To all full-time/professional artists:
I've noticed so many talented artists on this forum that work professionally. I'm working on trying to get even close to that point.
What advice would any of you artists have? Any pointers on advertising, suggestions for prints, things to make sure to do/not to do?
Thanks so much in advance!
Make sure your work is consistent and have a strong portfolio.
Know your target market and think like they do ;)
Hmmmm i don't know where to start there is so much!!! Might be easier if I describe how I started my business up.
I started out just drawing for fun. I had a couple of friends and people on a local horse forum ask me to draw their horses, and from that I started charging very minimal costs (AU$30). At that point I was only 15, and was only working in graphite doing horses. I started getting busier through word of mouth as my skills increased, and I upped my prices a little. From that I got my first dog commission in graphite, and leading form that I got a few more dogs which opened up the idea of doing pet artistry as a whole. I learnt to use charcoal to a basic level, and charged a little less for a charcoal portrait than graphite.
After around 1 1/2 years of working ad lib through work of mouth, I created a basic website, with prices and examples of my work, then advertised on a few horse forums. This made my work load boom for quite some time and I upped my charges again.
When I was in year 12, I discovered chalk pastel. I won the top art piece in year 12 for a pastel of a horse, and I also won 2 out of 3 classes at the Royal Show for art, and came 2nd in the 3rd piece.
From that, I had people egging me on to up my prices considerably and go hard on advertising. I didn't advertise much at all last year so didn't get a heap of work, but towards the end of the year I ordered business cards, updated my website and put business cards and fliers around at local vets, pet stores, pet groomers, riding clubs etc. And my work boomed!!!
You certainly need to know the group which you are aiming for. Advertise according to your target market, don't start with high prices you won't get many clients. Start low, lower than what you think your work is worth so you are only really just covering costs with a small profit, but always charge postage!
Once you develop a solid client base, up your prices. Wait until you get a small waiting list, then up them again.
I go by the rule that if you have no clients, you're charging too much. A waiting list and you're charging not enough. A steady stream of work and you're just right.
I am still sort of in the early stages of selling my art myself. I technically sold my first drawing for $15 back in 2008 I think and eventually raise my prices as high as $50 for the same size. I got a fair amount of buiness at that price. I probably won't go higher for a long time as I like having buisness. Honestly, the money is not my main reason for drawing for other people. It's nice to make a little fun money, but I donate a hefty portion of my proceeds to a horse rescue. I do it more for the joy of drawing and I will admit, the wonderful comments I receive from other people. I guess I am a bit of a compliment hog. Still, I want to be the best artist I can be and I have learned so much from other artists in this forum.
As Kayty said, you must charge full shipping. I struggled in the beginning (and still do) to establish shipping costs. Until you have shipped a ton of drawings of the same size, it's hard to know exactly what to charge. I always charged way less than I paid and between losing money to shipping costs and then donating 50% to the rescue, I was lucky to break even. I am still working shipping estimates, but luckily I know now how to get estimates at the local UPS store and even the art supply store has a packing and shipping section, so I will usually get estimates before I finalize the price. I used to just have a flat shipping fee regardless of what I was shipping. I learned the hard way about shipping internationally too.
Oh yeah, for graphite and even colored pencil, get a fixative spray so your drawings won't smudge. Make sure to ship in a carboard envelope or have a cardboad insert in a paper envelope so the drawing doesn't get folded int he mail.
I also will e-mail the rough sketch to the client before I begin shading so they can request modifications before it is too late to change anything (yet another thing I learned the hard way). Although during my Buffy fund project, I sort of skipped that step in order to get the drawings done more quickly (not the drawings themselves, but the waiting for a response part).
Umm, that's all I can think of for now. Much of what I am doing now is because of input other people have given me in an effort to better my customer satisfaction. It's been trial and error and sometimes I had to learn the hard way how to do things.
I'm in the process of setting up my own website and also had a ton of questions. Pricing particularly is a bugbear, one thing for sure working for peanuts was not quite rewarding.
I spent a lot of time looking over the websites of other animal portraitists. I learned an awful lot that way, about what information to post and what were the going rates on average. One thing I found really interesting is how some people retain reproduction rights, that is, you sell them the picture but not the right to reproduce it. Something I never would have considered, definitely made me think.
And some people gave mini-tutorials on how to get a good reference photo--:).
Also some artists gave a 100% satisfaction guarantee or asked for a non-refundable deposit, while others did not.
I always ask for a non-refundable deposit. That way I can cover my own expenses.
As for pricing, well I'm by far the cheapest professional pet portrait artist in Aus with work of my style. I have been looking at a few adverts for other Aussie artists, and one such artist i thought may have only been a really young kid, with coloured pencil drawings lacking huge detail and depth. Looked on their website and the cheapest commission rate was a huge AU$260!!!! My most expensive piece is only $200 and I certainly don't consider myself good enough an artist to bump that up further for another few months at least.
Thanks for the advice so far everyone.
I'm still trying to figure out what group of customers I'm aiming for. I just had a suggestion yesterday from a friend who's a real-estate agent. He said that in our area he's found that the agents like to give a gift to the homebuyers. And there was one woman in the office who did watercolor paintings. So she'd paint the house for the buyers and give that as their gift. She has since left the real-estate office. He thought that might be a decent thing to get into.
But I'm not really sure. Painting's never really been my thing...I mean I paint, but not my favorite by any means.
Thanks, you're very sweet. My 18 year-old son's working on it, I'm hoping it will happen before he gets married or I move in to a retirement home....
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