traveling or dining out, meaning they may have a significant amount of disposable income. Many who were business owners received PPP benefits, and others received extra compensation from unemployment. 

During the lockdowns we saw a substantial increase in home upgrades, remodeling, painting, redecorating, and art buying. One can only stare at the walls for so long before needing something new to hang on them. Additionally, a substantial number of people have chosen not to commute and now work from home, so a lot of love and care is going into home office spaces.

2. Tax Benefits

For 2021 and 2022, those who own businesses can depreciate 100% of the cost of tangible business goods, which means that items that would normally be depreciated over their lifetime of several years can be depreciated this year. This tax law gift happens only this year and next, though this year has more favorable terms. Galleries are pointing out these benefits to people who are decorating offices or home offices — it can add up to a serious reduction in actual cost. (Check with your tax specialist for details; I do not give tax advice.) This should also apply to tangible items for art studios like easels, furniture, etc. Also note that gifting benefits can apply to art if you have a collection to gradually leave to your heirs over time.

3. Online Buying

Though most of us were up to speed with online buying even before the pandemic, the rest of the world, much of which was not up to speed, has now caught up. After being forced to buy essentials online, a full generation of non-online buyers are now buying online and getting more comfortable with substantial online purchases. Galleries and artists not offering online buying should take note. 

Also, online buyers do not suffer inconveniences like “e-mail me for the price,” or “price upon request.” You can build and buy a Tesla online without ever talking to a human, and the same should be true for art. We’ve seen galleries making sales of highly expensive paintings without ever speaking with the buyer.

4. Christmas Sales
Two issues dominate the holiday giving market: Many families will be together for the first time in a year or two, so many are gifting at higher levels. But at the same time, last-minute buyers may be left without options as they enter stores, even online stores, and find limited choices or bare shelves. Galleries and artists would do well to point this out and remain highly visible throughout the season, stressing last-minute shipping.

5. Impacts of Inflation

People who are sitting on a lot of cash are seeking places to put that cash where it will remain valuable in spite of inflation. Housing and real estate are always popular, but art has also historically been a hedge against inflation. Investors seek assets that go up in value, protect their cash, and can easily be liquidated. Historic art and investable art are already seeing an uptick in sales.

Again, a provision in the 2020-2021 bonus tax code is that tangible assets can be depreciated 100% in the first year. That means office furniture, equipment, and art may be acquired for considerably less cash investment once the bonuses are used. (Check with your tax professional.) This also makes a case for art sales as a hedge, at a discounted (to the buyer) depreciation rate.

6. Migration 

A massive migration is taking place across America. Pandemic fears, not wanting to be locked down, social concerns regarding the safety of communities, and higher taxes have resulted in a massive migration out of bigger cities into small towns and into states like Texas and Florida. New York City has been hit the hardest, with city dwellers moving to surrounding counties and to Florida. A migration away from California is also occurring — or, at least, away from the big cities. This has brought rapidly rising real estate prices as populations have doubled in some Florida and Texas communities, as well as higher housing costs in previously reasonable small towns. Moving companies are backed up for months and storage units aren’t available, meaning new furnishings for many (though supply chain issues are ongoing). While some maintain other homes, many people are establishing residency in income tax zones like Florida. More time in second homes — making them primary homes — will also mean more decorating.

The New York Times reported that a significant number of restaurants in New York City have been forced to close because of pandemic restrictions, and some of the better known restaurants have relocated to places like Miami and Palm Beach, following their customers. Will New York galleries be the next to follow? 

New homes often result in new paintings purchased, and second homes often mean new artwork in a different style. For instance, more colorful artwork might be desired when moving into a second home in Florida. Can artists and galleries find a way to tap new residents in growing communities? We think so.

7. Realism Growth

Our magazine Fine Art Connoisseur has always been a standard bearer for realism, the resurgence of realism, and a solid future for young realist artists. Recent evidence indicates that realism may see its boom years sooner than expected because there is ample inventory available with the influx of young, talented realist artists. Additionally, some highly influential modern art dealers have started to show realism as something new, representing top realists and driving prices up. If this continues it should be a financial boon for realist painters and sculptors.

8. Plein Air Events

Prior to the lockdowns, the plein air world was booming. Tens of thousands of artists had started painting outdoors as a hobby and thousands more followed artists as collectors at plein air events. Sadly, lockdowns resulted in the loss of a few shows, and of course hundreds of shows were forced to cancel for at least a year. Early reports indicate event attendance is starting to return to healthy levels, and it is expected that once communities begin to feel safer about getting out, attendance will be at an all-time high, as will sales. This should mean a healthy year for plein air painters and events.

9. Gallery Survival

The pandemic proved to be a challenge for some gallery owners and death for others, but was a blessing for many. We must not forget that many galleries have the disadvantages of the high costs of rent, electricity, staff, etc. It appears COVID flushed out those whose survival was precarious. In some cases closures simply meant gallery owners retiring earlier than they had planned. Others were driven out of business by high rents and low sales. Those who survived were the ones who did not stop marketing, who kept active and visible, and who looked for ways to stimulate business via phone and online sales. Of course, further lockdowns may impact businesses, but we’re seeing some galleries in discussions about downsizing physical spaces and relying more on online and phone sales strategies. Others are considering relocation, in many cases for the same lifestyle-driven reasons buyers have left bigger cities.

Based on the high-end modern interest in realism, I suspect more galleries will dip their toes in the water and follow suit until it’s a verifiable trend (though others will wait till it’s too late to jump in). 

