Art is extremely personal. We all know that what we create is often a little piece of our soul. Add to that the fact that beauty is utterly in the eye of the beholder (or consumer), and you have a recipe for emotional heartache and creative paralysis. That's why it is, without question, in your best interest to know if your stuff is crap or not (from a sale-ability perspective).
First, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is my work useful, unique, marketable, or some combo of the three?
(Much more on this below the questions)
2. Do I see other people's work that looks a lot like mine on a pretty regular basis?
If so, you are not ready to sell for success. Your work will not stand out enough to make a living. A few sales yes, but not a living. In crowded categories like Jewelry or Bath and Body, being interesting gets pretty tough. This is one I struggle with, which is why I'm working hard to expand into areas that allow me to stand out.
3. Do I take time to learn everything I can about my area/medium (before I try to sell anything), or do I just do the basics? This means techniques, promotional possibilities, perfect photos, communication with more experienced sellers/artists in your field, etc....
If you haven't, you are operating with a handicap, because your competitors are doing it all.
Now think about this:
- If your work is solely unique, you have a hard, long road ahead that will usually mean very few sales early on, but if you can weather the storm, you might find your niche eventually.
- If your work is marketable (but perhaps only marginally unique or useful), you will usually enjoy quicker success, but will often have difficulty sustaining it, as marketability is very closely tied to trends, which change with startling frequency these days.
- If your work is truly useful, but not unique or marketable, you have the toughest path, as useful doesn't necessarily mean that people will pay money for it.
Real success comes when your work combines these elements in some way.
- Unique & Useful: Solid combo, but you will have to work extra hard at having great branding, amazing photos, and every promotional outlet you can think of well covered. Most jewelry, knit goods, clothing, accessories, etc... are in this category.
- Marketable & Useful: Congrats! If you are both, this means that your products are super cool, well-made, and fall into a category that lacks a lot of competition. Examples include items like snazzy laptop and gadget cases.
- Unique & Marketable: Tough one. Usually means quick, trend-based success that's difficult to sustain, because it's hard to duplicate in new and inventive ways each time a trend passes.
If you are talented (or lucky) enough to pull off all three, enjoy counting your piles of money... and please, tell me your secrets!
Once you get real about what categories you fall into, and which ones you don't, now you know the areas you have to work on to be more successful.
Here's the tough part. If you find that you are not really any of these, you may need to go back to the drawing board, if you really want to turn your artwork into a thriving business. Just remember, there's absolutely nothing wrong with doing what you love and giving it as gifts, and enjoying it for for the joy it brings you. Business is a whole different ballgame, and one that isn't always what we want it to be. So, if you think you're up for it, be tough, be real, and be great!