Selling artwork to friends and family


Quick make a list of 500 friends and family connections

Back in college during career days, I recall the Insurance Companies sniffing around for potential sales position hires.  If you interviewed  for one of these insurance sales positions,  the first thing they have you do is write down a list of 500 people you know. Seriously 500 hundred people!

Coincidentally I’ve heard it said that 500 people is the most anyone can seriously maintain as a social circle.  People with over 500 people on their Facebook accounts can not really know all of those people.  Or at least in any meaningful way.  Try selling insurance or Amway to some distant cousin twice removed or someone who you only know because they like to share funny cat photos.

Photography Prints

Anyway, the insurance companies  expect you to sell people you know to get started.   Your friends and family will be your base pool of sales leads.  In other words, by hiring you, the insurance company gets 500 leads.

Its not unlike the modern art world.  In the old days, the artist just needed to get into the gallery world and then the gallery staff would sell to their carefully cultivated list of buyers.

That is the fantasy world that a lot of today’s artists still cling too – if only I could get into a gallery all my troubles would be over and I wouldn’t have to market myself.  I could just create all day long….

But nowadays, galleries and even art shows expect the artist to provide the bodies.  They expect the artist to pull in the connections and bring in a following.

New Limited Edition Release Vintage Typewriter
New Limited Edition Release Vintage Typewriter

Friend and Family – Gold Mine or Fool’s Gold

Everyone needs and understands the basic value of life insurance or home owners insurance – but do they need or understand art?

This where the idea of selling to friends and family falls short of the goal of becoming a successful artist.

  • Friends and family are a finite market
  • Family and friends may or may not be your market
  • F&F get annoyed

Your closest friends might be a nice way to get a few sales in pocket to start you off, but come on, you will need to sell a ton of artwork over your career to survive as an artist.  You are not going to do it by selling to friends and family.  Unless you are developing an ever increasing, dynamical expanding universe of friends.

But this will probably only occur after you become more successful and everyone wants to get in on your success.  Suddenly when your artwork becomes valuable, then you’ll find relatives that you never knew existed and friends coming out of the woodwork trying to get some deals on investment quality artwork.

Photography Prints

A better strategy is to make your work and you as an artist and individual creative person more accessible.   Let people get to know you as a person and as an artist.  It doesn’t require friendship just a bit of access to how you think, your process and your mindset.

Selling Artwork Online  – Cultivate a new family around your artwork

Online you have to do things to connect with people online. That means getting out there in cyberspace and communicating. Not just spamming people with “look at this” stuff over and over.

I wrote about this on my blog – Don’t Become Human Spam – http://www.dogfordstudios.com/dont-become-human-spam/

For the record, I ran a t-shirt business with an artist friend for 10 years.  I don’t think any friend or family member of ours ever bought anything.   It was funny fishing related line with crass humor.  We sold mostly to bass fishermen in the south.  Our friends and family are mostly non-fishermen living in the north.  Or fly fishermen, not bass fisherman.  Would be try to push our products on friends and family? Nope.

 
Art Prints

With my artwork and photography, I have only sold a few items to friends and family.  The other folks haven’t bought any art since the 1970s and even then they bought it at Sears.  Not exactly the market I’m striving for – I’d rather try to cultivate a following online consisting of people who understand and appreciate fine art photography.