Even a brand new artist can sell artwork if they know how to do it.
If you want to sell art, the one thing you need to understand above all else is your Ideal Art Buyer. Your Ideal Art Buyer or IAB is the art customer who fits perfectly with your artwork and your brand.
Understanding your IAB will help you reach the right people with your art and save you time and energy in your marketing efforts.
If you want to know more about what an Ideal Art Buyer is and why you need one, check out my post: The Most Important Thing You Need To Sell Art Online
Today, I want to focus on how to find your Ideal Art Buyer. I recommend you download my free printable: Ideal Art Buyer Worksheet.
Use the worksheet as you read through this post to stay organized and keep all of your important information in one place.
How To Narrow Down Your Ideal Art Buyer
As an artist, writer or other creative, it’s hard to narrow down what kind of customer will be attracted to your art. This is especially true if you haven’t sold enough of your work yet to recognize trends in art sales.
It took me a couple of years, but I finally figured out why it was so hard for me to narrow down my ideal customer.
Your art business is an extension of you and your values. Therefore, before you can understand your Ideal Art Buyer, you must understand yourself and your goals. You must get more specific with yourself about what you want to accomplish as an artist.
I didn’t know what I wanted from my brand besides just to “sell art”. Ultimately, that’s what every professional artist wants, but it’s not enough.
You need to figure out what path you want your art to take you and what your dream business would look like. This vision is where you are going to start.
Discovering your Artistic Goals
Discovering your goals as an artist is the first step to selling more art. You must understand yourself before you can truly understand who your Ideal Art Buyer is. Begin by asking yourself these 5 questions:
1. What type of art do you make?
The type of art you make will play a large role in the type of people who want to buy it.
A painting of a zombie rabbit is very different from hand-painted flower beads made out of clay. Technically, they are both art but they are not likely to appeal to the same kind of buyer.
2. Why do you make the type of art you make?
Why does this type of art appeal to you and what underlying reasons do you have for creating it?
Do you paint zombie animals because you think they are edgy? Do you have fond memories of watching horror movies and going to haunted houses when you were younger?
Do you paint flower beads because you love the idea of making your own wearable garden? Do the beads have a special significance to you?
These questions will help you clarify your own values in your creative practice. Once you understand your own values, you can identify what values your customers are most likely to connect with.
3. What quality are your materials?
Is the art you make crafted with rare high-quality materials or common lower quality materials?
Will your materials attract high-paying customers like art collectors? Or is it made with simpler materials that will be more attractive to the casual consumer?
Quality is an important thing to consider in finding your Ideal Art Buyer. You don’t want to sell a drawing made with crayola colored pencils to someone who plans to invest in artwork that they can pass down to future generations.
You also don’t want to advertise your gallery-quality wrapped canvas painting to a broke college student who just wants stickers he can slap onto his laptop.
Neither type of artwork is better than the other, but you will price them differently and they will attract different buyers.
Also, keep in mind that you should strive to stay consistent in the materials you use. The quality of materials will become part of your brand and how people associate you and your art.
4. What does your art make you feel?
What feelings do you associate with your artwork? Are these the same feelings you want your customers to have when they view and purchase your work?
This question ties back into what your values are, but takes it a step further.
If you want your art to encourage people, then you are going to focus on selling your artwork in or near places where people go to find encouragement.
If you want your art to invoke deep thought, then you will want to display it in places appropriate for stopping for a moment in pensive reflection.
Take a moment and think of at least 5 feelings you want your customers to associate with your art and writing them down.
5. In what form do you most want to sell your artwork?
The forms in which you choose to sell your work will also have a great impact on the customers you attract. This question helps you focus on the forms that will bring you the most joy.
Would you rather sell your originals, print reproductions, offer commissions, produce printed products, sell digital graphics, etc?
It’s okay to want to sell your art in multiple different forms. In fact, you should. But you should also narrow down the forms that bring you the most joy to produce and recognize when other forms don’t work for you.
How This Worked for Me:
Over time, I learned I had a really hard time parting with some of my original artworks.
My best paintings were the ones that I painted for a specific purpose. For instance, the tree I painted to hang in my living room when my husband and I bought our first house was one of my most popular pieces.
I got a lot of offers for that painting, but I found myself avoiding conversations about how much I would sell it for.
And it wasn’t just that one. There was another painting that I had multiple offers on but I “forgot” to follow up with any of the buyers and they eventually lost interest.
I wasn’t trying to be rude, and my problem wasn’t that I didn’t value my business. I finally delved into why I kept sabotaging my own art sales.
I realized I was subconsciously avoiding these sales because deep down, there were just certain pieces that I wasn’t ready to part with.
On the other hand, I absolutely loved it when I saw my artwork on products that people were actually using every day. I get a little thrill anytime I see someone pull out a mouse pad or notebook with my artwork on it.
I now realize that art licensing is a better path for me than gallery sales.
You need to figure out what path is best for you and your art business. What forms will bring you the most joy as an artist?
How To Use This Information To Understand Your Ideal Art Buyer
Now that you have a better idea of what you want to accomplish in your art journey, you can focus on your Ideal Art Buyer. You can build your IAB Avatar out of the parts of your business that you find the most fulfilling.
Using your own values and preferences to build your avatar will help you bring the best value to your customers. To do this, grab your Ideal Art Buyer Worksheet and answer these questions:
1. Who often buys the kind of art that you make?
What do you know about people who make these types of purchases?
Where are those individuals likely to spend their free time?
These questions might require some research. I suggest finding other artists whose artwork has similar aspects to yours and observe what kinds of customers those artists attract. You can do this at art fairs, online retailers and social media platforms.
