5 lessons learned from launching my first art collection
Since becoming an artist "full time", I've learned SO MUCH about my own creative process, the business of business, time management, and what it takes to just get the work DONE. But when I decided to create a more cohesive body of work and release it all together as my first art collection, there are a few things I was unprepared for.
I sat down and did a debrief about two weeks after I launched Low Tides and about a week after the corresponding art show. Below are the top five lessons I learned from my first art collection launch.
1. Don't be afraid to sell yourself and your work.
Sales don't have to be sleezy and there is a difference between selling and overselling. The people who follow you on social media or who have signed up to receive emails from you genuinely want to hear from you and find out what you're up to...so tell them! That said, I think there is a big difference between constantly asking for someone to buy something versus showing up consistently and providing value...and THEN asking for an occasional sale.
Lesson learned: I could have leveraged social media and my newsletter to better sell specific pieces while telling a story and creating connection. I'm always afraid of coming off as annoying, but when combined with the power of storytelling, I know that I can do a better job next time of creating more interest and connection with my work in order to make the sale.
2. Stories help people find a connection.
By far, the highest engagement on social media, greatest number of emails, and most in-person comments I got about the art in the "Low Tides" collection was about the stories I told in conjunction with each piece. Numbers don't lie, and I learned that my ability to tell stories is one of the biggest and most powerful tools in my arsenal for creating connection.
Lesson: Keep telling stories. I think with this launch, I could have done a better job telling my audience more of the story behind each piece in a more literal, less abstract, way. I also had an idea to make little videos that sort of explained each piece; the location that inspired it, the people, and the emotion. Perhaps for the next one. I also think I could have leveraged Instagram stories and IG live to better show the "behind-the-scenes" of each piece to help people feel a deeper connection to the work.
3. A strong pre-launch is everything.
Here's where I really could improve. I had very grand plans to pre-launch with an email series, free content, engaging posts and stories on social media, and behind-the-scenes videos on each piece. I wanted to really tell a story about this collection and show people the how and why of why I created it in the first place. The short truth was that I WAY underestimated how much time all of that would take on top of actually creating the collection and taking care of my son full time. What resulted was a somewhat sales-y few days on social media, two back-to-back emails to my email list with little to no hype or big storytelling element, and a "launch" that was just kinda..."eh".
Lesson: Pre-plan, plan, schedule, review, then plan some more. Be realistic about what the MOST important things are that need to get done, then let go of the rest. Did I mention PLAN?
4. Decide what your time is worth...and outsource things you don't need to be doing.
Can I tell you what I absolutely hated? Framing. Why I even thought it made sense to do it myself was beyond me. Major props to my husband, who helped me install all of the hanging hardware on each piece. From mounting to cleaning glass, to sealing the frames...we made each piece so nice...but it. took. FOREVER. My time could have been way better spent elsewhere, most of all with my family.
Lesson: OUTSOURCE what you're not good at, you don't have time for, or that you just don't want to do. Do the research far ahead of time on cost of outsourcing and price your work to account for the help. Most of all, know it's OK to ask for help and that you don't have to do everything yourself.
5. Don't place your worth in the hands of your work.
This one has taken me YEARS to learn and I feel like I did a pretty good job at it this time around.
Lesson: YOU ARE NOT YOUR WORK. There are SO many reasons why your sales may be doing better or worse than you expected. Dig in, analyze the numbers, figure out what you can improve next time, and know that it doesn't make YOU any better or worse of a human being. Also, "failing" is actually a good thing. All it means is that something didn't meet an expectation and there is so much to be LEARNED from failure. Shake it off, learn EVERYTHING you can from the experience, and try again. And again. And again.
The biggest takeaway: HAVE FUN. Creativity doesn't like to be forced, shamed, or rushed. My favorite pieces from this collection that sold the fastest and whose stories had the greatest connection with people were the pieces I literally created from leftover paint and a few spare minutes as I was cleaning up from creating something I had actually intended to make. So you just never know. Do what feels right. Share your story. Create connection. The money will flow, but the journey is where the real gold is.