99 Ways to Market Your Art

Image of Working Pottery Wheel

You’re an artist — a writer, musician, illustrator, or dancer. Maybe you’re into doll sculpting, keepsake jewelry making, fashion photography, plein air painting, or composing ambient electronica.

You’re pretty brave when it comes to creating, but the mere thought of marketing your work might make you break into a cold sweat.

Would you rather be shot out of a cannon than toot your own horn? Is balancing on a tightrope more attractive to you than asking people to shell out money for your masterpieces?

If so, don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Keep reading, because I’ve got enough reassuring marketing ideas for you in this article to keep you occupied for the next several months …

The mission is unnerving, but the stakes are high

Many people — faced with the choice of either promoting their latest writing project or entering the ring with a whip and an elephant — would choose to face the moody and unpredictable pachyderm.

You’re good at your craft. You want to spend your time making more stuff, not annoying people by schlepping your wares. Besides, that’s not your strength, right?

The problem is, learning to be a good marketer really is a matter of life or death to an artist. You simply can’t make money unless people are buying your products, coming to your shows and exhibits, or reading your work.

But — there is good news. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life hiding, boring but safe, behind protective glass.

With the proper training, preparation, and official pro safety gear, you can learn not only to be a master marketer but also to actually relish the thrills of your commercial daring and death-defying, cash flow-generating feats.

Throw your hat into the ring

Officially and publicly announce to the world your intention to be a competitor.

Stand up as an artist who rebels against the common assumption that you’ll always be broke, forced to live in your car, and starve to death if you have the audacity to try to make good money from your passion.

  1. Reframe the ruthless tiger into a cuddly pussycat. The words marketing and sales can put more fear into people’s hearts than saber-toothed tigers. If this describes you, I have just one piece of advice: talk to people. Just talk. Convey information, have conversations, educate. Whether you’re online, at lunch, or on stage … it’s all just conversations and relationships. Once you realize you are simply making your work available to people who are already interested in it, all the pressure is off.
  2. Resolve to use your superpowers for good. Here’s the deal. Someone out there desperately needs what you do. People are starving for connection, inspiration, fun, beauty, laughter, depth, momentary distractions, and the warm fuzzy feelings and memories that art brings them. If you found a cure for cancer, keeping it to yourself would be wrong, wouldn’t it? You have a moral obligation to get your work out to the people who need it. Art might not be a matter of life or death, but it sure makes the difference between a beautiful journey on the planet and a bland existence.
  3. Imagine yourself accepting your Lifetime Achievement Award. What will it be for? What will you have accomplished? Think in terms of the impact your work will have on people. You need a vision for your art business and entrepreneurial career that will carry you through the tough times. You’ll need to know who you’ll be, what you can do for your audience, and where you’re headed so you’re not distracted from your main goals.
  4. Commit to the long haul. Be patient and kind to yourself. Your road won’t always be easy, and yes, there is a lot to learn. But it’s not complicated; you can absolutely do this. Build your fortress one block and one wall at a time.

Identify your most thrilling feats

If you’re not sure what you do that’s worthy of prime-time TV with big ticket sponsors, try some of the following tactics:

  1. Realize you’re already brave. Ask friends, fans, and customers what things you have the nerve to do that they admire. You probably tend to take your piano compositions or playwriting for granted, yet how many people have told you they could never do what you do? You can talk to them in person or send them an email with a few simple questions. You might get some surprising answers.
  2. Revisit/relive your standing ovations. Think back — when have you done something that absolutely delighted your fans, customers, or clients? What have you done to make people throw money and praise at you? Write these things down and purposely do more of them.
  3. Stand proud in the spotlight. You’re unique. Play that up. List some key ways you are different from your competition and communicate them. Your goal should be for people to say, “I know them; they do this!”
  4. Become a mind reader. Get into your customers’ heads and read their thoughts. Not literally, of course. But ask yourself what they like, what they don’t like, how they spend their time, where they hang out, how they are feeling, and what keeps them up at night. Interview current fans and customers to find out why they buy from you. Ask a handful of people if they would mind answering a few short questions in exchange for a small gift. Then ask these same questions to a larger group via SurveyMonkey or similar online tool. Listen when they respond.

Find your adoring, adventure-hungry fans

It’s all about the tension, excitement, and the energy of the crowd, right?

