Giclée printing is all about small volumes, high quality at reasonable price points. Therefore, our giclée printing service suits small enterprises such as artists who sell their own artwork, either online or at fairs and fetes etc. This is not to say that larger enterprises would not benefit from the same factors, but merely indicates that with relatively little expenditure, a reasonable stock can be acquired to start selling your art.
All too often we come across very good artists who are not necessarily the best business people, which is entirely logical as both skill sets are managed by the opposite sides of the brain and you can’t be good at everything!
Creating the artwork and creating files for printing is the ‘easy part’. Selling your prints is a business as any other business and therefore the same rules broadly apply.
At Studio74 we have not only been printing art for many years, but we have run two art galleries for nearly 20 years and will be more than happy to pass on what we’ve learned throughout these times. We will attempt to highlight a few of the aforementioned business rules and, whereas this list is by no means complete, it will hopefully give you a few pointers that could help to be more successful when it comes to selling your prints. If, after reading this, you would like to talk more, we are more than happy to run through your particular business with you, as our main philosophy at Studio74 is:
OUR SUCCESS DEPENDS ON MAKING YOU MORE SUCCESSFUL
In this article we will cover the following subjects:
The benefit of selling prints
Product and Presentation
Advertising and Marketing
The benefit of selling prints
The first point to cover is to ask yourself how you could benefit from putting your work into print. The main advantages of digitising and/or selling prints of your artwork are that it allows you to:
Make additional profits from a single piece of artwork
Make your art available at a lower price point and therefore a wider audience
Advertise your art to a wider public and therefore gain more publicity
Keep a record and build a catalogue of your work
Use the digital version of your work in your advertising campaigns, social media, website etc.
Your first job (before you enter the magic world of giclée printing) is to determine who would buy your art and why your work appeals to others. You may wish to test the waters by showing your artwork to friends and family. For a slightly wider appeal, try social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. It’s important though to enter a dialogue with those who view your art in order to ascertain a true opinion as people, who know you, will find it difficult to admit if your artwork is not quite to their liking. Instead of them trying to give you false confidence by telling you how beautiful everything is - what you really want to know is if they would hang it on their walls and live with it on a permanent basis.
Once you’ve determined what it is they like or don’t like about your art, you can narrow your work down to those pieces that have ‘saleability’. You may find that some of your work, however appealing it is to yourself, may not appeal to a wider audience. At the end of the day you’re not selling purely to people with your artistic views, but to the general public who treat art as a form of decorative display within the confines of their home or perhaps as a gift for others, which often requires for the artwork to be more generically pleasing. Based on this judgement, you will need to determine which of your pieces you are going to put in print.
The general rule is start small and grow slow. In other words, trying to run before you can walk, may not be the safest approach. Learning from the mistakes made, while you’re starting your business, may avoid making more substantial mistakes, when your business has become larger. If you stretch yourself by making large investments before you’re certain that they will provide a safe return, then you may run a higher risk of failure.
So, you need to identify a market for your business that suits the size of your business. For starters, there are a number of low cost online selling platforms you can try, like Etsy, E-Bay shop, Shopify, Artplode and print on demand sites like MoMa … This is a forever changing landscape, so research carefully and choose what suits your style of work and budget and try to find out which are most popular at the time.
Additionally, it’s good practise to become a member of the local art associations and partake in their exhibitions, socials and take advice from lectures, organised by the group.
Another avenue would be to create a ‘pop-up’ shop by hiring a space at art and craft markets, which a lot of towns / cities organise on a regular basis. Whilst they will need your personal input and will test your salesmanship, they are often a way to sell your wares without huge investment. Unlike selling online, they also give you an invaluable opportunity to get in touch with your audience. Talking to your customers is by far the most effective way of finding out what people like (and don’t like) about your products. It is also an ideal opportunity to pick up new commissions as people who come and see your work are faced with a large selection of your bestselling work on display right in front of their eyes. The old trick of a ‘window display’, filled with plenty of carefully designed products that, together, create an ambiance reflecting a strong and definite style, can’t be achieved from displaying your art online as a singular, isolated works.
Finally, for the brave, you may wish to approach suitable galleries and ask if they will stock your work. Whilst this seems an attractive and easy way to sell many prints in a reputable art gallery, there are a few points you must be aware of before walking through that door and try to convince them why they should start stocking your work. Galleries are essentially retail outlets with substantial overheads (rent, rates, staff etc..) They need to cover their costs and also make a profit from your art. At the same time, they will want to sell your prints at the same price to their customers than you offer them to your customers, otherwise they would be at a disadvantage.
