Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Beyond The Ribbon: Adventures Beyond Equine Collectibles Part 2


Welcome back to this two–part series on expanding your studio beyond the equine collectibles market. It's important to think about such things not only because there are other applications for your talent that deserve attention, but diversifying your studio can help stabilize your finances when the economy fluctuates. There's a lot to consider, but it's all very exciting and full of potential.

So let's explore more ideas!

More Ideas

Learn how to approach a gallery. Getting your work into galleries isn’t about just showing up and talking up your work. Nope. It takes preparation and some know–how. First, find a gallery that fits your work. Does it showcase other works similar in nature to yours? Is it reputable and long–established? What’s its standing in the arts community? Do you like the quality of the work exhibited there? If so, then second, make a appointment with the manager. Never just drop in and demand time. Third, come with your professional portfolio, dressed and behaving the part. It’s a good idea to also have your portfolio on a disc, or offer a "leave–behind" portfolio to leave with the manager for them to peruse again later. You should also have some work in hand (at home) that’s reflected in the portfolio to immediately provide the gallery with work if the manager decides to take you on. Don’t give them a portfolio without having an inventory on hand to fill their request. 

Then let the manager explore your portfolio and answer any questions or concerns they might have, succinctly and in a friendly manner. Demonstrate that you’re a sound investment of their time and floor space. Sit tall, smile, and be confident—you do good work so don’t be so intimidated! Talk up your work discreetly—don’t become a blowhard by any means. Then when the manager has finished, say your good–byes and leave. Don’t take up more time with lengthy discussion or explanations since they have busy lives caring for the gallery. As with all professional portfolios, all your contact information should be in there. However, if you don’t offer a "leave–behind" or disc portfolio, provide them with a business card so they can contact you. If they do, reply immediately.  

Fill all gallery requests on time with pristine, new work. Help to set it up if they ask, and help to clean up afterwards. Once you’ve been accepted, it’s important to foster that relationship enthusiastically. Ask to put the gallery on your promotional materials to funnel people back to it, and advertise the gallery in all future ads. Inform collectors that specific works are available from the gallery, and have them buy them from there rather than from you. Don’t use the prestige of being in the gallery as a boost only to circumvent or shortchange them—make them an integral part of your sales and experience. (Tip: If you’ve privately sold a work that’s also represented in the gallery, or if a buyer learned of your work because of the gallery, send the gallery the normal percentage to foster the relationship. Remember, without their standing and advertising, you may not have sold that work in the first place.) 

Part of fostering that relationship also includes giving your gallery exclusives with work and debuts of showcased pieces. This heightens the gallery’s standing and the manager appreciates the extra consideration. Go to all receptions of your work and behave professionally and cheerfully—this helps to promote both your work and the gallery. 

Also, understand that the gallery will take a percentage of the sale. Don’t try to barter or negotiate the percentage—it is what it is. They’re doing their part to represent you and your work plus they’re giving your work valuable public floorspace, so don’t try to haggle them over their hard work and resources. 

Above all, remember that once your work is in a gallery, it’s no longer about just you anymore. What you do and say in public will also reflect on the gallery, so don’t engage in any behavior that would compromise their standing (or yours for that matter). The more professional and welcoming you are to everyone, the more grateful the gallery will be since you won’t be a liability to them. (More pointers are in the recommended Resources at the end of this post.)

Don’t get involved with “flame wars.” Don’t start them, don’t participate in them. Moving “beyond the ribbon” also means you should move beyond the pettiness that can underscore any community, and the arts community is no different. Indeed, it definitely has its “strong” personalities that can cause friction, sometimes routinely. Plus some people simply thrive on confrontation and anger. Avoid them. All flame wars do is to rile your emotions and drain precious energy that’s better spent in the studio. Flame wars also reflect badly on you, and one wrong sentence or unpleasant tone can cost you a customer. 

Now if you’re the target, learn to deal with such situations professionally and coolly. Often the best recourse is to just ignore it and take the high road. If necessary, however, learn to defend your work with composure and biological or logistical facts. And remember that a fact isn't the same as an opinion.

Think about the tone of your studio. You can explore different venues at once, but it’s a good idea to design a system that manages this scenario well. We can work in the model horse world and the art world at the same time, but keep the model horse aspect out of our art focus. How?

One tactic is tone. When you start framing all your original work as art, you're already ahead. Another tactic is to only feature your own work. That means you can showcase your new sculptures, but not the paint jobs done by other artists on your sculptures. Likewise, it's not a good idea to feature your paintwork on other artist's sculptures. Keep it all 100% your own work. A third tactic is to adopt professional standards across the board so you don't have one way of behaving in one venue and another in the other. When we talk and walk the same everywhere, not only does that dampen confusion, but it bolsters consistency and reliability.

