The 101 Guide To Marketing For Artists

How to attract the right kind of clients?

I always found interest in psychology and marketing.
When I jumped on the freelancing train 6 years ago I embraced anything that was connected to that topic. To analyze how I got the right kind of clients was partially due to luck, but at least 50% is about the right marketing.

Over time, I found out a variety of things to pull from, that helped me to understand, use and practice marketing. In particular I looked at it as a way to keep myself busy with work that I love to do and to collaborate with people who respect what I do.

In the process I learned much from many different experts and in this post I will forward what I've learned so far.

When starting out with any "Art business", It might be good to get a grasp of what marketing is and what it can do for you.

For many artists marketing is something fuzzy, a monster. I rather like to draw a picture of a cloud, when explaining marketing. Still fuzzy, but you can place it somewhere in your mind.

This cloud is full of different aspects such as psychology, communication, storytelling and research.

Marketing at its core is a combination of all these terms practiced to achieve two main goals; to sell and to engage in public relation.

When determining what we want to do, things tend to get a lot easier. This is especially true when breaking down our business to a few core values. When we find that the business is about us, our personality and not just what we deliver.

Odds are that you learn to understand that Marketing is a steady companion.

Begin With Why

Simon Sinek's approach to communication is invaluable for inspiring communication that works. The key is to start any communication with answering the question "why". People often know what the do and how they do it, but most businesses fail to explain "why" they do it.

Know, Like and Trust

These three words are the pillars of any marketing effort. You can't sell something so someone who doesn't trust you. To gain trust, they have to like you, to like you, they have to know about you, simple as that. Online publishing and social media makes it easier than ever to get the word out, so do something with that power.

Positive Communication

The obvious part, communication, is clear in the Message of Marshall B. Rosenbergs method. I'd even go further and try to implement that way to our thinking. Because thoughts lead to action, repeated action lead to habits. Great habits stem from thoughts that are free from "should", have-to", "good" or "bad". We start to get more liberal and can create a fertile environment for our ideas to spread.

Embrace the Purple Cow

The first thing to note about a purple cow is that it is remarkable, one can make a remark about it.
Once we find the purple cow in or business we have found the essence of what is likely to be spread and shared by others.

Get rid of the Purple Cow

Once the purple cow is established a crowd of purple cows can dim the effect and when everyone has a purple cow, no one stands out anymore. It is invaluable to know when is the right time to go into the opposite direction. This is my personal opinion to the otherwise great concept from Seth Godin.

The Right Relationships

Relationships are valuable connections. It is better to strive for relationships than to harvest for a vast number of customers or friends. Relationships can change a business, the right relationships can even transform a whole business.

Karma is a B***h

Be nice to everyone, everyone has a positive side, it just takes time to show. The guy that grabs the last special buy in front of you, might be your next boss or a colleague you have to work with, so be cool, you, be cool!

Learn to be Valuable

This is a long-time-goal, a holistic approach. But once accepted it will lead to great results as it will also give potential clients a reason to work with you or buy from you. Seth Godin has written a book about the "Linchpin. In his book he describes the Linchpin as someone who is invaluable for any company because of an inherent ability. Adapting to what makes us indispensable can help to thrive on our own business as well.

Get to Know the Half-life of your (Online) Content

Everything has a half-life, books, music albums and even online content. Tweets live shorter than instagram posts, blog posts live shorter than magazine articles, etc. What half-life has your content?

Use the CWS-Method (Content Worth Sharing)

Sharing is caring, but most of us don't have the time to do so every so often. Content that is worth sharing is rare. So you better be on the A-list in creating content that resonates.

Curate Yourself

It is easy to judge a book by its cover, an artist from his body of work. But when was the last time you put a critical eye on your own work?
Curating and judging your work objectively is the key to build a strong portfolio and change value for your customer.

The Art of Storytelling - Speaking in Pictures

You are skilled at drawing, you are great at compositions, your choice of color is unique, but what about storytelling? I don't mean narrative illustration, I mean to illustrate a picture in the head of your client first. This can be achieved by using a visual language, shaping images and emotions instead of plain facts. This way, expectations and outcome become far more controllable.

Mission Statement

Shape a mission statement out of your bio and tagline. This can be short as two words or long as five sentences, it should carry the essence of what you do. It is the purpose of a company or a person which reflects its reason for existing.

The Elevator Speech

This is in fact a helpful technique: learn to get your "why", "how" and "what" of your business down in under 3 minutes. It can also help to write that down in 160 characters for short biographies like they are used on twitter or facebook.
People tend to skip the long version of your bio either way, so it may be better to focus on the short version.

Turn Drawbacks into Assets

Everyone has drawbacks most of the time, someone isn't good at doing the accounting stuff, go find someone who can. If you have no fun doing the online marketing, ask friends to help you or invite friends to help you, in return you make dinner, etc. And if you are not good at something, think about what else you can do to make it fun, if it is fun you've a less hard time to do things regularly.

Using Social Media Right

This seems like a no-brainer, but so many people get it wrong: Social Media, in other words, facebook, twitter and co, are not replacements for your website or blog. They are the shuttle to your content, nothing more and nothing less. If you build a tribe using social media that is OK, but don't build your business on uncertain ground, especially in times where Terms Of Service change in such a rapid pace.

Define your Budget for Marketing

A common misconception is to have no need for a budget. That's purely shortsighted. When beginning the year, you want to calculate a volume that you can put aside every month. An amount that goes straight into marketing, website hosting, exhibitions, advertising in magazines, etc.