  1. Build your command center. Get a real website if you don’t have one. Social media sites should all drive back to the main hub of your operations and engagement on your website.
  2. Craft captivating stories. Tell how you got to this place. Daredevils don’t start out jumping canyons. They start on three-foot-high ramps. Stories are powerful ways to build connection and they’re universal. How did you get where you are? What were your turning points? What struggles did you overcome? What have you learned? Use humor and emotion.
  3. Bare all. Figuratively, of course. What’s your mission? Why do you do what you do? How do you want to help people? Talk about those things that drive you to thrill-seeking artistic entrepreneurship.
  4. Flip on the camera when people are raving about you. Gather testimonials — these could be formal or informal or (even better) a combination of both. It could be as simple as asking for a quick video the next time someone compliments your work. What others say about you is more powerful than what you say about yourself. So take the pressure off yourself. It’s not bragging. Testimonials allow you to connect with more ideal fans.
  5. Share center stage. Round up videos and pictures of happy customers’ experiences. Have them submit photos of themselves using, displaying, or listening to your work. New fans will relate and imagine themselves there too.
  6. Collect your press clippings. Grab and share clips from Twitter, Facebook, and fan mail on your websites. All those nice things that people say to you online and offline (with their permission) are fair game and easy to gather.

Become unforgettable

Getting in front of people isn’t enough. Your next assignment must knock their socks off. You can do it. Start with the following ideas:

  1. Give your people what they want. Knowing what your fans want is your job, not theirs. And you know, or you will now, if you didn’t before — that they are not really buying the object. They don’t care much about the physical book itself, or the CD or coffee table sculpture. They’re buying a feeling, an experience, a lifelong memory, an emotional connection.
  2. Needle fans with their biggest fears. They won’t really be in danger of course, but they don’t know that. Imagine their worries and frustrations. How does your work help your fans ease their minds? You can help them prevent boredom, take time to smell the roses, laugh at ridiculousness, or dance while the dancing’s good.
  3. Tantalize fans with their biggest thrills. Identify your clients’ driving needs, problems, or desires. A trigger exists that makes people actually take the time to read what you wrote, check out your work, come to a show, and finally pull out their wallets and buy from you. You have to know what that is. Is it the excitement your work generates? The desire to capture and relive a great memory over and over? The feeling of being on the ground floor of a movement?
  4. Titillate them with their deepest desires. Once you discover what you really sell, dangle it in front of people’s faces. Tempt them with the outcome they’re seeking. Make it irresistible.
  5. Master mind control. Plumb the depths of their psyches and speak to one person in your marketing. You do this by creating an ideal customer profile and imagining yourself talking to that person. If you’ve done one in the past, it never hurts to revisit it. If you’ve never done one, a ton of information is out there. It’s incredibly worthwhile.
  6. Be astounding and unpredictable. Push the limits. Do things differently. Keep people on their toes by constantly surprising them. Don’t feel you have to do things a certain way just because everyone else is doing it.

Rally your supporters

No one accomplishes amazing feats on their own. Usually a whole team is working behind the scenes to make sure everything goes off without a hitch.

No matter how small your scale right now, you can and should have a super-supportive club.

  1. Round up your superfans. Gather those people who will follow you to the ends of the earth. Show them your gratitude by offering them something special — a limited edition piece, or an online or in-person fan appreciation party. Then keep getting your work out to more people to grow this bunch.
  2. Find backers. Find out who the influencers are in your niche and build genuine relationships with them. Start now, because this will take time. Don’t ask for anything yet; just be cool and giving. If your work is a good fit for their audiences, your backers will not only have great stuff to share with their followers, but they’ll also give your fan base a boost.
  3. Recruit volunteers. Let people help you. It can be as simple as asking — most of the time, we just don’t think to do this. Maybe someone’s good at making posters, organizing events, walking around neighborhoods or visiting local businesses distributing fliers or business cards. Ask!
  4. Build a street team. Let your most loyal and vocal fans be part of the team. They can help share the announcements that excite them and the works that move them. They can hang posters, spread the word about special offers, and bring new people to events.
  5. Embrace your friends and family. They are your #1 support network. They might not always understand. They might be overprotective sometimes. But they are there through the triumphs and the failures, cheering you on. And they will tell everyone they know how proud they are of you.
  6. Assemble special teams. Line up reserves that are always on call for those times when you need extra help. Know which friends have the skills and desire to help you with specific projects. Find a Virtual Assistant before you need one. Post a project on E-lance.
  7. Cheer, chant, and do the wave. Have a rallying cry that unites everyone on your team, a common enemy you face, a dream or goal you all share. Make it succinct and memorable. Hugh MacLeod has, “Office Art That Actually Matters.” You could use something like, “We’re not here for a long time; we’re here for a good time,” “Photos that make you smile,” or, “Short stories that will kick your butt into action.”

Fan the flames of excitement

When you tap into that sweet spot of giving people what they want, they will come back for more. They’ll breathlessly anticipate your next move. They’ll tell all their friends and drag them along to meet you.

So throw a little fuel on those flames.

