You set out to do your landscape painting in the great outdoors. You think it's just going to be you, your painting supplies and the natural world. Well, you're wrong. There's always the chance that passers-by will notice you hard at work. They may carry on walking or they may start a conversation with you. Every single person is a potential customer, so do you turn these passers-by into customers?
Will strangers really buy my art?
When people stop and talk to you, they're showing that they're interested. Not everyone who stops to talk will end up buying your art, though. But the more time you spend plein air painting, the more people will speak to you and the greater chance you stand of finding new customers. Even if you only gain one or two new customers, every little helps. You wouldn't have gained those customers if you'd spend that time painting in a studio.
Be friendly and polite
This person is going out of their way to engage in conversation with you. Even if you don't want to speak to anyone, you have to be friendly and polite. If you show no interest at all, the person, your potential customer, is just going to walk away and there's a potential sale lost. Sales work both ways, so if the potential customer has started reaching out to you, it's up to you to reciprocate.
Get the conversation going
Don't spend the whole conversation talking about yourself, but do let the potential customer know who you are. Mention an upcoming exhibition and say when and where it's going to be. Tell them about paintings you've done before. Ask them if they've done any painting and talk about what you both enjoy about painting. Offer some interesting facts about the place you're painting. This is an opportunity to sell your work, so make the most of it, but don't overdo it.
Offer your details
The potential customer will leave at some point, so they have to have a means of contacting you. If they leave and they have no way of getting in touch with you, chances are they're not going to try to get in touch with you. Offer them a business card with your details on it. Better yet, offer them a free photograph of the painting you're working. The potential customer will be delighted to be receiving something for nothing.
Let them end the conversation.
No matter which way the conversation's going, you should always let the customer end it on their terms. They started it, so they should choose when to finish it. Try to keep them talking for as long as possible and get them interested about your work. If you end the conversation, you're showing you're not interested in taking things further. Of course, do be polite if the potential customer decides to leave or even politely declines your offer of a business card or free photo.
These are just a few tips to help turn a passer-by into a customer. Plein air painting offers a great way to gain new customers and build up your customer base. It can be very easy to do and having a nice conversation that results in a new customer is a nice bonus. Have you got any more tips?
Joanne Perkins is a Berkshire-based artist with a BA (Hons) in Fine Art and specialises in painting Berkshire landscapes. She is happy to accept all queries and questions. For more information about Joanne, her work and her current projects visit: http://joannesberkshirescenes.com/default.aspx