As an artist there is a high probability that you've contemplated how you can gain exposure and increase your professional opportunities. Some believe that giving away your work is a necessary evil to gain exposure. It isn't. Giving away your work devalues your time, your process, and the work your create.
If you give away your work you will be operating at a loss, which isn't sustainable. No one goes to a mechanic after they have opened a new shop and expects them to do a tune-up free of charge. So why is that mentality applied to emerging and mid-career artists?
Every artist is a small business. Because of that, you have to be mindful in your approach to gaining exposure, generating interest, and attracting new customers. Below you will find step-by-step action items you can take as an emerging and mid-career artist to help develop your identity, promote your brand, and generate sales.
DEVELOP YOUR CV, BIOGRAPHY, AND ARTIST STATEMENT
Having a background or education in the arts is not a prerequisite to appreciating or supporting the arts. Because of that, how you describe yourself, your process, and your body of work should be written in common language and in terms that are relatable. CVs, biographies, and artist statements are the standard forms of communication that you should use to describe yourself as an artist and your body of work.
A Curriculum Vitae, or CV, is an overview of your professional activities, achievements, and awards, specific to your career in the arts. Information included in your CV should be structured in an organized manner. A CV typically includes the following sections:
This section of your CV relates to post-secondary institutional education. Use the following format when listing your education:
Name of the school, Degree obtained, Graduation year
This section of your CV relates to exhibitions where your work has been on display. Use the following format when listing your exhibitions:
Date, Title of exhibition, Institution where exhibition was on display, City where the institution is located
You can categorize your exhibitions into solo exhibitions and group exhibitions.
This section of your CV relates to any publications in which you or your work were featured. Use the following format when listing articles:
Name of author, Title of article, Name of publication, Volume, Publication date, and Page number(s) in which you or your artwork appear
This section of your CV relates to public institutions (museums, corporate collections, municipalities, or agencies) which own your artwork. Only include private collections if the collector is well-known as an important collector of art and you have obtained their permission to include their collection in your CV.
This section of your CV relates to any published text you authored. The format when listing articles should mirror the format recommended for the Bibliography section.
6.) Teaching/Guest Speaking
This section of your CV relates to teaching or speaking engagements. This can include roles such as faculty member or guest lecturer. Use the following format when listing your teaching experience:
Year, Your Role, Name of institute where you taught or spoke
7.) Awards and Grants
This section of your CV relates to awards and grants you've received. Use the following format when listing your awards and grants:
Year, Name of award or grant
This section of your CV relates to residencies you have completed. Residencies are an important part of an artistic career because they show a dedication to your practice and to your professional development. Use the following format when listing your residencies:
Year, Type of residency, Name of the institute where the residency was conducted, City where the institute is located
A biography, or bio for short, should be written in the third person. It should be concise and to the point. As an exercise, write several versions of your bio and ask your network for feedback. Use the bio that tests the best and make any recommended changes that are appropriate.
Aside from your body of work, your bio serves as a first impression to others. It will be featured on your website and will serve as a point of reference for those interested in your work, the press, and curators. Two to four paragraphs is a good length for your bio and it should be revised as you, your body of work, your influences, or your process evolve.
A well composed artist statement connects the reader to the artist and their body of work. Unlike your bio, your artist statement should be written in the first person. When drafting your artist statement you should write with clarity, brevity, and focus. The narrative of your artist statement should cover three main points:
1.) Why you create your art and what it means to you.
2.) What your art signifies and what you are trying to express through your work.
3.) How you made your art and what materials it is made from.
In addition to the piece itself, a person buys your story when they buy your work. This is why both your bio and artist statement are important. The better constructed your story the more likely a person is to invest in you and your work.
HAVE A WEB PRESENCE
Open Google in a web browser. Type your name in the search bar and hit enter. What are the results?
Having a web presence allows people outside of your sphere-of-influence or geographic region to view your work. There is a misconception that being active on social media creates enough of a web presence. It doesn't. Galleries and art institutions, as well as most serious art collectors, expect a higher level of professionalism than a simple Facebook page. Additionally, a website is the best way to influence what results are provided when an online search of your name is conducted.