Think about how people and professionals will perceive you and your work based off of what you put out there for them to see. And remember that new people are becoming interested every day, so each occurrence is a first impression. That means everything we put out there really is a first impression, so be mindful of tone with all your dealings.

Now it is possible to set up two different websites and online presences: one for the art world and one for the equine collectibles world. However, when your name is searched for, it'll come up equally between the two despite this separation. So it's better to tailor your online presence to the art world to increase your potential in the greater markets out there.

Consider forming a collector club for your work. The effectiveness of this strategy is proven everyday in the professional world such as with Harley–Davidson® motorcycles to Wee Forest Folk® figurines. Do field research to determine which of your product lines would benefit most by this idea as well as how to set up an appealing and functional club. 

A collector club is a terrific means to build a client base. Special offers and perks should be available to your club members, even the privilege of advance purchase before an official release. Above all, treat your club members well because they are your regular customers!

Have promotional materials on hand. Brochures, business cards, postcards, tags, stickers, etc., are all important selling tools. They should all look professional, be professionally printed (don't print them on your computer), be consistent to your branding, and be included with all your sale items. And think about portraying one or more examples of your work on the materials since equine art is a visual experience.

Also, think about including a "thank you" note with all sold orders. This is a nice show of gratitude for a sale that could easily have gone to another artist. It can either be on a card, or on a postcard of your design. 

And always take some promotional materials wherever you go because you never know when an opportunity will present itself. Having all your “ducks in a row” during a serendipitous moment is an excellent first impression!  

Appeal to different price niches. Don’t corner yourself by catering to only one price bracket. Not everyone can afford a $7,000 bronze, but more can afford a $70 plaque or a $7 magnet. Also consider offering impulse buys, small items priced about $5–$25. The more accessible your work is, the more chance you have of a sale and a potential repeat customer. Different price niches also stabilize your sales during unstable economic times.

Pricing is no small matter, however, and it can have some odd quirks and complications. Some people sometimes even determine their purchase almost entirely on the perceived value, not on whether they like it. There are plenty of folks, too, who are buying gifts, and they constitute a significant portion of your sales, especially around the holidays. Therefore, pricing your work demands solid field research to identify the scope of the issues. 

And learn how to sell your work through all the different methods out there, too. Indeed, knowing how to sell your work well can have a big impact on your sales. 

Streamline production. You may need to adopt a factory approach for certain product lines, so simplify their production even if modification of the designs is necessary. In particular, “fiddly” production methods for volume items are a sure way into the poor house. Instead, keep intense work limited to specialty sales or exclusive works. Remember you only have two assets: your skill and your time. Squandering the latter to express the former is only creating an inevitable financial trap for yourself. 

Unfortunately, many artists fall in this pothole because they don’t understand that when it comes to your work (especially trinkets and most gift items), the public really doesn’t care how long it took you to create. Their overriding motivations are if they like it, if the value is good, if it’s a quality piece (Is the art work good? Will it last a long time?), and if it’s immediately available. So analyze your work habits and time management because maximizing them will help you maintain the quality and inventory of these items while also addressing access and affordability. 

Adopt flexible payment methods. Customers like choices in payment, so don’t disenfranchise potential clients with limited options. In fact, your business can be stunted if you don’t accept certain forms of payment.

Consider opening a merchant account to process credit cards, with a minimum of accepting MasterCard® and Visa®. Expanding that merchant account to accept Discover®, American Express®, or debit accounts may also be necessary. However, you must comply with the new PCI standards and regulations in order to individually process credit cards. These standards are rigorous and typically beyond the resources of a small art business, so ask about them when you investigate processing credit cards.

Open a Paypal® business account since that form of payment is ubiquitous with online transactions. Also consider Square®, Apple Pay®, and Paypal with their POS gizmos that attach to your iPhone, and are particularly beneficial for art fair, farmer's markets, or similar types of sales. Cash, checks, cashier’s checks and money orders may be accepted, too, but require extra caution.

While you can offer payment plans for your more expensive items, there are caveats to this practice. Is the additional office work and meticulous record keeping really the best use of your limited resources? You’ll have to “police” the payments, too, possibly creating an antagonistic relationship between you and your buyer. What if something goes wrong? It’s you, the business, who’ll be expected to accommodate or sacrifice when a problem occurs. Because of these issues, time payments may not always be a good choice, even though they might help edge a sale along. In reality, time payments are a risk on your partyou’re gambling the buyer will complete the sale as per the conditions, and a lot can happen between the sale and the due time payment.