The predicted end of galleries has not occurred, and does not appear to be on the way. Their role and approach may change or adjust, and, as always, galleries will evolve.  

10. Art Workshops

COVID created a necessary pivot for those doing live workshops. Many shifted to online training via Zoom and other platforms and managed to survive and in some cases thrive. Though the adjustment required new technical proficiency, most people quickly figured it out. 

The biggest concern we’ve heard is that the work involved in producing and planning training, and dealing with customers and payments, has resulted in unexpected headaches and time issues. Most artists, when calculating their hourly rate for time spent on online workshops, realized they were not being paid well. And though online was a good alternative to produce income during COVID, most feel it won’t be fruitful moving forward when time is tighter. Many have suggested that they intend to move away from or reduce the amount of personal online teaching that eats into valuable painting time.

Most artists have started returning to live in-person workshops or are eager to return, and there are strong indicators that attendance will be strong and that people are even willing to travel. We had a large crowd at both our June and October events, though we were probably off about 20 percent overall based on COVID fears. We seem to be coming out of that; for instance, early indications are making us believe our May Plein Air Convention & Expo will be sold out before February. Our hotel is already suggesting it may sell out sooner. This is great news, indicating that people are returning to life before COVID.

Because we discovered many people are unable to attend live events (for reasons other than COVID), we plan to continue our online training weeks like Watercolor Live in January, PleinAir Live in March, Pastel Live in August, and Realism Live in November.

A Strong Outlook

Most artists and galleries I know were worried that COVID lockdowns would kill their businesses, but the opposite has been true: Many had their best year in a decade. Though the level of spending on art has already declined slightly from the peak, it appears it will remain high for at least another year or so. Those who thrive will be those who continue to stay visible to art buyers and collectors through publications and websites. Social media has also offered a big boost, with more social art sales happening (though fewer than might have been expected). Whether that will continue remains to be seen, but those social outlets that have accumulated large, curated audiences appear to still be the most important places to be seen. 

2022 looks strong. Of course, all bets are off if further lockdowns are required. Even if that happens, there will remain pockets where things are stronger or weaker depending on regional or local rules. Overall the prognosis is solid, though artists and galleries may wish to focus their efforts on regions where fewer lockdowns are occurring, or focus on getting in front of locked-down families who are in need of new things to make the walls they are staring at more bearable. In both cases, artists and galleries, they’ll need to adjust their 2022 plans and marketing to reflect these changes.

Eric Rhoads is founder and publisher of Fine Art Connoisseur and PleinAir Magazines. He is the author of Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Methods for Turning Your Passion into Profit. He is the founder and CEO of Streamline, a company that produces art events, artist retreats, and art instruction videos. He is an artist whose work is exhibited in three galleries, and is the father of college-age triplets. He writes a weekly blog called Sunday Coffee and writes in each issue of the magazines and for

By |2022-12-14T16:52:14-05:00December 20th, 2021|Branding, Business, Sales|0 Comments

How to Become #1 as a Result of This Financial Downturn

You, me, and every artist on earth is wondering the same things right now. How do we survive this virus shutdown? How do we survive this economic downturn?

Today I’d like to suggest some ideas you may want to consider. I have had the benefit of surviving three recessions before this one (whether this is a recession, a depression, or a temporary downturn). Survival was not easy. But I came out on the other side ahead. Here are a few ideas. I’m sure I’ll have more later.

Be smart. Don’t close your doors for business.

I’ve been in the media business (mostly radio and TV) for decades, and I have deep experience in this. Though you want to react, if you overreact, you’ll be out of business forever. I’ve probably seen it happen to a few dozen companies. If you’re selling art, you as an artist are a businessperson or a company. The same things apply to you. Let me explain.

The first thing we all do when there is no money coming in the door is trim expenses. It’s a must, of course. Yet when I held a company meeting this week, I outlined what we were going to do and not do. One of the things we’re not going to do is turn off the income faucet.

Few people understand that the income faucet is their lifeline. This faucet may not have as much “water” coming out as before, but if you turn it off, there is no water at all.

The income faucet is marketing and advertising.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Of course you’re going to say that, Eric, because you’re in the magazine business.” No doubt. But I’ve lived it, which is why I told my team we’re making cuts in all areas, but we’re actually increasing advertising.

Why? Why increase advertising and increase risk?

I’ll give you two gallery examples. I’ll not mention names, but you can figure out who they are if you know galleries from around 1998, when another big recession hit.

Gallery A called me and said, “We have to cancel our advertising. Things are really bad.” I talked to them about the income faucet, but they cancelled their ads with us and everyone else. They also stopped all other forms of marketing. They stayed open, but that was it. About six months later, they announced bankruptcy and eventually disappeared.

Gallery B called me and said, “We’re starting up a new gallery and we want to buy a bunch of advertising. Several pages in each issue.” Within one year they became one of the top galleries in America, and they still are.

One day I had lunch with Gallery B’s founders and asked what their strategy was at the time. What they told me was something like this: “I’ve studied recessions and what happens to businesses because I was a business consultant. We knew we were going to start a gallery, we had our artists lined up, but we wanted to wait for the recession to start. I knew all our competitors would stop advertising. And I knew that though their businesses were soft, they would still be selling art because rich people always buy. They buy less, but they keep buying.”

He went on, “But I knew if they did not keep advertising, they would soon be out of business — and there were about eight big galleries that went under. Had they kept spending in advertising and made deeper cuts elsewhere, they would have survived. Instead, they handed their customers to me.