  1. Give fans previews of coming attractions. Include upcoming releases, shows, and new places you’ll be showcasing your work. Turn it into a must-see event, with real, not false urgency. People can see through false deadlines like snake oil — use urgency wisely.
  2. Award backstage passes. Open your studio, either physically or virtually or both. Explain your setup, your equipment, favorite themes or materials. You could go into your work process, things that inspire you, or how you capture your ideas. All this is fascinating to people.
  3. Hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony; christen the new wheels. Have an actual grand opening with hand-signed, snail-mailed invitations. Offer tours. Make it into a virtual event by doing a short video showing your studio and equipment. Do a press release and run it in the local papers.
  4. Roll back the curtain. Do a short video or blog post highlighting your actual creative process. Make a whole series of journal posts for a large project like a book or CD. Follow a project from start to finish and document it with photos, video, or a journal. Share this on your blog, or on YouTube.
  5. Offer new fans a test drive; let them take their own lap around the course. Come up with something exclusive, irresistible and valuable (that you could charge at least $20 for) that your fans will just have to have ó a print, short e-book, or a sample CD or DVD. Give this away in exchange for an email address, which you can then use to further build your relationship with them.
  6. Arrange frequent meet-and-greets. Engage face-to-face with your fans before and after shows and events. Hold online meet-and-greets like Twitter chats, Google hangouts, etc. Really engage online. Don’t just add people to increase your friend count; build relationships as much as you can. Have conversations and really get to know people.
  7. Schedule regular public appearances. Post interviews or create an FAQ page. If you don’t have anyone from the press asking you for interviews, pick a well-spoken friend you are comfortable talking to and film a chat to feature on your site. Ease in to this if you’re camera shy. Post the transcription on your site.
  8. Get on Letterman (or the next best thing). Create a YouTube channel. Do you think YouTube is just a big time suck? It is that, but it’s also one of the world’s largest search engines. That means your audience is there, looking for people who do what you do. Do a YouTube introduction and a mini-instructional. Upload videos of your open house and other events. It’s all valuable content that you can use to engage people and drive them to your main site.
  9. Formalize your fan club. Get a real mailing list and create cool incentives for people to sign up. Keep adding to the exclusive content to keep people engaged. Constantly be on the lookout for quick content bits and share them regularly, in between the big announcements. Let your personality fly.
  10. Become your fans’ first choice. When the time comes and your audience is ready for some excitement, fun, or distraction, make sure you are the first person that springs to mind. Do this by simply staying in touch through your list and through social media.
  11. Even better, become their only viable option. A marketing strategy advises entrepreneurs to give fans tons of value so that they feel subtly obligated to buy from you when the time comes. This tactic works, and it works well. But to make the effect even stronger, prove that you care about your fans, more than anyone else. Build that relationship. Become their friend or mentor.
  12. Fill your schedule. Prioritize sharing updates with your adoring fans by making appointments on your calendar and posting updates on those days.

Monitor the conditions, and scan the environment

Sunny or cloudy, high winds, rain — these situations all affect your approach on the big day. Know what’s going on around you and have your strategy in place for each contingency.

  1. Acknowledge your competition, but don’t be intimidated. Understand that competition is a good thing; it means there is a need and a market. People are paying for what you offer. When audiences already appreciate the value of your work, you don’t have to work very hard to sell it. All you have to do is get in front of them with a great product.
  2. Deal with and then ignore your competition. This is about you, your performance, and your fans. Don’t get too hung up on the competition and what or how they are doing. Address how you are better, and how you care more. Focus on your uniqueness and passion. Don’t fall into a comparison trap, because every time you do, you’ll end up feeling crummy and inadequate.
  3. Graciously accept and respond to the applause. Constantly check in with your fans and supporters. Acknowledge their praise (humbly) and thank them. When you get a good reaction, review, or email, give them more of the same.
  4. Strive for night after night of standing ovations. Constantly reinvent yourself and perfect your craft. Make people crazy for more.

Prepare your safety gear: helmet, goggles, and parachute (or full body armor)

You don’t want to crash and burn, right? So put as many safety precautions in place as you can.

