How to do useful things

Do you suffer from invisible artist syndrome? : How to get noticed online.

This post may just be an excuse to play a clip from my favourite tv show as a kid – “Randall and Hopkirk Deceased”. {“My Partner the Ghost” in the US}

This was the fabulous swinging 60’s-tastic story of a private eye (Randall) and his unfortunately deceased ghostly sleuthing partner, Marty Hopkirk {Kenneth Cope wearing a white suit}.

Swaggering leather jacketed London criminal types couldn’t see ghostly Marty Hopkirk allowing for all manner of high jinx as he got one over on them. However poor Marty was frustrated by his inability to interact with the real world {especially the ladies} the main difficulty being that he was invisible to everyone but Randall.

The real world just didn’t take any notice of poor Marty. He didn’t exist…

Do you feel a bit like this with your efforts to publicise your art online? Like you can shout from the rooftops about it and no one hears you. You spend lots of time Tweeting, Facebooking, putting new images on Etsy, adding work to Zazzle or Redbubble etc yet no-one seems to even stop by your shop.

Are you an invisible artist?

There is no denying that getting your creative work noticed online is HARD. The competition is vast and ever growing. Every day more and more artists add their work to the humongous selection of artwork available online. I sometimes get the feeling that the internet is comprised entirely of celebrity gossip, nutritional supplements, sex and art, not necessarily in that order. How can you even begin to make a dent in that mountain of content and be noticed?

So what is the secret to beating invisible artist syndrome?

I’m afraid the secret is that there is no quick fix easy answer. It comes down to a combination of working on these areas below and getting them right.

1 ] Branding – Standing out from the crowd

Getting your image right is crucially important. In fact it is the solid foundation to everything else you do. If your imagery is poor you can waste time on promotion and never get anywhere. Get this right first.

You need to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with everything you do. Great high quality photography of your work, well chosen colours and a consistent message across the web will start to make you and your work noticable.

Make sure that your website, printed materials, presence on Twitter and anywhere else your work appears all carry this consistent message. People will start to recognise you and your work and the quality that it represents.

2 ] Your artists website – make it personal

It’s very easy to set up a shop on Etsy, Redbubble, Zazzle or any of the many myriad of artists shopping websites available. Whilst this ease of access is brilliant you can soon find that getting people to visit your shop or buy an item is not so easy.

This is for the very simple reason that these sites are not there to just sell YOUR work alone. Their goal is to get traffic to their entire site, not specifically your shop. They really don’t care who makes the sale, you or any other artist on the site as they get the commission either way. Therefore they make it very easy to surf around and flit from one artist to another. Even if someone lands on your page they will probably flit off to look at another pretty item they notice. It’s the butterfly mind at work and there are SO many other artists on these sites that your work just gets lost in the crowd.

You can expend a lot of energy trying to drive visitors to your shop but chances are they will be off to look at someone else once they get there. Faced with a lot of choice, buyers tend to get befuddled, do nothing and not make a purchase. You are left feeling invisible again.

People who stand out and do well on these sites tend to do a LOT of marketing directing people to their shop but what if something changes?

Sellers on 1000Markets had an unpleasant surprise recently when it was bought out and renamed Bonanza.com, Any hard work put into promoting and creating links to a shop there was undone overnight as the web address changed. Back to invisibility.

Only YOU care passionately about your work. Use that passion to create your OWN website. You have no competition from other artists on your own site and time you spend on promoting and marketing it is well spent and will only improve your chances of being seen.

Your site isn’t going to disappear, change name or get banned. It is your own little bit of the internet and you can make it look exactly how you want. Over time, your work will become more and more visible across the web.

3 ] High quality professional work.

It goes without saying that everything you put on the internet should be your very best work. Never show anything you aren’t happy with. Much better to have a smaller selection of brilliant work to view than a sprawling mass of substandard pieces that you really aren’t happy with. Again, make sure the photography and presentation of your work is excellent. Set your quality threshold high and your work is much more likely to be noticed for all the right reasons.

