Starting An Art Business Finding Your Niche…

I wish I had a way-back time machine. I could go back and teach my self so many tough business life lessons. It would save a ton of heartache. I was lost and not finding my groove. I even began to question if my art was “good enough”.

What a Niche Is And What It Isn’t

Turns out my art was not the problem. It was a mind-focus problem.

When I first got going in photography, mentors would tell me “Beth, you have to find your niche.” I thought that meant I needed to determine what kind of artist was I, what type of photography was I good at. What did I enjoy creating the most and what did I really excel at?

Was I an abstract artist? Was that my identity. Did abstract art speak to me? Or was I a landscape artist? What did I like to create the most and where did I see the vision for my new business going.

My thinking was all backwards. See, I was focused on me and my vision. The reality is I can take all kinds of photographs. And so, I ended up spending months… no years wandering in the desert trying to figure out the existential question, what is my niche?

Instead, I should have learned the fundamental lessons of any new business regardless of product type. What do your customers want? If I had only flipped the focus off of me and my vision and focused on my customers and their vision I would have been far more successful much faster.

How does an artist find their niche? It turns out that it is just like any other startup business finds their niche – through product testing, focus groups, interviews, etc…

What is product testing in an art startup?

Product testing in an art startup may seem odd. It’s not like you are going to go off and perform destructive testing on your artwork!

There are so many different mediums to put your art on now. Perhaps your art would sell on glossy acrylic with no frame, but not on deeply-textured art paper with mat and frame? Do you know?

Get yourself some prototypes. Then begin to ask your potential customers what their preferences are.

Don’t have potential customers yet? Get out and about where you think your audience might be. Walk around a local hang-out with small samples and just ask people for their opinion. Do your market research.

What is a focus group or interview in art market research?

You have to get your product line concepts out in front of your audience and see what resonates with them. If the only thing that seems to work are your photos of boats, then ah ha! You have your niche!

It no longer matters if your really prefer to take photographs of landscapes if your market only likes your photos of flowers. That does not mean you cannot take landscape photos for yourself, but that is not where you should devote your time while trying to get your business off the ground.

You must get your products in front of your audience. The best way to do that is in person. Go somewhere you think your audience might be (winery, brewery, park), ask permission to set up a table, put two or three possible product lines on the table and ask people’s opinion.

Keep track of what they say. Ask questions about what they like and they do not like. Treat this like social media in person. You will get out of it what you put into it.

If you are lucky you can even collect contacts to begin your sales funnel once you launch your business.

The key here is to remember this is a business. Treat it like one.

By turning the focus from inward (what type of artist do I want to be) to outward (what type of art do my customers want from me), I found happiness in my new art business and was able to find my niche audience.

I am sure you can do the same.

~ Beth Sheridan is a fine art photographer and author based in Houston, Texas. Sign up for her free art newsletter via her website and stay up to date on her latest projects and photography tips.