Market Limitations

Every market has its limits. This might be due to some established costs and budgets for various goods or services, so the only way to charge more is to change the market.

Email Marketing Done Right

There is nothing that beats good old email marketing, if that is your thing. There are great ways to do cheapskates or to run campaigns using services like Mailchimp. Those are competitive cheap, even free for under 2000 subscriber.

Authentic Wealth

Wealth is something many artist struggle to show as they feel it makes them look anything than "artsy", but that is wrong. A business that does invest in good equipment is a venture that can endure tough times. So showing some authentic wealth is good for your business as people see that you take yourself and your business serious.

"GTD" and How to Use Email for Productivity

If you are not too much into email marketing, email may be still important to you. Because in my day, commissions are processed through the means of email. The first plus-point is that it allows me to track any relevant information. If there is something the client hasn't listed, it hasn't have to be done. Gmail helps a great leap in filtering and making it easy to manage a huge email load on a daily basis.
There are also add-ons like rapportive and GTD-inbox that makes it even a productivity tool that is loosely based on the Getting-Things-Done Method.
Another useful tool is ContactOut where you can get contact information like phone number and emails from anyone over at LinkedIn. Perfect for finding AD's and important persons for your business.

Have an Opinion

It is a fact that you can't reach everyone. but when you share an opinion publicly on your blog or in an interview, you definitely attract some and disappoint others. Concentrate on those that you like to attract does make the most sense. But be careful, having a strong opinion is good if you know your field very good, otherwise a "not-so-thought through" statement can easily backfire.

Chose Clever Graphic-Design

If you have no interest in doing the design, please do yourself a favor and ask a professional to create your brochures or website. There is so much that can go wrong. Prospective clients can't tell you what is bothering them, but the trained graphic designer can spot it. It may be the 25 fonts you used on your homepage or the colors and borders that distract the viewer from your content.

Chose Professional Photographs

If you are a traditional working artist, this is especially important. There is nothing that speaks against a smartphone shot from a work in progress on your "W.I.P." page or online sketchbook. But serious collectors can spot the difference of a quality shot from your work, versus a low quality photograph. If you are not sure, what you are doing, ask someone who knows.

Optimize Your Workflow

Optimizing workflow and changes on your workplace can lead to a better working environment. Sometimes the simple things are those that cost much time when summed up. Embracing change means also embracing a certain kind of openness. That kind of openness that makes us sensible to business opportunities as well.

Work Smart and Harder

Many people say "Work smarter, not harder".

If that sentiment is true, you need to work smarter and harder than others to compete with the top people in your field. In general it can be said that working harder get's you better at something, working smarter gets you the more interesting jobs.

Be Memorable

Being memorable is important to define your future. People often change positions. If you treat them well and also be memorable with your own unique kind, people have an easy time to remember you. Once they are in a position to support you or to claim your services they will remember you.

The Pareto Principle

Using the pareto principle right, means that 20% of the clients bring in 80% of your income. Concentrating on those 20% is crucial. This is also part of the "Work Smarter and Harder" method.


Finally, there are some keywords I want to add to his important list, knowing them means to know how to open the right doors.


Resonating content is the new purple cow, know how to resonate and you know how to inspire


Authenticity in marketing is like being true to yourself, deliver what you promise


Shipping is the most important aspect of any service or product. It has to get to the client on time, otherwise it is worthless


Authority rules, it is about how you dress and how you show up, if you want people to accept you as an authority wear an uniform and act like expected


Life is holistic, traditional Chinese medicine is holistic and so should your marketing approach be, not for today and not for tomorrow, but forever


Build a tribe, a group of loyal followers and colleagues that stick together like glue or a family


If we have empathy, we neither need "religion" nor "good" or "bad" in our dictionaries


Having the right connections can be very helpful in establishing a business, although relationships are better than weak ties, the latter has value that shouldn't be underestimated


Having a daily routine such as a positive affirmation is comparable to programming the mind, with the right syntax it is possible to program even the subconsciousness which in turn is responsible for shaping habits


Consistency is the thing that works against creativity, but is important to get you jobs


Business is all about repetition. But it is important to know when to break the mold and when sticking to the rule


It is crucial to have goals. Some easy to achieve goals, some medium-difficult ones and some that seem impossible to reach. The impossible goals are the most important ones, because through these you can grow into that person who is able to achieve them


Timeless content wins in the long run, ask yourself if your work can compete with time


If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door. (Milton Berle)


Every now and then we need a revolution either within our tiny little ecosystem or one that shakes the whole world to its core


The more people know of your work, the higher the price, don't work for people who don't even know your work close enough


Time is money, wasting time means wasting money, but it isn't that easy. For artists, time used for chilling can be useful, to reenergize creative spirits and is therefore healthy. But using several methods to manage tasks that usually are time consuming (changing from phone to email for example) can help.


Today everything can be measured. Learn to measure, how to read statistics and which numbers are important and you are one step ahead of your competition.


*Update 2019*
I just updated my list of related websites and added some great links, articles and tools here:


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Written by

Oliver aka Fantasio is a creative blogger who likes to share his insights about art, marketing and social media. Follow Fantasio on twitter or facebook


  1. Great post, our twitter followers loved it!! Im taking my university syllabus and transcribing to a video training course, and one of the modules will be marketing for the digital artist.

    This is a topic that I felt was seriously glazed over in higher education ;)


    1. Hey Conzz, glad you and the surrealPSD-fellowship liked the post, would be great to be able to bring that into a video somehow. Would be great to see with what you come up with, cheers!



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