4 ] And finally… Hard Work {sorry ;-(}

The greatest lie perpetuated about the web is that you can just sit back and let it do the work for you. I think we all know by now that it doesn’t work like that [unfortunately] and you do have to put the time in promoting and sharing your work in order for it to become more visible across the web to potential buyers.

In an interesting interview recently {worth a listen}, artist John T Unger said that he generally spends 30-40 hours per week marketing his art. He figured that he could either work for someone else in a job and come home and work on his art after work, or he could take the hours he would spend on another job and use them to promote his firebowl sculptures, and again work on his art after hours. This is a fairly extreme example of working really hard at promoting his work, but John is able to sell expensive high end artwork through his website and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times so he is definitely not invisible.

The bottom line is that it takes time, work and patience to gain visibility for your artwork, but unlike poor Marty, condemned to eternal invisibility, you CAN do it.

Begin taking some steps now to make sure more potential buyers get to see your fabulous work.

Time to stop being an invisible artist. Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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How to start your Artists Newsletter in 6 easy-peasy steps – A practical guide

A very practical post this week!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post exhorting artists to start collecting names on their artists mailing list.
What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

I got feedback from lots of artists who wanted to do just that and send out a newsletter but really didn’t know where to start and were confused and daunted by the whole process. So following on from this I have put together a quick guide to help.

Follow these 6 simple steps and you should be well on your way to sending out a professional email artists newsletter which will give you a head start in promoting your work.

In the words of a famous footwear brand – Just do it.

Setting this up will probably take around an hour. Then you are all ready to go and start collecting emails and contacting your fans and collectors. It’s really not a daunting techie process and trust me, it’s worth it in terms of selling your art. It’s probably THE most powerful thing you can do to keep in touch with people who love your work.

Just dedicate an hour after dinner tonight to getting this sorted out. You can even have a glass of wine whilst you’re doing it. Bonus. 😉

This post is, due to constraints of space, just a quick overview of how to do it. Basically, the software we are going to use, MailChimp,  is very user friendly which is why it’s the best place to start if you have never done this before. Don’t be daunted by it. Jump in and have a poke about. You can’t break anything. Once you get your confidence up you will be away.

So, here we go…

1 – Register with MailChimp.com for free

You really don’t want to send out your Newsletter using your normal email software {Outlook etc} for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that the template will break, it will get classed as spam and you can’t track the results.

  • Head over to www.mailchimp.com and click on the big SIGN UP FREE button. Fill in your details and click the confirmation email you will be sent.
  • You will then be asked to fill in a CAPTCHA {typing in the strange words to confirm you are human} and then taken to a page where you fill in your details.
  • At this stage you are also asked for your website address so MailChimp can grab a colour palette from your website so that your templates match. How cool is that?
  • If you don’t have your own website yet, but only a Facebook page or Twitter presence don’t worry. You can still send out a newsletter. MailChimp explains how to deal with that at this stage.
  • Finally pick the FREE account and you are taken to the MailChimp dashboard and ready to start.

2 – Create your mailing list

So before you send out any newsletters you need to get some people to send them to. You need to start a list and start collecting names and email addresses.

  • On the dashboard, click the LISTS tab at the top, or “Create a List” on the main panel and you are taken to a page where you set up a mailing list.
  • You are guided through the process of naming the list, adding in your email address and subject name. You can leave settings on default for now if unsure. The main thing is getting this set up. You can come back later and change and refine it.
  • When you click DONE the list is saved.
  • If you already have some names {legally gathered on your website} you can import them into the new list by clicking IMPORT
  • Your list is now ready to go. Yay!

3 – Put a signup form on your site

People visiting your site need to be able to signup for your list so you need to add a signup form on your website.

  • Click DESIGN SIGNUP FORM in the left column and lets get started.
  • Auto Design is a great feature which goes to your website and grabs colours and images to match the form to your site. It made a reasonable job on my site although it added a fairly bonkers header image which I had to delete. Still its a good way to start and you can then click the DESIGN IT tab at the top to poke about and refine the form. Don’t worry, you can’t break anything. Just experiment.
  • Keep your form simple. Name and email address is really all you need. The more information you ask for the less likely people will be to sign up.
  • When you are all done you then need to get this form onto your site. Look just above the form [tucked away and not very obvious} and you will see the following links. Link to subscribe form {and the link here} or create embed code for small form. Either copy and past the link {simple} and add to your site or create the embed code and copy this into the HTML of your site {slightly more techy but better}.
  • Once you have got the form onto your site make sure you check it works OK by subscribing yourself.

