There is a misconception about RedBubble: “Join RedBubble and you will sell stuff.”
My response to this is simple: No, no you wont!
If this were the case, then it would be the first time in the history of commerce that product has magically sold itself.
To sell ANY product [including your art] you must do several things:
- Have a commercially viable/saleable product.
- Know your target demographic.
- Market your product to your target demographic.
- To SELL your product, you must also sell yourself.
- Treat selling your art as a business, not a hobby.
- Employ the right people.
Simply having cool artwork wont guarantee sales, you need to produce work that is saleable.
One of the most successful artists on RedBubble is ELLEN
Not only is Ellen a fabulously talented photographer with great technique and composition, but she also produces art that has mass-appeal.
Ellen’s art has such mass-appeal, that she has even received world-wide media recognition.
So, if you want to sell, then you must produce artwork that will appeal to the majority of the people [in your target demographic] afterall – what is the point of producing product that very few people will be interested in buying.
Know your style, and search the net for other successful artists work. See what they are producing and selling.
I am not suggesting that you copy their work or style, rather – learn what works and apply that to your work in your own unique way.
Ok, that is two words.
If you look at any failed business, one of the most common mistakes that are made is that the business has failed to identify their target market/demographic.
You must do this research. If people don’t know your art exists, how the hell do you expect them to buy it?
- You must identify who likes your style of work.
- You must identify where they are.
- You must tell them all about you and your work … ad nauseaum.
In your “area” there are 5000 people who are attracted to your style of art.
Maybe 50 of them buy art, of those 50 – maybe only 10 are active art buyers.
So, maybe 10 out of every 5000 would actually consider buying your art.
If you want to have the possibility to make 100 sales every year, you need to market yourself to at least 50,000 people, – and there is no guarantee that you will make those sales.
The world, and especially the internet, is chock-full of fantastic art. There is sooo much high quality commercially viable art online [and of course – on RedBubble] that anyone trying to make sales is up against a mountain of competition.
So what do you do?
You need to be unique in both your art and your approach to marketing. You need to be different – to catch the attention of your potential customers.
YOU NEED TO STAND OUT FROM THE CROWD
How do you do that? Well, to be frank, that is your problem. I can’t tell you how to be different, I can’t tell you what makes you different to everyone else.
Get out there, get some business cards. Approach local businesses where your target demographic are likely to shop and ask them if you can display your work there for free.
Warning: Don’t approach your local doctors surgery, if their clients are retired conservative middle income people and your artwork is hip, edgy contemporary. Your target demographic probably wont ever see your work there.
Do not expect to sell anything from these locations, this is about getting you and your work noticed.
Make sure that your contact details [RedBubble address, etc] are prominently displayed everywhere that your artwork is displayed.
Ask the shops owners if you can leave business cards and holders on their counter near their cash registers. People have enjoyed the food in the café, they have seen your work on the walls, and now when they are paying the bill the last thing they will see is your Business Card. This is a good thing.
Print a bunch of your product, and get a stall at the local markets. This is an awesome way to get lots of exposure and to also get direct feedback about your product.
What makes customers come back to the same shop time and time again?
Is it the price? – NO [lots of shops have excellent prices]
Is it the product? – NO [lots of shops sell the same type of products]
The thing that keeps customers coming back is their connection with the people who work there.
How often would you go back to a store where you got bad service, or the staff were grumpy?
How often would you travel across town simply because the shop owner knows your name and always knows what type of coffee you like.
As human beings we crave that sort of connection with each other.
Art is an expression of the self, and people who purchase art generally like to know about the artist.
People like that connection between the art and the artist. So you need to market yourself every bit as much as you market your art.
Include a bio with your art, especially wherever your art is on display.
Art is art, but if you include a bit about yourself, you will make it personal to your potential clients. This is an edge, this helps you stand out from the crowd.
Many people like to support local artists. So let them know you are a “poor starving artist” that lives in the local area. Actually, don’t tell them you are a “poor starving artist” – nobody likes people who try to play it for the sympathy vote, instead – let them know why you produce art, explain your feelings and your process, let them know why you do what you do. Try to keep it to a couple of paragraphs.
If you make yourself real to your clients, they will see your art as more than just another thing hanging on the wall.