“I was advertising, and even though I was new, I looked strong because we had big ads, in some cases several in a row. And I stood out because there were not as many people advertising. I started hearing from customers, sold them art, and they were then on my list. I’ve sold many of them millions in art over the past years, and we’re now their go-to gallery. This is exactly what I was counting on.”

As I probed deeper, he told me he did not buy wide, meaning he didn’t buy in six or 10 publications, but he bought deep in about three. In his case, he picked my magazine Fine Art Connoisseur because he knew we had lots of ultra wealthy readers, and a couple of other publications. He told me, “Always follow the money.”

I have a saying I use in my marketing classes for artists: Always stand in the river where money is flowing.

It’s no secret that money won’t be flowing as well. But consider this.

Let’s say there are 10 galleries (or 10 artists) who have a strong customer base and who have been advertising. Now let’s assume each is only getting 20 percent of the sales they normally get — but five of the 10 stop advertising. That 20 percent of continued spending will go to those who remain visible. In the case of Gallery B, eight galleries stopped advertising, and Gallery B couldn’t keep up with the business.

There is another important principle, and that is to prime the pump for when things get better. All the people who love and buy art are not going to stop loving it. They will continue to read their favorite magazines. They need to see you the entire time. The reason is that when the money faucet turns back on, some galleries or artists will have stayed visible, branded themselves, and stood out when others had gone away, and they created interest and demand. Buyers may never have noticed you before, but now you stand out, and you are soon on the “eventual buy” list in their heads.

As a business owner, I know every dime spent is painful. But a visibility strategy is important to retain customers.

So is social media the answer? Of course it will be helpful, but there are a couple of things few people realize. If you have 5,000 Facebook friends and you do a post, only 2 percent are fed that post. So you think you’re reaching 5,000 people, and you’re really reaching 100. And just because you posted something does not mean those 100 saw it: Only 3 percent actually see or notice a post, based on their browsing habits, how the post looks, and how attention-getting it is. So you’re being seen by about three people.

You also have to remember that the people who follow you may not be people who buy art. Maybe some do, but chances are most are other artists. To reach people who spend money on art, you need to find a place that has a concentrated audience of known buyers.

Even if you can’t do what Gallery B did and buy several ads, some presence, any presence, will keep the money flowing in, though more slowly. No presence is like turning off the money faucet.

If you’re new and have not been an advertiser, there is no better time to launch a campaign and be seen and stand out. This is when kings and queens are made.

Case in point… during the Great Depression, Post Cereal was number one in America by a landslide. Because they were so confident that everyone knew them and loved them, the board made a decision to stop all advertising. Meanwhile a young startup called Kellogg’s launched during the Great Depression. The Post board still did not advertise, believing Kellogg’s could not possibly hurt them. By the end of the Depression, Kellogg’s was the number one cereal brand in America and had taken away more than 50 percent of Post’s business. They remain the leader to this day. Post tried everything but could never catch up. That’s why recessions and depressions are kingmakers.

You and I are faced with difficult decisions. Every dollar counts. We don’t know how long this will last, or when things will get better. But just because we’re frightened, we shouldn’t be foolish and assume nothing is selling. Just today a friend told me he sold a big, expensive painting, and earlier this week another friend told me she’d sold a painting.

In the Depression there was a money shift. Lots of millionaires were made during the Depression, and they were spending. In fact, the bankruptcy lawyers and others who made a lot at that time bought up real estate and businesses for pennies on the dollar, and many became the barons of the time. There is still money out there, and people are still buying.

This virus containment time can be an advantage to you. People are spending a lot of time in their homes, and many are focusing on redecorating or rearranging. This will reveal needs for new art. Also, they have lots of time on their hands, and they will read more. We’re seeing massive, bigger-than-ever open rates on our newsletters and websites, and others tell me the same. I’m assuming they will spend more time with the print magazines like PleinAir and Fine Art Connoisseur as well.

With every downturn, there is an advantage. Be smart, don’t turn off the faucet. Turning it off could turn off your business forever.

Oh, one more thing …. there is a principle in advertising called momentum. If you’ve been visible issue after issue for years and you suddenly stop, you kill your momentum. Though everyone thinks, “People know me they will remember me,” it’s simply not true. Out of sight, out of mind happens fast. I could name artists who were big brands making a lot of money who are not selling at all now because they were resting on their past brands. People no longer know who they are. Only the artists or galleries who stay visible will survive this long-term.

Food for thought. I hope it’s helpful. Please let me know what you need and how we can help you.


By |2020-03-21T21:11:55-04:00March 23rd, 2020|Branding, Business, Sales|0 Comments

The Gallery-Artist Debate: Is Each Earning Their Percentage?

Recently a well-meaning artist posted this statement on Facebook:

“The standard gallery practice since I started selling in galleries has been a 50/50 split of the retail price sale with the artists. However, in the last 7-8 years it seems like galleries are doing much less for artists but still demanding the same split. So many shows now require that artists pay for shipping both ways. So many shows feature artists the gallery does not represent. If you are not representing me and trying to build my career, if you are not trying to get magazine articles for me, if you aren’t really presenting my work to collectors, then you are no longer earning 50% of the sales. Is anyone else standing up to galleries? Are we so afraid of missing out on being part of shows that we all just do whatever galleries ask of us? Why are we, as artists, giving so much power to people who are offering us little other than wall space?”

The artist isn’t necessarily wrong, but he isn’t necessarily right. Here’s why:

Complaint: “In the last 7-8 years it seems like galleries are doing much less for artists but still demanding the same split.”

Maybe instead of the question being “Why aren’t you doing more for me?” the question should be, “Are you selling my paintings?”