Another financial issue with time payments: it doesn’t matter how much something sold for—if it takes months or years to get that sale price into your bank, you’re actually losing money. For example, if you sell a $3,000 bronze on payment terms over a year, without interest, that’s only $250 a month. How will that affect your ability to operate or expand? Now factor in the additional time and energy to keep track of those payments and the additional customer relations, and it quickly becomes an equation of diminishing returns. Also, if you don’t charge interest, you’re losing that in your bank. If you do charge interest, that opens up a legal ramifications because you aren’t an insured or licensed financial institution.

Furthermore, many sellers of high
end art run credit checks in a dedicated financial departmentdo you have that layer of protection? In fact, if you look at many conventional sellers, they don’t offer payment plansthey expect you to use legitimate conduits such as a credit card. This brings us to the primary problem with private time paymentsyou aren’t an insured, licensed financial institution, which means you’re putting both yourself and your customer at risk if you attempt to operate like one. Get advice from a good specialized lawyer or accountant, and from experienced artists who offer payment plans before initiating one yourself. 

Streamline sales. Adopt efficient online sales methods such as cart systems and automated checkout. Your shipping can be sped up, too, since these systems are sometimes linked, which is an important customer service feature. These things can be included on your website or blog, too, to may buying easy and quick.

Furthermore, develop a solid inventory system so you always know what you have on hand. This could mean assigning item numbers to product lines and organizing you storage room to accommodate.

Pay attention to detail. The “glamour side” of your work is only half the equation. Masterful craftsmanship throughout the piece is the essential other half because it speaks to your dedication. Indeed, it can spell the difference between a sale or slump.

Why? Because sophisticated buyers will inspect your work for thorough quality and attentive craftsmanship before they decide to purchase. In fact, the more experienced, serious, and savvy the collector, the more they'll demand thorough quality and polish. Therefore, every piece that bears your signature must be impeccable in all aspects, even on those sides that aren’t on display.  

For example, a glass artist regularly displays at an annual Christmas bazaar here in Boise. Yet she consistently fails to sell as well as the other featured glass artists. This is because while her work may look great from across the room, her finishing touches are absent upon closer inspection:

  • Her attached magnets, hooks, and findings are messy with glue showing, crooked alignments, imprecise fit, etc. 
  • Her slump glass pieces have uneven, ragged edges, often with scratches and chips marring the surface.
  • There's no signature on the pieces that would authenticate them being handmade by an artist.
  • The designs are impractical. Jewelry is too heavy, dishes are too small, bowls are unstable, and magnets are too small and weak for their intended use.
In contrast, another glass artist in Boise sells very well at her annual Christmas sale. Why? Simple—her work is properly finished and designed well:
  • Her findings are impeccably applied, fitted perfectly, centered correctly, and devoid of messy glue application. The findings are high quality, too.
  • The glass surfaces are spotless and the edges are rounded, even, smooth, and unmarred.
  • Functional items such as magnets, dishes, and bowls are practical, sturdy, and stable. 
  • Her work can be inspected from all sides and no detail has been overlooked, hurried, or fudged. The designs perform well according to the function they were intended because she created with the craft in mind first and the novelty second. [Note: This is the baseline for true mastery of an art form and customers recognize it far more than many artists realize.]
Have a ready inventory. The public knows they have other choices and won't wait for you if your stock is unpredictable. Yet maintaining a ready inventory is no small feat! To this end, design a work schedule that dedicates enough time to keep your inventory full. And you'll have to think about where you'll store your inventory, which is, frankly, intimidating all by itself! Nonetheless, pay attention to your sales patterns, too, since some items may sell out faster than others.

Know your position on commissions. While some artists thrive on commission work, others faceplant. Artist—know yourself! Unless you blossom within the relatively oppressive commission relationship, it’s probably better to avoid it entirely. While there’s no right or wrong in accepting commissions, there's great wrong when you’re not honest with yourself and operate contrary to your creative drives. You’ll only end up hurting yourself and your customer relations. Don't engage in a business relationship that’s doomed from the start.

