How to know what to focus on

How to know what to focus on

I caught up with an artist friend yesterday, who had just spent 4 gruelling but successful days at The Other Art Fair in Sydney. She is a painter, and sold both small and large pieces at the fair, which surprised her. He questions to me were: Should I continue to paint both small and large canvases? Is one better than the other? And should I sell prints at the same time or just stick to originals?  

The answer, of course, is that there’s no one answer. But you do have a wealth of information available to help you make these decisions. Here’s some questions to help you start drawing out the information that’s already inside your head:

  • What do you prefer painting – large or small?

  • What has sold best for you in the past?

  • What do your clients tell you that they prefer?

  • How much demand is there for prints?

Once you’ve exhausted your own knowledge, it’s time to take it out to the world. In business terms this is called ‘market research’, but you can just call it ‘chatting over coffee with friends’ or ‘doing a Facebook poll’. Ask your friends, family, fans, and existing clients what they want to see. Some questions could include:

  • Have they bought one of your works in the past – why or why not?

  • What size work have they bought in the past – and why?

  • What size work would they consider buying in the future – and why?

  • Would they buy prints or do they prefer originals? Why?

Notice the common thread here – the question ‘why’. Understanding why your clients behave the way they do will give you an added layer of information to help you make your decision. Knowing why means you can better target your marketing, sales pitch, social media message – whatever means you use to communicate with your clients – by speaking directly to their concerns and motivations. And of course, it will help you answer your original questions about what type of work you should be producing.

Finally, you might want to look at what your peers are doing. In business terms, this is called ‘competitor research’. Do you have a group of artist friends you meet with regularly to share the struggles and successes of artistic life? If you do – ask them what works for them. Do they paint big or small? What sells better? What do they prefer doing? If you don’t have a network of artist mates to ask, you could always check out artists you admire and see what they’re offering – what’s on their Instagram or Blue Thumb profiles? Doing it this way won’t yield any ‘why’ answers, but it will give you some useful information.

Seriously, if you don’t have an artist network, you should think about setting one up. It can be totally casual – a chat over coffee – but it’s so helpful to have people to share these things with, and learn from. When artists get together, magic happens!

And don’t forget the original question - what do you prefer doing? You are after all the one who has to do the work, and be happy with it.

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