THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST
You don’t get as many people at an open studio as you would in an outdoor show. However, the conversion rates, meaning the number of people who buy versus the people who show up, are always much higher. People tend to stay away from an open studio who don’t want to shop because they know they’re going to be in a more intimate setting, but that also means that most people who do show up are going to buy.
It’s the Inspiration Place Podcast, with artist, Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world inside a podcast for artists by an artist, where each week, we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now, your host, Miriam Schulman.
Well, hey there. It’s Miriam Schulman here, your curator of inspiration and author of Artpreneur, and you’re listening to episode number 224 of the Inspiration Place Podcast. I am so excited you’re here. today, we’re talking all about open Studios. A couple months ago or a couple weeks ago, I’m losing track of time, I talked about three cash strategies to get a quick cash injection, but really, an open studio is one of the best ways to quickly sell some of your art, and there aren’t any gatekeepers involved, which is why I love it.
I didn’t include this one in the quick cash strategies because it does take a little bit more planning, but I’ve always made money doing this and so will you, and so do my clients when they apply these strategies as well. The open studio strategy is something that I do teach inside of the artist incubator, so if you want more detailed training than what I have here and you don’t know anything about the incubator, you can go check that out at schulmanart.com/biz. But if you’re looking for something free, then you really should check out my masterclass, my How to Sell More Art masterclass. So schulmanart.com/sellmoreart. Oh my gosh, so many URLs. We always put them in the show notes so wherever you’re listening, just look at where you’re listening, click on the show notes, and this is number 224 so you can find the links at schulmanart.com/224.
Okay, so this will help you get started with open studios, but first of all, we’ve got to say what is an open studio? Because sometimes, when I do the free master class and I share results that some of my clients have had, so for example, Jeanine Ajeli, she was one of my very first coaching clients in fact, and the first time she did an open studio, she made 3,000 and the second time using the same strategy, she’d made $14,000. And when I shared those results, people were like, “Wait, wait, wait, wait. What is an open studio?”
So first of all, open studio. All it means is that you are going to have an art show in your studio which does not need to be outside of your home, so don’t overthink it. I’ve always had my art studio inside my home, and because of that, some years, I actually had people coming into my actual studio, which is on the second floor of my home back in the day, I don’t live in that house anymore. Now, I live in an apartment. But either way, if your studio is inside your home, you definitely need help on the day of an open studio. You’re going to be bringing people in.
I don’t want to use the word garage sale, but if you’ve ever had a garage sale, you think about the same kind of principles that you would want in place where you don’t want people wandering around your home that are strangers. If you are bringing people into your home, into a second floor, you’re going to need to station people on the first floor to welcome them into your home and to keep people from wandering around, because unfortunately, they’re humans.
So other years, I actually made my open studio on my front porch. My porch is covered and it was definitely a more elevated experience than a garage sale where you would have it in your driveway, although that’s not necessarily wrong. If you frequently show your art at art fair events and you have a booth, you could set up your booth in your driveway or your front lawn, as long as you create the same kind of experience that you would if you were selling in an art fair.
Now, because there are so many similarities between what you need to bring to an art fair and what you need to have on hand for your open studio, we have a freebie for you for today. Make sure you grab that freebie over at schulmanart.com/sellinglist, and this is number 224 so you can find the links at schulmanart.com/224. So you can grab that. Make sure, even if you don’t think you’re going to have an open studio soon, that you download it and you print it out. So make sure that you head on over to that page, just enter your name and email, and we will email you the selling list right away so that you will have all the things that you need to have on hand, whether you’re selling in person at an art fair, an art festival, or in an open studio, which is what we’re talking about today.
Now, since as of this recording, we are in October, this is coming out October 11th, this is a great time for you to have an open studio in the fall. I think November is a perfect time. You can get on the ball right now with a couple of your things to get started and start sending out those invitations and save the date emails. Doing something the week before Thanksgiving, it’s about a month away, you could pull it off. You definitely could pull it off and that’s a great time to do it. If you don’t feel you have the time to do it now, then definitely plan on doing one in the spring, so February or March are also great times to do it.
I know that people think that these are holiday gifts. Holiday gifts, you generally want to do your selling in November. By December, most people have already committed themselves to gifts, and for those of you who do things like portraits or custom work, there just isn’t enough time for you to create the stuff and get people excited, and they’re going to have all kinds of thoughts and objections about ordering something in December and you’re not going to have the time to really turn it around for them.
January and February are great times to do an indoor open studio if you live in my side of the world and it’s winter where you are. If you’re in Australia, I guess it’s summer, but January and February our a great time right after the holidays. You’ll notice that many retailers, Bloomindale’s, Macy’s, Nordstroms, Linens ‘n Things, all those kinds of retailers, that is when they actually have their home sales, are in January.
