10 Tips on Marketing Your Portraits

1. Edit your portfolio. When it comes to portfolios, less is definitely more, and this means editing your work. Leave in only your very best work. You’ll need at least 20 strong pieces to show a consistent style. (Linda St. Clair, October 1995)

2. Get your portfolio on the Web. Scott Burdick’s Web site allows both him and his artist wife, Susan Lyon, to reach portrait clients around the globe with just the click of a mouse. (Scott Burdick, April 2001)

3. Create a mini portfolio. Printing your work on inexpensive postcards allows you to send 10-12 examples of your work along with a biography, price list and note cards without spending a lot of money. (Michael Shane Neal, April 2001)

4. Present your work in a professional manner. Most galleries want to see slides or prints. Commercial representatives want to see 4×5-inch transparencies. Whatever format you choose, be consistent. Don’t send three or four slides, a print or two, a few tear sheets and a page from a magazine. (Linda St. Clair, October 1995)

5. Produce a catalog. Catalogs are the most impressive marketing tool you can have. They show that you’re a serious professional. They’re also expensive to produce, but they’re actually cheaper in the long run than handing out pages of slides, and they’re much easier to view. (Paul Jackson, January 2001)

6. Photograph your work. Unless you’re a photographer and accomplished at documenting your work, hire a photographer to take photographs of your completed portraits for you. This will be one of the biggest financial investments you make in your career, but the quality makes a huge difference. After all, you’ll want clients to be able to clearly see what you’ve painted, which means accurate color and clear images, with nothing washed out in glare or hidden by dark shadows. (Susan Jane Belton, April 2000)

7. Use a model release form. You must obtain permission from your portrait subjects to use their likeness in marketing your portrait skills. You can write up a standard form or purchase a pad of these at any photography supply store. (Belton, April 2000)

8. Create a business card. You can be creative with how you design your card, but be sure to include the three most important pieces of information: your name, a tag line (such as children’s portrait paintings) and phone number. (Belton, April 2000)

9. Talk to other artists. Connecting with other artists through an art organization can be good for your career, as well as a source of inspiration and friendship. To find the organization that’s right for you, talk to other artists and check the Internet. (Staff report, January 1999)

10. Communicate with your client. When working on a commissioned piece, one of the most important things to do is communicate with your client. Review your ideas with them and offer five or six thumbnail sketches from which they can choose their favorite. (Debbie Hagan, October 1996)

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