As an artist you need a website. A website will serve you by creating a channel for you to:
1.) Exhibit your work through an online gallery
2.) Sell your work through a web store or e-commerce platform
3.) Inform the public about your body of work, current projects, and upcoming exhibitions
4.) Curate your web presence
5.) Develop a following
Your website should be engaging and easy to navigate. Building a website may seem like a daunting task but there are several website builders, such as Weebly, that are cost effective, easy to use, provide modern customizable templates, are dynamic in their abilities, and work whether being viewed on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Your website should include the following pages:
The gallery is the page where you will exhibit your body of work using pictures. Only high resolution images should be used when constructing your gallery. Your gallery should be categorized using series or projects. Organize series and projects in reverse chronological order, with the most recent work listed first. Continuously add to your gallery as your body of work expands.
It is also appropriate to include your artist statement as a header in your gallery.
The about page is where you will include your bio and CV. You may also want to include any opportunities you're interested in, such as commissions, collaborations, residencies, etc.
The contact page is where you will inform interested individuals on how they can make further contact with you, whether that be through email, by telephone, or on social media. Include links to any social media platforms that you use to promote your art.
If you are working to develop a career in the arts then it is recommended that you create professional profiles that are separate from your personal profiles.
Your store page is where you will list any pieces of your work that are available for sale. As with the gallery, only high resolution images should be used when constructing your web store. At the least, a prospective buyer will want to know the price, cost of shipping, and the dimensions of the work. Most website builders have e-commerce functions that drastically simplify the checking out and payment processes.
ENGAGE THOSE WHO EXHIBIT AN INTEREST IN YOUR WORK
In his essay 1,000 True Fans, Kevin Kelly encourages artists and creators to not focus their attention or efforts on connecting to tens-of-thousands of individuals through social media. Instead, Kelly recommends a more focused approach - identify your 1,000 "true fans" and then continuously engaging them. Kelly defines a true fan as someone who spends at least $100 on your work throughout a calendar year (1,000 x $100 = $100,000). A secondary benefit of a "true fan" is that they often become champions of you and your work and then promote you to others.
Below are steps to help you increase your exposure and identify your "true fans":
1.) Develop a Newsletter
Offer those who visit your website the option of signing up for a newsletter. Most website builders make it easy to capture contacts and save them for future communication. Newsletters can be sent either weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Mailchimp is a popular email marketing platform that is easy to use and offers modern templates. If you choose to build your website using Weebly you can also use their promote function to create and send email campaigns.
When writing your newsletter it is important that you follow two simple rules: 1.) The content must be engaging, 2.) The frequency at which you send your newsletter should be consistent.. 9:00 AM, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM, and 6:00 PM have been identified as the most effective times of the day to send email campaigns.
Use your newsletter to showcase current projects, upcoming exhibitions, or notable commissions you've recently received.
2.) Utilize CRM Software
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a tool to compile valuable information related to your customers. Inslightly is a simple to use and cost effective CRM application. You can create customer profiles using a CRM, collecting data such as contact and personal information and information related to their purchases.
When using a CRM you can set reminders to contact customers on their birthdays, track how much a customer spends annually, and even gauge their tastes and preferences based on past purchases. A general rule of thumb is only import a person's information into a CRM after they've made a purchase.
3.) Send Personalized Invitations
Are you able to identify who the major art collectors are in your geographic region? If yes, how have you engaged these individuals throughout your career in the arts? There is value in identifying who in your area is a serious art collector or is known to financially support the arts. You should make it a habit to send these individuals personalized invitations to attend exhibitions where your work is on exhibit.
SUPPORT THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES AS A WHOLE, NOT JUST YOUR ARTISTIC DISCIPLINE
As an artist you are part of a creative community. If you expect support from the community then you must show support for the community. You cannot ask for more than you are willing to give.
Make note of events occurring in your community, whether they are openings, dedication ceremonies, artist lectures, or performances. Attend those that your time and finances allow.
The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, with the support of Community First Cares Foundation, is hosting a professional development workshop on Saturday, March 4, 2017. The workshop is titled "Entrepreneur Symposium for Creatives: Every Artist is a Small Business." Please consider attending if you are an emerging or mid-career artist. Use the promotional code bold40 when registering to take advantage of our promotional discount, granting you registration for only $10.
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