Recently I met up with one of my favorite people, artist Linda Clark Johnson, to ask her how she does so well every year when she opens her studio to the public as part of Sac Open Studios. I’ve visited her during this event so it made a ton of sense to learn what her key to success is.
I’ve got to first tell you about a few of the results she had from doing this event last year:
- Over 200 visitors in one weekend
- Added 60+ subscribers to her mailing list
- Sold about 200 note cards
- Sold 45 pieces (not including note cards)
- Sold over $3,000
- Sold about $1,000 later as a direct result of the event
During this two day event, Linda’s goal was to add names to her mailing list. Did you just read that?
Her goal wasn't to sell work.
It was to build her mailing list. So everything she did to build her list also helped her to sell work. It’s a little like selling art was a side benefit of setting things up to find new subscribers for her email list.
When I started looking at all the things she did behind the scenes, I discovered that there was a very specific approach that Linda used to make the event work so well.
Simply put, she had a party.
She didn’t just open her studio door one weekend and hope people came. She planned this event like it was her party, because it was. Even though 20,000 Sac Open Studio Guides are distributed throughout the region, she didn’t depend on that as her only way to get visitors.
She OWNED it.
It’s a delightfully simple approach so let’s talk about the things Linda does every year to make sure a great party happens. Keep in mind, these are all things you can do, too.
Linda emails her existing list about once a month and invites them to come to all of her events. She maps out seven different emails that will touch on her open studio event and different ways she can get people interested and excited about coming to it. This year she started talking about open studios at least 5 months before the event.
She invites people on social media. She invites people in person. And, she reminds them to go put the event dates on their calendar -right then.
She tells them why they should come. This year it’s to see her cyanotype demo on Sunday morning.
She even hand-delivers invitations to her neighbors. When she does this, she doesn’t just leave it in the door, she knocks, introduces herself and says “Hey, I’d love for you to come over and say hello during Open Studios. You’ll get to meet other neighbors, have great food and it’ll be fun.” And you know what, her neighbors show up and buy her work.
You’d never throw a party without food, right? Linda usually makes something special that she knows everyone will remember, but last year when she wasn’t able to be at her home studio the week before the event, she hit the easy button and bought pre-made food. She budgets about $100 for food.
This element of hosting a party is important and allows people to have something to mix and mingle over. It encourages them to stay a while and just enjoy themselves. In Sacramento’s September heat, where it’s usually in the upper 90s, it shows that Linda is looking out for her visitors by creating a little oasis where they can refuel before heading out to see other open studios.
Linda knows from past open studios that she gets about 200 visitors over the weekend. This is A LOT of people. While it’s more of an open house setting where people come and go, 200 visitors is still a bit like having a wedding so getting a wingman or two makes a lot of sense.
Would you host a 200 person wedding and do everything all by yourself?
Nope, and neither would Linda. She has 1-3 friends help her out with greeting people, running the cash register and doing the food.
Linda made sure to ask people to sign up for her email list. I know you might not feel up to asking people to subscribe when you’re face-to-face with them. You might be feeling a little shy (hello, that’d be me!), or just plain exhausted (hello, that’s me, too). But you can make it easier on yourself if you take an approach like Linda did.
Since building her email list was Linda’s main goal, she created a great reason for people to sign up for her mailing list. New subscribers were entered into drawings on both Saturday and Sunday to win a piece of her art, one for each day. They loved this!
If you’ve got a fun excuse for people to subscribe, it makes it a whole lot easier for you to ask them if they’d like to sign up, and for them to say yes.
Linda made sure that all the little details were handled so she could have fun at her own party, and so her guests would have a great time, too. She prepared as much as she could in advance so that during the event it was a lot less stressful.
Imagine being the bride and having to head into the kitchen, mid-reception to whip up a three layer cake?
Linda avoids all of this last minute party madness by planning and doing as much as she can ahead of time. She doesn’t let those nice-to-have-but-didn’t-get’em-done things bother her.
Instead, she’s committed to having fun at her own party and to making sure everyone else does, too.
Music, coolers, ice, chairs, yard signage….
Mailing list sign-up sheet, titles and prices posted, resume available, postcards for her next event….
All of these party details were thought through and ready for the big day.
Something for Everyone
Linda made sure to have her work in different sizes and formats to make it easy for people to find something that resonated with them.
She had note cards that sold for $3 each or four for $10. She put the bundle of four into a nice plastic sleeve so it looked like sweet little gift.
She had tote bags available at $20, large originals between $400-$500, and many items between $50 and $100, especially giclees.
From seeing what Linda did, I’d say it pays to party like an artist. Everyone at her open studio has an amazing time and tons of fun.
What tip can you take from Linda’s party approach and use at your next open studio, sale or reception?
How can you really OWN that event and make it yours? Leave a note in the comments and let me know.
Do you have a party detail that you’ve found super helpful? Add it to the comments so we can all learn from it and make our next event as fun as Linda’s yearly open studio (a.k.a. PARTY!).
If you’d like to see more of Linda’s work or sign up for her mailing list, head over to her website: www.lindaclarkjohnson.com or her instagram feed: @lindaclarkjohnson. She loves making art and enjoys working in watercolor, collage and cyanotypes. Inspiration for her pieces come from simple everyday items, her love of the outdoors, world travel, and her fascination with wildlife, particularly birds.
Stop by to see her work in person during Sac Open Studios on Saturday 9/17/16 and Sunday 9/18/16 from 10am to 5pm. Check out the Sac Open Studios Guide for location details as the event gets closer.
Here’s to Partying Like an Artist!
P.S. Open studio season is here! If you’d liked learning about what Linda did to have a great art sale then, you’ll love reading about what artist Deborah Pittman did, too. Check out her open studio story here.
All images courtesy of the artist.