Artist's Step-by-Step Guide on Selling Art Commissions

December 13, 2021

#1: Create your portfolio

Before anyone can hire you to create custom artwork for them, your potential clients will want to review your artist portfolio. An artist portfolio, or profile, includes previous examples of artwork you have created for other people. As a result, ensuring you have a good profile to showcase your artwork - and importantly: yourself too - is the first step.

If you need an easy & free way to get an online artist profile, we recommend getting an account with MadeMay - an invite-only platform that provides artists around the world with free portfolios optimized for Google & organic traffic. You can get started here.

The goal of creating an artist portfolio is converting wandering eyeballs into paying clients.

If you need ideas of what your artist profile should look like or include, read what to include in your artist portfolio.

Once your portfolio is complete and looking good, you are ready to start getting art commissions.

#2: Make 10-20 daily calls to local businesses & organizations

Yes, picking up the phone and dialing people & companies is frightening since most people will turn you down - and rejection sucks. However, although success rates are low for any sales activity, the fact is that it works. Statistically, with every 30 calls you make, you will get 1 paying customers. 

It takes about 2 minutes per call, so this means you can expect 1 art commission sale for 1 hour of calling around town. Pretty good, right?

Why should you target local businesses & organizations? This is because familiarity and proximity have a higher likelihood of you sealing the deal. Plus, you can offer a lower price point since shipping is not a factor. Here are some ideas of businesses you can target and call:

  • Portrait paintings for partners at law firms
  • Pet portraits paintings for pet shops, vets, and groomers
  • Custom abstract art for interior designers

Need some help on what to say? Here is an example script you can use: 

Hey John, this is Samantha - the reason I’m calling is because I’m an artist that also lives in San Francisco. I do portrait paintings of people, so I wanted to quickly call and see if I could provide a portrait painting of you or a partner at your law firm?

Note: people hate cold calls, so be quick to the point and keep it under 15 seconds. The objective of the call should not be to get a payment, but for them to provide you their email address so you can send over your profile so they can review your work. From there, you can seal the deal via email (or a follow-up call).

Pro tip: half of all successful orders will come not from your initial outreach, but from following-up with your contacts. Don't forget to follow-up!

If you're interested in getting your own personal sales agent, MadeMay’s Master subscription plan includes your own Account Manager, who makes a small number of sales calls on your behalf each week!

#3: Run Google ads

In addition to getting leads by making outbound calls as described in Step 2, it is critical to also generate some inbound leads. In short, inbound leads means people coming to you instead of you going to them. An easy & effective way to get inbound leads & sales is by running Google Ads.

See this article on how you can set up a successful Google ad campaign.

When you set up your ads, we recommend localizing it. For example, setting your ad location range within a 200-mile radius. Again, this is because the locality and proximity to your clients will help increase your sales conversion numbers.

#4: Keep in touch with your clients

“The most expensive thing in business is a one-time customer.”

As you grow your contact list, be sure to make good use of those contacts by providing regular updates & check-ins via newsletters and social media. This provides you an opportunity to spend more time on nurturing your current contacts, in addition to acquiring new contacts.

You might think that once a client commissions you for an art piece, you might be finished. However, this is just the beginning. This client now presents you an opportunity to get a recurring client, as well as free word-of-mouth advertising & promotion.

Top of mind, top of tongue. The more often people are reminded of you, the more likely they are to buy from you again.

Some ideas of how you can keep in touch:

  • Post your artwork on platforms like Instagram
  • Send bi-weekly newsletters showcasing something unique & personal about yourself
  • Create & post time lapse videos of your artwork on YouTube
  • Ask them to leave you a written review on your profile!

#5: Ask for referrals

“Ask, and ye shall receive.”

So far, we have covered the best ways to:

  1. Set up a profile that converts
  2. Get outbound leads
  3. Get inbound leads
  4. Get recurring customers

Now, the 5th and final step is making sure all your hard work continues to produce a successful return and works for you.

That is - asking for referrals!

Here are some helpful tips on how you can ask for referrals:

  • Before you begin the commission, mention to the clients that if they like it, you will be asking for a referral once it’s complete. The reason for this is that it eases the tension & pressure to ask for a referral later on.
  • With each successful order, ask your happy client to post your artwork (and tag you!) since that immensely helps you grow as an artist.
  • Create a referral loyalty program! For example, with each 3 referrals, offer a free product!
  • Throughout different holiday seasons, send an email to your past clients asking if they know someone else that might enjoying commissioning you a custom artwork

Are you an artist that still needs help getting art commissions? Visit our Artist Page to get started on MadeMay and get art commissions.