What many artists fail to recognize is that commission work really is a trade–off that demands rare traits found in a creative mind. For example, a successful commission relationship demands:
  • Exceptional time and resource management.
  • A payment or deposit plan.
  • Impeccable recordkeeping skills.
  • Meeting the customer’s deadlines no matter the personal sacrifice to you.
  • Working even if you're completely uninspired.
  • A solid legal contract that protects all involved parties fairly.
  • The ability to issue an immediate full refund at a moment’s notice.
  • Exceptional communication skills with the customer at all times, including infinite patience when an excited customer inundates you with incessant questions, changes, commentary regarding the order, or just life in general.
  • Absolute focus on the commission until completion, even when more enticing work is tempting.
  • Acceptance of belowmarket value for your work, which is one of the tradeoffs for a guaranteed buyer. 
  • Acceptance of profiteering from the resale of the commissioned work by the customer, which is another tradeoff.
  • You must accept creativity based on someone else’s prerogatives, not yours. This also means you must subjugate your opinions to those of the buyer even if you know your opinions would produce a better piece. By extension, you must apply your signature to something you may consider inferior work. 
However, commission work can be lucrative and helpful in establishing a career and creating a reliable client base. Having a group of guaranteed buyers isn’t something most artists can boast!

Be Honest with The World. You’re the only Captain at your helm. Be sure those with whom you do business understand this, in order to manage their expectations. It also means you must plan your projects and obligations accordinglydon’t bite off more you can chew. Broken promises and excuses are a sure way towards diminishing opportunities.

Think about packaging. How your pieces are showcased together as a group (like at a booth) and individually (“takeaway” packaging) is important. Your display packaging should be professional and polished, and there are many online resources to learn more on this subject. 

Packaging is about attracting the eye and holding it since the body follows the eye. When your work is competing against a sea of other items, effective packaging can mean all the difference. Planning your packaging requires field study, so do your homework and visit stores, expos, art shows, farmer's markets, and art festivals. Above all, be creative with packaging, especially with your giftware and collectibles. 
[Resources offers some links to get you started.]

“Takeaway” packaging should have your branding, include your contact information (especially your website), and any information about the piece that’s succinct and appropriate. Also, don’t be afraid to print “Made in the USA,” or “Made in [your state],” because this may be a buying (or gift–giving) incentive. Hangtags can be attached to items, while pins or magnets can be attached to a backing, or popped into a gift box. Ornaments, plaques, or medallions can be placed in gift boxes (which can be custom made) while beads, buttons, and pendants can be placed in pretty drawstring bags. Self–sealing cellphane bags with a business card or sticker on the bag are also a fantastic and easy packaging option. Indeed, many creative options exist, so do your research and field study.

If you plan to sell through local stores, consider creating a ready–made display for the store owner to pop onto the counter top. This makes it easy for the store owner to display your work, easy for the customer to find it, and easy for you to control your image. You can buy them ready–made, construct your own, or have them custom–made by specialty companies. Your display should look professional, be “public–proof,” and be easy for the store owner to maintain. It also should be compact and consistent to the store owner's specifications. Tend your displays, keeping them stocked and rotatedout so the store owner doesn’t regret losing valuable space to your product. Be creative, too, because a distinctive display is a great way to advertise! 

Rethink categorization. Train yourself to think in terms of collectible themes or categories rather than colors, scales, or breeds. Likewise, design your work in cohesive “buildable” product lines to provide collectors with a goal they can enjoy within a context, which speaks directly to the heart of a collector.  

Another strategy is using a special title (rather than a description) that relates to the narrative, inspiration, or emotion embodied within the work. For example, naming a sleepyeyed Draft plaque “Break Time” rather than generic “Drafter,” or "Clydesdale." Titles place the work into a context that buyers connect with emotionally, amplifying the meaning of your work. Indeed, some of your collectibles may do well not only with individual names, but also with fictional histories that create a unique identity much like the Cabbage Patch Kids®. 

Also consider branding a product line according to a specific theme such as a line of bas–relief plaques titled, “Emotion in Motion,” which depict different expressions of that theme as a cohesive collection. This tactic allows collectors to build their collections in a structured way while offering you the options to explore this theme with different interpretations.

Adopt creative selling tactics. Consider the buying process from the customer’s point of view. It cannot be denied that creating a treasured collection is an exciting proposition for collectors as a kind of laboroflove and treasure hunt combined. To that end, spice it up for them! For example, create a collection as an ongoing narrative, from beginning to end, coming out with a new serial installment periodically. Provide teasers and talk about the process and the insider information with each installment. This way you include your collectors on your journey and enrich the experience for them. Similarly, think about special holiday or seasonal pieces to inaugurate these events which collectors often enjoy.

ACEO (Art Cards, Editions, and Originals) cards are very popular, too, so consider how to infuse that level of collectibility in your studio, if possible.