So during that time, after the holidays, people do turn to then fixing up their homes. So that is why you’ll see so many sales of white sales, meaning linen sheet sales, so this is a great time to start selling home decor and anything that enhances the home, if that’s the kind of art you do. If you do any kind of ceramics or wall hangings or paintings, January and February are great, and November is great as well, and if you’re thinking about next year, October, of course. Really, you can do this anytime of the year that you want to, but I’m just giving you some times that I generally like to do it.
The month before Mother’s Day is a great time because people tend to be shopping then, and I also like to do it in October. So October is right before the holiday rush. People are thinking about those gifts but they haven’t bought them yet, so that’s why those times of the year tend to work really well. And for those who do in person sellings at art fairs and art festivals, most of those tend to be during the summer months and so to get something in early May… Well, before Mother’s Day, you want to do it in April. To get something in April or after the selling season is over and not in November, it will help you round out your selling calendar.
Okay, so let’s talk about why open studios are so great. So first of all, you do not have the schlep factor of having to schlep things to another location, and people really like to get that inside look of what is inside the studio. So I don’t quite have that when I’m doing it on my porch, but then that was always easier for me because I didn’t have to bring in so much help to keep people from wandering around my house because it was like not in my house. At the same time, people did feel like they were getting more of a here is what I’m working on right now, so that is another reason why the open studios work so well.
One thing that I want you to anticipate is that you don’t get as many people at an open studio as you would in an outdoor show. However, the conversion rates, meaning the number of people who buy versus the people who show up, are always much higher. People tend to stay away from an open studio who don’t want to shop because they know they’re going to be in a more intimate setting, but that also means that most people who do show up are going to buy, which is why it makes it so successful. So I always like to plan to have a variety on hand.
There’s always my works in progress, there’s my finished artwork. We’ve also talked about, in the past, and you should definitely check out the episode I did on the three cash injection strategies because I talked about doing a fast sale on calendars. We’ll make sure we link to that episode in the show notes, I don’t remember off the top of my head which episode that was, but all the things that I do in preparation in August for selling the calendars. Then I will have any leftover calendars available at a fall open studio.
So let’s say you do a pre-order of calendars in August and you’re able to pre-sell 40 of them, but your printer sells them in batches of 25 so then you order 50. So now you have 10 extra calendars. So the open studio, to have 10 calendars available is perfect. And then not having a lot of them actually makes them more desirable because you say, “Hey, these are the last 10 I have left.”
I also mentioned in that show how I will create a whole collection around that of what I’m working on with the calendar. So there’ll be 12 of my best pieces. Some of them have already been sold during the year, some of them haven’t. They’re available at that open studio, the ones that haven’t sold, and I have prints available of all 12. So those are the things that you need to have ready. You need to have art for sale. Think about having 12 to 20. You don’t need as many artworks finished as you would for a normal exhibition, which is what makes that open studio so appealing. You can have some works in progress and an incomplete collection. If you do have a collection that you had been working on that was part of the calendar and it’s partially sold out by your open studio, that’s actually a good thing because it creates scarcity around the remaining items.
So now, I’m going to go over a couple more best selling practices. Make sure that everything has a price on it. So it is very off putting, and I find this is true whether you’re in person at an art fair or doing an open studio. I always find myself, when I go shopping, it’s very off putting to have to ask the salesperson what every single item costs. There’s this place that I like to stop in at but I still haven’t bought anything, which should tell you something, that is in upstate New York and she doesn’t have any prices on anything. And I really don’t like having to ask her, every single item, “How much does it cost?” It really interferes with my being able to just browse and have that intimate experience, and decide myself if I want to collect something if I have to always stop and ask them.
And a lot of people will not ask you because they don’t want to be embarrassed if they really want something and then you share a price that is a price that they’re not comfortable spending that amount of money on, that they’re, notice how I didn’t say too expensive or that they can’t afford it, but they’re not used to or they weren’t expecting that high of a price. Now, sometimes when the price is already listed on the item, it helps normalize it for them. They look at it. Maybe that wasn’t what they were expecting. I know I’ve had this experience when I’ve bought pottery. I like to collect pottery and I bought these handmade plates from a potter and they were $40 each, which definitely was more than what I was expecting. I remember saying to my daughter, “Okay, let’s walk around the fair and come back.” And by the time I walked around, I was ready to collect it. So that I would say is a huge tip, is make sure there’s prices on everything.