  1. Hand-pick your pit crew. Just as a racing team’s crew keeps the car all in one piece and running smoothly, your team will do the same for you. Find experienced people you can call on as soon as you need them — don’t lose time spinning your wheels. Put together a formal or informal advisory board of people who have strengths, knowledge and connections you don’t.
  2. Choose top-notch crew chiefs. You want no doubt in your mind that your mentors and advisors can get you exactly where you need to go. Don’t have a mentor? Choose someone you admire and whose outlook and values are similar to yours. They’ll share their hard-earned wisdom and help keep you from making expensive and time-consuming mistakes. As you grow, your circle of trusted advisors will grow too.
  3. Turn spy. Keep on top of the latest marketing trends. Study. Read industry blogs, journals, books, etc. Lurk on — and engage with — competitors and related artists. (Caution: do your best reconnaissance to make sure they are truly doing well and not just putting up a good front.) All these places are great sources of fresh ideas. Study how to write effective ads.
  4. Steal. Don’t plagiarize or end up in real trouble of course. But look to other industries for different perspectives, inspiration, and opportunities for collaboration. Figure out how you can tweak another’s approach so that it will work well for you. Example: a photographer might team up with a musician to pair art shows with concerts and leverage both audiences.
  5. Become a master of persuasion. Learn how to write great and irresistible copy for your web sites and all your marketing materials. If writing is absolutely not your strong point, hire someone to spruce up your webpage and other online and offline marketing materials.
  6. Form an exclusive insider club. Test reactions to your new offerings with small focus groups. Do private shows by invite only for people on your list. You could make these online or offline events.
  7. Build high-tech prototypes. Test new materials and artistic direction with as little initial monetary outlay as possible. For example, make an acoustic demo of new songs, make a website preview of a photo book before printing, and write several blog posts or articles before an e-book. Find out what resonates best with people before investing a lot of money in producing a product.
  8. Use a tether so you don’t plunge to your death. Determine how much money you can reasonably afford to spend on marketing. This is one time when you can assume the worst — that you’ll get no response. Can you stand to throw away that money? Then stick to your budget. You can easily lose money on paid advertising. I lost a lot in my early years. Be cautious, small scale, and flexible.
  9. Train with safety as a top priority. Test your ads (paid or not), and change the wording and calls to action frequently until you find a formula that works for you. You can announce shows and events in free publications like Craigslist, on Facebook or Twitter, and in local event calendars. Resist salespeople who try to persuade you to spend large sums at once to reach general, non-targeted audiences.
  10. Join Cirque De Soleil. Collaborate with other artists on events as much as possible to leverage all your fan bases and put on an unforgettable spectacle.
  11. Drive a million laps. Commit to mastering marketing by spending some time on marketing activities every day no matter how busy you are. Make communication and relationship building part of who you are. Being consistent about your marketing efforts is your best business insurance against slow times.
  12. Create lots of work. Hone your craft and build your catalog. I once heard that the best marketing for a first music CD is your second CD, and this makes perfect sense. Your true fans will want to support you by buying everything they can from you.
  13. Become a master of illusion. Learn how to write engaging stories and solid press releases and use them as often as possible, both on your own websites and marketing materials, and in local publications.
  14. Weave a strong safety net. Don’t get stuck in one strategy, especially if you are not getting results. Try several things and measure their effectiveness. The easiest way to do this is to ask people how they found you. If you are getting good results, congratulations! Stick with what works. I have three to four of my best strategies for local marketing and I do them all the time. Then I experiment with new outlets.
  15. Weigh in and get regular checkups. Know where you are. Be brutally honest with yourself. If your work isn’t generating at least some excitement, consider going back to the drawing board to work more on your craft. If you want to get to the next level, take your work to the next level. Find people to help you with this. And learn to deal with unfair criticism.

Make the leap across the canyon

It’s the big day! You’re ready to start reaping the benefits of all the great work you’ve put out into the world. Make sure your relationship building continues throughout the entire process and into the future. You want these fans for a long time, right?

Keep delighting them …

  1. Lead the throngs. Tell your fans clearly what steps they have to take next. Do you want them to take your free gift? Buy your book, print, or DVD? Tell their friends?
  2. Head off disasters and execute contingency plans. Know your potential buyers’ likely objections and have your responses already prepared verbally and in an FAQ page.
  3. Give them front row seats. Create a low-cost or pay-what-you-like offering so that everyone who wants to support you can afford something that you do. Adjust these options and make several of them. For example, people who already have my latest CD often want an earlier one. People who have all my music want to buy harmonica necklaces and t-shirts.
  4. Sell luxury suites. Laugh in the face of fear. Raise your prices and create a premium offering for people who want to work closely with you. Let them pay to commission a personalized work, host an event in their home, or be a part of your creative process.
  5. Promote and thank your sponsors. These can be commercial or charitable. If you think you’re too small for sponsors, think again. Someone wants to reach your audience. I know of a local coffee shop that was happy to sponsor an outdoor concert series for $60 per month during summers, which covered the outdoor gazebo rental. Charities like Holt International sponsor performers who do at least 25 shows per year.
  6. Create strategic partnerships. Display your art in a local bistro or community center. Work with local businesses to create art and craft shows, music series, film festivals and more. Don’t be afraid to combine any or all of the above.
  7. Train apprentices. Contribute to the growth of your field by training the next generation. Your students will be a natural addition to your own fan base. Again, never think that you are too small or don’t know enough to start teaching. You know more than you think you do, and all you really have to know is one more thing than a beginner. Teaching is the best way to learn.
  8. Host clinics. Help other daring people get to their own next level of development through special-topic clinics. These are a great way to attract longer-term students and clients. Recruit partners to help if you are new to teaching.
  9. Rock your merch table. Sell related merchandise. Let’s say you’re a photographer with a series of studies of coffee cups or wine glasses or spring flowers. You could sell the mugs or wine glasses or flowers as well as your prints. A band who had a huge percussion number in their show sold drum sticks and they flew off the merch table.
  10. Ride the momentum. Right after fans buy and are happy, ask for shares and referrals. Don’t be afraid to do this more than once. Offer incentives and tokens of appreciation. Related to #17 above, have fans submit pics or videos of themselves enjoying or displaying your stuff to post on your website, and share on social media and in blog posts. It’s a great way to build engagement.
  11. Throw a huge after-party. Create super-cool bonuses or gifts to show your fans you appreciate their support. Throw an actual party for local fans.
  12. Return the applause. Thank fans again throughout the year. Ask them for their birthdays (could be just month and year) for the purpose of sending them a gift. Then create customized happy birthday message for fans — a song, photo, cartoon, poem, or short story.

