In the last five months we have worked through a series of articles that has hopefully equipped us with guidelines and suggestions for getting our images into the hands of buyers. Our first two instalments found us exploring the best ways to approach galleries and the research required. We then looked at art shows and provided resources for assessing startup cost, choosing your shows and printing options. Last month, we looked at building relationships with interior designers who have direct influence with buyers.
As we found throughout the articles, there are links that tie together each area of exposure. For example, we learned that galleries sometimes find new artists through art shows. We also learned in my interview with the interior designer that she found her primary artist by simply going to her local coffee shop.
We will close this series with a focus on finding ways to increase your exposure at the local level with businesses. Although there is an element of luck involved as to who might see your images in any of these locations, the value of good old fashioned hard work cannot be overstated.
As mentioned in a previous article, if we are going to find success in selling our photography, we must treat it like a business. All successful businesses are continually looking for new consumers and new clients. The moment you stop looking for new business, is the moment you can start looking for another career. The same is true with selling your photography. The following are some suggestions for places to look within your own community.
Perhaps the least intimidating place to approach and the best place to start will be your local coffee shop. You will find that when you start looking at the walls of places you frequent, you will notice opportunities that might be waiting for you.
If your local barista has a few empty places on their walls and your prints are similar to the décor of their establishment, contact the manager or owner and offer to hang your prints in their space.
You will find that you may have more luck by offering to supply the prints and sell them direct to the consumer by offering a small price tag on the corner (if allowed by the owner). This is not uncommon and a great way to make your artwork visible to consumers.
An important note on selling to patrons of a coffee shop: do your research of the area and demographic to establish your pricing. Consult the owner over their thoughts on the prices and take their advice into consideration.
My husband and I have frequently been in the waiting room of a doctor or lawyer and have commented on their need for artwork.
The next time you are at your doctor, lawyer or dentist’s office, have a peek at their walls. Do they have artwork? Is it stale? Could their waiting room use a refresh? During your appointment casually ask if they would be interested in updating their artwork and if you can submit a proposal to them. If they reply that they have been thinking about it, do not be afraid to ask if they have a budget. Knowledge is leverage and you will be better able to provide them the quantity and quality around their budget. Keep this first approach light and casual.
Once you have received permission to prepare a proposal, reflect on the images you have that would work best in their location. Prepare a number of different images they may choose from. In addition, in keeping with the budget they may have, you will want to look at different media you could print on. Bay Photo has various media on which they can print and they all come at different prices. Do your homework. Canvas may be cheaper than metal and may also fit the décor of the room.
When you revisit the office to present your proposal, keep it simple with as few choices as possible. Listen to their feedback, ask questions, be sensitive and willing to make adjustments as needed. Most importantly, you will want to have a firm idea of your mark up so that you will walk away with a profit. Do not be afraid to tell them you will look at the option they are suggesting and get back to them.
Hotels, Airports and Larger Venues
The newspaper will provide you with an enormous amount of information. This will be the place you can usually find out about your local council approving a new hotel or other larger business. Even if it is a large hotel chain, you will find that they are very interested in reflecting local culture through images of the area. Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and start asking questions to locate the decision maker. It may take some work, but it could yield big rewards.
In 2016, we noticed that the international airport in our area was remodelling. Through research online and a few phone calls, we found the person who was in charge of décor, including the pictures hung on the walls. She said she was a few months away from selecting imagery and to call back. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t mark it in my calendar. Existing business kept me busy and we missed the chance to have our work displayed. I share this moment of vulnerability with you because I hope you will learn from our mistake. If you catch a lead on a possible venue, be sure to put it in your calendar and follow it to fruition. Treat your business like a business.
When pricing your prints for any of the above venues, be aware that unlike gallery representation, these are businesses with a budget. The larger the corporation, the larger the budget is likely be for artwork in their buildings. Be flexible in working with them. Make it easy. However, once again, you will want to have a firm profit margin in your mind as you are quoting.
I often hear people comment on how they cannot make a living at photography, and to be fair it is difficult. Whether you are younger and needing to support a growing family, or you are looking for a few extra dollars in your retirement days, making money from your artwork is not an impossible task. Be committed to finding new clients, venues and succeeding at print sales.
As someone who is already involved in print sales, I will close this series with this final thought. We’ve had distributors ask for very specific imagery, subjects or themes. While we are very open and value the feedback from our distributors on market trends, we consistently make sure we are guarding our art. Creativity lives and thrives from listening to your heart and soul when you are in the field. If you are faithful to creating that which inspires you and speaks to you, you will find true success as an artist.