4 – Create a Newsletter {campaign}

Now for the exciting bit. Actually putting your newsletter together. Mailchimp uses the adspeak word “campaign” but we know we mean newsletter right?

  • Hit the campaigns tab at the top and “Create Campaign” in the left column.
  • Then select “regular ol campaign” from the pull down menu you are provided. You are then asked which list you want to send to. Select your list and continue.
  • Next give your campaign a name and message title. You can leave the other settings on default for now.
  • When you click through to the next page you are given a great choice of template designs to use. Choose a pre designed one, start from scratch if you are feeling brave or click the “Design Genius” button to customise your own.
  • When you have chosen a template, just click edit at top right of the relevant section box and add your own content.
  • When you have finished creating your newsletter, click next and mailchimp will check your newsletter is ready for delivery.
  • VERY IMPORTANT. Send a test message to yourself to make sure everything looks right. Just keep sending tests until you are sure its all good to go.
  • That’s it!!. Your artists newsletter is ready to go! Wasn’t too painful was it?

5 – Great. But what on earth do I put in my artists newsletter?

This is the ten billion dollar question I get asked A LOT. It’s all very well setting up a newsletter but you have to have good content. We all get bombarded by massive amounts of email rubbish so your newsletter needs to stand out from the crowd. A few pointers:

Your title needs the WOW factor.
This is the only thing that will get your email opened. Make it intriguing and different.

People love stories.
Share the stories behind your work. Is there an intriguing history behind a building you painted? An anecdote surrounding the evolution of a technique you use? Share it.

Share the story of your work in progress.
Has a piece of work evolved in a strange and unexpected way? Tell people about it.

Give previews.
Show your collectors your new work before it goes on your site, giving them a VIP boost.

6 – Send it out. Talk to your people

You’ve done it. Your artists newsletter is ready to go. Sending out once a month is plenty and will mean people won’t get sick of hearing from you. Quality over quantity every time.

Have fun with your artists newsletter. Cherish your fans and customers, respect them and send them great stuff. An artists newsletter is a wonderful and direct way of connecting with the precious people who love your work.

You have done the hard part. Now go out and make the most of it.

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How to find the ideal buyer for your art : Don’t fish for trout when you want killer whales.

I received a question from a reader the other day and it made me stop and think. She wrote:

I am trying to learn how to sell my art online and not having any success. The advice I read says, “find your target market” and “offer a solution”.

It might as well be Greek because I have no idea what they mean by those phrases.

I don’t have a “target market”. I am willing to sell my art to whomever is willing to buy it. As I’ve only sold a couple of things, I can’t come up with a “type” of person who buys my art. And it would be arrogant of me to decide I only want to sell to a certain kind of person, wouldn’t it?
As for “offer a solution”, my first reaction is “for what?” What is the problem to which I’m supposed to offer a solution? In my mind, I’m the one with the problem.

It’s easy to give out glib advice about working out your “target market”, “solutions” and “niches” but what does this actually mean in the cold hard light of the real world outside the rarefied atmosphere of a marketing agency, especially if you are new to selling your art? How do you find your ideal buyer, especially if you haven’t sold much yet? Well basically, ignore all the “target market”, “niche” buzzwords. A lot of it is down to common sense.

And so, as is my way… a story…

The gnarly fishermans tale…

A gnarly fisherman {with a beard} sets out bright and early for a days catch. He would dearly love to catch a killer whale. {I don’t even know if its possible to catch a killer whale and it’s technically not a fish but just bear with me on this one}. However, instead of heading to the ocean where killer whales abide, he heads for his local trout pond and casts his line, carefully baited with a lovely killer whale treat. He spends 12 hours in the freezing cold waiting to catch a killer whale but is sorely disappointed with only catching one solitary trout {the only strange trout in the pond with a taste for killer whale bait}. He heads home dejected and pretty much empty handed.