From my perspective, though it would be nice to have a gallery promoting and advertising me, I look at their primary role. They are a sales agent, to whom I pay a 50% commission.

What matters to me is whether my work is selling. Everything else is gravy. Though many of the outlined promotional activities can lead to a sale, they are also expensive to implement. If they are not necessary, and not part of an agreed-on expectation, that shouldn’t matter if the gallery is doing its primary job … selling paintings.

If someone wanders into a gallery and buys a painting without ever having seen an article or an ad, does it really matter? The sale is what matters. 

Another way to state it: If a gallery has figured out how to sell my paintings without articles, without PR, without ads, do I really care? Again, the sale is what matters.

If paintings are NOT selling, then one has to question the entire relationship. But every business has unpredictable up and down cycles, which is why I think all artists should have galleries in different regions, and probably have at least three. Some years my gallery sells every painting I send, other years not a peep. But I know they are trying.

Start With an Agreement

Unless he had an up-front written or verbal agreement, the artist could be complaining about not receiving something he never should have expected. I think it’s important that every gallery have an agreement in place. Start with a dialogue: “This is what I hope you can do for me. Can I expect this from you?” And it’s a two-way street; the gallery should explain exactly what they need from the artist.

I like written agreements — not to avoid future lawsuits, but for clarity. A simple one-page doc stating the artist’s and the gallery’s expectations is important.

Oh, you’ll also need some protections. I’ve watched friends lose paintings when a gallery when bankrupt and the court seized inventory. You should have it in writing that the gallery does not own your work, and that in the event of a bankruptcy or at the first indications of financial problems, they will give you a chance to get your work out. You’ll have to be willing to go collect it — if a gallery is going through a financial crisis, don’t expect them to pay for shipping.

Complaint: “So many shows feature artists the gallery does not represent.”

This statement assumes that the gallery should sell only artists it represents. However, as an artist, I celebrate when a gallery does something like an OPA show, AIS Show, etc. Why? It’s helping put the gallery on the map, it’s making new people aware, it’s bringing outside promotion, and ultimately, it’s driving traffic to the website or the gallery where potential buyers can find my work.

Frankly, anything that keeps money coming in the door and keeps a gallery healthy is a good thing. If they are having a cash crisis and decide to do a special show to make some money, support them. Otherwise you may be picking up your work when they go out of business.

Complaint: “So many shows now require that artists pay for shipping both ways.”

Guess what: Things are not the way they used to be. It’s harder than ever to be in the gallery business. Rents are high, expenses are high, and galleries are seeking ways to save money. We as artists cannot expect them to behave like it was still the good old days. We have to work in today’s market. Shipping terms should be part of your written agreement.

Complaint: “in the last 7-8 years it seems like galleries are doing much less for artists but still demanding the same split.”

The split is a commission, as I mentioned above (unless there are other terms). Here is a fact: More galleries have gone out of business in the past five years than have survived. Galleries cannot operate the way they used to operate. In the old days droves of people walked in the doors; now those expensive rents do not produce foot traffic. So they may be paying $25,000-$50,000 or more for a retail space when there is no retail business. 

One gallery, which since has gone out of business, asked what I would recommend for them. When I asked what percentage of their business was from locals, walk-ins, or in-person visitors, they said 10 percent. I suggested they close their retail space (which was costing them $25,000 a month), deck out a small showroom in an inexpensive warehouse space, and focus on selling more to the 90 percent. For half of that $25,000 a month, a gallery could dominate all the art magazines and drive more business by Internet and phone. But their egos got in the way, they were in love with their space (which was incredible), and that $300,000 in rent drove them out of business. Would it have been better to downsize and survive?

You and Your Gallery are Partners

It’s a good idea to have an ongoing dialogue with your gallery about what you can do to help them and what you need them to help you with. Find out what is selling. One gallery owner told me recently his art was no longer selling, so he got all new artists and moved in a different direction, making his business healthier than ever. Galleries cannot control the market, they can only reflect it. If you understand trends, maybe you can make adjustments in your work to meet those trends. Also, though you’re looking to the gallery to market you, they need your help too. Are you letting people know who your galleries are, how to find your work at galleries, and referring customers to them? Again, it’s a two-way street. 

Complaint: “If you are not representing me and trying to build my career, if you are not trying to get magazine articles for me, if you aren’t really presenting my work to collectors, then you are no longer earning 50% of the sales.”

I can’t emphasize this enough: Unless you have an agreement for articles and other career-building, the gallery’s only job is to sell your work to earn that commission. Of course they will present your work to collectors and buyers — by giving you wall space and talking you up.

Complaint: “Are we so afraid of missing out on being part of shows that we all just do whatever galleries ask of us?”

If a gallery is asking for help, ask yourself why. They want your participation because they are seeking new ways to bring customers in the door. I’d much rather cooperate with reasonable requests than be the one artist not in a major show. If I’m in a partnership and my partner needs my help, I’ll be there. 

Selling with Honey and Not Vinegar

Two artists I know have different approaches. One calls the gallery and berates them for not selling enough work. He calls frequently, and, other than bringing people’s attention to his work, or possibly doing a show or advertising, it sells if it sells. But this artist completely alienated his gallery and they fired him. Why? He was not worth the hassle. They dreaded his calls. He made them feel bad even though they were trying everything. People were just not buying his work, and they could not make him happy. And they had lots of choices of other artists who were selling.