Shatter all the current records

Go down in history as a game-changer.

  1. Push the limits. Do one critical thing better than your competition. Find something that’s needed in the market but often lacking and figure out how you can provide that. It could simply be a more personalized approach or taking your service one step further.
  2. Break new ground. Try something that’s never been done before. A new method, using unusual media or a novel delivery method.
  3. Be a fierce competitor. Even if you are a solo act, or if you consider yourself more cooperative than competitive, always be improving on your former self.
  4. Raise the bar for the future; set a new standard for others to follow. Jumping three cars isn’t very exciting when jumping twenty is commonplace. List all the ways people tell you that your work makes their lives just a little bit better. Consistently do more of these things, so that they become expected in the marketplace.
  5. Do the impossible. It’s like shattering a world record for the longest time trapped under water. List all the ways you can care more. Passion, dedication, and a real desire to give your fans what they want create crazy loyalty.
  6. Wear your emblem on your chest. Like Superman, create your character, persona, and your brand. Proudly display them everywhere.
  7. Be a valiant warrior. What will you courageously fight for? What causes and principles do you stand for and believe in? Don’t be afraid to talk about them. While it’s true you could turn some people off, you will also be attracting many more who agree with you.
  8. Be hungry. Don’t be content to rest on former accomplishments or awards. Celebrate, yes ó then set your sights higher and prepare for your next challenge.
  9. Be a champion. What things about life and art do you value? What will you go to any lengths to defend? Friendship? Stress the relationships you build with people, and treat all your fans as friends. Charity work? Spread the word. Supporting indie music? Mutual interests create a bond. Don’t be afraid to stand for something.
  10. Be exclusive. You don’t have to let everyone into your club. In the words of Derek Sivers, “Proudly exclude.” You might only want real hardcore metal fans, not sissy wannabes. You might appeal to young parents wanting to capture sweet baby memories. Maybe no one can possibly understand your work except granola-munching hippies.
  11. Be discriminating. Once you decide who your ideal fans are, go where they hang out. Don’t waste time and energy in dive bars looking for people with sophisticated neo-jazz-fusion musical tastes. Hang your art in a winery or upscale bistro, not in a take-out pizza joint (unless your pop-art style really fits there). Be everywhere, yes ó but be everywhere that you fit.
  12. Be controversial. If you try to appeal to everyone, you will appeal to no one. But, if you turn off some people, you will win the loyalty of others. As popular blogger Jon Morrow says, “Whatever you gotta do in your own head to be ok with people not liking you ó Do It.”

Watch your popularity skyrocket

It’s not all about fame and fortune. The more people you reach, the more you can improve their lives. This is how your work starts to change the world, with your corner of it.

The more impact you have, the more your work starts to grow up and take care of you in your old age.

