The 101 Guide To Marketing For Artists

(Originally published in 4/30/2013)

How to attract the right kind of clients?
I always found interest in psychology and marketing. When I jumped on the freelancing train six years ago, I absorbed anything and everything that was connected to that topic. Gaining the right kind of clients was partially due to luck, but at least 50% is about the right marketing.

With time I found out a variety of things to pull from that helped me understand and practice marketing. In particular, I looked at it as a way to keep myself busy with work that I love to do and to collaborate with people who respect what I do.

In the process, I learned much from different experts and in this post I will relay some what I´ve learned thus far.

When starting out with any art endeavor, it might be good to get a grasp of what marketing is and what it can do for you. For many artists marketing is a fuzzy monster. Instead, I like to draw a picture of a cloud when explaining marketing. It’s still fuzzy, but you can place it somewhere in your mind.


This cloud is full of different aspects such as psychology, communication, storytelling, and research.

Marketing at its core is a combination of all these terms practiced to achieve two main goals: to sell and to engage public relation.

When determining what we want to do, things tend to get a lot easier. This is especially true when breaking down our business to a few core values. When we find that the business is about us, our personality and not just what we deliver.

Odds are that you learn to understand that marketing is a steady companion.

Begin With Why

Simon Sinek´s approach to communication is essential for inspiring communication that works. The key is to start any communication with answering the question “why“. People often know what the do and how they do it, but most businesses fail to explain “why” they do it.

Know, Like and Trust

These three words are the pillars of any marketing effort. You can´t sell something so someone who doesn´t trust you. To gain trust, they have to like you. To like you, they have to know about you. Online publishing and social media makes it easier than ever to get the word out, so utilize it.


The obvious part of communication is clear in the Message of Marshall B. Rosenbergs method. Thoughts lead to action, repeated action lead to habits. Great habits stem from thoughts that are free from “should”, have-to”, “good” or “bad”. We start to get more liberal and can create a fertile environment for our ideas to spread.

The Right Relationships

Relationships are valuable connections. It is better to strive for relationships than to harvest for a vast number of customers or friends. Relationships can change a business, and the right relationships can transform it.

Karma is a Bitch

Be nice to everyone. Everyone has a positive side; it just takes time to show. The guy that grabs the last special buy in front of you. might be your next boss or a colleague you have to work with, so keep your cool.

Learn to be Valuable

This is a long-time-goal, a holistic approach. But once accepted it will lead to great results as it will also give potential clients a reason to work with you. Seth Godin has written a book about the “Linchpin. He describes a linchpin as someone who is invaluable for any company because of an inherent ability. Adapting to what makes us indispensable can help to thrive on our own business as well.

Get to Know the Half-life of your (Online) Content

Everything has a half-life, books, music albums and even online content. Tweets live shorter than instagram posts, blog posts live shorter than magazine articles, etc. What half-life has your content?

Use the CWS-Method (Content Worth Sharing)

Sharing is caring, but most of us don´t have the time to do so every so often. Content that is worth sharing is rare. So aim to be on the A-list in creating content that resonates.

Curate Yourself

It is easy to judge a book by its cover and an artist from his body of work. But when was the last time you put a critical eye on your own work?
Curating and judging your work objectively is the key to build a strong portfolio and raise the value for your customer.

The Art of Storytelling

You are skilled at drawing, you are great at compositions, and  your choice of color is unique, but what about storytelling? I don´t mean narrative illustration. I mean illustrating a picture in the head of your client first. This can be achieved by using a visual language, shaping images and emotions instead of plain facts. This way, expectations and outcome become far more controllable.

Mission Statement

Shape a mission statement out of your bio and tagline. This can be as short as two words or as long as five sentences. Regardless of length, it should reflect the essence of what you do. .

The Elevator Speech

Learn to get your “why”, “how” and “what” of your business down in under 3 minutes. It can also help to write that down in 160 characters for short biographies, such as those on Twitter and Facebook.
People tend to skip the long version of your bio either way, so hone in on on the short version.

Turn Drawbacks into Assets

Everyone has drawbacks most of the time, someone isn´t good at doing the accounting stuff, go find someone who can. If you have no fun doing the online marketing, ask friends to help you. In return, make dinner or offer up some other gesture. And if you are not good at something, think about what else you can do to make it fun. If it is fun, then you will have an easier time creating a rhythm.

