Checklist for a Successful Open Studio

Ready to open your studio to the public? Use these steps to connect with fans and sell more of your work.

 

Studio Sign

 

Whether you’ve participated in open studio events in the past, or this is a new activity for marketing your work, it’s a good idea to plan carefully for the best possible outcome. Here’s your checklist for a successful open studio event!

Prepare ahead to spread the word. Throughout the year, stay in touch with friends and fans on your list. Let them know well ahead of time when you have a studio sale planned, to build anticipation and ask them to mark the event on their calendars. Share the news about your open studio through direct mailings like postcards and invitations, as well as social media posts and evites, starting well in advance. Send and post reminders as your open studio date nears.

Get found by using clear signage. Don’t allow visitors to miss your studio entrance, or get off course. Directional and welcome signs leading to your studio door are helpful. Place an easel or display right outside the door to invite guests in, showing that you are open for business! Baskets of flowers, and even decorative awning have been used by some artists to create an attractive entrance to their studio.

Serve food and beverages. Prepare for the occasion by arranging to have food and beverages available. Stick with basic appetizers unless you plan to have a longer event that actually includes a meal and celebration for your collector base. Avoid messy foods or the need to provide more than basic utensils (a platter of cookies might be a better idea than a frosted cake, for example). It’s customary at this type of event to offer some alcoholic beverages such as wine, which is conducive to socializing and relaxing your guests, but have soft drinks and water available too.

Speak with visitors. Get some help to keep your event going if it frees you to focus your attention on greeting and interacting with your visitors. People love to meet artists, and are often excited to speak with you about what you do, and what they love. While it’s important to introduce visitors to your art, technique and inspiration, also listen carefully. Who are these prospective customers? What are they looking for? Why are they attracted to your work? What else would they like to see?

Display your work effectively. Hang your work gallery-style, or use display equipment like pedestals, tables and easels to make your art accessible and easy to see. One option is to use hinged doors as a flexible display option for wall art. Show jewelry and smaller items in an open-case display to make it easy for guests to handle your work (unless you have high-end work and need to keep a locked case for security.) Consider: if your open studio space was to look like a gallery or festival exhibit, what would you use to create this effect? How can you incorporate that into your studio?

Mark items clearly with title, information and prices. Make it easy for shoppers to understand your work by labeling with the title, medium, and relevant information – and the price. Unpriced merchandise doesn’t sell well. It is unlikely visitors will ask the price, or they may believe that the item is not for sale at all. The more information you share, the better.

Show your process. What makes your work amazing? It might be the technique you use. A live demonstration may make sense, unless it gets in the way of your interacting with visitors. In that case, use a video in your space to show how you make your work, or post a series of photos or work in progress, with explanations that share the complexities of your process.

Gather contact names and addresses. A simple guestbook can work well for you to invite visitors to leave their name, address and email. Offer an incentive for them to stay in touch, such as exclusive previews of your newest work, or a discount on a future purchase. Be sure to ask your visitors to sign the guestbook.

Have marketing materials available. Brochures, postcards, a free notecard with a work of your art on the front, or other items that remind visitors of your work should be available. Make sure everyone who attends has access to takeaways that show your art or handmade items, and contain other information such as your website URL, address, email and phone number. Make it easy to remember you and to get in touch after the occasion has ended.

Send thank you notes. A handwritten thank you note for attending your open studio is a great way to be remembered. Not only does the note go the extra mile, but it opens the door for further communication to your prospects.

Stay in touch. Build your email list with contact information of studio visitors who are not currently receiving emails from you. Then, reach out monthly through campaigns to keep your audience apprised of new work, special offers and other events where they can see your art, such as festivals and fairs. Quite often, sales are not made on the first contact. It takes time for potential collectors to get to know you, and it has to be the right time for them to buy. When you stay “top of mind” through follow ups, you will be the person they go to when they are read to make a purchase.

Be consistent. A yearly open studio often becomes an annual tradition for art lovers, who want to interact with artists and enter their studios to see work in progress, learn about their technique and make purchases. As you become known for holding a studio sale, you will grow your list and attendance.

 

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