  1. Become a PR machine. Produce and share lots of entertaining, educational, and informational content online. Keep your fans updated regularly through email, your blog, and social media. Deepen the experience and don’t let them forget about you.
  2. Get on the bill for larger and larger shows. Learn how to guest post — writing for other people’s blogs as a way to grow your own fan base. Yes, artists can leverage these opportunities to their great benefit, and many do. Cartoonist and author Hugh MacLeod, writers Johnny B. Truant and Jeff Goins, and actor Josh Pais are great examples to emulate.
  3. Be ready when the press comes knocking. Finish or spruce up your physical and online press kits and portfolios.
  4. Read all your fan mail. What do people like about you? What are you doing that they respond well to? How are you inspiring them? Respond as much as you can and build those relationships.
  5. Sign autographs. How do your fans get to meet you? How do they develop a personal connection with you? People relate to real people much more than brands or companies. Hold an annual fan appreciation barbeque, bowling night, or rafting trip. Host chats and webinars, and respond to your blog comments.
  6. Earn a permanent place in their hearts. Get on their A-List ó become the email message sender they never miss and always read first. Think about what steps you must take to build that kind of intimacy, likeability and trust with your fans.
  7. Make fans a part of the family. Inclusion, being a part of something great, is priceless and exciting. Tell your biggest fans about your movement, and how you are changing the world. Let them know how they can join and make it easy for them to do so.
  8. Find out what’s working. Get in the habit of asking customers how they heard about you. Track this information. If you use registration forms or email signups for events, shows, or workshops, you have a perfect opportunity to gather this data. You can also ask as part of wrapping up a sale, or when you get phone or email inquiries.
  9. Be seen everywhere. Learn about tools for sharing content between social media platforms. Start using them. Claim your free listings on Google Places, Bing, Yahoo and the like.
  10. Become a household word. Craft your pitch so that it’s clear what you do and for whom. Use a form similar to these examples: “I create [this] for [these people],” “I think it’s wrong that [situation exists], so I’m on a mission to [thing you’re changing].”
  11. Hire or become your own publicist. Get a strong bio. This is not a recitation of your resume. It’s about your compelling story, what drives you, and most importantly how this helps you relate to your fans and make their lives better.
  12. Hire or become your own spin doctor. Take a close look at your About page. Make sure it’s not really all about you, but instead what your work does for people, what experiences they will have, and what they can expect from you.

Stake your claim on the mountaintop

You’ve worked hard to get where you are. Own it!

  1. Do photo ops in your tights and cape. Get a well-designed, attractive logo or photo that clearly communicates what you do. It doesn’t have to be expensive or custom-made, just the picture that says a thousand words.
  2. Wear your glam costume everywhere. Update all your social media profiles and delete any that you habitually neglect. Give yourself permission to really connect and engage in a few manageable sites that you enjoy. Remove unused profiles or snaz them up, and update the links and content occasionally to drive people to sites where you do interact.
  3. Polish your image till it shines. Occasionally check all your pages and links, and make sure they all work. Ask for help with this if you need to. Send new people to your highest converting page.
  4. Share the spoils. Celebrate with and thank the people who got you where you are. Generously share the lessons you’ve learned.
  5. Be truly humble. Be open about your past and current challenges. People don’t really connect with super-humans. They want to see real people who have tackled and won over the same obstacles they are facing now.

The art of marketing

Marketing is an art in itself.

Believe it or not, you already have a big part of the skillset. The rest can be learned through hard work and dedication.

You’ve learned to study, to practice, to be persistent, to grow a thick skin, to listen to your audiences and grow with them. Start thinking of marketing as an extension of your art instead of something opposed to it.

You can create in a vacuum and maybe become appreciated posthumously.

But I want better for you — if, of course, you also want more for yourself and your art, and you don’t want to look back on your life and wonder, “What if?”

So get out there, conquer your fears and misgivings, look that tiger in the eye, and claim what’s rightfully yours!

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Reader Comments (73)

  1. says

    Leanne this is an incredible list of ideas. I hope it get shared around as much as it deserves. Really like the format of breaking the list down into sub-headings while still continuing the numbering – never thought of that.

    Thanks again.


  2. says

    Thanks, Ramsay! Yes, it was a big piece to write – the format was just as much to keep me organized as it was to help the readers. 😉

    Glad you enjoyed – share away! Every bit helps.

  3. says


    Thanks for this well-written article full of good tips. This article really spoke to me. I love writing but I do not enjoy the marketing. I know it is essential though. Thanks for sharing.

    • says

      Thanks, Ken – I really hope it helps you. Many people don’t enjoy the marketing. But you’re right, it is necessary and there are ways we can make things easier on ourselves.

  4. says


    That’s one heck of a post, and so packed with information! I’m “Holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony and christening the new wheels” right now. I’ve bookmarked this post to come back to again and again for more great ideas to keep me going.

    Thanks for putting in the incredible amount of effort it must have taken to pull this all in together into such a helpful resource list!

  5. says

    I love it, Leanne!

    That’s just about what I say on my web site (PurpleCrayonDirect.com), and what I’ve been helping artists of all stripe do for over 10 years.

    Over the last decade, I’ve discovered that artists almost always live up to the nickname thrust upon (or grudgingly adopted by) them — starving. Their budgets are non existent. Their time is scant. And their interest in marketing is practically nil.

    Yet, they all want to sell their work to make a living. They just don’t like to call it marketing.

    I’ve found that artists need lots of hand holding, don’t want to get bogged down in the day-to-day details, and are primarily concerned with one thing: the cost.

    That makes working with artists a challenge — especially when you factor in the unique personality many artists have. They are driven, focused, right-brain, and sometimes irascible.

    Which is why I only work with people whose art transports me. I won’t work with anyone I’m not 100% passionate about. But that means I’m having fun, and my clients are having fun…and the results are often extraordinary.

