Well, I'm learning because the market is speaking to me and I'm listening as best I can.
All good lessons, to which I'm listening and now steering my work. I'm doing some things right, and I'm doing some things wrong. I'm tweaking the wrong toward rightness.
- Lesson #1: My market is retailers, not individuals.
- Cards with people might be endearing and "Awwww..."-inspiring, but they don't sell. Unless the person depicted on the card looks familiar to the one buying it, the card will sit idle - in the land of misfit cards. No "Charlie-on-the-card."
- If the retailer is from Iowa, they're proud to be an Iowan and they want some cards to reflect Iowa. Bring on the pigs, cows, farms, covered bridges, and so on. I need to paint "Iowa." Heck, I'm even thinking of doing a Hawkeyes card and a Cyclones card. But Iowa sells - in Iowa. Note to self: think regional. Minneapolis will want Vikings, for example.
- Sometimes, text in the card will be necessary to sell it to the retailer. I had a woman actually say to me today: "My market isn't smart enough to fill up a blank card." So, the poet/English major in me gets to take a crack at this. Fortunately, my cards are intentionally letter-sized when unfolded and therefore it's easy to print on the inside of them. Text...
- I need to be able to go corporate. I have some trips in my future to sit in front of the buyers for major retailers. Michael's, for example, does this. To sell my cards at Michael's, I would need to get 15 minutes in front of their buyer and pitch my wares.
- I know why the Heart card didn't work for me: I wouldn't frame it to hang in my living room. My goal is not to paint greeting cards, but to paint frameable art.
- And finally, I need to change up the style of my painting and do some contemporary designs. My work thus far is more traditional. I missed a couple of retailers today because of this.
In my favor:
I picked up another retailer today and perhaps a couple more locations. Tomorrow, I drive to Minneapolis for a meeting and on the way there and back, I'll have my camera for taking pictures of rural Iowa and Minnesota.
- Universally, the cards are regarded as beautiful and classy.
- The size of the cards is a seller.
- The price of the cards is seen as very reasonable.
- When compared to other cards in stores, the employees believe that my cards are better than what they currently sell, and they're pretty frank about saying so - to other employees and to management.
It just occurred to me that I have someone with whom I need to meet. I personally know the guy who runs the local zoo. I might show him my cards and see if he's open to me painting some "zoo" cards and selling them there. If so, Terry might have some other ideas for me - he's a top-notch marketer. Plus, he's involved with Iowa's biggest event: the Iowa State Fair. Someone suggested to me today that I paint some State Fair cards. I get that. I may do that. Event cards?? Ragbrai, anyone?
I realized today that I'm selling not just cards, but my brand. Whether the cards sell in droves - or not - may be immaterial. By simply having my brand in various locations around town, I drive up the value of my work. The more broad the reach (think "multi-city"), the higher the value and the more wide the spread and the bigger my audience. Therefore, if I wanted to get a gallery interested in selling my work, the pitch is easier. I'm thankful that I have a logo for my work.
I suspect that this story will turn out different than I expected, but with persistence I will achieve what I wanted: financial independence and making my living by my art. That's the goal. The path to get there is the adventure, and I'm having a great time of it. Pretty scenic!