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Thoughts on the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money

by Clint Watson on 6/9/2009 1:35:34 PM

Chris Guillebeau and ZoŽ Westhof recently released a new resource for artists called the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money.

I've followed Chris's blog for several months and have developed a respect and appreciation for his insights, so I was excited to see what "unconventional" ideas he (and ZoŽ) had regarding the art world.  I don't normally do "reviews" of other products on this blog, partly since many of the other online art sites I might consider reviewing could be seen as somewhat competitive to my own online services and, as such, it would be a bit strange for me to "review" a competitor.  But, as this particular resource is basically a book that gives people ideas on marketing art and not an online service, I do feel qualified to share my thoughts on it.  After all, I did make my living actually selling art for nearly 16 years.


The e-book starts out by painting a realistic picture of the uphill battle artists face and points out the fact that very few art majors actually support themselves with their art.  It then explains that that there is another way to market art, an "unconventional path" opened up by the fact that the Internet exists, it is now possible for artists to build what I call a "collector clan" directly...outside of traditional art gallery channels. The book emphasizes the importance of finding "your people", "your tribe", your "collector clan." They also encourage artists to let go of the "starving artist" mindset and learning to be comfortable with the business side of selling art.  All good stuff so far.

They state that, "Marketing becomes all about relationships and conversations."  This clearly agrees with what I've been yammering about on this blog for months as I've said ad nauseaum that "Art Marketing is Conversations."

Chris and ZoŽ then present a plan for art marketing online which balances your own artist website with a presence on other online sites and communities.  What they are talking about is what I've called, in the past, a "hub and spoke" strategy,  but I think they have come up with a much better metaphor than "hub and spoke" to explain the concept....I'll save their metaphor for you to discover should you choose to get a copy of the guide for yourself.

They also present some realistic and helpful advice on drawing traffic to your work with a blog and provide a good primer on getting started with social media (ie sites like Facebook and Twitter).  There is also a whole section devoted to ideas on how to properly price your artwork.

The guide also spends several pages on reviewing pros and cons of various online services (including FineArtStudioOnline (FASO)).  This information, while useful, would have probably been better served by being put into an appendix of some kind, rather than taking up so much space right in the middle of the guide, but it's helpful nevertheless. 

Do Your Homework Yourself

One thing I want to point out is that you need to take all the pros and cons presented in a resource like this with a grain of salt and check DIRECTLY with each online service before assuming that you have a complete picture.  In the case of our service, FineArtStudioOnline, some things were left out and some things were (I'm sure not intentionally) misleading. Just a couple of examples:   under the heading "Display Customization" the guide claims that  FASO offers "Various Basic Templates" (which is true) but does not mention that we also offer full-blown complete customization services (just like "regular" web designers).  It also states that FASO "Doesn't draw traffic from the main site to individual artists sites", but that is not a completely true statement.  In addition, we have lots of other services that were not even mentioned in the guide, just a few of which are:

1.  FASO Gold members get a Free entry each month in the FineArtViews Painting competition (a $14/month value)
2.  FASO Gold members get a 10% discount at Art Ready Frames (something that could easily offset the entire FASO membership cost).
3.  FASO Gold members get a 10% discount at Signature Canvas
4.  FASO Gold members get free copies of all of our ebooks
5.  FASO Gold member artworks are featured each weekday in approximately 12,000 emails via our two newsletters Informed Collector and FineArtViews.

So my point is, knowing what was left out of the guide regarding our service, I would encourage artists to check directly with any service they are interested in and ask that service about the pros and cons.  Be sure what you think or are told about any particular service is still true (as even the most well-intentioned reviewer may not realize that the service has implemented new features that were released after the review was written).