Rethink exposure. Customers know exactly what they want, they just don’t know where to find it! This means being proactive in your marketing strategies. Unfortunately, neither art school nor the equine collectibles market tend to teach essential business skills, so it’s up to you to learn and utilize them.

But it means you can’t rely on your website for establishing yourself. You have to get out there and beat the pavement! Build up your inventory and get yourself and your materials prepared, then jump into the fray! Enter art exhibitions, art events, and art shows. Start networking. Perhaps donate to high profile art sales or art auctions to gain exposure. Place ads in relevant art publications. Consider having booths at popular art and craft shows or seasonal bazaars. And don't forget your farmer's market! Or apply to become an Artist in Residence. Think about partnering with larger entities that tie into to your work, too, to piggyback on their exposure. There are artist co–ops and local stores, for example. Join an Open Studio circuit in your area to welcome interested folks into your creative world. Hold studio sales, which can be particularly fun around the holidays. Galleries are a useful venue as well, but remember your work must sell enough to offset the commission. Catalogs can be a viable option, but only if you can provide the volume they require. Also, keep your options open for design licensing bought by production companies which can be a lucrative and exciting option for you. And consider setting up online stores such as Etsy®, artsefest®, Artfire®, Bonanza®, eCrater®, Zibbet®, or CraftMall®. They offer pinpointed exposure with relatively little investment. In particular, these online stores are great for chachkis and giftware. Or think about opening an Amazon® store if you can maintain a ready inventory. 

Think about placing ads on Google® and other large search engines to get your website in front of more people by listing it more aggressively in searches and directories of similar subjects. Fees are often relatively inexpensive, usually paid per click (given you aren't getting thousands or millions of clicks!) and the exposure is tremendous. 

If needed, it can’t hurt to hire an artist consultant to gain inroads into sales and career development. If someone’s expertise can open closed doors for you, hiring them is a solid investment.

Boiled down, the first step with sales is exposure, so take action! You literally cannot afford to sit on your laurels and wait for the buyer to find you.

Be Cautious with Donations. Many artists know the world is quick to seek out those artists who offer donations. If you do, you'll quickly find yourself inundated with solicitations. This can be beneficial if you’re careful, but it also can become an imposition or economically detrimental if it gets out of hand. So do your homework first to ensure reputable venues and equitable conditions for your donations. 

Perhaps most significant is how the public perceives a donation because the implication is that you can afford to give away your work. Do this enough times and you may begin to have problems with sales and a customer base. Proceed with caution.

Donative items should be done within a business strategy in mind and not just out of an emotional response. You cannot afford to give away your work to every beckoning cause, so pick them very carefully based on how they can benefit you, too. Yes, providing a donation can be great exposure, but once you have that exposure, it’s time to step back and reevaluate your priorities.

Rethink shipping methods. Your time is far too valuable to be driving around town and waiting in line to ship a package. Streamlined and timely shipping is an integral part of a smart business plan, so take it seriously.

Think about setting up online shipping accounts with the USPS®, FedEx®, and UPS®. The preprinted labels are more professional and the time investment is more efficient, particularly if pickups are scheduled from your studio. 

The way your items are prepared for shipment should be done with professional style and attention to detail, all the time, so give it due consideration. 

Hone good communication. Listen to people reacting to your work and pay attention to their comments, positive and negative. There may be a gem of an insight to be found there!

Always treat people with respect and courtesy because they could be a potential customer (or know an existing customer of yours). Never talk over them, or behave arrogantly or indignantly, and don’t pretend to know more than they do. People know precisely what they like and don’t like, and they’re entitled to their opinions. Remember, it was you who placed your work in the public eye in the first place! So learn what you can from well–meant comments, and be gracious with the rest.

Reply to inquiries as promptly as possible with concise, friendly messages—don’t procrastinate. Also avoid conveying too much informality or excitability such as using exclamation points, ramblings, capital letters, slang, asterisks, etc. All messages should be free of grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors, too, so use the “spell check” frequently.

You should also embed a signature in your emails with your name, studio name, website, and tagline (if applicable). All your posts should contain this signature because it helps your information pop up more in net searches.

Consider the venue. Tailor your strategies to the peculiarities of a venue to provide exactly what it wants. For instance, there’s little point offering Akhal–Teke pieces at a Saddlebred show, or offering realistic work to a gallery specializing in abstract pieces. Do your field research and determine which venues are the right fit for your work and your goals. Convincing a business partner that you can be a benefit is partly being able to show your art work is a complement to the existing establishment.

