The Winning Business Model for Artists

A focus on business models for artists, subject – audience – marketing – repeat, whats your model?

1. Commit to a subject matter

You need to commit to a subject matter – one with emotional relevance, a large enough market opportunity, and preferably a niche you can own.

After hearing this, many artists and photographers usually ask

Can I focus on two or three niches?

Our advice is to try not to.

There should be a niche you are selling into right now that seems to be working better than the others. We advise you to focus on it, because as you will see, this niche is going to require your total effort.

Committing means don’t try to be all things to all people.


For example, don’t try to sell images of cars, flowers, and beaches. If you’re good at beaches, then go after beaches and try to own that category (more on this in a second).

Emotional relevance means imagery that some group(s) of people have an emotional connection to. People ONLY buy art that they have some sort of emotional connection to — this is why we all hang pictures of our families at home. You need to understand and tap into this.

Finding a “niche you can own” means, in the case of beaches, that you shouldn’t arbitrarily paint beaches but instead something much more defined. Like beaches in Hawaii. Or beaches in California. And then, you can try to become known as the artist — and build a brand around being the artist — who does the “Best beaches in Hawaii.”
Even further, you’ve now tapped into emotional relevance. Beaches in Hawaii and beaches in California can be extremely emotionally relevant to large groups of people who live there, vacation there, got married there, have memories there, etc. This still may be too general; you may want to get even more defined such as “Beaches of Maui.” and you’ll see why soon.

A large enough market opportunity means you should make sure the niche you plan to own has enough people who find it emotionally relevant, because that will be your target audience. For example, spending your time painting the beaches of Tijuana, Mexico might be a limited market.

Take a look at how today’s highest grossing artists have committed to a specific subject matter:

  • Wyland – marine life
  • Goddard – martini olives
  • Arvid – wine
  • Kincade – idyllic american scenes
  • Lik – striking landscapes

So what will you become known for?

2. Audience

Who has an emotional connection to your subject matter?

Here are some ideas of how you should brainstorm this:

  • residents in geographic locations (by the coast)
  • people who vacation in geographic locations
  • people affiliated with specific groups/organizations (save the ocean foundation)
  • industry trade shows where your target audience visits (surf industry)
  • users in digital locations (forums, facebook, etc.)

Once you’ve done this, do some research and create a list of every possible venue where and how you can get in front of your audience.

Let’s review how Wyland, one of the highest grossing artists approaches his audience:

Since his is subject matter is marine life, he is getting his art in front of people who are most likely to be emotionally connected to marine life (those who live by the beach, or vacation by the beach). His work is in galleries, and he has his own galleries, in California, Florida, Hawaii.

He is a part of hundreds of organizations, and donates to them regularly, as seen here — — he is not only selling to his target audience, but he is showing his commitment and passion to them.

3. Marketing

This is where you actually execute and get into all of the venues where your target audience is.

The great part is, once you commit to a subject matter in a niche you can own, the world suddenly gets much smaller. You are no longer trying to compete within a broad space like “beach art” where competition from large national players is high. This holds true both offline and online, but especially online.

The large national players have a very general selection of art. They don’t “own” any niches; and so this is a distinct advantage once you carve out a niche . For example, if you were to search “California beach art”, someone like might have some pieces to choose from, but overall the selection is limited and average at best.


You also don’t have pages and pages of art websites in the search results. All of a sudden, launching a simple SEO campaign to start appearing in these search results is something very realistic. Furthermore, advertising within this niche won’t require a large budget.

Overall, here are some examples of things you can do to get in front of your target audience:


  • do art fairs in the geographic region
  • get represented by galleries in the geographic region (when you own a niche, this becomes incredibly easy)
  • do industry trade shows (what better than to have a booth at a trade show where a huge portion of your target audience is congregating?)
  • search interior designers within the target geographic region (using google + pinterest + Houzz) or who might have clients who are emotionally connected to your subject matter, and let them know what you can offer.



  • as they happen, organize and input all of your contacts from your offline strategies to continually build an online database.
  • connect with them on social media platforms like Facebook
  • send offers to buy more immediately after the event (offer should go out no later than 1 week after the event)
  • seek out and become a member of online forums/groups/associations where your target audience congregates, and come up with a creative way to be seen, and make them creative offers (i.e. all members get 25% off).
  • start doing your own search engine optimization
  • buy facebook ads with a limited daily budget (advanced)


4. Repeat

Be consistent and never stop doing the above. Make a commitment to grow your art business. It’s not going to explode overnight — no business does. But every day you will get better, your audience will grow larger, and your opportunities for success will grow wider.

Leave a Comment:

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[…] niche part is is fixable. We wrote a post about […]

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[…] Had already identified a target audience that was emotionally connected to their subject matter (as we’ve laid out in “The Winning Business Model for Artists“) […]

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