Spread the Word: Methods for Getting Started
Let's say you are a beginning artist, just starting to feel confident about your paintings, and you are ready to share what you've done with the public, to see if people like your work.
In this lesson, you will learn about three methods that I used as a beginner, to get my work seen locally, by family, friends, and friends of friends.
- Social media (specifically, Facebook)
- Word of Mouth
- Giving paintings as gifts
These methods worked for me, and I'll provide ideas for you to get started, but there are many ways to get your work seen! I encourage you to take the time to research these and other methods in more detail and share your experiences in the comments, so we can learn from each other!
At the end of the lesson, I invite you to take The Challenge, to get started in sharing your own work and building confidence!
Spread the Word: Methods for Getting Started
Maybe you are just getting started, and few people have seen your work. Here are some suggestions to get your name out there locally - to family, friends, and friends of friends.
Social Media: Spread the Word Using Facebook
When getting started as a watercolor artist, I was nervous about showing my work. What if people didn't like my paintings, or didn't care? I'm wondering if you felt this way too. I needed a supportive environment, where I could show my work to people I trusted. One of the quickest and easiest ways to get family and friends to see my paintings at that time was through Facebook.
The first painting that I felt good about was from a tutorial called by Rodd Webb. I was so proud of this painting and wondered what others would think of it. Back then, Facebook was what I used - I wasn't aware of Instagram or Pinterest or other social media venues yet. I took a photo and posted it on my personal Facebook page, along with the author of the tutorial, (Rodd Webb) and the name of the lesson.
At that point, I was looking for encouragement in the form of “likes” and comments. I wasn't even considering making sales. To my surprise, there was a positive response, which was huge boost to my confidence!
When I felt good about a painting I shared it, and with each new posting came more comments and likes. I realized that people actually liked my work, which provided the incentive to keep going. As I posted images of my paintings regularly (about once a week or two,) requests such as "can you paint my dog?" began to come in.
And that was the beginning of the business.
If Facebook isn't your thing, try Instagram, or Pinterest, or some other mode of social media. Just start posting your work, and see what people say.
Maybe you aren't on Facebook and don't use social media. Here are additional methods that I used to get my paintings seen.
Word of Mouth
Social Settings: Simple Conversations
Keep photos of your work on your phone or other device to share when you are out and about. When you get into a conversation with a person and mention that you are an artist, often they will want to see your work, which could lead to commissions.
- One of my first commissions came from an acquaintance whom I happened to run into. They asked about how the painting was going, and I showed some photos of my animal work. They were impressed and asked if I would create a painting of their dog. When the painting was complete, they posted the image on Facebook which led to more commissions.
- Recently, my husband and I met a woman who, when learning I was an artist, asked to see my work. I pulled some photos up on my phone. The timing was perfect. Her company was looking for an artist to paint portraits of retired personnel. We exchanged email addresses, I visited her work site, which led to portrait commissions for her business.
I've picked up many commissions for pet portraits just through conversations with people!
Use Family and Friends
Often, your family and friends are happy to spread the word about your paintings. And you don't need to be pushy. If they ask, send them images. Some will gladly show your work to their friends and colleagues, and the word will spread.
- My husband showed paintings to members of his softball team, which led to a number of pet portrait commissions that first year and continues to this day.
- My father showed my work to members of his church, which led to requests for paintings.
- My niece shared a painting of her dog on Facebook, which led to out-of-state commissions from her friends.
Word of mouth is far-reaching, and you never know who will contact you. I receive emails from people whom I don't know, saying that they saw a painting created for a family member or friend, even months or years ago, and would like to have one of their own.
Keep it Low Key
When it comes to sharing your work in a social setting or with family and friends, I've learned to be restrained. Have photos ready to show, if someone asks, but be you don’t need to be pushy. You don't want to force people to look at your paintings. If they want to see, I'll show them. If they want to know more, they will keep the conversation going. If they aren't interested, change the subject. You never know - the idea has been planted, and they may still contact you!
Give Away Paintings as Gifts!
It feels good to give and it's a great way to spread the word about your work, especially when just getting started.
In my first two years as an artist, I gave many paintings to family and friends as gifts. Again, you don't need to be pushy about it. In conversations, you will pick up whether they might be interested in having a piece of your art - this especially works well for pet owners. Or you could just take the leap and give a painting to someone, even if they don't ask. The worst that could happen is they don't hang it up.
The first gift was for a colleague who had just lost her beloved dog, Hope. This painting was based on a photo from her Facebook page. It was a surprise. My intention to create this gift as a source of comfort for a good friend, not to advertise my work. She loved it, showed it to her friends, which did spread the word.
You can always start with your family's pets. The first image below is Max, a Christmas gift to my sister and her children. They loved it, and the painting still hangs in their dining room. The second image is a gift for my niece. She shared the photo with her friends, which led to additional requests for paintings.
Thoughts About Gifting Paintings – What I’ve Learned
- Do it for the right reasons. I created gifts because it made me happy (and I hope the receiver too,) not to advertise my work or get commissions.
- It's o.k. to say "No." You don't have to give every member of the family a free painting. It's your choice. Don't allow anyone to guilt you into creating a painting. I've learned that there is no joy in that.
- Prioritize and Schedule. Make sure you have the time to get it done, so you aren't panicking right before that birthday or holiday.
These simple methods for getting your work seen can bring good results, and I still use them today.
Now, lets be realistic.
Has this happened to you?
In my research, I would come upon articles like “The Ultimate Secret to Make Instant Sales,” or “10 Ways to Get Your First Commission.” I would get super excited and give the ideas a try….
And they wouldn’t work. No response.
Everyone's situation is different. These techniques may or may not work for you. What works for one person may not be the solution for someone else. It takes research, experimentation, and perseverance.
And you must be brave.
It might be a super scary step, but I encourage you to take the leap and share your work. What's the worst that could happen?
- Maybe people won't respond.
- Maybe someone will make a comment that you don't appreciate.
- It's going to happen. It's part of the experience. Don't let it stop you.
The great thing about art is that your work is unique, and SOMEONE IS going to like it. Use the positive feedback to boost your confidence and take any negative feedback as a learning experience. If you do get to a point where you are not seeing responses using one method, research. Find out how other artists do it. Try something different.
And never, ever give up.
What methods work for you?
I invite you to share your questions in the comments, along with your experiences, advice, insights so we can learn from each other!
Next, I invite you to move to the next lesson, to Take the Challenge!