Consider venues other than those associated with horses, too. For example, for work depicting wild equids consider the wildlife art market (the magazine Wildlife Art® is a terrific publication for some field research). Think about partnering with Nature Conservancy® and the World Wildlife Fund® and other similar groups through donated sales, auctions, or licensing agreements for exposure. Don’t forget zoos, national parks and preserves and their gift stores either. Reputable equine rescue operations can be a good option, and a donated sale could provide valuable exposure for your work while helping their fundraising efforts. Look at the home and garden decor market, as well, because it holds many opportunities for equine art. 

Also, don’t forget to visit your local Chamber of Commerce. It can provide information on the local markets and business organizations that could provide inroads for you. Such organizations often offer classes, consultation, and networking opportunities, too.

And know how to approach potential business partners. There’s a right way and a wrong way to start up a business relationship—do your homework first (the Resources at the end of this article offers guidance). For example, you’ll need to make an appointment first, so find out who’s in charge of such matters and give them a call. However, you’ll need three things before you can meet: (1) proper preparation, (2) professional presentation, and (3) a businesslike attitude. This includes how you look and behave, how your work is presented, being informed on contractual deals and licensing, and having your portfolio and promotional materials up–to–date and on hand. You should have a leave–behind portfolio just in case as well (the Resources at the end of this article provides guidance on that concept). Bring product samples (in their packaging) for inspection and have price indexes and other cost numbers for them, including discounts for bulk orders if you offer that option. These business people have to report to someone else, remember, so provide them with the information necessary to help them make a confident decision. In short, be ready to do business immediately. 

Always keep your business partners happy! Deliver on your promises and contractual obligations on time, promote their businesses, and keep them supplied. Create ways to provide them with exclusive perks, too, such as exclusive offerings or the privilege of debuting a new piece. Providing them with a “scoop” enhances their business. It’s also customary to refer customers to venues that carry your work. Remember, when your business partners are successful, so are you! 

Lastly, retain a lawyer wellversed in art contracts and licensing law to guide you through the legal maze. The fee is a small price in comparison to an expensive misunderstanding.

Develop a “pitch.” Unlike your artist statement, this quick proposition is intended to establish a business relationship with a potential partner. Design it to quickly communicate the benefit your work will offer them if they stock it. It should be no more than three concise sentences and friendly. Tailor your pitch to each venue, since a tack store may not respond to the same pitch you gave a boutique owner.

Pay attention to trends. The market is an everevolving place, and so you should evolve, too. Study popular items that appear on the market and ponder ways to adapt your work to them. 

As for your work itself, track the selling performance of your product categories and price brackets (don’t forget about tracking item size and colors, too). For example, do your tiles sell better as a wall ornament, coasters, as a trivet, or as part of a set? Is there a particular color that sells best? Which sells worst? What size bronzes sell best? Does a specific subject matter have more appeal? Then try and duplicate a winning formula elsewhere in your product line. However, don't fall into habit. Keep your customer base intrigued and interested.

Moreover, pay attention to which venue is selling best for youexpos, stores, seasonal bazaars, online sales, farmer's markets, galleries, direct website sales, etc. Are specific holidays doing better, and why? Which countries are most enthusiastic for your work? Pay attention! Sales don’t happen randomly, and it’s your job to figure out the reasons and act on them.

Don’t hand out ammunition. Revealing too many personal details makes you an easy target. For example, when a person asks how long it took you to make a particular piece, what they’re really doing is math in their head to determine whether you're making “too much,” i.e. sizing up the piece’s perceived value. Not only do most of the public not understand that creating art work entails far more than what’s done per hour, but your hourly wage is no one’s business but your own. If you were working a 9to5 job, wouldn’t you be shocked if some stranger asked you how much you make? This is exactly what’s happening when people ask you this question. However, most folks don’t understand how offensive the question is because they’re unfamiliar with the business of art, so be patient and understanding. In response, be vague and quickly divert the discussion to another subject such as your inspiration for the piece, the creative process, or what you learned from its creation. Those people seriously interested in purchasing your work will be the least likely to ask this kind of question anyway because they understand the true nature and value of art. Remember, the alchemy of art is a mystery—keep it that way. 

Never lose your composure when rude comments are directed your way—remain calm and professional. An arsenal of pointed, but polite, rebuttals is useful such as, “Maybe my other items are more in your price range,” or calmly mention your payment plan if you offer one. Remember that everyone has an opinion, and an experienced artist can compose herself and control the situation to her advantage when they’re fired off. Never forget that you signed up for all kinds of commentary because you chose to display your work. So no matter how rude or hurtful a comment may be, you don’t have license to retaliate. In fact, doing so may hurt you in the longrun because people remember and share negative experiences far more than positive ones, and a tantrum could close door for you. 

