Are you an artist? Artists are by nature expressive types who enjoy the process of creating jewelry, sculpture, paintings, carvings, tapestries, handicrafts, you name it.
But any artist can tell you that while it’s nice to accumulate a collection of artistic works, the real satisfaction comes in sharing that art with an audience and for some selling it to fans.
Unfortunately, marketing and selling skills don’t always accompany artistic talent. Most artists need to partner with galleries and other sales outlets.
So how can you, a visual artist, persuade those retail outlets to host a gallery show for you or display your works on consignment? You need to master another art: writing a business proposal.
Maybe you don’t count writing among your skills. But creating a proposal won’t seem so daunting after you learn the basic structure and ingredients included in all winning proposals. You already know what you have to offer, and you probably have a good idea of who is likely to appreciate your work, so you have all the basic information you'll need. And after you have written one proposal to a gallery or store, you'll find that you can use a lot of the same information in every proposal from now on.
Let's focus on that basic structure mentioned above, and you'll see how easy writing a proposal can be. All proposals have this standard structure: introduction, client-focused section, products-focused section, and then finally, a section focused on you - the artist.
The introduction is the shortest, simplest part. The first thing you need when writing to a gallery or shop is a Cover Letter that explains who you are, why you sent the proposal, and what you want the recipient to do after reading your proposal. The Cover Letter should contain all your contact information, too, so the client can easily respond. A Cover Letter isn't always part of a proposal, but should always accompany and introduce your proposal.
At the top of the proposal package is a Title Page. This is exactly what it sounds like: just clearly label your proposal. Examples might be “Proposal for Autumn Showing at Graysen Gallery” or “Sculpture Collection Available for Consignment Sales” or “Proposed Jewelry Display for The Crystal Palace.”
If your proposal is only a few pages long, a cover letter and title page are all you need for the introduction. If your proposal is complex, you might want to include a Table of Contents and a Client Summary page next. A Client Summary is a short summation of the most important points you want to make in your proposal, and is generally only needed if there are executives who must approve your proposal but might not have time to review all its pages.
Artists who are inexperienced with sales might be tempted to start off with a sales pitch that's all about the artist. Don’t do it. Save your story and the kudos you’ve received for the last part of the proposal. Winning proposals are customized to the potential client—the gallery or store you want to work with. In the client-centered section, your goal is to prove that you are familiar with the client and understand the client’s needs and concerns. Imagine yourself as the gallery manager or the store owner - what would you want an artist to know about you? At a minimum, this section should have a Needs Assessment page that spells out what the clients are likely to ask for.
For example, a jewelry maker might list dates that are traditionally celebrated with gifts of jewelry to suggest to a jewelry shop when the items would sell best. A sculptor specializing in wildlife sculptures might describe the outdoorsy theme of the gift shop so the gift shop manager can see how the sculptures would fit right in. A painter might list popular painters with similar styles whose works are typically shown by a gallery so the gallery owner will understand that her regular clientele will appreciate the new offerings. Describe how your work fits with the Market and Audience defined by the gallery or shop.
Be as specific as possible. If you are aware of specific dates of special upcoming Events or Limitations on size, color, or cost, mention these in this section to show you understand the client’s role. You might want to include pages such as Style or Fashion to describe current trends.
After you have described why the gallery or shop wants or needs your artwork, it's time to explain how you propose to fulfill those needs to your mutual benefit. Describe the collection you are offering in general: you may want to use topics such as Color Scheme and Collection here. Then describe the individual art in detail. For each piece, you might want to have a separate page, on which you include a photo and the name you’ve given to the piece, the media used, dimensions, colors, and any associated story behind the piece. You may also want to include a suggested price and any display requirements for that piece, such as special mounting or lighting needed.
The pages in this section will vary according to what you are offering. Be as specific as possible about the art pieces you are offering, what you will do, when, and the terms you are offering the gallery or shop. You'll probably want a Consignment page to spell out percentages of sales, and maybe Options or Packages, Schedule, and Delivery or other topics that explain everything you have in mind.
In the final proposal section, it's your turn to talk about yourself. Describe your Vision and provide your Artist’s Statement, and explain why you are the best choice for the project. You might include pages like Biography, a list of Clients Served, past Projects that are similar, Awards you have won, Testimonials from fans or other business partners - in short, anything that shows that you are not only a talented artist, but also a business professional who can be trusted to deliver on your promises.
That's it - you're done with the draft of your proposal. Now, proofread every page to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes. It’s always a good idea to enlist a professional proofreader to do the final check; it’s easy to overlook mistakes and omissions in your own work. When the wording is perfect, make sure every page looks good, too. You’re an artist, after all, and you want the proposal to represent you at your professional best. You can add a logo, use pages with colored borders, or select custom bullet points and text fonts that match your style. When every page is perfect, print it and deliver it by mail or by hand, or package it in a PDF and attach that to email. Use the method that is most likely to impress the gallery or shop.
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If you want to speed up the proposal writing process, consider using Proposal Kit, which is designed for writing all sorts of business documents and has professional layouts to make your proposal look great. The product comes with thousands of templates to cover any topic you might want to include.
Each template contains instructions and examples of information to include, so you'll never feel clueless about what to put on a page. Proposal Kit includes basic contracts that you can adapt for your own use, too. And as a bonus, there are also many sample proposals that you can look through to get ideas of what others have done. You'll find you use Proposal Kit over and over again to create winning proposals for your clients.