Podcast: Studio Tours
Being part of a studio tour is a unique opportunity to show your work in the one place where you feel most at home with your work, and where you have total control over what to show and how it will be displayed. It’s a time when you can meet people who are excited about what you do and of course, make direct sales and helpful connections. Especially when your open studio is part of an organized and publicized regional event, you can expect a steady flow of visitors, and the sales that result can be significant. What do you need to do to prepare for being part of a studio tour or open studio event? How can you maximize sales and connections, and keep your energy during all the preparations and planning? Today we’ll talk about some tips and considerations, and ideas for making things run smoothly.
The most important thing to remember is to pace yourself, because there’s a lot to do to get ready, and many different tasks to keep track of. But doing a little each day for about four-six weeks ahead relieves a lot of stress. Small accomplishments add up! The following is a list of tasks and the suggested schedule for getting ready for the big days.
Starting 4-6 weeks ahead
• Send out newsletter with all your info, and some photos of some of the work you will be selling. You will have a decent mailing list for this if you’ve been keeping a sign-up guest book each time you have had an open studio event in the past. If not, use whatever emails you have collected via other methods.
• Order new business cards if you need them, and maybe post cards or brochures.
• Start promoting on social media—you can post what you are working on for the tour, pictures of your studio, etc.
• Evaluate your inventory –will you show older work, only newer work, or a combination?
o Are there gaps you want to fill? You still have time to make new work.
o Do you have various price points for your work? Higher prices are not a bad thing if you have a track record, but some lower prices are also good.
o Are there pieces that need to be touched up, cleaned up, or worked over?
o Decide if you need any mats or frames—you should go for the best presentation you can reasonably afford. Off the shelf frames are fine—if you have things that will look best frames, frame at least a few so people can see how they will look.
• Order any other supplies you need for wrapping and protecting work that you sell, like bubble wrap and cardboard.
• Pricing—think about this as you go along, don’t leave to the very end especially if you plan to make some changes. Sit with your decisions for a while. Be wary of pricing too low. If you’re not sure, get some input from a friend or two.
• Consider what help you will need—if any—on the days of the tour and if you want help, line someone up now to give them plenty of a heads up. You might think about help for parking, wrapping work, watching over the food table, or just someone to keep you company and give you a break.
• If the studio is a group event help out willingly and where you can—you may have an assigned job or make other efforts where you see the need, like picking up trash on your street.
About 2 weeks ahead—
• Start cleaning and organizing if you have a messy studio.
• Put fresh paint your display walls and hang your work even if it isn’t really ready. That helps give you a view of how your studio will look and you can see what you have at a glance and what work needs attention. Consider how to group things and organize so it feels welcoming.
• Think about what food/drinks to serve—you can go easy on yourself by using packaged food or be more elaborate, but it is good to have something.
• Make sure you have a guest book, and a receipt book if you want to use one (handy for your own records.)
• Check that your Square account for credit cards and your Venmo account if you have one are working well—remember it is good to have several payment methods available.
• Keep up with your promotion on your social media accounts.
• Send personal emails to anyone you especially want to encourage to come.
The week of the event:
• Finalize your pricing and start placing stickers or labels—your visitors do need to see them clearly.
• Finalize your presentation--take a few days to arrange things and make changes, and it’s nice to ask a friend’s opinion of how things look. Too cluttered? Inviting? Are things grouped in a logical way?
• Set up an area to display your tools and materials in a way that someone can try them out if your media lends itself to that--it’s a nice touch.
• Set up your sales/wrapping table and make sure you have everything you need very handy—you don’t want to be searching around for this when you make a sale.
• Make any signs that will be helpful—such as info re: your Venmo account, your Instagram, website, and any other information you want to post, and anything you want to post outside like directions for parking.
Day before the event:
• Last minute cleaning.
• Post signs and your Tour ID number if you have one.
• Do any food prep you can for your refreshments, set up table, a tent if you have one , buy ice and put in cooler in a cool place.
• Put out your guest book with small sign that this is for your mailing list.
• Put out any brochures and/or business cards.
• Try to do something fun/relaxing because the next few days will be intense!
During the event:
• Try to greet everyone and make a little small talk to make them feel welcome.
• You can leave people alone after greeting them but let them know you are happy to answer questions.
• Try not to let anyone monopolize your attention—you need to be available to everyone.
• Take care of yourself --it’s OK to sit once in a while, bring a sandwich to the studio or have someone bring you some food, and stay hydrated.
• Be prepared to explain your process, ideas, etc. many times. Remember that each time is fresh to the person you are talking to.
• Take a few photos for social media of the scene in your studio when it’s busy.
• Remember to support others on the event—mention others’ studios, help your visitors find what they are interested in. It is an art community that allows the tour to happen so be generous in promoting the other artists.
• When making a sale:
o Try to take your time—mistakes are made when you feel rushed or flustered.
o Make a record of what was sold and to whom—that can be a photo or brief description/title, a note in a receipt book.
Try to get contact info from anyone who purchases—some of that will show up if they use a credit card but not necessarily—and once in a while there is something you need to follow up on.
o Let them know if you are charging tax. Everyone understands and keeping the tax records separate seems best (rather than charging more and then paying it yourself.)
o Ask how they would like it wrapped. Some people don’t need the wrapping and that saves you time and effort.
o Obviously, say thanks, and you might want to ask how/where they plan to hang the work and mention you would love to get a photo of the piece in their home. These are fun to see and can be useful for your records.
• Remember it is NOT just about sales—otherwise you can feel discouraged if it is slow in terms of sales. Appreciate everyone who comes in, and the interesting conversations you will have.
• Try not to be distracted by people who clearly are not interested. Some people will leave very quickly, recognizing your work isn’t for them.
After the Tour:
• Give yourself a little downtime if you can.
• Update your financial records--Square and Venmo will provide a record for reference.
• Promptly cash any checks
• Post a general thank you on social media.
• Connect personally with anyone you want to follow up with--a special connection, a significant purchase etc.
Wrap-up—this is a long list and a lot to consider but taking things in small steps makes the process enjoyable. Getting ready is also an opportunity to take stock of your work overall what you feel good about, and seeing old work can generate new ideas. The contacts you make during an event like this can have immediate rewards like sales but also longer-term effects—what someone is impressed by this year may bring them back next year ready to buy, or some other door may open because they appreciated your work.
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