Similarly, no matter how much you believe you’ve been publicly wronged or humiliated, never erupt in public. It's not smart to hold those around you hostage to your unprofessional and embarrassing behavior. Not only does it make you look bad, but you’ll also cut yourself off from potential opportunities. No one successful wants to associate with someone perceived as unreasonable, unprofessional, or unbalanced. While this behavior unfortunately is relatively common in the model horse world, it’s absolutely unacceptable in the professional world. Instead, learn coping skills to remain professional, diplomatic, and calm even when you want to scream and throttle someone. Indeed, being a successful artist is one–part talent, one–part business savvy, and one–part diplomacy!

Likewise, if questions or comments arise about another artist, never negatively comment, but remain positive, polite, and diplomatic. The art community is close–knit, and as Jimmy Durante wisely commented, “Be nice to people on your way up, because you're going to meet them all on your way down.” 

Another aspect that requires thought is asserting from where your skill derives, i.e. divine intervention. This isn’t to say it’s wrong to mention, and it can be a wonderful way to connect with people. However, there’s a difference between communicating this belief sensitively and beating people over the head with it. Your spiritual beliefs are personal, so treat them carefully in public with the due respect they deserve.

Above all, remember that while people want to connect with you, they can be clumsy going about it. “The Artist” label has a powerful, intimidating mystique, so be patient and kind. Gently guide the conversation to help people connect, and make yourself welcoming and accessible.

Think about long–term customer strategies. Always think in the long–term, in everything you do. For example, giftware can be introductory items for your other work. Never regard your body of work as isolated parts, but as components of a whole that work together to advance your career. Creating a catalog is like creating a restaurant menu, it does best with a balance of complementary dishes for different stages of a meal, and for different appetites. Feeding a customer base is no different!

Remind yourself that a conscientious buyer wants to collect art that has intrinsic and financial value. It should involve quality materials and craftsmanship and express your dedication, novelty, and passion. Customers also want a legitimate business relationship because they know building their collection is a longterm proposition. 

Remember “The Big Picture.” Exposure is the name of the game, and gaining that exposure will entail more aggressive tactics than those required in the model horse market. It’s not just a matter of advertising, exhibitions, highprofile auctions and events, however. Online communities and various instruction (written or leading workshops) also are good ways to start the ball rolling.  

Consider hiring an agent as an advocate for your work. They can secure, negotiate, and manage your contracts with galleries or companies, too. Agents can be hired parttime or fulltime, and most parttime fees are affordable for a new business. Indeed, sometimes paying a fee is the cheapest route! Many substantial contracts have collapsed because an artist was illequipped to tackle the issues herself. Be honest—we artists would rather be creating our work than selling it, right? Another option is an art or marketing consultant who can be hired per diem or fulltime. If you can buy opened doors with an affordable fee—pay it! Being a business means spending money to make money, so don’t be cheap at the wrong times.

Finally, remember that the business of art is business. All idealistic declarations on “art for art’s sake” aside, unless you can make a living at your art, you won’t be doing it for very long. 


The creative mind works best when allowed to explore new ideas freely, but tends to wither when trapped inside a tight paradigm such as “model horse.” Looking “beyond the ribbon” infuses freshness back into your equine collectibles involvement and helps to keep things in perspective, too. Smart business is smart business. This means that much of what’s been discussed here can apply within the equine collectibles industry, too. 

Yet keep in mind that exploring beyond the confines of "model horse" is a journey full of detours, roadblocks, uphill battles, and potholes. Things can go sideways. But it's also full of triumphs, happy surprises, unexpected kudos, resounding success, new discoveries, and exciting opportunities! So keep at it. You may not reach your goal the first year, but keep forging ahead and perhaps next year you will. It's a process. Whatever you do, don't give up. Don't fear failure, roll through it. And don't worry about not being good enough. Remember, there's plenty of great work failing in the market just as much as inferior work finding great success. That means if you put your all into both your artwork and your business savvy, you'll have the advantage on both ends of the equation. And—hey—if you give up, you'll have failed outright, yes? Be brave, be patient, be dedicated, be smart. And above all, be excited about your new ventures! Introducing your wonderful artwork to whole new audiences is a thrilling experience like no other, so enjoy!