Please don't misunderstand, I think Chris and ZoŽ made every effort possible to present as complete a picture as possible.  It is just very hard for reviewers to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape on the internet.  And, since this is our blog after all, we thought we would take the opportunity to point out a couple of things we wish had been said about our services. :-)

What You Won't Find in the Guide

While I feel that, although the ideas they present about blogging are solid, a lot more could have been said about email newsletters.  (To be fair, they do mention email newsletters and provide a list of services that can help you to send email newsletters, but not a whole lot on how often you should send them, what to include in your newsletters, or a case study of artists who have been successful with them.)  It's no secret that email newsletters are my preferred online marketing method for artists.  In fact, if there was only time to do one of the two, I would rather see an artist set up and use email newsletter over having a blogHere is one reason why.  Chris and ZoŽ devote a bit of space to SEO and blogging, which is fine information, however most artists will see a much bigger payoff by concentrating on email newsletters and nurturing relationships with existing prospects (and seeking out word-of-mouth referrals from those prospects).

There also wasn't very much discussed regarding the actual day-to-day record keeping and organization involved in running an art business.  That is extremely important in my opinion.  You simply must have records that are easy to access and that make it easy for you to find and use customer information when you need it.

I also would have recommended to artists to utilize post card and "snail mail" marketing methods.  Again, for a lot of artists, this will result in a much bigger payoff than focusing on blogging and SEO.  Unfortunately, there was not a section devoted to reviewing resources for sending physical postcards, cataloges, etc.  (ie services such as Modern Postcard that help you get mailers printed and sent).

Another area that I feel was overlooked was the importance of personal PHONE conversations with your collectors.  Facebook is great, but facebook friends are not necessarily "real" friends.  PHONE conversations allow you to connect with people on a deeply personal level.  Remember, "Art Marketing is Conversations" and, as someone who used to sell a lot of art,  I can tell you, my sales numbers depended upon that telephone.  Even to this day, some of my best friends are people who used to buy art from me.

The Bottom Line

Bottom line:  The Unconventional Guide to Art and Money is a good resource for developing an overview of how to get your art business going online.  It could be useful for artists who are just getting started and who don't have much experience marketing art online.  If you already have a website, blog and participate in social media, you probably won't learn a WHOLE lot of new information from this guide, although it still might be worth $39  (or $58 for the larger version) to peruse for any new ideas.  After all, even one good new idea would be worth it.  The overview of all the various online art services is useful too - that alone could be worth it for some artists.

Frankly, there's probably not a lot of marketing concepts in this guide that you can't, with a fair amount of work, learn for free by reading online art marketing blogs like this one, ArtBizBlog, FineArtViews, Empty Easel, Art Print Issues, and others...But YOU would have to sift through hundreds of blog posts to find it and put it all together for yourself and the guide provides value in doing a lot of that 'sifting' for you.  In fact, we've actually got a good primer on this blog that you can start with for free, right now - check out our article How to Sell Art.  However, this guide just might be convenient for you if you're just getting started as it provides a convenient resource in one handy package to get you "jump started."  It provides a good "lay of the land" overview of the different online art services and it also, as a bonus, includes interviews with several artists who are already marketing online, so you can learn directly from other artists what is working for them.

If you want to learn more about the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money or purchase a copy for yourself, please visit the following link:
Click here for more information about the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money

Now, go change the world.


Clint Watson
Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

PS - A couple of disclosures:  

1.  I have NOT yet listened to the MP3 artist interviews that are included with the guide, and I suspect that there will be good information in those interviews that I am not aware of at this point.

2. Our company is an affiliate of Unconventional Guides - so if you purchase the guide through one of our links, we will be compensated.


FASO: The Leading Provider of Professional Artist Websites.
FineArtViews: Straight talk about art marketing, inspiration - daily to your inbox.

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BoldBrush Contest: Monthly Online Painting Contest with over $25,000 in awards. 

Daily Art Show: Daily Show of Art that reaches thousands of potential collectors.


Related Posts:

Do You Want Traffic or Do You Want to Sell Art?

I'm Not Surprised Your Art Isn't Selling . . .

Personal, Timely, and Relevant

Artist Brian Kliewer - A Case Study in Email Marketing

Art Marketing for Artists Who Want to Change the World

Art Marketing is Conversations

How to Sell Art

Artists: Lead Your Collector Clan

Marketing Art

Selling Art

Do artists need galleries anymore?

Topics: Art Business | art marketing | Marketing | Sales 

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