The Art Biz ep. 157: Increasing Self-Sales by 400% with Sarah Becktel

Like many artists early in their journeys, Sarah Becktel focused on building her resume after art school. She was painting and showing in increasingly prestigious venues, but not selling a lot.

In this episode of The Art Biz, I talk with Sarah about her sources of income and how she has increased her overall income by 25% in the last 3 years by being very deliberate about where and how she shows her work.

Sarah Becktel oil painting wolf
©Sarah Becktel, OR-28. Oil on panel, 18 x 24 inches.

Sarah does sell through galleries, but she has recently increased her self-sales by 400% putting her effort into 3 specific types of indoor shows each year:

  • One art fair
  • Two fine art and craft shows
  • One holiday artist market

She focuses on shows that are curated or juried because she believes the quality is higher. And sticks with indoor shows as a means of self-preservation. 🙃

You’ll hear Sarah discuss the difference among these, including a general investment for each. She talks about her strategy for selecting the work each show: one venue is for only originals—which she considers her solo exhibition for the year, another for only reproductions and products, and the third is a mixture of the two.

Two pieces of advice Sarah has for other artists:

  1. Think of shows as data points. Don’t focus only on sales, but what you learn from the experience and the relationships you can build.
  2. Consider multiple price points to bring in new customers—even if you make only originals.

[See also: What Is Your Art Business Costing You? ]



Sarah Becktel art fair booth
Sarah in her art fair booth.

Sarah Becktel Quotes

“Public speaking and talking about your art is a skill you need to develop and keep using to stay sharp.”

“Some of the sales occur because I'm there to tell them the story”

“You want all the people to be following you and connected to you in all the different ways.”

“If they unsubscribe, then they're not the right person for you.”

“Don't necessarily decide whether something was a good show or a bad show based on just the amount of money that you made at the show.”

“Not every show is gonna be the right fit for you. Think of it as an opportunity and think of it as a data point.”

“If you're not planning on putting in the marketing work, developing products aren't gonna help you.“

About My Guest

Sarah Becktel makes paintings and drawings that are inspired by wildlife, animal ecology, and natural history. She is interested in exploring how the animal kingdom has intersected with human civilization throughout history, and how we continue to navigate that intersection today.

Becktel has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and her work is in private collections across the world. She earned her BFA in painting from the Tyler School of Art and continued her studies of representational drawing and painting at multiple locations. Sarah is based at the New Jersey shore and Bozeman, Montana.

Follow her on Instagram @sarahbecktel

Sarah Becktel

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2 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 157: Increasing Self-Sales by 400% with Sarah Becktel”

  1. I loved listening to this episode and found it really validating. I launched my career as an artist last year after moving to a new country where I had no connects and focused on exhibiting at art festivals – I thought this was the quickest way to get my work out there and get very speedy feedback too! Now that I’ve had time to build relationships, I have access to galleries but still prioritise art festivals as my primary sales channel!

    1. Malti: Thank you for listening. It’s nice to know you aren’t alone. Glad it’s working for you!

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