The next day he heads out bright and early and decides to head for the ocean instead. He has his tasty killer whale bait and extra strong rod. Within minutes he is hauling killer whale after killer whale into his boat. He’s in the right place with the right bait. Catching them is easy… He heads for home after a few hours happily laden down with 500 tonnes of Orca for his freezer.

Fish in the right place…

So basically, when selling your art, its the same thing. You have to fish in the right place with the right bait to be successful.

So, for example. If you specialise in delicate watercolours of Cornwall there is no point in spending a lot of time promoting them on a site like Deviant Art which specialises in gritty urban contemporary graphic based work.

Much better to seek out more relevant opportunities with an audience that more closely matches your work and concentrate your efforts there. You may find a bricks and mortar gallery that specialises in Cornish watercolours and caters to the tourists who come to Cornwall and want to buy a piece of art to remind them of the journey, or you may find a site online promoting Cornwall which you could advertise your work with. You would be reaching your target market.

Conversely, If your art is portraits of Death Metal stars painted in your own blood you may have a very limited audience in the Cornish Gallery. Sales will be slow.

And bait your hook right…

So what about the “offering a solution” bit? Is it possible for an artist to do this? Well yes. The artist who paints death metal stars in blood is the perfect solution for a death metal fan with a love of art, a bare wall and a desire for something to fill it.

The Cornish artist who paints the sea is a perfect solution for the holidaying couple who want to capture the magical essence of the Cornish coast back in their landlocked inner city flat.

If you place the right art in front of the right people you have the right bait on your hook and you are highly likely to make a sale.

So do I have to change my art to fit?

No. This is the great thing about the internet. Your potential audience is so large that it’s highly likely that whatever you create there is a group of people who will love it. Its just a case of finding the right outlet.

Think like a fish…

So how do you find the right outlet for your work? With a bit of market research that’s how… You need to THINK like your quarry.

So to sell Cornish art put yourself in the shoes of the couple heading there on holiday. If you were heading to Cornwall and liked art what kind of sites would you look at? What galleries would you visit? Where would you stay? What would you do? Where would you search online?

Thinking like this will help you outline a marketing strategy of which galleries to approach, what to include on your website and which marketing methods to employ.

Your online marketing mix may include

  • E-mail newsletters
  • Pages on your site of relevance to your target audience
  • Relevant Blog articles
  • Discussions on forums of relevance to the target audience
  • Posting your work on relevant showcase sites.
  • Interaction through Social Media sites popular with your target audience

You offline marketing mix may include

  • Contact with galleries which deal in the right kind of work
  • Coverage in local media
  • Attendance at art and craft events in the relevant area

Basically, now you have identified your target audience you know where to fish.

If you haven’t sold any of your own work yet, look at what other artists are doing and what sells. Research research research is the key.

Line up all your ducks…

If you get this right, making sales will be much easier. If you get it wrong you will waste a horrible amount of energy on something that is never going to fly so it’s really important to do your homework.

With selling art, online and off, you need to line up all your ducks in a row to make sales easier.

Do you have a question about selling art? Mail me here and it could make it into a post, probably involving an obtuse story about animals.

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How to get loads more Google Love to your art blog or site { or 11 dead easy SEO tweaks for artists }

If you sell your art on the internet through your own website it is really really important to ensure that you have a steady stream of interested visitors looking at your work. I can’t emphasis this enough because you can have the most amazing work in the world out there on the web but if no one sees it nothing exciting is going to happen. You can’t just sit back and wait for people to turn up. You have to help them find you.

So, one of the best ways make this happen and make sure you get all those visitors popping their head round the door of your shop is to spend a little bit of time making sure that your website is as “Google Friendly” as possible. This means tweaking the site so that Google and other search engines find it easy to navigate and index. If your site is easily found via search you are likely to get a steady stream of good quality interested traffic.

Search Engine Optimisation { or SEO for short } can seem like a complex and daunting bit of the web but the truth is that there are some really simple tweaks that you can make to your site which will greatly improve it’s Google { & overall } search engine performance.

So here we go – some easy SEO that will give your site a head start.

