As an artist, do you feel that sense of discord when someone tells you to learn how to market yourself? I know I do. Thinking of myself and my art as a product makes my art spirit raise an eyebrow and slowly shake my head.
Business-minded people see the importance of having a viable product, and more importantly an interested buyer. A business-minded person might very quickly tell an artist to change their product to meet the desires of potential customers. (Thus begins the eyebrow raising.)
Most artists, however, need to make their art without considering who will buy it upon completion. Such is the nature of creating authentic work. Believe me, the world needs the art that is made without profit in mind. Imagine if Vincent Van Gogh had never made Starry Night! Indeed, Van Gogh only sold one of over 900 paintings in his lifetime, Red Vineyard at Arles.
Surely there is a disconnect between selling art and making art, but the good news is that authenticity wins in both business and art-making. Especially now, as modern consumers seek out products and services that have personal stories. Buzz words like handcrafted, artisanal, local and ethical attract modern consumers, but art has always been these things and so much more.
The key to selling yourself is not making art that everyone wants, but finding the people who like your very unique, once in a lifetime voice. Art buyers are looking for art that speaks to them. You make art to say something to the world. Finding where that conversation takes place is how you will create success for your art.