The other artist is the nicest guy in the world. He doesn’t call much, because he knows the gallery is busy, and if every artist called every week, they would never get anything else done. When he calls, he doesn’t even ask if things are selling or what they are doing. Instead he simply says, “How can I be of service? What do you need from me? Is there a kind of painting anyone is seeking I might be able to paint?” Oh, and he sends a small gift to the salesperson each time they sell a painting. 

Who would you rather do business with?

Complaint: “Why are we, as artists, giving so much power to people who are offering us little other than wall space?”

Oh, I’m sure it seems that way. But keep in mind, some months a good gallery may not sell enough artwork to pay the bills. They may be wondering, “Why aren’t these artists earning their 50% by helping us more? After all, we’re putting out tens of thousands in rent, ads, electric for all that lighting, employees, sales commissions to employees, shows, food for shows, public relations, etc.”

It’s important to make sure you understand both sides of the story. Wanna really feel empathy? Ask your gallery if you can come there for a week to be a salesperson. See just how easy it really isn’t.

The bottom line is that you and your gallery can both gripe about a lot of things the other could be doing. But be thankful they have selected you when there are 200,000 other artists they could pick. If you’re one of 30 or 50 they are hanging, you are in the upper 1 percent of artists in the world. Be thankful that they are exposing your work, hanging it, lighting it, and paying for that wall space. Be thankful they are doing everything they know to bring people into the gallery. Could they do more? Of course, and they will if they can afford it. Be thankful they can sell your work while you’re sleeping, or painting. It beats trying to do it all on your own, and the expense that goes with that.

A Message to Artists

Consider this. The gallery business is at risk. This is the time we all need to support them, help them survive and thrive, and celebrate that they are doing what they do for 50 percent. I know an artist who gives the galleries 75 percent and is now one of the richest artists in America because they favor his commission over the others. He’s not complaining because he did $5 million in sales last year.

A Message to Galleries

Consider this. Artists put their heart and soul into their work, and you exist because they don’t want to have to learn to sell on their own. If they wanted to be business people, they would have gone into business. They need you to communicate with them, and they need to understand your issues so they don’t look at everything as one-sided. 

Both artists and galleries can do a better job of communicating. There is no right or wrong, we’re all in this together. If one falls, the other could fall. Let’s all work harder on communicating.

By |2020-01-21T11:54:01-05:00November 8th, 2019|Art Galleries, Business, Sales|0 Comments

What to Do if Your Art Stops Selling

Last week an artist told me he was suffering. His sales were way off, and the steady income he had become used to had suddenly come to a stop. He also told me his galleries were not selling much of his work anymore.

I asked him what he thought the problem was, and he told me he is doing everything he can to generate income … more workshops, working on a book, working on a video, getting into more plein air events, doing an online mentoring program and an online school, and trying to schedule some gallery shows.

As I probed this with him, I asked which came first … all the activities or the slump in sales? His answer was no surprise. “I was doing really well and hardly had to do anything to sell paintings, but I wanted to make more money, so I started working on these other projects.” When I asked him if he was painting as much and sending as much to the galleries, he said, “Well, no. I don’t have as much time.”

This is going to sound absolutely counterintuitive, but less is more.

The disease many of us have is thinking we have reached a peak with our income and that therefore we need to start doing new things to bring in more money.

An example is my buddy Jim. Jim owns a coffee pot business. It’s a pretty big business. He has pots made in China with his brand, and he sells them on Amazon. He has made a lot of money, but when we last met, he told me he was getting out of the coffee pot business and getting into the vitamin business. 

Why? Pots had stopped selling as well, and he sees lots of people making a lot of money in vitamins. 

The grass is always greener. Someone else looks successful doing other things, yet we forget that when we do new things, there is a tremendous learning curve, time to understand it, and often it’s not naturally in our skill set. Someone else might be successful, but we don’t know how many decades of struggle they went through to get there, or how much money it cost them to start.

Any time you start chasing shiny objects, you suffer somewhere else. I should know. Success magazine called me the “Shiny Object King,” and it was not necessarily a compliment, though their point was that some shiny objects turned out to be better businesses than what I had.

As an artist selling art, you are a small business. All businesses have up and down cycles. Sometimes those downs are caused by the economy, sometimes they’re caused by a change in the industry or business, sometimes they’re impacted by events like the California fires or election fears. Sometimes we don’t know.

Something I do know: In Ecclesiastes it says there is a time to reap and a time to sow. I find that when business is off, we have to put the shiny objects aside and protect our core business. 

My friend Jim is giving up because he is in a down cycle and moving to something else, forgetting that startups are hard. I think that instead he needs to keep his head down and stay completely focused on solving the problem.

We all love to place blame. It’s a lot easier to place blame on other people, or other things or conditions. But my friend Jim is to blame for his own problem, as is the artist who got so distracted by shiny objects he failed to protect his core business. 

There are two issues with shiny objects. First, they are a distraction. Second, they send signals to the market. With social media, people know everything. This artist used to post paintings and thank customers for buying, but for the past year or two, all of his posts have been about his shiny objects. That’s sending a signal to his market that he’s bored with painting and has moved on to other things. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately.

There is no problem with wanting more income, but you want to start with this question…

If I focused more energy on my existing business, could I find a way to grow it to the level of income I want from all my other shiny objects? The answer is yes, and if you don’t know how, all you have to do is find out. There are plenty of experts out there to help.

What if, right now, you had every customer you’ve ever had?

Most people buy one painting from you. But what if 50 percent of the people who bought one painting from you bought one painting a year? Would that change your income? Of course.

The solution to every problem is found in a series of questions. If you ask great questions, and you try to come up with 50 answers for each question, and don’t just pick the first few easy answers, you’ll solve any problem.