Use keyphrases – not single keywords

Keyphrase consists of 2 keywords together – like “Abstract Art” or “Contemporary Art”. You will get far better targeted results than if you just use a big fat generic single keyword like “Art” which is too general.

Page titles – Sort em out!

The page title is the short string of words that shows up in the top left corner of most browsers and describes the page. Probably the most important thing you can do on your page is make best use of your page title and its surprising how many sites don’t. It is one of the biggest ranking factors for any page.

  • The most common mistake is to leave the home page titled “Home” or “Welcome to my website” or similar. That’s a huge facepalmtastic missed opportunity. Actually USE your page title.
  • Make sure your page title relates closely to the content of that page and the keyword you are trying to optimise that page for. See “Research your Keyphrases” below to figure out what your phrases should be.
  • Target your homepage with your main keyphrase. Every page should have a different keyphrase focus, don’t just use the same title for each page. Keep your page title short [under 9 words or 80 characters] and focus your keyphrases at the beginning of the phrase.
  • Here’s a totally made up example for a fictional photographer – “Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket”
    or
    “Arctic wildlife | Wildlife Photographer | Martin Smith | Nantucket” specifically for a page of shots of the Arctic. Keep a consistent format across each page but make sure that each page title has a different keyphrase focus. {ie in this example the phrase at the beginning of the title will change relevant to each page.}
  • The title is read from a piece of code in the HTML of your site which looks like this. <title>Title goes here</title> You may need to edit it directly if you are happy working with HTML or if you use a portfolio service, research the help files to discover how to alter it.

This is a very simple and HUGELY effective SEO tweak that will make a big difference to your ranking results.

Don’t miss out on Google Image Search

Google Image search is a brilliant opportunity to show your work and get more visitors which is often overlooked. It works like this – someone is searching Google for images of Barn Owls. If you have created a painting of one and named the file correctly, they stand a good chance of seeing your work in a Google image search. You can potentially double the traffic you get if you get this right as searches for art related subjects are often visual.

  • In order for your work to show up in image search you need to name your image files properly. Make sure you include the relevant keyphrases in the names of your files.
    For example, our fictitious wildlife photographer – He may name his files in the following format – snow-goose-arctic-martin-smith.jpg or snow-goose-wildlife-photography-martin-smith.jpg ensuring his image are indexed and found easily.
  • Make sure you use the same words in the alt tag of your image and any caption relating to it. Always try and include relevant image caption text with your image as this really helps your picture to get picked up by Google image search.
  • If possible, add your images to Flickr.com with a descriptive caption. I have found this does really well in image search

Research your keyphrases thoroughly

Its dead easy to make assumptions about the keyphrases you THINK people will search for. You can spend a lot of time optimising for those keyphrases when a few minutes of research will show you that another phrase would get better results.

The tools below will help you find out what people are ACTUALLY searching for.

Google keyword tool
Use Google’s keyword tool for a rough indication of keyword popularity.

Wordtracker
Wordtracker is the industry standard keyword research tool and offers free limited searches.

Choose a relevant keyphrase for every page

Look at the content of each page and decide on a keyphrase that most closely describes the content of the page. Its no use trying to optimise your page for “bronze sculpture” if the page content is actually about “abstract painting.” Make sure the keyphrase and content match closely. The key to search is relevance.

Write natural text using your key words or phrases

When you have chosen a relevant keyphrase or two for a page, add the keyphrase and related words into your copy. This doesn’t mean cramming the word in repeatedly. Make sure you write in a natural way but make sure the keyphrases and related words are featured say 3 or 4 times, preferably at the beginning, middle and end of the text.

Use keyphrases in headers

Similarly, include your chosen keyphrase in the headers text on a page. This means the bold text that divides the body copy into sections. Words in these headers may be given more weight by Google.

Work on getting quality incoming links

There’s only so much you can do to improve your site itself. A lot of what will help your Search Engine rankings are so called “Off Page” elements. These include incoming links to your site and the important thing here is QUALITY. It’s better to have a handful of good quality links than hundreds of spammy links from irrelevant sites and directories. You want to show to Google that your site keeps good company. You don’t want your website to become the online equivalent of a dodgy shop down a backstreet on the wrong side of town with stained net curtains and a man behind the counter with no teeth. Right?