IMPORTANT: Do NOT pitch your work to another artist’s actual customers!
The goal of this step is to learn about customers who might like your work and build a strategy for how to reach them ethically. Pitching your own work on someone else’s platform is tacky, and will probably gain you more enemies than friends.
2. Who is likely to have the same values as you do?
What other values are connected to these values?
What is common among the people I know who share these values?
I know of an artist who paints marine life and cares deeply about wildlife conservation. Not surprisingly, his artwork appeals to other marine life enthusiasts and sometimes gets featured in conservation drives and events.
Think about the people you have already connected with who share your values. What do they have in common?
If you have a hard time finding answers to this question, check out a few online forums on that topic and see what conversations come up regularly.
3. Who is likely to purchase art of the quality that I produce?
What common attributes do people who purchase artworks of similar quality share?
How much are these people likely to spend on similar work?
Where are those people likely to go to find that kind of product?
These questions will probably also require you to do some research. Find other artists who produce artwork in a similar format and quality to yours.
Subject is less important at this step but can still be a factor. For instance, fan art is often priced differently than other works of the same size and medium. Price f fan art can also be determined by the size of the subject’s fan base.
Once you find several examples of work that is similar to your own, compare pricing and compare the customers who seem the most interested in that work.
4. What do I want my customers to feel when they look at or use my products?
Where do people often go or what do they often do when they want to experience that feeling?
Calming artwork, such as pastel florals and landscapes, will likely do well in places like yoga studios and spas.
Artwork that challenges the status quo and provokes deep thought will be more at home in an edgy coffee shop or new age cafe.
Answering this question will help you determine some of your ideal customers’ activities and habits.
Do they go to yoga twice a week, or buy coffee every morning? These may be good places to connect with and display your work.
5. Who usually purchases the forms of artwork that I want to sell?
Are they art collectors?
Are they every-day people who want a specialized coffee mug?
Are they chain retailers who want to mass produce multiples of the same product?
This is where determining the sales path that brings you the most joy translates into finding the right customers to make those purchases.
Most of your coffee mug buyers will not invest in a collectible art piece, but collectible art buyers might also like a coffee mug.
If gallery quality art is your favorite to sell and produce, then your IAB will be someone who regularly visits art galleries and has plenty of disposable income to invest in original work.
If you love having your work on mass-produced items at retail stores, then your IAB is probably not going to be a shopper of that store, but rather the guy in charge of deciding which products will be produced at that store.
Think hard about the types of people who purchase and use products in the forms you most want your artwork to take.
Building Your Ideal Art Buyer Avatar
Once you are clear on the types of people who are likely to purchase the products you want to sell, you can take the common details for those kinds of people and build your Ideal Art Buyer Avatar.
You want to use as much detail as you can be when you build your Avatar.
The more details you have, the easier it will be to imagine this person as a real buyer and the easier it will be to connect with those actual individuals who have similar qualities.
Here are a few examples of how to put this all together to create your Ideal Art Buyer Avatar:
If I want to sell high-quality, original, wrapped-canvas oil paintings of detailed florals, then my IAB Avatar might be a middle-age woman with disposable income.
She professionally decorates her house and needs a statement piece to display in her formal dining room.
She probably has an active social life and regularly hosts dinner parties.
She will hunt for the perfect artwork to impress her friends by contacting galleries and talking to people she knows in the art community.
If I want to sell commissioned watercolor paintings of people’s beloved pets, then my Ideal Art Buyer Avatar might be a 65-year-old woman with dogs.
Her children have already moved out and she spends most of her time at home with her 2 older dogs.
She buys them high-quality dog food at specialized retailers and takes them for regular walks in the park.
If I want to sell edgy stickers depicting tattoo art in bold colors, then my IAB Avatar might be a 19-year-old college student.
He has multiple tattoos and skateboards to class.
He likes to decorate his books and sports equipment to showcase his own love of art.
In his free time, he hangs out at the skate park with his friends and frequents the juice bar around the corner from his dorm.
Using your Ideal Art Buyer Avatar
Notice that in the above examples, I said that your customer Avatar “might” be someone like who I described.
Two artists selling the same type of product (or very similar products) might have completely different avatars depending on their own values and the people they connect with most easily.
It is important that you like your avatar. Your Avatar should be exactly the type of person who you would most like to sell your work to.
They should be the type of person who, if they were real, you would absolutely love to see in your shop every day or receive a call from every week asking what new thing you’re working on.
It should be someone you could easily carry on a conversation with, who you can easily tell about your work.
The more you connect with your avatar, the easier it will be to locate the real people they represent. When you bring value to the people who align closely with your avatar, you will find that your marketing efforts are far more lucrative and you will make more sales.
What to do:
Take the details from your Ideal Art Buyer Worksheet and create your own Avatar. Then write down common places your Avatar would go, in person and online. You will focus your marketing efforts on reaching people at those locations.
Remember, all marketing takes trial and error. Try multiple different methods for connecting with people like your avatar and record the results.
To sell more artwork, you must figure out your Ideal Art Buyer. Then, use the information you collect to create an avatar based on those characteristics.
Your Ideal Art Buyer is the biggest fan of your work. When you market to this person, you are ultimately marketing to real people who share similar values and attributes.
These real people will be delighted to hear from you and excited to buy from you because they honestly want the products you create.
In order to narrow down your Ideal Art Buyer, you first need to gain a better understanding of yourself as an artist.
Once you answer the questions above and determine what kind of art business you want to build, you will also better understand the people who will want to purchase from you.
This understanding will give you a road map to reaching the right people and making more art sales.
Who is your Ideal Art Buyer? What have you discovered about the customers who are most attracted to your work?