As art is regarded as something special, a gallery will only be interested if they have some form of exclusivity agreement. In other words, if the same prints are offered elsewhere in the vicinity, then that would dilute sales and make it less appealing for the gallery. So, selling through a gallery may be better left until you’re more established and the demand and pricing of your product has grown to a level where you can afford to drop your profit margin and be more selective in the choice of outlet that sells your work.
Product and Presentation
It is vitally important that you see your printed piece of art as a product that needs to be just right for your buyer. For instance, selling online may bring issues like carriage, packaging (tubed, flat packed, mounted or print only) and limitations to the size, distance and time involved in sending your sold prints. You need to make sure that you have those issues covered. All these issues need to be worked out before you have your art printed.
A very important factor is your presentation. Your buyer ultimately wishes to put your art on their wall. In order to protect printed artwork, it is advised that a print is mounted in order to keep the paper away from the glass. If you wish to present your print in a mount then that will cover this requirement and also make your print more presentable. Whilst opting for this route, it would be sound advice to try to make the final mounted product fit a ready-made frame size. Whilst this is not always possible, it adds to the saleability because your customer has the option to save money by buying a frame off the shelf or invest more money in a bespoke frame. This is another topic to discuss with your printer before going ahead with printing your artwork.
Especially when you first start out, you may wish to contemplate signing your prints or even limiting them to a specified number to make them appear more special to your customer. Again, your printer needs to know this as a certain amount of space needs to be provided around your image when it’s printed.
Finally, a mounted print can get dirty quickly, so you should display it in some form of see-through bag or cellophane. Nowadays, plastic bags can be frowned upon and most packaging suppliers can supply more eco-friendly, bio-degradable and / or recyclable options.
How much do you charge for your beautifully presented mounted print in its eco-friendly bag and sent to your customer far, far away?? This is where you must not be scared to become business-like.
Think firstly how much you would be prepared to spend on your print as a customer. This can be different, depending on the where and how you sell your print (local exhibition vs online, gallery sales vs street market etc.). A golden rule is that your price should be fixed, so that your customers don’t feel cheated if they find it cheaper elsewhere. These days it’s so easy to get a bad name through social media or internet based rating sites. If you have a consistent pricing policy.
Once you have determined what you regard to be a reasonable price, then halve it (most retailers work on the basis of 100% mark up as their profit margin). Then see if you have enough left to cover the cost of the printing and mounting, any other and, if you’re providing free carriage, the cost of sending the print out to your customer. All of this may need lots of tweaks, but, at the end of the day, your business will fail if it doesn’t make any profit. You need your profit to invest in more products.
Your stock levels need to be high enough to meet demand (if you run low then print more), but low enough so you don’t invest more money than is necessary.
As mentioned in the very beginning of this article: The beauty of giclée prints is that they are based on a model, which produces low volumes, high quality and at reasonable prices.
Advertising and Marketing
These terms sound very grand and you may think that, as a small enterprise, you don’t need to worry about them. But think about it, there is nothing worse than spending a lot of your time setting up social media sites, maybe creating a website, holding an exhibition.. and there is nobody there to see it (and buy it). Somehow you need to let people know that you exist and create a desire for your art work.
The key is to network in as many ways as you can. Here are some suggestions:
Branding: Create a company name for your business, including relevant logo, reflecting you and your art. The more people see your brand name, the more they will start to trust is as a familiar brand.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website through meta tags / title tags
Target your audience on social media by following / liking others. As social media is such a fast moving platform, it’s important to carry out this exercise as soon as you’ve issued a post and try to follow those groups who would be most likely to respond to your post
Create dialogue between you and your audience on social media – comment on their posts, thank them for their comments
Use hashtags where appropriate, whilst posting on social media, but only those that are relevant and are used by a large number of people.
Insert your biography and contact details in the prints you display or sell.
Grow your social media following via competitions and auctions
Ask galleries if you can display leaflets advertising you as an artist. Most galleries will be happy to have a selection of artists to fall back on when customers are interested in commissioning artwork (Make sure you understand if the gallery charges commission themselves)
Participate in annual art trails in the area – it’s a way of letting the public know where you are and to hand out your contact details
“Sell your story”: Contact local media (papers, radio, local advertising magazines) with the purpose of free editorial content all about you and your art. Explain where you draw your inspiration from ..