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A lot of us feel uncomfortable with the idea of "selling", but it doesn't have to be unnatural.  You are helping forge a connection between a collector and a piece of work, and building a positive relationship that may continue for years.  Here are tips from artists who are experienced in selling their own work.

Be Welcoming

  • Greet everyone who comes in.
  • Allow them time and space to view the artwork.
  • Stand, don't sit, but respect their personal space.
  • Be sincere.
  • Do not create a barrier around you of private space.
  • Dress nicely, like to a good party.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.


Tell them a story- Listen to theirs

One of the great benefits to collectors about open studios is that they meet the artists in person, and have the chance to understand what's behind the work. Tell them about your motivation to do what you do, in the way you do it. 

If you listen well, you will hear what interests them and can speak to that.  Are they fascinated by the materials you use? Your subject? Your sense of humor?  Where is your common ground.

Address them by their names. Look them in the eye. Meet all customers' friends; they may influence the buying decision. Keep an eye on their body language and learn to read it, you'll notice the body language is very different if someone is arrested by a particular artwork, versus someone being polite. Keep an ear open for Ownership Language - "We love this piece!", "This piece would look great in our living room!", "These colors would work great for us!"- When you are at this point, it is a very good thing for both of you.


Buying is an emotional issue which is nudged along by decision making such as, but not limited to, price, size, color, content, delivery, installation, husband/wife/partner/friends' opinions, future remodeling, future decorating, special events, payment methods, home visits with art pieces etc. If someone asks a left brain question, something factual about size, durability, how to hang-- be clear, brief, and precise. Then move back to the emotional connection to the work and  work with them to clear any hurdles/decisions to help them buy. 

A note about FRIENDS & FAMILY

Make sure they do not hog your time gossiping and catching up and respect that you are at work. But also note that they will be the first people exposed to your work and often the first to buy it. If a customer walks into your space and they feel like they are interrupting a private conversation, they will probably walk right out. 


Some visitors will assume that you, as the artist, are willing to bargain or that they are supposed to "make you an offer". That can seem uncomfortable and offensive, but if you are prepared for it, you are less likely to feel thrown. Remember, a person who is bargaining has expressed interest in a purchase. Sometimes they just need to be told gently that you have established prices and they will go ahead and pay your price. Start with a positive assumption before getting huffy!

Plan ahead for any price breaks that you are willing to give.  If you know your limits, it's easy to stick to them. If someone cannot pay right now, are you willing to offer a payment plan (ex: 6 checks to be deposited over 6 months)? If it's only slightly outside their budget, would you give 5% off to close the deal today? If they are interested in more than one piece, can you discount the second? Different artists have very different feelings about this. You should think through what your flexibility is so that you can be clear with your customer, and never come away from a sale feeling like you've agreed to too low a price.



Calculate the cost (don't forget packaging) for your most popular pieces, so that you will have the answer ready if someone wants you to ship, at least domestically. San Francisco is a tourist town and it's valuable to make it is easy for visitors to buy. Try to keep your shipping charges as low as possible. If you can throw in free shipping, that can often help close a sale, but don't promise shipping if you are not prepared to, or you don't know the costs!


Are you willing and able to deliver a piece? Will you charge for that? With very large pieces, delivery and installation is often expected, and it is a good time for you to build more rapport with your collector. Also, the artist will be more likely to find the perfect spot for a piece, increasing the likelihood that the client will love it.


Are you willing to send a piece home with someone "on approval"? Under what terms? Sometimes a client feels like they need to see a piece in their space, but you want to make sure that it isn't out of view to other potential buyers during your weekend.


Will you consider taking commissions? Often visitors love an artist's style, but want something made specially for them. This can be fruitful or frustrating, depending on the chemistry of the artists and client. Think about what your criteria are for taking commission before your Open Studio. 


Every studio will have different variations on a sales process, but whatever yours is, play it through your mind, or even with a friend, until you find the system that works for you. It's better to find the gaps ahead of time than work them out on the fly!