    Keep up the great work!

    • says

      Thanks, Bill!

      You make some really great points. But I think – I hope anyway – that we might be on the start of a sea change. It sure seems to me that there are a whole lot more creative people speaking out against these popular (but untrue) beliefs.

      Every time people like us work to get the message out that “starving” and “artist” really don’t belong in the same sentence, it helps others to think bigger.

      It’s great to do work you love, isn’t it? :)

      • says

        Great thoughts, Leanne and Bill. I have to agree with Leanne that we are in the midst of a sea change… I see it among my students, my clients, and my peers. Artists are more empowered than ever (thanks to the savvy youth, lots of technology, and a bit of creative perspective), and I am thrilled “starving artist” is falling by the wayside.

        It’s considerably more fun to be purposefully striving and empowered, rather than simply starving.

        Leanne, this post is going to make its way into the required reading list for my students. Thanks!

  6. says

    Fantastic list. Excellent post. I will favorite and share with all my creative friends.

    For art of any kind elevates the soul from deep inside the inner connections we share. It is the fact that we can feel this inner connection when we see art that makes it so.

    To know you can be sustained and thrive being your artful self is the true artist’s way.

    Thanks for all your hard work here.

    Warmly, Joseph

  7. says

    Nice work, Leanne. 5, 54, 57, 71 and 99 resonated with me the most. Especially # 71. Just offering something as simple as a more personalized approach might be all it takes to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

    • says

      Glad to know that you found a few things that really hit home, Mark. And yes, sometimes the differentiator is something as simple as just caring a little bit more than everyone else. 😉

  8. says

    Hi Leann,

    This is a pretty amazing list of ideas, so thank you :) As I whittle away slowly at my 2nd blog (a complete departure from online branding advice) this is like several tons of advice I’ll have to keep referring to.

    I love the message, commit to the long haul. If I’ve learned anything running a business for over 17 years it’s that good (great) things take time. A slow burn.

    About being naked: To craft captivating stories I think it helps to bare all. Well you don’t have to be full on buck naked, but I think great storytelling infused with honesty helps, and honest writing is what people are attracted to.

    I could go on an on raving about what you’ve written here. Truth is, I love it all.

    • says

      Yeah, Craig – there’s always a balance with the “naked” stuff – but people do respond to a a little vulnerability and openness.

      17 years – good for you! Yes, it really is all about just hanging in there, isn’t it?

  9. says

    Incredible. Just incredible. Leanne, you’ve given artists a TON of actionable advice to chew on here. This could (should!) be printed out and used as an “always at the ready” reference manual. Amazing job with this post!

  10. says

    Just about everything Copyblogger puts out is great but this article grabbed my attention and pulled me in.
    Thank you! I will be going through this and pulling out specific things to do. Thanks for the reminder that what we have really does have an audience who needs/wants to hear/see us.
    (signed up for your manifesto & mailing list- thank you!)

  11. says

    Excellent post. There is so much that can be done to market art but it requires discipline and setting aside dedicated time.

    A while back I reached out Demian Farnworth, a writer here at CopyBlogger, to see what he had to say about copywriting for artists.

    His advice to me was to incorporate more storytelling in posts. Especially within product pages.

    I agree with him. Part of being an artist is selling yourself to others. Not just your art.

    I’ve wanted someone here at Copyblogger to write a post about copywriting for art marketing forever. There a very few posts on the subject and fewer actual examples.

    This post is a good start to improve the overall strategy. Hopefully we can get more granular with specifics and examples. There’s a demand for this knowledge.

    • says

      Matt, that’s an excellent idea and one I have many thoughts on. As a matter of fact, I did a webinar on it just last week. It was high level, mainly to gauge interest in the subject, but it went well.

      I’ll definitely be getting into the topic more in future posts – either guest posts or on my own blog – so keep in touch!

  12. says

    This is a must-save; I know I will come back to it again and again,so Thank you!!
    I have been working on the art of marketing for a while now; whilst shying away from sharing all that I offer at the same time … S-l-o-w-l-y getting there; now that I have products that I feel ready to move with. My first chidren’s book will be released Feb 8th next year … the build up truly is an exercise in marketing and this is perfect to help!

    • says

      Congrats on your book release, Kat! That’s a huge accomplishment.

      I know about slow progress. The important thing is to just do little bits every day. It adds up.

      Best of luck to you!

  13. says

    Well I really tried to read this list…. but overwhelming. My first take. I can do my art or spend my time doing this list. Nothing on this list is “simple.” Well because nothing about marketing is simple. “We” have this conversation a lot among artists…. do I do this to make money… or to make art. Most people don’t understand “I do this to make art.”

