NEWSLETTERS 101 #10: Share Your Process
NEWSLETTERS 101 #9: Share Your Studio
This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She’s blogged since 2002 about the business side–and the spiritual inside–of art. She says, “I share my experiences so you won’t have to make ALL the same mistakes I did….” For ten years, Luann also wrote a column (“Craft Matters”) for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She’s a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
Start with the EASIEST news first!
I’m giving you a break from finding your creation story this week. I don’t mean I’m done poking you yet, though. So keep trying the tips and exercises. In the meantime, we’ll explore what you can write about in your email newsletters.
The easiest topic is, share your work.
Remember the days when it was impossible to add an image to an email? And when we finally could, too big a pic, or too many, could crash someone else’s email software. (Ask me how I know.)
Now it’s so easy to send multiple images. Layout and design have gotten easier. FASO’s email newsletter templates have a learning curve, but so do all email newsletter services. It’s the extra features FASO provides that make their program so useful and efficient. For example, when you upload a new work of art onto your website, an automatic email goes out to your designated addresses. (I’m still learning about this feature, so I’m not sure how to ‘tell more’ about that work, as I would in a regular email newsletter created by me.)
People who are interested in us, and our work, are happy to see what we’re up to, especially the ones who actually collect our work.
Things we can share about our work:
What we’re working on now. A painter friend in New Hampshire shares the latest wildlife images they’re working on, and the direction and backstory of their newest series.
Brief updates that share our progress on a piece. Another friend shares the steps that go into creating their work, showing the work at varying stages of progress, and notes about what they were striving to achieve at each step.
Work being submitted to a gallery or an event. This is especially exciting if it’s a venue that we’re excited about: That highly-reputable gallery we’ve gotten into, a prestigious exhibit, a solo show, etc. (It’s also a subtle way of sharing our latest ‘credentials’, i.e., our work was ‘good enough’ to be accepted.)
A new direction we’re taking in our process, subject matter, etc. A new color palette. New interest in other subjects. A new technique we’re working on.
One caveat here: Remember that not all followers know ‘art jargon’, or will understand the challenges of using, say, watercolor, or the quirks and outcomes of using different substrates in your paintings.
I mean, don’t assume people are stupid. But if you’re sharing in a way ONLY another artist in your field would understand, you’re doing it wrong. A noted speaker/consultant who gave a presentation on how to talk to customers said that most customers don’t care whether your clay is porcelain or stoneware, nor that it was fired with a cone 10 glaze. But they DO want to know if the glaze is lead-free, and if that bowl is safe to put in the microwave.
Recently Clint Watson mentioned something interesting in one of his Fine Art View columns. Details are shaky (and now I can’t find that article!!) but short story, “room views” are not that effective in marketing our artwork. Which surprised me, but Clint knows the numbers.
In which case, what about taking a pic of your work on an easel? Or another in situ shot, from your studio? Or a pic of you at work on that painting at your easel?
When I was exploring high-end fine craft shows on the East Coast, trying to figure if they were a good fit for my work, I remember a large poster/framed photographed image in one booth featuring a enlarged image of a group of carved figural wood sculptures, brightly painted.
It pulled me right in from the aisle. It was a great way of showing the variety of the work. Consider try mixing it up if your work is ceramic, jewelry, etc., anything that is made in multiples even if they are not identical. One of my most-commented on images was staged this way—informal, up close, a variety of styles and colors.
Now here’s the tiny piece that will get you a good response. Ask what people think. But don’t just say, “What do you think?” Be more specific. Recently, I updated a box shrine I made a few years ago, adding more artifacts and elements, swapping some out, etc. I shared a before-and-after image. I said which one I liked better, and why. I asked people to choose their favorite, and share why.
I got some very thoughtful responses, and more than I usually get when I send out an email newsletter. And speaking of engagement, the insights were huge! The preferences for both versions were split right down the middle. Some people actually preferred the “less finished” shadow box, because it would allow them to add their own artifacts. Interesting! Which also goes to show, there’s no ‘wrong way’ to decide when something is finished, except how it feels to us.
Do you already share new work with your customers? What has the response been? I hope this article has inspired you to encourage engagement in a stronger way, and if so, share how that went!
Stay tuned for more suggestions next week, and ways to mix it up to keep your newsletters interesting!
This assortment drew a lot more comments than a single item, something to consider if your artwork lends itself to this.
AMPING UP YOUR ART MARKETING: Baby Steps!
Backwards and baby steps can help us move forward in everything.
Last week, I raved about the powerful insights I’ve gained already from watching just two AMP webinars (Art Marketing Playbook), a series created by FASO’s marketing guru, Dave Geada of Big Purple Fish..
Great marketing insights often mean revamping, not just our approach, but also our website, our email newsletters, our social media accounts. And with great revamping can come great overwhelming-ness. (I just made that word up.) Big projects can be daunting, especially if they aren’t in our ‘primary’ skill-set. (I’m comfortable with social media, but changes in my approach were needed.)