The same day this artist told me that nothing is selling, his friends aren’t selling, and he thinks we’re in a bad economy, another friend told me he sold more art this year than any year in his career and that a lot of his friends were thriving too. Hmmm.

Lots of artists I know are coasting and in the danger zone. 

Some things to consider if things are not going as they should:

  1. Am I as focused as I should be?
  2. Am I doing all the things I have normally done to keep business strong?
  3. Am I too reliant on others for my income? Should I control it more?
  4. Am I being distracted by shiny objects?
  5. If I could pick only ONE thing to work on for the next two years and could not work on any other thing, what is that one thing?
  6. What questions should I be asking myself? (There are probably dozens.)
    1. How have things changed, and what do I need to be doing differently?
    2. Has my worked changed, and do people want it?
    3. Is my work still relevant? 
    4. Is my category of art still hot?
    5. What could I do to get income out of past buyers?
    6. Am I sending bad signals to the market?
    7. Am I willing to work as hard?

If or when you see things changing, get focused on solving the problem and keep your head down. A concentrated effort can make a huge difference toward solving any problem.

By |2020-01-21T11:57:21-05:00November 1st, 2019|Business, Sales|0 Comments

Why I Hate Marketing

Dear Artist Friends,

I hate marketing.

There, I feel better now that I’ve said it. 

I hate marketing when it’s sleazy. I hate marketing when it’s dishonest. I hate marketing when it exaggerates. I hate marketing when it lies or it misleads.

Most of the artists I know also hate marketing. They think it’s dirty.

In fact, most of the artists I know believe that art should sell itself. That someone should see it, respond to it, and buy it.

I’d like that too.

I’d also like it if I sat down at the counter of a soda fountain in Hollywood and had a producer walk in, discover me, and make me famous. That’s what supposedly happened to Lana Turner, a 1940s Hollywood star. But it turns out it’s a myth — it never happened. It was crafted by a Hollywood PR agent so people would feel more connected to this new star as “one of them.”

Tens of thousands of young wannabe stars show up in Hollywood hoping to be discovered. And those tens of thousands get whittled down to a few hundred who ever get a part, a few who become famous, and a tiny number who stay famous.

Though most in Hollywood want to believe that luck plays a role, most Hollywood agents will tell you that the ones who succeed make their own luck because they outwork everyone else. These “lucky” people do 20 times more auditions, they meet 20 times more people, and they work 20 times as hard. And once they get famous, they keep working 20 times harder because they know that Hollywood is littered with out-of-work “has-been” actors who got lazy once they got famous.

It turns out that marketing your art is similar. The ones who succeed, the ones who get “discovered,” work 20 times harder than most. The ones who succeed continue to market for as long as they plan on selling artwork.

In Hollywood, once you get one part, it helps you to get another and another, if you keep working the system. Art, too, has momentum. Sales lead to sales, as long as you remain visible and continue to get attention.

Marketing is NOT about luck. It’s also not about needing to do anything dirty, sleazy, or dishonest. Most marketing isn’t that.

It’s also not always about talent. There are lots of success stories about people who are not the most talented.

Like the Hollywood actors who are showing up and promoting themselves, it’s the same for artists. Show up and promote yourself. Do it over and over and over.

Showing up in the case of an artist means being seen and finding appropriate and tasteful ways to get noticed. Nothing more.

Showing up can mean mounting an exhibition or show and making sure the world knows about it. It can mean advertising. It can mean social media. It can mean direct mail … postcards, letters, personal notes.

Of course, massive action can work best … doing them all (and more) all at once. 

Luck comes in when you get fast results, which is rare. Most get lucky by building and keeping momentum … showing up again and again, day after day, week after week, year after year.

I watched an artist’s career launched by massive action … showing up constantly and consistently for about five straight years. 

Then I watched that career decline because the artist decided he was famous and known and no longer needed to do all that hard work. Today no one knows his name, and he is broke. We mistakenly believe that we can market till we see success, then stop.

A commitment to marketing is no different than opening the doors of a store. If your doors are open, the store has to work hard to keep people walking in those doors. Than means continuous advertising, creative promotion, and other things to draw attention for as long as you want customers. When you stop, they stop showing up.

Believe it or not, people are not thinking about you or me all the time. In fact, if we’re not visible, we’re out of mind. (We mistakenly think we’re being seen on social media, but social isn’t being seen by everyone, or even everyone on your friend or follower list.) Therefore we have to determine who the buyers are, where they spend time, and that’s where we need to be … constantly. 

In Hollywood it’s considered career death if your face stops appearing in People magazine. As an artist, if they’re not writing about you, if you’re not advertising and not being seen by the people who continually spend on art, if they are not reading about you (people often confuse advertising with editorial, and that makes them feel like they’re reading about you), and if you’re not staying visible and generating publicity with new shows and exhibitions, you can easily be forgotten.

If you’ve ever found yourself confused about marketing or what to do, just know that anything consistent and frequent is better than waiting around doing nothing because you’re not sure what to do. I’ve built entire careers on advertising alone, which is the most powerful form of marketing other than editorial. The difference is that you can’t get publicity consistently and can’t control if or when you get it. But you can control your advertising.

Consider this. If you want to make a living as an artist, you have to open the door to your “business” and continually work to get people to walk in the door. You can do it tastefully or distastefully. You can blend in by being like everyone else, or you can stand out. But if you do it consistently and never stop, you will be the success you’ve always dreamed of.


By |2020-01-21T11:46:57-05:00July 15th, 2019|Business, Sales|0 Comments

What One Marketing Method Would You Use If You Were Just Getting Started?