    • says

      Hi Peter,

      Actually I think the great majority of people do understand just making art for art’s sake. The problem is when people WANT to market, WANT to make money, and they just don’t know how or they are afraid. I’m mainly addressing the second group here.

      There are parts of my art that I want to make money from and other parts that I don’t, things that I do just for enjoyment and personal satisfaction. Each person’s balance will be different and there’s no right or wrong answer.

  14. says

    Thank you Leanne for this post!

    Though I am not an artist myself, but interior designer, in my online boutique http://www.essenziale-shop.com I sell unique objets d’art made by local artisans and artists found along the ancient silk route. All of them are really one of a kind. Despite I spend enormous time every day marketing it – writing blog, social media, etc. I am still struggling. I got several mentions on other blogs which means people like my products, however I don’t really understand what I need to do to get more sales. I also got extra exposure on other sites selling Art – for example Artsy Home – but doesn’t really help. I would appreciate any advise regarding my shop! Thank you

    • says

      Off the top of my head, Anna – you say you have gotten mentions from other blogs but have you offered to write a guest post for them? You could write about any aspect of the business or artistic side of interior design, things that would interest your potential customers. Example – advice for people who are considering hiring an interior designer.

      The idea is to go where your customers already are and give them valuable information they can use.

      Good luck to you.

  15. says

    This is a refreshing list of ideas for how to get noticed for your talent and creativity. A real resource which I’m going to come back and read several times.

    You also highlight the fact that Creatives are often so quiet about what they’re doing. It’s a shame that so many talented people, and the fruits they create, go unnoticed because they’re afraid to open their creativity up for others to see, or simply unaware of the fact of how talented they are.

    The message should be to all Creatives: You are talented and we need to know and enjoy your talents – so let us know about them.

  16. says

    A great list for creative sorts, Leanne. Being humble is the best bet, narcissism really needs to be avoided in the contemporary world. You see a lot of egos in the music industry, for instance, and it’s a real turn off for me. As long as you show some humility in your marketing endeavours, and drop the business spiel, I think anyone can excel.

    And, for inspiration, always indulge in excellent culture. Read the best books (classics, not 50 Shades of Pink), listen to the best music (Mozart and Beethoven, instead of Miley Cyrus), and see the best films/plays/events etc. This is my approach to life, anyway.

  17. Pedro says

    THANK YOU! Truly remarkable post. I will bookmark it right away and read it every other day. Nice job, Leanne!

    PS: I love the typography of Copyblogger! Are you using Google’s fonts?

    Thank you again,
    Pedro from Portugal

  18. says

    Great article and list of ideas! I teach entrepreneurship at Columbus College of Art and Design and I speak to artists from the entrepreneur side of the aisle trying to help them to think more like a business owner.

    I sent this to all of my students and will discuss this in class when we cover marketing in a couple weeks.

    We will also point to it in our curriculum at Venturehighway.com. We produce entrepreneurship curriculum and materials for schools such as CCAD and this is a very good reference for everyone to see.

    Thanks, Kevin…

    • says

      Thanks so much, Kevin. Really hope it helps your students.

      I’m glad to see that there are more art schools preparing students for entrepreneurship. When I was in grad school there were very few courses in entrepreneurship at all.

      Keep up the fantastic and much-needed work!

  19. says

    Just about everything Copyblogger puts out is great but this article grabbed my attention and pulled me in.Thank you! I will be going through this and pulling out specific things to do in my Trade show project.

    Congrats on your book release,

    Best of luck to you!

  20. says

    While a lot of artists I know oppose to the idea of commercializing their Art, I find this article really interesting. I think it’s great to acknowledge and seize every opportunity like what the Internet and Social Media, in particular, can give us then make use of it as a tool for things like marketing Art, etc. Good work, Leanne!

    • says

      Thanks, Matt! There’s nothing wrong with doing art for fun, I just hope to give the people who would like to make more money from it a nudge in the right direction. 😉

  21. says

    This is an awesome article. All the points covered are very important when marketing our work. And it’s true real work pays…..but we need to put our efforts in this competitive industry.

  22. says

    Excellent resource of ideas. I am a marketing executive and have had a similar conversation with clients about their work. Yet when working on my own material I often fall into the same trap of how do I talk about my work and who would want to listen.

    It helps to take a step back and focus on your niche, your audience and how your product or service can either solve a problem or save time. Sometimes, artists don’t view their work to fit in these categories but when you look from the outside in, the work can serve a functional need.

    Great article, it one I will refer to over and over again.

  23. says

    Mind blowing content. Leanne you have provided us with valuable content that allows us freelancers to get pumped about marketing instead of shy away from it. Thank you!

  24. says

    Wow! Enough thought-provoking ideas to change the course of the next few months of my working life.

    Thank you kindly, Leanne — I’ve shared the link with some fellow artists. May we all be freshly inspired!

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