If you live and breathe the world of art, you no doubt have been trying to think of ways to make a living from it. Of course, there is always that thought that people can’t live as an artist or in the art world unless you were born rich.
Luckily, that is not the way it is anymore. Thanks to the internet, selling original art online has made the starving artist trope obsolete. There are a lot of ways to make money as an artist or enthusiast these days.
And one of them is still rooted in the old ways. That is, opening an art gallery and selling others’ works or even your own. It won’t be easy establishing yourself, but it can be done and will be very rewarding when you are making a living as a gallery owner.
In this article, I will go over several ways that you can do this and be successful.
1 – Learn to be a marketer
Before you do anything, or at least while you are putting the other pieces together, you’ll need to learn how to be a marketer. The biggest challenge you will face as a gallery owner is getting the word out to the masses that you exist.
Understanding things like SEO and social media marketing is an essential skill and can be the very thing that makes you successful. The best way to go is through a technique called inbound marketing. This involves using social media, a blog and other channels to help your ideal audience find you instead of vice versa.
A blog written with local SEO techniques will help people find the types of art they are looking for in their area. If you target the right keywords then your gallery website will end up in the top spots of the search results.
Adding a Youtube channel, podcast and a solid social media presence will further bring people to your gallery. And even better, you can get people on an email list so you can then directly market to people eager to learn more about what you are doing.
Now, if this looks like too much work, then you can hire an agency to manage your marketing for you like optimizeme.ca.
2 – Find your expertise
Being a Jack Of All Trades is not the way to go in many areas. When it comes to a gallery, then it makes even less sense to go too broad. What that means is that you should find a certain segment of art and niche down in that area. For instance, you could be known as the gallery that exhibits artists from Japan exclusively. Or, that you love to show works of sculpture.
By doing this you can make a name for yourself so people know what to expect. It is much easier to become a gallery owner that has an expertise than it is to have a wide range of art that would water down your brand.
3 – Add value on opening nights
Nothing creates a buzz for an event quite like offering something different. For example, opening nights for a show at a gallery are pretty much boilerplate affairs. We know the artist will be there to mingle so attendees can get to know them. And there will be hors d’oeuvres passed around and some champagne likely.
Having something that can get people excited enough to come is a great way to get added exposure. Of course, the art should take center stage, but enough buzz will carry over beyond the opening night and ensure a successful show.
Offer some performance art as a spectacle. Or, do something wild like circuses used to do back in the day when they would come to town by parading through main street. You could have people dressed as some of the art pieces walk around town handing out flyers to people that seem interested.
Use your imagination and get really inspired here so your opening will attract publications and media to talk about it.
4 – Make extra money
You have gallery space that is not always going to be used for shows. The hope is that you have a continuous schedule of shows, but that isn’t always possible. Especially if you have a narrow range of art that you generally exhibit.
There is still money to be made even when you don’t have a show going and you would be remiss not to take advantage. Try to find your local film department that handles when movies are going to be made in your town or city. Then you can pitch to the studios that your gallery be used when they film.
Or, you can rent it out to local businesses for meetings or events. Your gallery could be an ideal place to offer art classes as well. The space is there for it and would attract students due to your name being recognized in the art space.
5 – Start out doing pop ups
Taking the plunge on renting or buying a space before you have had any experience running a gallery is daunting. You can mitigate this by starting out small and feeling your way around. This can be done by starting out running pop up galleries. These are temporary exhibits that take over spaces that would otherwise be empty.
They can be quite exciting as the venue changes all the time and offers unique layouts and quirks. Regular attendees of your show will appreciate the different locales.
Using a pop up location is generally much cheaper than renting out a gallery and allows you the time and experience to see if it really is something that you would be comfortable continuing. You may actually find that you don’t particularly enjoy the business aspect of the art world and prefer to go back to being a creative. Now, you can bail out without losing any money or being stuck in a lease you can’t get out of.