Louise Murphy of Fredericksburg, Texas, asks, “What one marketing method would you use if you were just getting started?”

Well, I know you’re eager to get out and start marketing.

But Louise, before you do anything, before you get your work out there and start selling, you need to know where you want to go — before you go there. You don’t get in your car and start driving before you have a destination in mind. Same for this: Before you start marketing, you need to set your goal. Then you’ll build a strategy and tactics to get you to that goal.

I suggest starting small, and building out from there. When getting started, you just want to focus on a couple of things — the important first steps, so to speak. I’d suggest setting one, maybe two goals for things you’d absolutely die to achieve in the next six months.

For instance, if you haven’t sold any of your paintings before, maybe you’d like to sell your first painting and get some money for it. That’s an admirable and achievable first goal; it’s always a really good starting goal for a painter. Or maybe your goal is to find someone to sell your art for you, like an art gallery, or perhaps you’d like to find a partnership where you could display your art for sale in a local restaurant.

It’s so important that you set some basic goals before you do anything.

Secondly, you need to find three really honest people who are professionals and will tell you the truth. People who will tell you if your art is ready or if it still needs some work before you’re ready to start selling. I don’t recommend asking family or close friends; rather, I suggest that those three people could be fellow artists, art gallery owners, or other professionals who know what makes a market-ready piece of art. It’s critical to know if your work is ready for prime time, so to speak. If all three are saying it’s ready, then you probably should have been selling already. If two out of the three really honest people say it’s ready to go to market, then you should try to fix the problem identified by the person who disagrees, but you should still try to start selling while you work on it.

Once you set a goal, then you start to collect the e-mail addresses and mailing addresses of people interested in your work.

One strategy that will be important for your goal of selling is sending people to a website to view your art, so you’ll need to start building a site to show your finished work. You’ll want to get comfortable talking about your work and telling the stories behind your paintings, and maybe blogging about your work as well. These are all important things for new artists getting started.

Building a website, talking about your art, making e-mail and mailing lists of the names of people who like your work … these can all be goals for an artist who’s just starting out. And they’re all things that other successful artists did at some point in their early career.

There are lots of companies that can build a website for you — you don’t have to become too technical or build something from scratch all on your own. Work with people who work with other artists; you’ll want to be sure you’re showcasing your best work.

Once you’ve got a website and a handful of people who are interested in your work and are on that list of yours, you can start working on getting those people to visit your website, and then, hopefully, getting them to buy your artwork.

To summarize: Set goals. Keep them achievable. Make sure your artwork is good enough. Accumulate and capture a list of people who like your art. Build a website, get comfortable talking about your art, and start directing people who have an interest in your work back to your website.

I hope, Louis, that helps you understand a solid art startup.

Interested in growing your art sales and income? Read my best-selling book Make More Money Selling Your Art: Proven Techniques for Turning Your Passion Into Profit.


By |2022-12-14T16:51:55-05:00August 22nd, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments

Are First Impressions Killing Your Art Sales?


Last week I gathered my family for our annual visit to a local history museum that we love very much. We’ve been members for years. In fact, I’d received a membership renewal e-mail the week before, which is why the museum became top of mind, prompting us to visit. Thinking I’d be at the front desk to check in anyway, I’d simply renew my membership on the spot, which would probably be faster than taking time online. (I know, it sounds backward.)

We arrived, were asked if we were members, and of course I said we were, and that I had just received a renewal notice. “Sir, you’re not a member. You must be mistaken. You don’t show up in our system.” I was frustrated, but I recognize that people often spell my name wrong, or try to use the name on my credit card, which is not what I go by. Still no results. The looking went on for 10 minutes while my family waited impatiently. Finally, the woman at the desk, sounding angry and frustrated herself, said, “You’re not a member, never have been a member. Would you like to become a member? All you need to do is fill out this form.”

Not wanting to take more time, I simply said, “I’d just like to buy tickets.” At which time I was told, “You’ll have to go to that line over there.” I said, “There is no one at that desk.” “Oh, she’s around somewhere, you’ll have to wait.” I waited, the employee returned, and I overpaid for tickets because I didn’t have my membership.

Sadly, when I get frustrated or disquieted, I lose my joy for a few minutes, and I was grumbling under my breath about the museum. And I kept finding problems. Ultimately, though we go there every year, we decided it was not all that great anymore, so we probably won’t return. And I started to question my own memory. Maybe I wasn’t a member. Of course, that changed today, when another membership renewal notice came by e-mail.

What has this got to do with marketing art?

Every first impression matters. It sets the tone.

If someone goes to your website and can’t find what they are looking for, it sets a tone of frustration. They may have gone there looking for a particular painting, or to check you out, and the second they get frustrated, they leave, and they probably won’t come back.

Or you’re in a booth in a tent show. Someone sees something they want to buy, but you’re busy with a line of other customers and they can’t get your attention, or they hear “I’ll be with you in a minute.” They may wait, or they may tell themselves they will come back later, or they could leave in frustration. Maybe they are in a rush and can’t wait. In any case, you may have lost a sale.

Maybe someone sees your work somewhere and sends you an e-mail, but you’re out at a show and not checking your in-box. What you don’t know is that they are having a big party on Friday, they want that big painting on your website, and you’re not responding. Or perhaps they call and get your voicemail and they don’t leave a message, or they find your message box full — or they simply want to talk to you right now.

You may be thinking, “I’m only human. I can only do so much.” True, but customers think differently. And in these days of instant communication and Amazon purchases, they expect what they want, exactly when they want it. Not five days from now.

