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How To Sell $8 Million of Art

It's been seven years now.

Seven Years since I fled the art world and an enviable career running a nationally renowned art studio and gallery. 

Seven years since I quit my job, sold my possessions, kissed family and friends good-bye and moved to Europe to begin again - as a Working Artist.

How I fell into the business of art.

After graduating from art school, I faced the cold reality that I needed a "real" job.

I took a part-time gig as Assistant to the Sales Manager of the highly respected art studio Segura Publishing Company. And it was there that I discovered my super-talent for selling art. 

Within a year, I was director of the whole company.

During my tenure, I sold art to museums, galleries and collectors around the world. This was art that was created in our studios by both blue-chip artists and emerging. 

The average price of the work I sold was $2500. But over the 10 years I worked there, I sold over $8 million of art. 

How did I do it? 

Lesson #1  Relationships

The art business, like any business, is all about relationships. 

That means being present, being honest, fair and generous. Basically, I treated each client as my best friend - because I took the trouble to make them my friends.

When I began working at the studio, there was a box in the corner with a few dozen files thrown into it. This represented the client base.

But when I left the company ten years later, we had a massive filing system with deep drawers, each bursting with files. Every single file represented a relationship to me, a friendship. 

Treat every prospect as your best client. Even if they never buy anything from you, be as generous and open as you can be. 

Sign up now for my new revolutionary workshop for artists: The Working Artist Manifesto: Making Sense of Art, Life, and Time. It’s FREE for a limited time!

Lesson #2   Get organized

It's no use building relationships in fits and starts. Create a small plan that you can commit to. And then do it. As you start to build momentum, grow your reach.

When I first started selling art, I did it primarily through cold-calling. That's right, picking up the telephone and calling strangers. And if you think it's easy to sell art to strangers over the phone or the internet, you would be mistaken. 

But it worked. 

It worked because I always tried to make a real connection with the person on the other line. I'd already done some research so I knew who they were and what their interests were, so I didn't waste anybody's time. Each call or message was targeted.

And then I followed up.

If they showed interest, I'd send them some visuals. And then call again in a few weeks.

If they didn't show interest, I'd make a note of what their hesitations were so the next time I had something I thought they might like, I'd have a better handle on them.

Forming relationships with thousands of clients can prove difficult, but not if you're organized. I kept careful notes on all my conversations. This allowed me to remember the names of their staff, the challenges they were facing, their interests and dislikes. So even if I didn't call them again for another year, we could pick up where we left off.

Lesson #3   Work through failure

There were plenty of times that cold-calling led to dead-ends. I came home from work many nights exhausted and ravenous for chocolate. 

I learned that when things weren't working, it meant I should double my efforts.

The interesting thing to me about cold-calling prospects was that it didn't matter if the people I contacted said yes or no. But by simply putting forth the intention and following through, more sales came to me. More often than not, they came from sources other than the ones I called. 

It was all about my energy and intentions.

Sign up now for my new revolutionary workshop for artists: The Working Artist Manifesto: Making Sense of Art, Life, and Time. It’s FREE for a limited time!

Lesson #4  There are sales outside internet sales

When the whole world stopped using telephones and went online, the art business changed. Rumor was that bricks and mortar galleries would soon be replaced by online galleries.

But the rumors were wrong.

I believe that the reason most online galleries struggle is because art primarily elicits an emotional response. Unless you know the artist and the work, it's very difficult to have an emotional response to a screen.

That doesn't mean that the internet isn't valuable. It's crucial! Having a website is now considered a given as a sign of professionalism. But don't expect that just because you post it, they will buy it. Online marketing is an art unto itself.

Lesson #5  Real life happens offline

It's tempting to stay hidden behind your desk just connecting with people through email and social media. But real magic happens in real life, and real life happens offline.

Once each month, I would target a different city, pack up my portfolios and make appointments to visit gallerists, curators, and collectors.

Sometimes I sold work on the spot. Other times, I came home empty-handed. 

But I always made much deeper connections with my clients. I gained a clearer understanding of their needs and challenges. I learned about new artists and changes in the marketplace. I connected with the local artist community and expanded my reach.

Most importantly, I stood out from the noise of the internet. My clients got to see real work from a real person.

Lesson #6  Don't be cheap when you pay your dues

I'd reached the pinnacle of my career. I was traveling, I'd opened a gallery, produced documentary films about art, won awards, curated museum shows, published... but I just wasn't feeling it anymore.

Has this ever happened to you?

Something told me that I'd learned what I needed but now it was time for me to take these lessons and return to my own work -- as a writer and photographer. Because even though I could wear the little black dress, deep down in my soul I was an artist, not an art dealer.

So I quit.

I quit and sold everything I owned. Like, everything. And I used the money to move to the middle-of-nowhere in France. 

I wanted to be alone with my creativity.

Becoming a professional artist rarely happens fresh out of art school. Most of us have to pay dues. And every artist's journey is unique.  

Own your path and your experiences, no matter how far from the destination you think you've gone. Apologize to nobody.

Sign up now for my new revolutionary workshop for artists: The Working Artist Manifesto: Making Sense of Art, Life, and Time. It’s FREE for a limited time!

Lesson #7  Take time to inhale

Selling art can be overwhelming. 

It was particularly so for me because I represented over 250 artists. I had to create unique marketing plans and develop audiences for each one. It felt as if I was constantly exhaling -  showing up, producing, delivering, it felt as if everything was always coming out of me.

But when I went to France, I learned how to inhale.

I learned to take the time to be inspired, to take a breath, to really look and listen, to read and make connections. As an artist, it was life changing.

I cried, a lot.

Every day I'd hike through the forest and I'd sit on the walls of a 13th century abbey. And I'd think about what I wanted to do next, who I wanted to be.

So it was on the wall of a 13th century abbey in the French countryside that I decided to use my creativity and experiences in service to other artists, showing them how to market and sell their work. This is where The Working Artist was born.

And when my sojourn in France was over, I didn't go back home. 

Instead, I moved to England to begin a new life.

I won't say it was easy. But I've spent my career in the creative industries, so I know that the best way to have a successful career is to perfect your craft and develop your audience.

I put my head down and I worked. 

And I started teaching my workshop, The Working Artist, where ever I could find a group of artists hungry for the information. Pretty soon, I was delivering the workshop all over the world.

I decided to bring the program online because I wanted every artist to have access to it.

I launched a crowd-funding campaign. And artists around the globe donated, helping me to exceed my goal!

Lesson #8 When you jump, the universe catches you

Today, The Working Artist serves an international community of artists. 

I can honestly say that taking that leap into the unknown was the most terrifying thing I've ever done. But I can also tell you that I have never looked back.

Sign up now for my new revolutionary workshop for artists: The Working Artist Manifesto: Making Sense of Art, Life, and Time. It’s FREE for a limited time!

"Throughout our lives, we may only meet a few people who touch us on a spiritual level and change our paths. Crista is one of those people." Jane Seaman, Best-Selling Author


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