How to gain collectors for your art business

Collectors are an artist’s bread and butter—sometimes, quite literally! Here are some tips from artists Andrew Kochie and Rachel Wilkins on how to gain collectors for your art business.

  1. Bring everything to the table

You might be an artist, but you may also be a graphic designer, a real estate agent, a musician, a parent, a sports fanatic. In creating and exhibiting your work, bring your full experience to the table. This will not only help you connect with and gain collectors who are from all different walks of life, but it will also make your work more unique. For Andrew Kochie, his trompe l’oeil illusion paintings were inspired by the varnish he once put on musical instruments for a living. No experience is too small—so don’t quit your day job yet!

  1. Start close to home.

Andrew Kochie’s pieces now sell for thousands of dollars, but he didn’t start there. His first “big” sale was a landscape to his aunt for $500, and he gained a large network of interested collectors from there. Your family and friends are happy to support you, and while it might feel lame at first to only sell to your small circle, a painting to Aunt Linda that hangs in her living room could translate into commissions for her book club friends, and their friends and coworkers, and so on. Like Kochie, you may find yourself so swamped with studio visits and commissions that you don’t always have time for exhibitions. Dorothy was right—there’s no place like home.

  1. Know your worth

Whether you are selling to family, friends, or a new collector you just met, it’s important to know your worth to gain collectors. For Rachel Wilkins, artist and art entrepreneur, when work is priced too low sometimes her first thought is—what’s wrong with it? Remember that if you don’t value your work, no one else will either. You may start selling your paintings for $1/square inch, and then work up to $1.50/square inch, and go from there with increasing demand as you gain collectors. When you know your market and value the work you put into it, including all your supplies and materials, including your sweat—your pieces will attract more attention.

  1. Think outside the “gallery” and “collector” box

While galleries used to be revered as the crème-de-la-crème of the art world, Kochie and Wilkins agree that exhibitions and breweries are an amazing way interact with collectors who nine times out of 10 would never enter a gallery. Also don’t discount “captive audience” locations—Kochie has seen successful laundromat art pop-ups, and Wilkins once exhibit her mixed-media pieces in luxury high-end gentleman’s salon in Manhattan and made $15,000. Exhibition spaces are in the eye of the beholder, and so are collectors. Typically when people think “collector,” they think of a retired millionaire looking to outfit his mansion in Long Beach with exotic pieces. But technically, a collector is anyone who appreciates and collects art. Kochie shifted his mentality early on in the exhibition process, and encourages artists to remember “You just don’t know who you’re talking to, what the possibilities are, what kind of connection they feel to your work, so treat everybody equally.”

  1. Be personal and bold in talking with collectors

As we learned in #4, everyone is a potential collector. But how do you gain actual collectors? Every artist needs to have a web presence, especially an Instagram account. But showing your work is only half of the sale—the other half is how you communicate with potential buyers. Andrew Kochie likes to take a more casual approach when emailing collectors, and even keeps up with his collectors’ families on social media for an extra personal touch. Sending occasional messages to check in or to let collectors know about sales separates you from artists who just post their work and expect people to buy it. When a potential collector looks at one of Andrew Kochie’s pieces, his approach is “Hi, is there something that you really enjoy?” and after discussing the piece, “Do you want to go home with this painting?” With bold but friendly questions like these, you can meet collectors where they are and also open up the conversation to share your love of creating.

We hope you enjoyed these tips!