What To Do When Your Art Isn’t Selling

Wondering how to be an artist when nobody seems interested in your art? Keeping the faith during down times can be difficult, but it’s all part and parcel of being a creative. All of us have to pay our dues.What To Do When Your Art Isn’t Selling

There will be times when you sell a lot of work, and lean times when you might feel ready to give up. Usually, the lean times precede the success. But other times, things start with a bang and then slow down, making many a creative ask themself if they even know how to be an artist?

While every business is susceptible to slower periods, there’s still plenty you can do to sell art online and off.

Today I’ll highlight why your art might not be selling. And more importantly, the steps you can take to start bringing some money in the door.

Is your art being seen in the right places?

Start by asking yourself, where is my art being shown? A part of learning how to be an artist is knowing where the best places are to show your work.

For instance, say you work with your camera – can people only see your fine art photography on social media? Maybe it’s not selling because nobody is seeing it? Look up the best time to post on Instagram for photographers and see if that helps you gain some more engagement. If not, perhaps Instagram isn’t the right platform for you?

What if your art is showing in a gallery? Shouldn’t that be the best way to make money selling your art? Not necessarily. If the gallery is difficult to find, doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, or if it’s not well managed, you may find it difficult to sell your art in that venue.

If you want to learn how to be an artist who sells, educate yourself about the best venues for your art, your aesthetic and your audience.

Re-evaluate your art marketing strategy

Ok, so you’re pretty certain that you’re showing your art in all the right places but still, no-one is biting. Perhaps you need to describe your artwork better in order to make it more desirable to potential buyers?

This is where marketing comes into play. Marketing your art is essentially just describing your artwork to the right people in the right places. It really doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. If your marketing isn’t effective, or if you’re talking to the wrong people, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to make money selling your art.

You know your artwork better than anyone else, so make sure you’re describing it in a way that makes it enticing to your ideal customers. Don’t just talk about “how” you make your work, but “why.” If you stop at “My work is a reflection of my feelings,” you aren’t going deep enough.

If your writing isn’t strong, you might bring in a copywriter to help you refine your marketing materials, because writing a good artist statement is the best way I know to connect work with buyers.

Attend artist networking events

If your art is being seen by the right people and your marketing is strong, there may be external reasons why you’re not making any sales. In tough economic times, people tend to curb their spending habits and tighten their purse strings. And most people view art as a luxury item, not necessarily an essential. (can you believe it?)

But that doesn’t mean you should give up on your art business. Instead, ramp up your networking efforts. Attend events, gallery openings, art fairs, or anywhere else your ideal customers might be hanging out. Build genuine relationships with people in your community. Build your mailing list!

Then, when things in the economy start turning around, you’ll have plenty of new contacts who may become the source of career opportunities.


Hold a flash sale

Another way I tell artists how to sell art online or off to make money quickly is to hold a flash sale. Clear out all your old artworks by giving a decent discount on the original price. This strategy is a great way to inject some fast cash into your business and hopefully land some new fans and buyers who will buy more art from you later.

Some artists don’t believe in discounting their work because they feel like it devalues the art. I don’t subscribe to this philosophy – think of discounting your work as a way to share more of it with the world. The money always finds its way back to you. And people genuinely appreciate a discount. Often, these same people will continue to support you in the future.

Update your artist creative CV

When was the last time you updated your artist CV? During a slow time in your business, it’s a good idea to make sure your artist statement, artist CV and website are still relevant.

If not, get updating them! That way, when an opportunity to make money selling your art comes along, you’ll be ready to go.

How to be an artist? Keep making art

Finally, the best way to be an artist and to continue making money is to simply keep making art. The more art you make, and the more you learn how to market it, the better you’ll become. And the better you become, the more people will want to buy art from you!

Learning how to be an artist isn’t just about putting paint to canvas. It’s about understanding how to build relationships with people in your community, making sure your art is being seen in the right places, and identifying your ideal customers.

Investing in these activities will pay you back as you begin to make more money selling your art.


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Working in the international world of contemporary art, Crista Cloutier has spent her career selling art and marketing art to art galleries, museums and private collections. 

Using her professional experiences, Crista has created The Working Artist Masterclass, where she’s developed a global reputation as an artist’s coach. Crista can teach you how to be an artist; including how to sell your art, how to sell art online, how to sell photographs, how to price your art, how to succeed at art fairs, and even how to find your art style. 

Crista has worked with established, blue-chip artists to raise their profile and attract greater opportunities. And she’s also helped thousands of emerging artists to build a professional art practice. To learn more, visit https://theworkingartist.com

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