I’m happy to find that I’m doing a lot of things right: Knowing my ‘creation story’, using the best social media platforms (Facebook biz page, Instagram account, a lively email newsletter, the “new artwork alert”, etc.)
I was sad to learn all the things I’m doing wrong. And devastated to learn how many things I’m doing wrong. A lot of work lies ahead….
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by big multi-step processes. And when I’m overwhelmed, my lizard brain instantly leaps in to protect me.
“You’re doing it wrong! It’s too hard! Just stop, crawl away, give up, hide in a hole somewhere!! Make it go awaaaaaaaay!!”
You probably already know that doesn’t work. And yet, being overwhelmed can mean we put off the repairs, edits, restructuring efforts so necessary for doing better.
So I sat with all this new knowledge, wondering how the heck to get it all in place in a timely fashion.
Today I had a brainstorm.
I remembered what’s worked for me in the past when dealing with uncertainty. Here’s the way I’m thinking about this that might help you, too.
The power of this strategy is to think about your desired end results, you goal. Then think what has to happen to achieve that goal…backwards.
Yes, you read that right! What has to happen before you have another great painting in your inventory? Finishing a painting. Painting. Time to paint. The right paint, for the surface. Figuring out the palette. The right surface. Composition. A subject. An idea.
So maybe we: Recognize we want to paint. List ideas for a subject. Find that subject to create. Maybe take a picture of it, or find the perfect plein air site. Check our supplies to make sure we have the right size canvas, and the right paints, and paint colors. Set aside time to paint. Etc., etc. until we finally have the triumph of a new work of art in hand.
Breaking down these steps is powerful. And breaking them down into tiny steps is even more powerful.
So, baby steps.
First tiny step: Update my profile portrait image. Further step back: Find/make a new portrait image.
“Making a new image” was hard. I’ve been struggling to make a new profile portrait for months. Since I haven’t had a haircut in months, it’s a lit-tul hard getting even a somewhat flattering selfie, and selfies tend to distort our faces too much. Older pics are pretty discouraging, too.
But then I remembered a set of portraits my partner and I had done a few years ago, to celebrate our wedding anniversary. They’re tintypes, black and white, and we love them!
So my first baby step was: Find those pictures. It took awhile to find them, but I did.
I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate them into my social media, though. Until, doh! I realized I could photograph the photographs. Baby step!
Once that was done, my next baby step was easier: Update one social media site.
I started with my Google accounts: Google (Gmail, etc.) On Dave’s suggestion, I also added a small pic of me in my email signature. Done!
Encouraged by this, I decided to update more sites. FASO. I added the tintype image to my “not artwork images” section, then swapped out my old profile portrait. Done! Hey, I’ll write a little newsletter about my new portrait. Done!
I was on a roll. I quickly updated my Facebook and Instagram accounts. Done! What about my WordPress blog? Done! With editing, cropping, updating, etc., it took few hours to get it all in place.
But I’m feeling much better about everything now.
The feeling of accomplishment is palpable. And knowing that’s one item I can scratch off the to-do list? Huge.
I know those other things on the list will also feel like too much. As I work my way through them, I’ll continue to share what I’ve learned.
But I’m grateful I remembered that going backwards can actually be a powerful way of moving forward, with everything in life.
Let me know if this helps YOU move forward today. And if you’ve found powerful ways to incorporate those new AMP strategies, share them here! Someone maybe be very grateful you did. (Me!)
If you know someone who would find this article helpful, pass it on to them! And if someone sent you this, and you liked it, you can find more of my Fine Art Views articles here, and more great marketing advice at FineArtViews.com, or subscribe to my blog at luannudell.wordpress.com too.
Remember: We’re all in this together!*
*And nobody gets out alive. But whatever makes it better, is a gift!
LEARNING TO SEE #15: Not All Advice Is Equal
And even bad advice can help us move forward!
(6 minute read)
Last week, I signed up for my very first Art Marketing Program (AMP) webinar, hosted by FASO’s marketing guy, Dave Geada.
These sessions are long, which makes it hard to fit into my work day. Unlike the rest of my family, I don’t do podcasts well. Listening to them, that is. When I’m creating, words interrupt my concentration, even words in songs.
But I made the time, and I’m glad I did!
If you haven’t worked with Dave, or tried any of those recorded videos, do try them. He’s focused, insightful, explains all the ‘why’s’ behind it all, and even how important the ‘WHY’ behind the art we make, is. (Hint: Because it’s the heart of everything we do.)
I’m already overloaded with those action steps, so much that I almost wrote my column about ‘little steps forward’ today. Next time! Because I also dropped in on my first conversation in the (art marketing discussion forum), and found what needs to be addressed first:
Not all advice is equal. And not all advice works for everyone.
