Art of a recession – Studio Art Direct shares how to market your art business in an economic downturn


 Janelle Fendall Baglien, president of Studio Art Direct and author of the article, warns that the list is long and to achieve each step could take as much as a year, but urges artists and art related businesses not to be overwhelmed.  Just chip away at it, now, while you have the time.

Studio Art Direct's mission is sustainable - Northwest businesses, supporting NW artists.
Studio Art Direct

For artists and galleries, a recession can be a scary time.  But an economic downturn can provide great opportunity.

 An economic downturn is a great time to market.

Tough times may actually provide us our best opportunity to reach out to art customers with little or no competition because so many of our competitors are doing just the opposite of that in an attempt to save money.




Competition is easing.

Everyone has the bravery to seek out clients in good times, creating an atmosphere of extreme competition. Reaching your customer with your message proves to be exceedingly difficult. NOW is the time to have faith in your art or service, to reach out to your customers and to secure your success for the future.


A slow down in art sales means time.

Time to get your business in order and create marketing systems.  Update your website, create postcards that are generic and all-purpose, photograph images, update your resume, create effective electronic files for your art with title, size and price of each image in jpeg format (low res for emailing), produce an online and offline portfolio for presentations to galleries, clean and organize your studio.   Think positively, be an example of confidence, and get ready for 2009. 


12 Steps & cost effective ways to market now:


Build that database.  

I can’t express how important it is for you, whether you are with a gallery or not, to build a powerful email and mail database.  Get all those business cards you have in a pile on to your computer – especially email addresses.  Take one day each week to put all new contacts in your database.  Treat it like gold and back it up often. 

Email is the most effective and inexpensive ways to market a visual medium like art – use it!  I recommend Outlook (PC) or Entourage (MAC) for an excellent email and database system.


Submit an article online.

Everyone knows about the internet, but not everyone knows the free ways to get exposure on the internet. You can write an article about your art, how you do it (how to), your clients, or anything somewhat newsworthy and submit it to one of the many sites that accept them. At the end of every article you should have one succinct paragraph that begins with About (You).  Here is where you mention your art business and have a link to your website. Each site has it’s guidelines on how the articles are to be written, so make sure to follow them. This will help establish you as a leader in your industry as long as the information you share is helpful and not self-promoting. Go beyond art websites (big competition) try more open source like


 Use guerilla marketing techniques.

Use or and have some postcards made (and don’t forget business cards!). During your slow time, go down to your city art walk or art events or a busy cultural event and hand them out. Put your message directly into the hands of prospective customers. Make sure you have an attractive offer.  This could mean a discount on your art or a small art card giveaway. Be creative. Entice people to visit your studio, gallery or website.


Take care of your best asset – previous art buyers.

Client retention is the best form of marketing.  Finding a new art buyer is 100 times harder than selling to your existing or past clients.  So treat anyone who has bought art from you like they are a cherished aunt.  Send them a Christmas card this year (make them yourself). Throw a “client appreciation” party in your studio or home.  Stay in touch with them. Love them. Build a relationship with them.  Their referrals and future buying power are your very best asset.  You should have a separate or tagged database that includes art buyer clients only (for the above purposes).


Max out online opportunities.

Set up an account on www.myspace , www.facebook and www.linkedin .  You can set up an account with a social networking site, giving more information about your business and connecting to other businesses to network and exchanges leads.


 Start a blog .

Update it often with new work and thoughts about your process of creating.  Use  It is my favorite – lots of template choices,user friendly and FREE. I recently discovered you can download Movie Media to the blog. I haven’t done it yet.  But have someone video tape you in your studio talking about why you create, how you create, your process.  It is a great way to create a bio that sells.  Load it to your blog.  Load it to your website.  Load it to and send the link to your database.


Change your website address.

Your website address should be YOUR name – this will help your website pop up when people Google you. To buy a new domain name or check availability of it, go to or .  Have your new domain name DNS directed to your existing website. 


Register your blog and website.

Be sure to register your domain website and blog with all major search engines and online directories.  Most is free.  Do not use paid services. They do not work unless you can spend a fortune. The goal is to get your name all over the web!  Sign up for Google analytics as well. You can track who people are that come to your website.


Cross pollinate with other businesses.

If you’re feeling the pinch of the economy, most likely other businesses in your area/industry are feeling it as well. Find other businesses that don’t compete with you but have similar clients.  Try to get a deal to hang your art or exchange postcards promoting each other’s business. Or if your business is online, do a link exchange with other businesses. Do not over due the link exchange or Google may lower your organic search results. Be selective in who you work with both online and in the brick and mortar world.


 Consider submitting to art publishers.

Yes, a double edged sword, but art publishers will get you exposure, especially online.  And you can receive a small but steady income.  Check out  as a great example of quality and popularity.


Send out Press Releases.

Press Releases can be a very effective way to bring attention to your art business. If you have something that impacts the community or are inspired to create because of something that impacts your community, then you can have someone write a press release for you. If you hire someone to do it for you, make sure they know how to write and distribute it. Again, remember the topic must be something that impacts the community and not just a self-serving piece promoting your business. Personally, I like for press releases. It is free and fairly easy and art related.  It also gets picked up readily by Google.  Look at other free PR sites on the web. Type in a search – “free press release websites” and cull through them. 


Create a list with full contact info for ALL press related contacts and websites.  Use it often.


Paid services will submit your release to specific regions or trade publications.  It is worth the cost for an important release.  In my opinion, PRNEWSWIRE and BUSINESS WIRE are the best if you are going to pay:

Create a new body of work. 

If your current body of work is not selling, take this time to open your self up to new ideas and let the creative juices flow.  Keep marketing your current body of work, but play around with new ideas now.  Personally, I believe with a recession comes the desire for the public to want to be surrounded by uplifting and inspirational colors, art and ideas.  Be the messenger of hope. 


To get an idea of what colors will be popular in the next year or so, look to new car colors and home accessories – they lead trends.


About Studio Art Direct

Studio Art Direct is a professional corporate art services firm serving the West Coast.  Clients include interior designers, architects, art consultants, medical facilities, hotels, multifamily, commercial, corporations and institutions. is the largest resource for emerging and established art created by artists from Oregon and Washington in the U.S.  The website features all mediums including original paintings, limited editions, sculpture, photography and glass works.  The online gallery is open to the general public 24/7.


About the Author

Janelle Baglien, President of Studio Art Direct, is an artist and 20 year veteran of corporate marketing and communications.  



Janelle Baglien, President


17 thoughts on “Art of a recession – Studio Art Direct shares how to market your art business in an economic downturn

  1. Thank you for that lovely article. I was running out of ideas. but i realized i just need to go back and refresh and work on my old marketing tactics.
    They Say my paintings are great and I have many repeate buyers.
    They actually call me the Urban Picasso
    visit my ebay store. Maybe we can do business.


  2. Thorough, concise, and motivating article. Thanks!

    Glad to get tip about fine art america’s print on demand program. Many loved ones have expressed interest in having a painting, but I just don’t have time to make them all something that is high in quality, which they deserve.

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get a database of designers, architects, people who do staging? Are they swamped with artists’ postcards and emails? I’m looking for a directory of Portland, Oregon companies.

    Thank you for your time.


  3. Thank you for the keen art marketing advice. I have just posted my press release on Fine Art America. I had an account already but had never used the events listing service and had not considered it for my solo show this coming Saturday—it only took 2 minutes to log in, copy and paste my already written press release and type in required details. Thanks!

  4. I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read….

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