Try and secure links from sites that are related in content to yours and are well respected. In the case of our imaginary photographer, a wildlife photography forum or blog would be the kind of site to try and get a link from.
You want a site that values its links and doesn’t have zillions of other links on a page. If possible [and this isn’t easy] try and ensure that the linking site uses your keywords in the link text [ i.e. “view Martin Smiths Arctic Wildlife Photography on his site by clicking here” ]

Avoid links from directory type pages that are only there to generate links and don’t have any other relevant content, like massive business directories.

Create a signature file on forums

If you comment on any forum related to your work, create a signature file with the address of your website in it. Whenever you comment your web address will be included, possibly helping SEO {depending on the way the forum is set up} and potentially raising the profile of your site.

Research and use the SEO capabilities of any site you join.

If you have a ready made artists portfolio site for example, check the documentation and find out how to best modify your page within the system to help the search engines find you.

If you have a WordPress site download and install and use the All-in-one SEO Pack plug in.

Create quality content

This is The No 1 most important rule in SEO. Quality content will naturally attract people. They read or see something interesting and link to it. All these incoming links are a signpost to the search engines that your site is worth bothering with and will increase your ranking. This is why blogs are such a great way of getting people interested in your work.

Write in a natural style about topics of interest around your work, for example, techniques, history, exhibitions etc. Make sure your content is grammatically correct and spell checked. Use a range of keywords and phrases in order that people can easily search for your topic. Break the text into paragraphs and ensure it is well divided with headers and sub headers. Make sure it isn’t too long.

The great thing is that any changes you make to your site for the benefit of Google will generally have a positive impact on your results in other search engines too.

Please share the SEO tips that work for you in the comments below.

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Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

Whenever you exhibit your work at a gallery or have a stall at a craft fair it is a great opportunity to get people to sign up for your mailing list.

By keeping a list of people who like your work you have a ready opportunity to let them know whenever you are exhibiting or have a new piece of work ready. Collecting emails is ideal for this as it is a quick, direct and low cost way of reaching out to your audience. You can keep them abreast of what you are up to and direct them to work that you are promoting on your website.

Many artists keep a notebook on their stall or in the exhibition area for people to add comments and contact details to. However, getting people to part with their email address is not the easiest thing and you may find that you end up with more comments than contacts.

The good news is that there are quite a few simple things that you can do which will increase the number of people willing to give you their email details:

Display a clear NO SPAM! notice

Make it very clear on a little notice next to your book that email addresses will not be shared, sold or abused in any way. Maybe also make it known that you don’t send out zazillions of emails and won’t be stuffing their inbox full of rubbish. This will increase peoples confidence in you and make them more willing to share their details.

Chocolate attraction

A slightly sneaky tactic is to place a bowl of  gorgeous chocolates next to the signup book. This will draw people towards the book and a piece of chocolate will increase their feelings of goodwill towards you. This really works, and you can always eat any that are left over at the end of a long day. 😉

Make it obvious

Looking round art fairs I always notice that a lot of comments/signup books just offer a blank page for you to add what you want. This often results in just comments and no emails.

You need to make it obvious to the visitor what you want them to do. Draw columns in the book and title them NAME, COMMENT, EMAIL. This way you guide the person through the process which makes them feel comfortable and more likely to fill in each column. I guarantee if you do this it will double your email signups. Make sure that you make it clear [on a notice perhaps] that by giving their email they are agreeing to join your mailing list.

Ethical bribe

Offer people who signup to your mailing list something in return. Depending on your work perhaps you could offer a small piece of work or entry into a draw to win a larger piece.

And the most important thing you need to do…

Make sure you copy the emails into a database when you get home. Don’t just collect them and then ignore them, leaving them at the bottom of your bag or forgotten in a corner of your studio [talking from personal experience again here.]

Your mailing list is a really valuable tool for selling your art. Keep adding to it whenever you can to keep contact with the people who love your work.

Do you have problems building your email list of people interested in your work? Any good tips that work for you? Please share them with us below.

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