Barter Your Art to Boost Sales

By Barnsley Brown – Published in the Chapel Hill News, Wednesday, Nov. 14th, 2007
What is one of the most cost-effective, enjoyable methods for artists to get the word out about their art and let it reach a larger audience?
The answer is barter! Did you know that the U.S. Department of Commerce estimates barter to be 20 percent to 25 percent of world trade as well as a $20 billion industry in the corporate world?

Barter—the exchange of goods and services—is a viable sector of our economy, and for artists, it can make all the difference! Artists who engage in what is called “retail trade exchange” can eliminate the cost of the products and services they need. They can barter for studio space, supplies, marketing and administrative help, coaching, and tax preparation—to name just a few—and can barter with other artists for professional photography, graphic design, copywriting, Web site design, and the other fundamentals needed to effectively market their art.

The truth is that most artists do what they do out of a love of their art form and like so many professionals, many of them neglect the marketing aspect of their work. You might have a painting that rivals any Picasso, but if no one knows about it, what good does it do the world? Barter is a brilliant way to see that your art finds a happy home while securing the items and services you need to create more art and make it visible in the world.

Barter also builds relationships with other professionals in a variety of industries, opening up venues to share your art far beyond showing at a street festival or local gallery. People get to know you, your story, and the story of your works of art, all of which are vital to sharing it (and selling it) to the public. By bartering your art, you can assemble an entire team of advocates, experts who are committed to your artistic development and have the specialized skills and knowledge you need to ensure your success.

When we barter effectively, we get what we want, help others get what they want, and build strong partnerships and friendships in the process. It is far more effective (not to mention cheaper) to barter a sample or demonstration of your work to someone who is genuinely interested in it than to spend huge sums advertising it to the general public. Although barter is taxable, there are ways to save big using barter as a staple of your marketing efforts.

Given all these benefits, what prevents artists—and other professionals—from bartering? Maybe they tried it before and got burned; barter can make or break relationships. Or maybe they don’t know how to initiate trades or who to approach to provide what they need in exchange for their art. Maybe they say they’re too busy to barter or they think no one would value their art as much as they do. Maybe they think barter is just for corporate moguls and who wants to think about the business aspect of their art anyway?

Whatever the excuse, if you’re an artist and you’re not bartering, you’re missing out on one of the best ways to share your gift with the world. You’re also missing out on savings that can free more time up for your art and help support your “art habit.”

I will share the secrets to bartering success at the Orange County Arts Commission’s Artists’ Salon on Friday from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro.

Learn how to leverage contacts outside your own network, to place a value on your art and time, to create win-win barter agreements, to execute those successfully, and to build upon your exchanges to attract lots more customers and exciting future opportunities.

There’s a reason why “ART” is in the word “barter”—Come find out why on Friday.

The salon is free, but please RSVP to arts@co.orange.nc.usThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or 245-2335 if you’d like to attend. Oh, and don’t forget to bring along a piece or two of your art, just in case!