In person, first impressions matter too. You’re at an art show and the customer doesn’t feel you’re dressed appropriately, doesn’t like the quality of your frames, thinks the lighting in your booth is bad. Little things have a big impact.

Though you can’t please everyone all the time (and some people are just cranky), just remember that first impressions set the tone for your brand in the customer’s mind. You may have spent thousands of dollars over many years building a brand in a customer’s mind, yet once they decide to take action, their impression changes based on their first real encounter. Either it reinforces your reputation and brand, it’s neutral, or it hurts.  

Though you’re “just one person” and “just an artist who can’t do everything and can’t afford help,” know that you could be losing business. If the phone rings three times and isn’t picked up, they may call the next artist on their list. If you answer “Hold, please,” you’ll lose half of the people who call. If the type on your website is too small to read on a phone, they will probably leave.

To solve this, do a first impressions audit. Ask yourself about every customer entry point and if it is customer-friendly and fine-tuned to give customers what they need the moment they need it. Ask some friends to evaluate everything. See if you can improve it. Though it may cost you money to fix any issues, consider it money well spent in order to capture customers.

First impressions matter, and if you’re in the business of selling art, you’re in business — and that means customers expect the same from you as they would any other business. One painting sale lost a year is too many. If you do an audit, you can fix a lot of little things, and that could mean a change in your sales.

By |2019-01-24T14:13:15-05:00July 26th, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments

The Empty Building: What You May Be Missing as an Artist

Minutes from my home, in a very popular part of town, I’ve watched a new office building go up as I pass when driving our kids to and from school each day. Now, after months of construction, the building is ready and available for tenants. The sign went up long before the building was finished, and yet today, months after it’s been finished, it sits empty.

Keep in mind that Austin is booming, companies are leasing space like crazy, and all the neighboring buildings are full.

So what’s the problem? And what does this have to do with marketing art?

Several weeks ago when looking for space for a new studio to shoot art instruction films for Streamline Art Video, I decided this would be a great building to lease part of the space. So I decided to call. But driving by the building, I couldn’t read the phone number. My vision isn’t perfect, but it’s not that bad. So I had to drive into the lot, get close, and copy down the number. That’s mistake number one. Designers tend to go for beauty over practicality. Make sure you understand the distance when someone is viewing your ads, website, etc. For instance, on the phone most websites look bad, but they look good on a computer screen. Problem is that 80 percent of all Internet use is on the phone.

The Phone Call

My call went like this…

“XYZ Properties, can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m interested in the building on 123 Street. Can you tell me something about it?”

“Hold, please.”

Ring … Ring … Ring … Ring… “Hi, this is Bob from XYZ Properties. Please leave a message.”

“Bob, my name is Eric and I’m interested in renting your building at 123 Street. Please phone me — I am ready to move in as quickly as possible.”

Bob never called. Not an hour later. Not a day later. Not a month or now, even two months later.

Oh, I may have missed his call. It’s possible it’s in my phone somewhere. But I looked and I didn’t see it there, nor did I see any additional missed calls.

Now perhaps Bob has a deal and has the whole place rented and decided there is no reason to call. Yet there it sits, two months later, with no cars outside and the “Now Leasing” sign still up.

If Bob does have it rented, a call to me is still important because … you should always return calls. Even if you think there is no reason to. What if I wanted to hire the company to manage my real estate? What if they had a space in another building that was perfect for me? What if I wanted to buy their company? What if I wanted to reach Bob to offer him a job? Sometimes the message left is a smokescreen for the real reason behind a call.

The second reason it’s important to return calls? Now his company has a bad reputation in my eyes.

The even bigger issue, and what I suspect is the truth, is that Bob is lazy. Maybe he never heard my message. Maybe he forgot to call. Or maybe he just hasn’t gotten around to it.

In the sales business, we call people like me a “hot lead.” I was interested at that moment. Fact is, I found another building and have since moved in. I’m no longer a hot lead.

How does this apply to art?

Let’s say someone sends you a note, or calls you, and you don’t know why they got in touch. They want to get a birthday painting for their spouse, but they don’t say that because they don’t want to be sold. But 24 hours pass, and you haven’t called back yet because you are busy. Or maybe you left a message and they didn’t call back, and you didn’t try again.

Finally, when you do reach them, you find out the birthday-gift need was that day, last-minute. And you not only lost a sale, you lost a customer for life.

Now you may be thinking, “I don’t want to be too aggressive,” “I don’t want to appear desperate or needy,” or just, “They will call back.” But what if they lost your number? What if they’ve got busy and have been tied up, and forgot to call you back?

When someone calls you, they are giving you permission to reach them, even if you have to call more than once. Your message might simply be, “Your call is important. I want to make sure I follow up with you.” But at least call once.

The key is to call back as quickly as humanly possible. Make them feel important. If you don’t reach them, call a couple more times at least. If you can find them on LinkedIn or Facebook, send them a message.

You never know what is on someone’s mind. Always follow up as fast as possible.

We are living in an e-mail and texting culture, and there is a generation of people who don’t use phones to call, but only text. If this is the case, the text and e-mail information should be on the sign. (Always provide multiple options to reach you on EVERYTHING you do.)

My guess is that Bob is lazy and the building will sit empty till Bob’s boss find someone else to fill it.


PS: I’m doing a weekly blog called Sunday Coffee, where I talk about art, life and just stuff that interests me. You can subscribe or read it at

By |2022-12-14T16:51:46-05:00February 28th, 2018|Business, Sales|0 Comments
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