Those of you who dropped by last week already know how painter Ania Witwitzka went from being burned-out, broken-down, and disillusioned to being consistently inspired, productive and fulfilled.
As it turns out, painting doesn’t just feed her soul; it also feeds her face, no thanks to the years she spent in art school.
Often, formal art education churns out “stunningly good” artists, but leaves them with zero marketing skills, she says.
As a result, many of her classmates either gave up art entirely, or compromised their aesthetic values so much they lost their passion for it.
“I said to myself, ‘No, there must be another way,'” she remembers.
There was. Below are Ania Witwitzka’s top 6 tips for making money as an artist without selling out.
1. Educate yourself.
Once she’d made the decision to do what she loved for a living, Witwitzka scoured the Internet for information on how.
She found creativelive.com, which offers online workshops for creatives. It has courses in marketing, design, music, and photography, among other things. “For creative entrepreneurs of any kind, they’re amazing. Really, really amazing,” she says.
She’s also a fan of Cory Huff’s blog, The Abundant Artist, and his courses in selling art online.
2. Brand yourself.
She’s particularly enthusiastic about Ann Rae’s “Make Money Making Art,” one of creativelive.com’s business courses.
“She really taught me how to define what it is I’m doing, and as soon as I could define it, then I could package it, and then I could not just sell art, but sell the quality, the value of my art.”
“I’m selling magic through landscapes, basically,” she explains, adding that her paintings remind people of the “positive and inspirational parts of life.”
She continues, “The key thing is to be really thorough about defining the basics: what is your message, and who should care, and why. It is like simple product development, but in reverse, I guess. Many of us artists make art because we want to do pretty things or because we love doing it, but when it comes to making a living out of it, you have to be super-clear on what you are offering, why, and to whom, otherwise you will just drown in the general art scene which is too vague and vast.”
“I learned from the art coach Ann Rea to ‘stop selling art’ and ‘start selling experiences’, so I put a lot of time into digging deep in myself to find what my art was really about.”
3. Find your tribe.
Ultimately, she says, she discovered “a genuine understanding and proud ownership” of why she paints her own style of “colourful romantic landscapes.”
Once she figured that out, she realised, “Since we as humans share the same needs and experiences, there will be a crowd out there, my tribe, who gets my art and will want to buy it.”
Different artists have different “tribes” of customers, she says, which means there’s no need to be competitive.
“We can support each other and help each other out, instead of all being put in the ‘art barrel’ competing for a non-defined audience that no one can find and gallery owners just hope will stumble in their galleries.”
Having her message and audience clearly defined makes it easier to talk and write about her art, she says. It also means she’s less bothered when people don’t like what she does, because she can tell herself, “They are just not my tribe.”
4. Build your own network.
More effectively targeting an audience isn’t the only reason to work around the gallery system, Witwitzka says. In Sweden, galleries charge a 50-60% commission on the sale of every piece. North American galleries aren’t much different. By finding other ways to get her work in front of buyers, she keeps a larger percentage of the price.
Witwitzka spends a lot of time on image-based social media sites like Pinterest. She also attends a lot of conferences, meetings, and trade shows to connect with people, businesses and charities that resonate with her message.
Trade shows in particular are a great place to find potential customers, she says. Although attendees often aren’t ready to buy paintings on the spot, they’ll readily submit an email address in exchange for a chance to win a prize. Witwitzka then follows up with them later (she learned that and other tricks from Owen Garratt’s Marketing Tools for Artists, another training site she recommends highly).
She doesn’t avoid galleries altogether, however. They’re great for exposure, she explains, and they save a lot of time and effort. “They are important for me, but I do not rely on them solely and that creates a wave, and energy, of me being successful, strong and independent that they want to be a part of,” she says.
Then, instead of having to chase after them, she can let them come to her.
5. Strike a balance between commissioned and non-commissioned work.
Witwitzka says about 1/3 of her paintings are commissioned, and requests are increasing. Still, she says, “It’s very important for me to keep painting my own work, so to speak, because I’m finding that becomes completely the basis for commissions. [Clients] see what I can do, they fall in love with something, and then they want their own version.”
Her practice of Vedic Art (in which Witwitzka offers her own online courses) helps her stay true to herself and prevents her from allowing clients to derail the creative process, she says.
She also finds it helpful to reference her own paintings when consulting with buyers before starting commissioned pieces. That way, they know what they’re in for.
6. Do it now.
Witwitzka says procrastination is an artist’s worst enemy. “Work with what you have right now,” she advises.
“There is no use in waiting. Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on and believe in you. Find teachers and communities online that teach you the skills you do not have. Spend every day listening to a webinar, reading a book, getting inspired.
The most common trap is that we think we cannot do it. We end up being in the way of ourselves. The world is waiting to receive your gift, so start believing in it and start sharing! Your tribe is out there and they will let you know that what you are doing is important, fantastic and worthwhile!”
What about you, Reader? Have you ever tried to sell your art? How did it go? Share your stories in the comments.
Featured Image: painting by Ania Witwitzka, “The Sun in My Eyes”.
*Full disclosure: After experiencing Witwitzka’s enthusiasm for creativelive.com, I checked out the site and was so impressed by it I signed up to be an affiliate. That means I get a small commission if anyone buys a course after clicking a link on my blog. I’m cool with that, because the courses really do look awesome.
PS: I’m currently writing an eBook, Practical Creativity: A Step-by-Step Guide. If you’d like me to send you a sample chapter when it’s done, subscribe to my blog for free.