I must admit that in the past I have had a very hard time selling my work in person--that is, sales make me gut-wrenchingly nervous. Just the idea of approaching galleries or local shops to show my work makes my stomach hide somewhere in my throat, so I've never done it before. I have shown in coffee shops and a couple of small galleries that felt more approachable, but it has been a long time even for that. Until this week.
Heidi Steeves is a mom at Buckman Elementary, where my daughter goes to school, as well as co-owner of Union Rose, a cool boutique on MLK that sells hand-crafted goods made by local artisans. I was introduced to her during the last school year and she asked me to come in to the shop with some of my things, but I was still very nervous and didn't feel like I had a good selection at the time. After stocking up for the summer's craft shows, however, and running into her several times over the past few months, I finally felt comfortable enough to go in. Heidi was so friendly, as usual, and took a number of my pendants, magnet sets, greeting cards, and bobby pin/ring sets on consignment. Yay!
I am definitely not over my fear of sales. Not even close. But as time goes on I am getting better and better. If you have a hard time with it as well, read on for a few things that have helped me:
1. Get all of your ducks in a row. Warning--do NOT use this as a procrastination technique (*guilty!*)!!! However, if you have a few things ready before you get out there it can help you feel more comfortable. For me, it was having my website in presentable condition because I am constantly being asked if I am online and I didn't want to send people to my crappy old site.
I also put together a simple portfolio involving about 15 images of my work, a printable slide list, a link to a blog interview, my resume and my artist statement. I burned it onto several cd's so that I have something to give to local venues--that way all they have to do is slip the disk into their computer rather than handing them a business card and hoping that they will get around to looking at my website. Of course, you should also have business cards. If you are well-prepared you will come off as being professional, even if you don't really feel like you are.
2. Think about everyone you know--do any of them own or know someone who owns a local gallery or shop? Chances are you do if you are active in your art community. Approaching people you know is a heck of a lot easier than approaching strangers! I know it can still be scary, but as I've learned two times this week, it can really pay off! In addition to getting some of my crafty items in Union Rose, I also approached a friend earlier in the week about showing my work in her gallery and I have a show there next month.
3. If you are not connected, get connected! When I first opened my etsy shop, it had been several years since I had graduated from Portland State, and as a single mom working a lot of crap jobs to make ends meet I had distanced myself from the local art & craft communities. I joined the PDX Etsy Street Team and met a lot of great crafty ladies, talked to other parents at Buckman (it is an Arts Magnet school so a lot of the parents are artists), made coffee dates with some old friends from my art classes, and started going to local art walks. Other things you could do are take art or craft classes, go onto craigslist to find art events, and contact your local arts council online and see what they have to offer.
4. This one is a jump-in-head-first tip: Do some local craft fairs. I know that this can seem extraordinarily daunting, but I cannot even tell you how much it has helped me. Having a booth-partner helped calm my nerves when I was brand-new to it. Being approached by one person after the next all day long made me realize that it's just people, and they are fun to watch as well as talk to. It also has given me some much-needed practice in talking about my work in a more casual setting than a gallery.
5. If you are a fine artist, go to some local coffee shops and talk to the owners about showing your work. They are usually FAR more approachable than galleries, rarely take a commission (and if they do it's usually small), and are usually grateful to find some work to spruce up their shop for a month or two. Obviously go in during a slower time of day when they are almost always up for a chat.
6. Take several deep breaths, make some goofy faces at yourself in the mirror, and get your butt out the door! Someone once gave me a great piece of advice when it comes to motivation. When do you feel motivated--before you do something, or when you are actually doing it? Not until you are actually doing it, and once you are knee-deep in it you are building momentum until suddenly, it's done.
If you have more tips or advice for either the uninitiated and/or terrible anxious, leave a comment! I'd love to hear them.