Today's post all stems from this simple notion:
If you don't own your customers, you don't have a business.
By "own," I mean having them in your database.
Their name, their email address, their mailing address.
Without this information, you have no way to contact your customers in the future. No way to market to them and earn a second, third, and fourth purchase from them.
In short - you have no viable business.
This feels intuitive, but I am continually shocked at just how many photographers and artists haven't realized this fact despite having struggled for years to make their artwork pay the bills.
Artists who have been selling for 2 or 5 or 10 or even 20 years who don't have a customer list.
The problem stems from the most popular venues for art sales: galleries and online marketplaces.
We've already covered why marketplaces stand in the way of making a consistent living (see: 8 Secrets Art Marketplaces Don't Want You To Know), so let's focus on galleries in this post.
If photographers and artists have a problem with galleries, it's likely the percentage of every sale they take. But this is far from the most costly factor.
The real cost in the traditional gallery model is that you don't get to own your customers. They do.
If the gallery moves on from your work, changes direction, or relocates, they will be able to continue marketing to collectors that bought your work - but you won't. You lose access to those clients forever, even though they initially liked your work enough to buy it.
This leaves much more money on the table over time than a simple commission percentage.
It also creates a dynamic where you're only as good as your last sale - making earning a consistent living from your art feel nearly impossible.
Renowned artist Wyland notes that his collectors typically buy art from him an average of 7 times.
7 times. This can only happen if you are able to market to your past customers. Emailing them when you finish new projects, or when you run your 4th quarter playbook (the easiest sales to get of the entire year).
That's why we always tell photographers/artists to work on selling direct as soon as humanly possible - through their own online art galleries.
Once you have your own online art gallery and get to own your customers for life, you can start to build a legitimate business that will allow you to quit your 9-5, live from your art, save for retirement, and even create something you can pass on.
It all goes back to owning your customers. Do you? Or are you just renting them?
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