Just whatever your goals, remember that you are the Captain of your own ship. Do your research and field study. Plan your strategies and be on point with your marketing and business tactics. You're essentially building your business from the ground up again—from scratch—and that takes optimism, discipline, hard work, and time. But don’t forget—if other artists can do it, so can you! Join the madcap fun and take your work beyond the ribbon. There's an adventure awaiting you out there!

So until next time...go on and beyond!

"We might as well give in to the tug of our spirits to explore this confounding and wondrous world. We might as well greet each other as endless pilgrims and bid each other well on our way. Because we're already on the road..."

~ Anthony Lawlor

Galleries and other professional venues
How to Approach an Art Gallery with Your Paintings: http://painting.about.com/od/careerdevelopment/a/galleryrepresnt.htm
How Many Paintings Do I Need to Approach a Gallery?: http://painting.about.com/od/paintingforbeginnersfaq/f/FAQapproachgall.htm
How to Create a Body of Work and a Distinctive Style as an Artist: http://painting.about.com/od/careerdevelopment/a/MMarshall_Work.htm
How to Decide Which Galleries Are Right For You To Approach: http://www.artindustri.com/art_advice/approach.php
How To Approach The Gallery: http://www.craftcentreleeds.co.uk/howtoapproach.htm
Ideas For How to Approach a Gallery: http://www.potters.org/subject74268.htm
Roundtable: The Ins and Outs of Selling Art: Experienced Gallery Owners Discuss What They’ve Learned Over The Years About The Art Business: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HMU/is_1_32/ai_n9480525
The Art Of Selling Art: Gallery Owners Talk About What’s Going On, How the Market Looks Today, And What Lies Ahead-The Art Business-New Mexico’s Art Industry Review: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m5092/is_1_26/ai_82536326 
Wildlife Art Magazine: http://www.wildlifeartmag.com/

Writing an Artist Statement
How to Write an Artist's Statement by Marion Boddy-Evans: http://painting.about.com/cs/careerdevelopment/a/statementartist.htm 

Get it Right the First Time: An Intorduction to Creating your Artist Resume: http://mainearts.maine.gov/artists/resources/resume.shtml
Artist Resume: Recommended Conventions: http://www.collegeart.org/guidelines/resume.html
Writing an Art Resume or CV (cirriculum vitae): http://www.monoprints.com/info/resources/resume.html

MyFonts: www.myfonts.com

Submitting Photos for a RESS Online Exhibition; An Educational Review and Tutorial: http://www.ress.org/files/ExhibitionImageTutorial.pdf
Your Best Foot Forward; Practical Tips for Successful Presentation in RESS Online Exhibitions: http://www.ress.org/files/YourBestFootForward.doc  
Customer Issues
How to Target Your Perfect Customer: http://www.michelfortin.com/how-to-target-your-perfect-customer/
Targeting Your Market: http://www.va-interactive.com/inbusiness/editorial/sales/ibt/target_market.html
How To Identify A Target Market And Prepare A Customer Profile: http://www.esmalloffice.com/SBR_template.cfm?DocNumber=PL12_2000.htm
How To Target The Right Customer With Contextual Marketing: http://www.business-opportunities.biz/2008/04/24/how-to-target-the-right-customer-with-contextual-marketing/
Knowing Your Customer’s Buying Motives: http://www.nfib.com/object/3740956.html
Seven Buying Motives That Can Help People Buy Into You: http://ezinearticles.com/?Seven-Buying-Motives-That-Can-Help-People-Buy-Into-You&id=1021747
To Understand Your Client, Know Their “Buying Motives”: http://www.maxsacks.com/articles/psbj12.html

Portflio Tips
Artist Portfolio Guidelines: http://art-support.com/portfolio.htm
Leave-Behind Portfolio: http://portfolio.wikia.com/wiki/Leave-behinds
Creating a Professional Portfolio: http://www.georgebrown.ca/saffairs/stusucc/portfolio.aspx
Creating a Professional Portfolio: Traditional, Online or Both?: http://home.earthlink.net/~workquest/articles/ottPortfolioTips.pdf.
Portfolio Guidelines: http://ww2.ramapo.edu/cahill/careerServices/documents/PORTFOLIO%20GUIDELINES.pdf

Booth design

ACEO art cards

Handmade for Profit!; Hundreds of Secrets To Success in Selling Arts & Crafts, Barbara Brabec. 2002 Revised Edition. ISBN-10: 0871319950, ISBN-13: 978-0871319951
The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Toolkit, Beth Goldstein. 2007. ISBN: 0-07-147718-7

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