Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to Market Your Airbrush Skills

If you are an airbrush artist for fun, then you aren't worried about this, but if you are hoping that you can make some sort of living from this hobby you've acquired, well then you probably want to market your airbrush skills a little. There are some pretty easy ways to market and pretty easy ways to fail. I, personally, am a little scared to market my airbrushing. I'm not scared of the act itself so much as I am scared that I wont have a chance in hell of keeping up with the business I would, or could get from it. Of course, it's better than the little to no business I am getting because I am not pursuing it.
That's just it. You have to pursue the work. I think this is important to most businesses, but even more so to the artist or, in this case, the airbrush artist. The work isn't going to just fall in your lap because you have a YouTube video up or a free website somewhere online. You have to go after it, and Craigslist isn't 'it'. It might not be cost effective to get a booth at a fair right now, and might seem like you're putting the chicken before the egg, but if you can afford it, do it. Get a booth at a swap meet, or a car show, or a bike show. Get one at a flea market or find a place that'll let you set up something outside somewhere. Set up a few things you've worked on and do a couple demos (with eco friendly paint mind you) so people can watch you work. Squirt some airbrushed tattoos onto some youngsters for free. The general public is fascinated by people that can do something like airbrush and they want to watch it.
Hand out business cards. You don't have business cards? Well, there are sites that can help with that. The cards don't even have to have your artwork on there, but it is preferred. Just get your name, your number, and your email in the hands of the masses. Marketing is a numbers game. You may already know this by the amount of people who have shown interest in your airbrush artwork only to never resurface. Get your card in as many hands as possible. Give them something to remember as well.
If you aren't in a shop, then start going to shops in the area. Start talking to these guys about what THEY do and see if you can work with them. After you decide you like what THEY do, tell them about what YOU do. You don't want your work associated with sub-par work other people have done. They will always assume you had something to do with it. Your work has to represent you when you aren't there and it wont do a good job of that if it's on crappy body work or under shoddy clear coat.
Start looking at the alternative sports and events in your area. If you are painting shirts and not autos, then see what it'll take for you to be able to be seen at their game. Do their shirts for them, do something that they will want to wear. Is there an MMA shop in the area? Tattoo shops? Roller Derby, or some other underground style of something? Get in with those guys and girls. They will be riding and driving the type of cars and bikes that will need good airbrush. Don't pay them in money, pay them in paint. Paint their wall or do the artwork for a flyer, or... use some creativity here. This can work with college teams (they have helmets, and someone has to paint those helmets) or even youth leagues that might not be able to afford getting some shirts with their name on it. Airbrushing some T-Shirts for underprivileged youth players will not only make you feel warm and fuzzy, but this then makes you a sponsor.
Get a web presence. Don't spend too much time on this unless you plan on focusing on people shipping you their stuff to paint. Which, if you think about it, isn't going to happen unless you get established. You have to have a track record before people will trust you with their goods. eBay doesn't count as a track record either. Get a decent website people can look at and start posting videos of your stuff. You aren't going to get a million hits off your posts, but you can refer people to this so that they can see your work.
Learn to take good photos of your work. If you can't do that, then hire someone who can. Find a student photographer that needs some paint. Whatever it takes, just do it. There are tutorials all over the internet to help with this. Again, these photos represent you, in a lot of cases, before they ever meet you. If you post fuzzy, low res pictures on your Craigslist posting, you will look like an amateur. This is bad.
There might be some more, but the most important one, the one that will probably make the biggest difference in whether you go anywhere with your work: NEVER CUT CORNERS. It doesn't matter what the deadlines are, a bad paint job is hard to recover from. A customer might be upset that his bike was a few hours or even a day late, but if it was because you refused to give him or her a bad product, I bet they'll get over it. Be honest with the people you are doing the work for, they will usually understand if you put it to them as a matter of quality. The saying goes (or at least my paraphrasing of the saying goes): you can paint 20 great paint jobs, but if you screw just one up, it's like you've never painted anything good in your life. Word of mouth is the THE most important form of marketing when it comes to paint or art. Again, Word of mouth is the most important. That means, put in every last ounce of whatever you have into your work so that your customer gets the best product you can give. You can do all the free T-Shirts in the world but it takes one bubbled clear coat or one T-Shirt that didn't set right and you're a pariah. This, also is bad.
Bootstrapping is the way of the world when it comes to guys just starting out doing this stuff. Finding the right type of marketing to do to fit into that bootstrapping is pretty tough. You'll get a million guys and girls who'll tell you that if you cut them a deal, the'll get you more business. Probably not. They'll get a great deal though. Here's how I look at this: if you go to someone else, say the little league, and offer to fill a need for them that wont cost them anything - that's a group that will promote you to their friends. But if someone is coming to you for this same need, well, then they probably aren't going to tell anyone.
Make sense? Well good, stop reading and get to it.

The Video of the Post comes from Steve Nunez, an incredible airbrush artist:
(Warning, contains airbrushed boobies)

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