Using Social Media Right

This seems like a no-brainer, but so many people get it wrong. Social media is not a replacement for your website or blog. They are the shuttle to your content, nothing more and nothing less. If you build a tribe using social media that is fine, but don´t build your business on uncertain ground, especially in times where Terms Of Service change in rapid pace.

Define your Marketing Budget

When beginning the year, calculate a volume that you can put aside every month. Come up with an amount that goes straight into marketing, website hosting, exhibitions, advertising, etc.

Market Limitations

Every market has its limits. This might be due to some established costs and budgets for various goods or services, so the only way to charge more is to change the market.

Authentic Wealth

Wealth is something many artist struggle to show as they feel it makes them look less”artsy”, but that isn’t necessarily the case. A business that does invest in good equipment is a venture that can endure tough times. So showing some authentic wealth is good for your business as people see that you take yourself and your business serious.

The No Price Tactic

No price on your work, either on website or on artfairs, can be labelled as professional. Most manufacturers of products have no prices on their websites, you have to go to a retailer website to get price information. The same tactic works for artists. If someone wants a price of a piece, they have to inquire about this matter directly. On your website, make it easy to contact you. At live event, be near and recognizable. If people truly want to buy something from you, they will approach you. The consequences of bad pricing on your website can do more harm than doing you a favor, because pricing changes.

Have an Opinion

You can´t reach everyone. But when you share an opinion publicly on your blog or in an interview, you attract attention.  But be careful. Having a strong opinion is good if you know your field very well. Otherwise, a “not-so-thought through” statement can backfire.

Chose Clever Graphic-Design

If you have no interest in doing the design, please do yourself a favor and ask a professional to create your brochures or website. Prospective clients can´t tell you what is bothering them, but the trained graphic designer can spot it. It may be the 25 fonts you used on your homepage or the colors and borders that distract the viewer to concentrate on your content.

Chose Professional Photographs

If you are a traditional working artist, this is especially important. There is nothing that speaks against a smartphone shot from a work in progress on your “W.I.P.” page or online sketchbook. But serious collectors can spot the difference of a quality shot from your work, versus a low quality photograph. If you are not sure what you are doing, ask someone who knows.

The Pareto Principle

Using the pareto principle right, means that 20% of the clients bring in 80% of your income. Concentrating on those 20% is crucial.

Last but not least there are some keywords I want to add to his important list, knowing them means to know how to open the doors.

Resonating –  Know how to resonate and you know how to inspire

Authenticity – Authenticity in marketing is like being true to yourself. Deliver what you promise

Shipping – Shipping is the most important aspect of any service or product. It has to get to the client on time, otherwise it is worthless

Authority – Authority rules. It is about how you dress and how you show up. Wear a uniform and act like expected

Holistic – Life is holistic, traditional Chinese medicine is holistic, and so should your marketing approach be. Not for today and not for tomorrow, but forever

Tribe – Build a tribe, a group of loyal followers and colleagues that stick together like glue or a family

Connections – Having the right connections can be very helpful in establishing a business. Although relationships are better than weak ties, the latter has value that shouldn´t be underestimated.

Affirmation – Having a daily routine such as a positive affirmation is comparable to programming the mind. With the right syntax it is possible to program even the unconsciousness.

Consistency – Consistency is the thing that works against creativity, but is important to get you jobs.

Repetition – Business is all about repetition, but it is important to know when to break the mold and when sticking to the rule

Goals – It is crucial to have goals. The impossible goals are the most important ones because through these you can grow into that person who is able to achieve them

Timeless – Timeless content wins in the long run. Ask yourself if your work can compete with time

Opportunity – If opportunity doesn´t knock, build a door. (Milton Berle)

Revolution – Every now and then we need a revolution either within our tiny little ecosystem or one that shakes the whole world until its core

Pricing – The more people know of your work, the higher the price. Don´t work for people who don´t know your work intimately.

Time-management – Wasting time means wasting money, but it isn´t that easy, for artists. Time used for relaxation can be useful for reenergize creative spirits and therefore be healthy. But using several methods to manage tasks that usually are time consuming (changing from phone to email for example) can help.

Measurement – Today everything can be measured. Learn to measure, how to read statistics and which numbers are important and you are one step ahead of your competition.

I just went through my list of related websites and thought it might be useful to add some of the great links here, that helped me through this marketing endeavours:


About the Author Oliver Wetter

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