As I’ve written about many times here, I love reading (and sharing) stories of entrepreneurs with unique online businesses.
Today’s guest, Amantha Tsaros, is an artist who sells her art and blogs at http://www.amanthatsaros.com. Don’t get me wrong – I recognize that selling artwork is probably one of the oldest types of business in humankind, but it’s not often that internet entrepreneurs who focus on selling art are featured in interviews like these.
In this interview, we explore how Amantha operates her business selling artwork online. It’s interesting to see how some traditional internet marketing tactics (like guest blogging and e-mail marketing) work for a business that sells artwork. For example, Amantha’s been able to build a very targeted e-mail list that saw an open rate last month of 63% (which is awesome).
Anyway, read the interview for yourself and see what you think!
Amantha, I’m a big fan of internet entrepreneurs who have unique businesses. And although “art” in and of itself may be one of the oldest forms of human expression, it’s somehow refreshing to examine a business that revolves around art (especially one with an online component). Tell us a bit about your business and journey as an artist and entrepreneur. How long have you been selling your art online? What types of art do you sell?
I create and sell original abstract art that uplifts spirits and marks new beginnings. My original art is available from my online shop and through other online galleries. Reproductions of my work are available as prints and on products such as pillows, mugs, rugs, shower curtains and iPhone covers. You can cover your entire home in uplifting, mood-enhancing form and color.
I originally started my career as an illustrator in the days when you had to deliver actual artwork to magazines and newspapers. I always had a side job and worked hard to help others achieve their business goals and I always wondered what I could accomplish if I worked as hard for myself as I had for others. Eventually, I gave up illustration and only dreamed about being a fine artist. In watching my children paint I realized that it was time to get it together and just go for it. I didn’t want to be at the end of my life saying, “Well, I sure am I glad I never pursued art.”
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your business?
This year has blown my mind. My traffic has tripled in the past year due to guest blogging and online outreach I have been engaged in – making internet friends is a huge help. But what I love the most is the very active community I have on my email list. My latest mailing drove a lot of traffic to my site and had some high engagement – this is very important to me as what I am selling is personal and the artist must cultivate a strong relationship with the collectors.
The greatest success has been seeing that I have some collectors who are repeat customers who will buy art with every email campaign related to their particular interest. It astounds me that I am able to connect so strongly with my audience.
My email list is very targeted. I am not trying to grow numbers for the sake of numbers. Last month’s open rate for my campaign was a crazy 63% of my list. And also a lot of my list write back to me and I do not end the emails with a question. They just feel like sharing back. Please keep talking to me – I love it. But I do constantly check my email – unless I am painting.
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced on your journey, and how did you overcome it?
There is a ridiculous amount of tension between being an artist AND an entrepreneur. There is this weird idea that artists are not supposed to sell their work- you’re a “sell out” if you pay your bills through art sales.
At first I took the standard “Serious Artist” approach and presented art online along with a note to contact me for purchase. The idea in the art world is that you can’t possibly put a price on an item and indicate it is for sale. Can you imagine trying that with any other product or service? It’s bizarre.
To start selling I had to overcome the fear of being a “sell-out.” I spent some time thinking about this and I thought, “Wait, so I am sell-out if I can buy my art supplies through my art but I’m not a sell-out if I work at a fast food joint to support my art habit?”
I researched the lives of famous artists. In reading their biographies I tried to tease out the details of HOW they got to be well-known and how they started selling. What did they do to get where they were? What steps did Picasso take for us to know his name? Being curious about overcoming this and working out how they managed to become well-known and sell well while also maintaining “credibility” helped me find my path.
I questioned what I thought I knew and dug under their reputations, legends and the assumptions to find out what was really going on there. The myths aren’t necessarily true and there IS a whole lot of selling in there. But if you are a real character then people aren’t noticing that the self-promotion as much.
From there I decided to shrug off preconceived notions of how it SHOULD be done and started doing things in a way that makes sense to me.
It is critical to remember that although this is an art business is a business. The art part – well, that doesn’t make me any different from anyone else with a product or a skill they sell – it lets me get away with a bit more kookiness, maybe…But still take my business seriously.
When you were just starting out, how did you go about driving traffic to your website and other places where you sell your art online? (In other words, what has been your most effective marketing strategy?)
Facebook has been very good to me. I know that there is a lot of concern about engagement but as long as your people are responding to posts it isn’t too bad. I recently started just posting photographs of what is happening in my studio during the day and the engagement shot up. It turns out my art fans really just want to see pretty pictures – or messy pictures depending on what is going on. They want to see what is going on behind the scenes of my super glamorous art life – they respond best to those images and that keeps the traffic up.
I get some fabulous traffic from guest blogging. I never imagined that would be so important – but it fabulous. It drives traffic and I make new friends and they in turn bring new fans. Want traffic? Try to get around – start circulating like a dollar bill and make friends in a sincere and honest way. That is the key.
Although there may not be many people reading this right now who are looking to start a business selling art, I’m willing to bet there are some very valuable lessons you’ve learned that are applicable to all types of entrepreneurship. What advice do you have for someone who has an idea for a business but is perhaps afraid to actually give a shot?
If someone has an idea but is hesitant they sometimes tell themselves, “I want to but I’m not the kind of person who…” They just need to stop that – stop, just stop. NO ONE is the “kind of person who…”
Just remember that there is no secret talent. Creatives who want to start a business frequently bemoan their lack of business acumen and often say, “But you are SO GOOD at this stuff.” But I’m not! I’m not a natural business person. The only thing I am good it is performing Google searches and using my library card. We are all just a bunch of squishy human beings trying to figure it out. Everything is figure-out-able. So get to it.
But then there is the hard part: you must keep at it and not quit. Things take time. And by “time” I mean a whole lot longer than you might be willing to wait. I have been digging into Pinterest and I understand that it is going to take me a year to start seeing the results I want.
1) Start NOW
2) Keep going
What’s your favorite inspirational quote (either from someone else or one that you came up with)?
Eric, I LOVE quotes. I send my email subscribers art downloads with inspirational quotes every month. My current favorite is from good old Walt Disney:
The way to get started is to stop talking and begin doing. [Click here to tweet this]
What are your favorite online resources that have helped you either on your website or with your business in general?
Right now I am a screaming fan of Nathalie Lussier. (www.nathalielussier.com) She has an thorough 30 Day List Building Challenge that will blow your socks off and grow your list. It is not easy but it works. If you are just starting to build a site she also has a wonderful self-study to help you build your WordPress website using Headway and she also makes learning SEO easy to understand.
Check her out. I wish I had found her earlier.
So if a you’re anxious and saying you can’t, go see Nathalie. She’ll fix you up.
Finally, where can people find you online?
If you have no idea what abstract art is about find out what is going on behind the scenes in my new YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/AmanthaArt
Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview, Amantha!
What did you think of this interview? Have you had experience selling something “unique” online (like artwork)? Leave a comment below!
(Also, if you enjoyed this interview, like us on Facebook, and stay in touch with every new interview we publish. Thanks! 🙂 )