Florida painter Anne Hempel increased sales of her work by 50% last year. ABI interviewed her about how she did it, and she shares words of inspiration for other artists growing their own small businesses.
ABI: What changes did you make to your business that resulted in such a big jump in sales?
AH: I started the year by focusing my attention on building a cohesive body of work and forming a marketing plan for it. My bird collection of 30 paintings led to a three month solo exhibit kicked off by an event titled Birds, Brews and Bluegrass. I’ve sold almost all of them and fulfilled a dozen commissions for similar pieces.
Then I took the ABI workshop. This really helped me to amp up the often-neglected business side of my work. Instead of selling only originals, I expanded into reproducing my bestselling images on items like pillows, prints, notecards, tote bags, etc. I had my website redesigned to include prices on my available work and an online store.
I also increased the price of my originals by 10%. I focused on building closer relationships with my clients, especially my return clients. I started using Mail Chimp as a way to professionalize my client list newsletter. I taught three workshops and held an Open Studio event during the holidays.
ABI: What are the biggest challenges you face as an entrepreneur?
AH: Overcoming disorganization, uninspired periods, and being vulnerable. I’ve learned how to manage my struggles to keep organized by using alerts on my phone for meetings, using the Artist Archive for keeping track of inventory and sales, Quickbooks for bookkeeping, Word Press for my website, and using a work-log. This has taken time (years!) and discipline to implement and is still an area I struggle to keep up with.
I know myself well enough to know that there will be times when I’m uninspired and don’t feel like painting. When that happens, I don’t fight it. I allow myself to take breaks and know that inspiration will come again. I still keep my studio hours but do things like organize my paints, prepare my wood canvases, or make a new studio-time playlist.
I’d have to say that a bigger challenge has been facing my fears of being vulnerable. I’ve recently opened up more and been more transparent. I’ve told the stories behind the paintings and shared more about myself and my creative process with others.
ABI: Any advice you would give to other artists starting out in business?
AH: Network with other artists. Be patient. It takes time to grow a business and learn all the different aspects needed to be successful.
Make studio hours sacred, and stick with them. Take workshops. Teach workshops. Experiment with your technique. Develop your own identifiable style or niche that is popular with your buyers. Grow your client email list by having a sign-up sheet at events where you are showing your work. Manage your time wisely. Spend some time each week following up with leads, keeping track of orders and sales.
Search for a gallery that will show your work and one where you “click” with the owner/manager. This gallery relationship is so important. I’ve chosen to stay exclusive in my city for over six years with the same gallery. I’ve found this to be very beneficial. Other artists choose to have their work in many galleries around town and have found success that way. It’s really up to what works for each individual.
ABI: What are your ultimate goals?
AH: Build on to my studio making a gallery space. Continue to grow my business and expand my brand. Travel via my art. I want to sell and travel to areas that I enjoy visiting. Continue to love what I do by living my dream as a professional artist. Stay inspired. Inspire others.