As I have said previously, the world and the internet is chock-full of top quality artwork. It is also chock-full of unique and different artwork.
The only thing that sets your work apart from everyone else’s is: Y-O-U
You must connect with your potential clients, you must “sell” yourself to them, and if you do this then your art will stand a much greater chance of selling also.
You are either serious about making sales or you are not.
Choose one or the other. If you don’t want to treat it seriously, then just be happy if something sells, and stop complaining that you are not making any sales.
But, if you do want to make sales and you are not making any – then there is only one person to blame – yourself.
Every financially successfull artist, treats their art as a business. They take it seriously. They know that producing art is only a small part of the business. The biggest and hardest part is everything else that it takes to sell the product.
Look at artists like KEN DONE – Why is he soooo hugely successful? It is not because he produces cool art. It is because he treats it as a business and he treats it seriously.
If you really want to make money from the business of art, then study the art of business.
Do you want to be a success, or is it just a pipe-dream? Are you serious?… then do the right thing and go to night college – take classes in Business and Marketing. Learn how to effectively promote your business.
If you think this is all just a bit much, and I am being over the top, then consider this:
Coca Cola is the most widely sold domestic product in the world.
Do they know their target demographic? YES!
Do they market to that demographic? YES!
Do they put their product out there ad nauseaum? YES!
Do they treat their business seriously? YES!
Does Coca Cola sit back, knowing their product is the best, and just expect sales to magically happen? HELL NO!
So many small businesses make the same basic mistake, which pretty much dooms them to failure right from the start:
The business owner thinks that because they are really good at providing the core business product, that they are automatically good at managing the business as well.
This sort of hubris is the kiss of death for two reasons:
1. You will get so sick and tired of spending more time managing your business than you do delivering your core business product that you end up hating what you do.
Most small business owners admit to working at their business for about 80 hours per week. Assume 40 hours providing core business delivery – and you are looking at a further 40 hours doing the mundane aspects of business management.
2. Your art will be effected by your underlying hatred of managing your business, and this will inevitably effect your sales.
You don’t believe that just anyone can make good art!
So why do you believe that just anyone ie … YOU, knows how to market and manage a business?
Know your strengths and weaknesses, and pay for professionals to do the things you know nothing about.
Sure, it is gonna cost you. But you know that saying: “You gotta spend money to make money”? – This is what that saying is refering to.
Find and pay for the best:
- Business Manager [mandatory]
- Marketing Manager [mandatory]
- Solicitor / Lawyer [mandatory]
- Book-keeper [mandatory]
- Shop / Office Staff [if required]
Employing these people [usually on a part-time or as-needed basis] will allow you The Artist to concentrate on what you do best – making quality art.
This is what Professional Business Owners do.
If you feel that these people will cost you too much money, and you can do it all yourself, then good luck to you, I hope you make it, because Data from the U.S. Small Business Administration 1 shows that regardless of the year when they are founded, the majority of start-ups go out of business within five years, and two-thirds are no longer operating ten years after being formed.
Finally, consider RedBubble to be your Shop.
This is where potential clients come to buy your art, so make it user friendly, keep it simple, clean and tidy.
Managing your RedBubble Portfolio can be a bit of work, but then if you owned an actual shop, I am fairly certain that it wouldn’t magically clean itself either.
Put your most popular work [most viewed] in a prominent position.
I regularly go through my list of artwork and make sure that the most viewed art is the first art that anyone will see in my portfolio.
Keep your shop fresh, but don’t make it too cluttered either. Most people will not go thru 20 pages of your art. Its just too much, its overkill.
I have more than 20,000+ images on negatives and digital files… checkout my RB Portfolio… how many pages are there? TWO – and it is what I consider to be the best of the best. There is just no point in showing anything that is not your absolute BEST work.
Keep your art up-to date, remove stuff that is just not getting any attention, and keep new stuff coming on a regular basis. You can create a link in your portfolio front page “NEW WORK” which will take your clients directly to your new work. Just tag your new work as “NEW”.
Graphic links work better than text-links. So make your own graphic and upload it and use it as a link.
So, if you really want to make sales, you need to work at it, and you need to work hard.
There is no other way.
- A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO PROMOTING AND SELLING ART ON REDBUBBLE by Chris Jalufka on the RedBubble Blog