At the same time, if somebody asks you, “How much does this cost?” Please don’t say to them, “The price is on there.” If they say to you, “How much does it cost,” it’s because they want to engage you. So if you don’t remember what it costs, no problem. Walk over to the item, turn over the price and say, “Oh, it’s $40,” or $400 or whatever it happens to be. But they are asking you because they want to engage you. They want to have a conversation with you. So make sure you’re not saying, “Oh, the price is on there,” because that basically sends the message to them that you don’t want to help them.
Okay, so a couple other things. When people are coming into your space, usually, these are people you know. If there are people you don’t know, you want to make sure you introduce yourself immediately. Find out who they are, talk to them. We’ve talked about a lot of these selling tips on the podcast as well as my Alexa Flash Briefings. I’m sharing more and more selling tips over there on a daily basis so make sure you don’t miss out on those daily snippets. I guess you could wait till they come out on the podcast too, but all these things like introducing yourself, asking questions, don’t start just lecturing people about why they want to buy your art. You want to ask them questions and really use this as an opportunity to get to know them. Get to know them, get to know why they’re responding to your art.
Some other things. People who if you don’t have something that they want, now is a good time to take a commission. You should be very relaxed, you’re in your own home. I always find that I’m less nervous in these situations, I’m not worried about competition. You also will get a lot less objections. Inside and art fair, people have FOMO and they will say to you things like, “Oh, okay, well I want to walk around for a bit.” Now, sometimes they’re saying that just as a polite way to get away from you because they don’t want to buy, but other times, they mean it and it’s because they’re worried that they like what you have but maybe there’s something they like better. When you’re in an open studio situation, you don’t have that because you’re it, you’re the open studio, and they know this is what they have and they’re not thinking bigger, better FOMO, anything, and that’s another reason why they tend to be so effective.
All right. So open studio in terms of planning and getting people there. So it’s a little tight if you want to do it for November but you can still pull it off. If you want to pull it off, you send that email out today inviting everybody, save the date. If you’re going to send out postcards, you’re going to want to design them right now. I found that Canva is a really good source for getting things printed in small quantities and getting it delivered right away, so that would be a good source. I’ve used Vistaprint in the past. If you have more than a month to plan, then you are going to want to send those postcards a month ahead of time and that save the date a month ahead of time, so that’s why I’m saying November is a little tight. You can start planning though an open studio for January, February, or March right now, and that will give you a little bit more time to get all the things you need.
I also have done local publicity so you can do that, and often, local papers will print an image of my artwork along with the open studio. If you partner with a local charity, that makes your open studio more newsworthy, so by partnering, you can designate a portion of proceeds that will benefit a charity. So what I’ve done in the past is Girls and Boys Club of New York, I’ve done pediatric cancer centers in hospitals and I’ve done humane societies. So anything you want to do as a charity is always welcome, always a great idea, and it’s even better if you can get the charity to help publicize that you’re doing this event because they’ll benefit.
So you want to at least a month ahead, send that save the date postcard, you want to send the save the date email. As you get closer, you can send more emails, so you can send an email the week before, you can send an email the day before and then send another one the day of, and no, this is not too many emails. People need lots of reminders because if they don’t necessarily write it down, they will forget, and they’re usually appreciative to have those reminders. If you have an email database that allows you to geotag, you can have this sent only to people on your email list who live within a certain number of miles from you, so the email databases are able to do this based on people’s IP address.
So that is a lot of tips to help get you started with doing an open studio. If you’ve tried any of these tips and you find success with them, I would love to hear from you. Send me a DM. I’m SchulmanArt, that’s S-C-H-U-L-M-A-N-A-R-T over an Instagram. I do personally answer most of my Instagram messages over there and I’d love to hear from you.
And again, I want to go over some of the resources that I shared. What do you need to have on hand? We pulled together a whole list for you, and this is whether you’re selling in an open studio or outside of your home. To get that list, get it at schulmanart.com/sellinglist. That’s a complete list of what you need to have on hand at your selling events. We also talked about breaking down your mindset, really uncovering five of the biggest sabotagers that I see artists making. You’ll find that inside my masterclass, How to Sell More Art. To go watch that now and get that training, you can sign up at schulmanart.com/sellmoreart, and of course, I’d love to help you inside the Artist Incubator. We have both the Self-study and the accelerator tracks available for you. You can learn more about that at schulmanart.com/biz.
All right, my friend, that was a lot of links, so to find all the links that we were talking about, you can go to schulmanart.com/224. Well, that’s it until next time. Until then, stay inspired.
Thank you for listening to the Inspiration Place Podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/schulmanart, on Instagram, @SchulmanArt, and of course, on schulmanart.com.
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