|These fine art giclée prints in a reception area of an accounting office are one example of the many possibilities for selling framed art to the business community.
Providing art and framing for commercial clients can add an important source of income for your shop. Here are some ideas on how to build this outside business.
In today’s uncertain business climate picture framers and art gallery owners offering art consultation services are more apt to keep their business afloat than those relying solely on retail traffic. Art consultation is a profitable adjunct to art and framing and helps broaden one’s client base and business opportunities. Unfortunately we all have witnessed art galleries and frame shops closing in weak economies. However; many art and framing businesses are remaining busy and are even thriving. Chances are these businesses have one or more art consultants regularly closing deals with residential and corporate clients bringing in new business through their persistence and personalized service.
What does art consultation encompass? An art consultant uses his/her expertise drawing on a body of knowledge including, framing design, art history, art printing methods, and art resources to guide clients through the process of selecting framed artwork. Like interior designers, art consultants may specialize in corporate or residential design or do both. Success comes over time as art consultants build a network of clients needing their services. Art consultants combine many talents and often feel like they are playing the roles of part psychologist, part designer, part investigator, part art educator, part salesperson, and part business friend. It is all about building relationships with business people who need personalized service and an expert to help them with art and framing projects. We all know business people like to do business with friends, and you can never have enough business friends. Art consultants are positioning themselves to make new business contacts everyday. These contacts lead to more business.
Have you considered entering this niche market but are unsure of what steps to take? Think of it as taking your excellent customer service and framing design on location. In a way it is like having a mobile mini frame shop with you that all fits into your car. You will need to invest in poster art catalogs, fine art catalogs, an extra set of frame samples, and several large sleeves to transport unframed art. Other essentials include a cell phone, digital camera, mat specifier, tape measure, a rolling cart, and a professional wardrobe. An easy way to start may be by offering to bring frame samples to a walk in residential client that is having a hard time visualizing the frame design you are trying to sell. By bringing the framing materials to his/her home you can articulate why the design works and close the sale. If your company inventories framed artwork offer to bring pieces to your client’s home so they can see them in their own environment. Ultimately through extending these outside services you will build confidence and broaden your client base. Corporate sales are more demanding of your time, but once you feel comfortable with residential consulting it is a natural transition to pursue sales with other businesses in your community.
Simply by having a framed sign on your design counter letting your clients know you offer residential and corporate art consultation you will get leads from your existing clients. However to be consistently busy with art consultation you will need to take the initiative to find new contacts. The types of jobs available vary depending on where you live. Some will require just framing and others will require art and framing. The fields of healthcare and banking are still expanding in this economy and both regularly use art and framing in their work environment.
As a corporate art consultant I regularly meet with decision makers in the fields of banking, healthcare, law, biotechnology, telecommunications, education, hospitality, and real estate. Even in a slow economy there continues to be a segment of the business community needing professional assistance in selecting framed artwork to reflect their professional image. An art consultant usually works as a team member with project managers, architects, facility managers, interior designers, and company executives. As a team member an art consultant is expected to visit job sites, study floor plans and blueprints, provide art budgets, design art programs, and meet deadlines. This may seem tedious and not for everyone, but for those who have the drive and skill art consultation provides a constant revenue stream.
Art budgets are factored in as new companies open, expand, remodel, and relocate. Artwork is part of the equation to enhance professional and caring environments for visitors and employees. Homeowners use art consultants to unify their style, blending art and framing design with their furniture, lighting, and architectural details. How does an art consultant make contacts and find leads? It is a time consuming process and a combination of advertising, belonging to one or more business networking groups, cold calling, and community involvement. Simply stated in order to succeed an art consultant you must be driven, persistent, and willing to go after the business. It involves constant networking, making business connections, a positive attitude, and time away from your own business. Corporate sales are also dependant on the proximity to a fairly large metropolitan community.
Our company offers both residential and corporate art consultation services and since we are located in San Diego there is an ongoing opportunity for sales in both of these areas. In order to accommodate our clients we show fine art in all media and bring art and frame samples to our clients. Many clients, especially corporate buyers, are extremely busy and do not have the time to visit one of our locations. By showing up at their homes or offices clients see the value in personalized service and are willing to spend the money necessary to complete the transaction in a timely manner. Often corporate buyers are thrilled to turn over an art program to an expert because they are too busy with their own schedule and unfamiliar with what corporate art should look like. Residential clients generally are less decisive than corporate buyers and consequently some consultants charge an hourly rate to compensate for their time.
Not Just Framing
Picture framers contemplating the idea of offering art consultation services need to understand it is not just about framing. Selling a full range of fine art and poster art is equally important. Art consultants present a whole package including art, framing, budget, art placement, delivery, and installation. By attending trade shows framers can become familiar with fine art, poster art, and contract mouldings often used in medium- to large-scale projects. Art consultants need their own resources at their fingertips. In order to set yourself apart from your competition you will also need to consider how you can find your own artists and what type of artwork will fit your client’s needs. By visiting businesses in your area you can gain a better understanding of what type of artwork and framing style is appropriate for the setting.
Specialized service in this economic time makes good business sense. Art consultation may lead to increased sales and new opportunities. It takes a driven, optimistic individual with a background in art and framing with keen business skills. It is not for the person easily discouraged or unwilling to take risks. It takes dedication, time away from your business, meeting other business people, constant communication, and most importantly a positive attitude. It can be a slow process to build a following but once you form business relationships and friendships repeat business will follow. Cold calling and finding new business needing framed art is imperative. In addition belonging to at least one networking group where you have an exclusive arrangement as the only art and framing company is critical. A good working relationship with your bank should be in place before entering into large jobs, especially when deposit checks and final payments are delayed and cash flow is unpredictable. Purchase orders do not pay the bills. Lines of credit are essential to continue to pay your employees and daily expenses.
Our company celebrated its 27th year in business this year. We actually started our business selling only custom picture framing. After the first year we realized we needed to be a source for artwork as well. Art consultation services followed and have lead to many wonderful business friendships and profitable jobs over the years. It provides a constant revenue stream, and we have gained a reputation as a go-to company for excellent service and creative art and framing solutions in our community. Even in slow times I remain very busy with projects needing my expertise. Art consultation is not for all picture framers, but it does open up the possibilities to expand your client base and continue growing. It is a niche market worth exploring.