There is fact-based data, there are expert opinions based on experience, and then there’s advice.
Fact-based data comes from someone actually measuring results for any given marketing strategy. This was former Fine Art Views columnist Lori Woodward’s superpower. She would dig in and test a strategy, then share her findings.
But not all fact-based date is equal, either. Let’s take search engine optimization (SEO.) We are hammered constantly to pay/hire someone to show us how we can improve our ranking in search engine results. One of Dave’s strongest points is that most SEO suggestions work for retailers: People who sell stuff. Their strategy is to get billions of ‘hits’, hoping a small fraction of those people will click and actually buy something.
But artists are makers. We don’t need a billion clicks. We need a passionate following, people who love our work, to buy from us over and over again. That may be a small percentage of our audience, which is also much smaller than say, Amazon. So the numbers aren’t as relevant, and SEO is less important. Whew! That’s about a jillion SEO marketing ‘come-on’ emails I can delete from my inbox today!
Next, the expert opinion. This is usually from someone who’s had success in whatever we’re involved in. When we needed a babysitter for our kids, who do we ask to find one? Other people with kids. There are ‘experts’ in every aspect of our lives, ranging from car mechanics, doctors, marketing gurus, and other artists.
But even expert advice may not work for everyone. First, goals may be different. Second, their experience may be different. Someone who is a famous oil painter may not actually have good insights into me selling my assemblages or jewelry. Or the way that person achieved fame and fortune may go against my principles, time available, and my budget.
And of course, it’s highly possible that person isn’t really as successful as they seem to be. (My favorite Anne Lamott quote: “Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides.) Years ago, when I was doing fine craft wholesale shows, there were some folks who asserted that they made a great living with their work. Another craftsperson did some deep research and found some interesting results: Many of those people a) inherited wealth; b) had a spouse who was in highly-paid profession; c) or they had a second ‘career’ on the side, like flipping houses, for example. Famous writers sometimes reveal their income doesn’t all come from their books being published. Their income also relies on teaching workshops and speaking engagements. Many artists do the same!
And last, there’s just plain ol’ advice. The random things people will tell us that have nothing to do with our story, our preferred medium, work process, style, aesthetic.
Me? I get a lot of advice, especially when I don’t ask for it! Sometimes it’s so off-base, it’s gob-smacking. And yet sometimes, it’s intriguing, and pulls something new out of me, maybe even something completely different than what the advice-giver was thinking.
In the end, we get to pick what works for us.
In my humble experience, if it resonates with me, that’s my signal that I should at least try it. And if my shoulders try to cover my ears, that’s my signal that I should just set it aside. Not all advice is perfect for every single situation/person. Nobody is right all the time.
As I said, even “bad” advice may still provide a powerful insight. First, it’s good to recognize that most advice comes from others wanting to help us do better. Knowing others care is sweet!
Second, we can examine our reactions when it lands badly, asking ourselves, “What is it about that suggestion that makes me cringe?” Exploring why we react the way we do can give us insights into our own blind spots, weaknesses, insecurities.
Third, sometimes advice is a no-brainer. In this particular session, Dave walked through several artists’ websites, pointing out fairly simple ways we can improve our website visitors’ experience. My notebook is filled with notes—hope I can read them! (I was writing pretty fast. So much information!) Yeah, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at all the things I could/should do to improve my site. My next step is figuring out my next step! I’ll be sharing my experience and insights with you along the way. (Which, of course, may work for you, or may not. I’m not even an expert!)
The biggest insight for me was why people are online, on social media, in the first place. (Answer: Boredom, loneliness, connection.) (Unless I messed up my notes….?) He also confirmed Clint Watson’s assertion that our email newsletters are our most powerful tool to grow our audience, and why. (Answer: Because people check their email even more often than they check out their social media.) He noted that we can focus on just Instagram, Facebook, and our email newsletter. (Whew! Goodbye, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and Twitter!)
So be sure to check out Dave’s webinars. You can find the basic playbook/eBook under the “Art Marketing” tab on the FASO site. Consider joining FASO for your artist website, because in addition to all the aspects that work for ARTISTS, you will have complete access to these webinars (including recordings of past events.) You can spend as little as $12/month for a FASO website, which I’m guessing would be less than the cost of SEO advice from internet marketers who have no idea what works for artists in the first place.
And remember, begin with advice that works for YOU. Even if you hate it, explore why you hate it. And when you get overwhelmed, remember my advice: Baby steps! One at a time, at your own pace.
If you enjoyed this article, please feel free to pass it on to someone else. And if someone sent you this article, and you liked it, too, see more at FineArtViews.com, Dave’s articles at same, my articles there, Clint’s insights on email newsletters, other art marketing topics, and my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com.
Well, that should keep you busy for a few days! Until next week, take exquisite care of yourself during these trying times.