They love it, they want it, they're ready to buy it. Are you ready to sell it?  Step through every move from when the customer says "Yes!" to the moment they have your art in their home to make sure all of the little bits are in place. 

Remember: your new clients are most likely your future clients. Giving them a great experience with their purchase, no matter how small, is a great investment. 


A custom two-part form allows you to create a receipt with your contact information and the information you want to collect from buyers. You can have one printed at most office print locations in small quantities. A standard two-part receipt book is fine, too.


  • Buyer name
  • E-mail (If you only get one point of contact, get this!)
  • Street address (At least city)
  • Phone (For follow up or unconfirmed credit card charge)
  • What they bought (Be specific.)
  • Price
  • Discount- if any
  • Tax
  • Shipping-if any
  • Total

After giving the customer their copy, scribble any memorable moments from the transaction on your copy.


  • Do you have a writing and packaging surface clear and enough GOOD pens handy? The customer shouldn't be awkward when they are filling something out or writing a check. Clipboards can be useful. 
  • Write the name of the piece(s) and the edition number or other identifying feature on the receipt. It can be useful for you to know the exact frame that something is in in case you have follow up sales to the same client.
  • If you are going to give a discount, write the UNDISCOUNTED price on the receipt, followed by the amount of the discount, followed by the new subtotal. Let people know what you are giving them. 
  • Write the payment method on the receipt, including the check number, if applicable. 
  • Have the customer fill out as much personal information as they are willing to give, but definitely full name, e-mail, and the city where they live. For larger purchases, try to get a street address so that you can send that customer special mailings or a thank you note, or other lovely treat. 
  • Check for legibility before they run off! Particularly for e-mails!
  • Keep the original and give them the copy. 

If someone buys anything, have them fill out a receipt. It can be a $10 cash sale but they could grow into an important collector. Remember: with electronic card readers, you are not retaining the customer's e-mail even if they enter it. Don't let any customer walk away without you knowing how to reach them again.


  • Are you set up to take credit cards? Know which ones and TEST YOUR PROCESS every day before your first customer. There is nothing that makes a customer antsy like watching you swipe their AmEx a hundred times, or hear you say "I'm not sure that went through..." or otherwise feel insecure about your money handling. Be sure to check the customer's credit card for signature, or ask for ID, and be sure to give it back!
  • Do you have needed supplies and power for your credit card service? If you are using your cell phone, make sure to be equipped to recharge during the day! 
  • Do you take checks? Decide now what your criteria will be for accepting personal checks, particularly out-of-area. Write the check #  on the receipt. 
  • Cash? Do you have change in the right denominations? Plan on everyone paying with $20 bills for purchases under $50. You can round in the customer's favor it you can't make exact change, but don't get stuck being off by more than a couple of dollars. Don't deflate the excitement of the moment by scrounging for loose coins! Where are you keeping the cash? Keeping cash somewhere other than your personal wallet looks more businesslike, but keep it safe and secure. Do you know where the nearest ATM is?
  • Some artists are comfortable working out payment plans, and some are not. You should decide what your policy is so that you are comfortable with it. The ArtSpan Facebook Page is a great place to find out what other artists do. 

Bottom line: Make it as easy and painless as possible for your customer to pay. Money should not feel like the center of the transaction, your art should. 


  • Do you have a bag, a box, or other packaging material, to make sure your art gets to it's new home safely? If there's rain in the forecast, have plastic bags. Recycling is fabulous, but be sure your packaging material is clean and appropriately sized. Thoughtful packaging shows that you consider the purchase to be a thing of value. They should get home feeling like they have a treasure. 
  • Print labels with your logo, name, website, and contact information and put it on the bags or packing materials. This is also great marketing if you're in a group site, others will see your new collectors holding a piece of art with your logo and want to see the artists work that just sold. 
  • What else is going in the bag? Even a tiny treat goes a long way in cementing your new relationship. If you give customers a greeting card when they buy a print, they may send it to someone and introduce you to another potential collector. Be sure to include a business card or two.
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