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How Bill Hinsch Uses PatronArt to Make Money as a Professional Artist

Bill Hinsch is a force to be reckoned with. Over the last three decades, the prolific artist has dabbled in everything from newspaper illustrations to commercial ventures for big brand names like Pepsi and Sears.

Recently, Bill has made a move back toward his first passion: creating custom artwork for individual clients. And he’s found success with a following of dedicated patrons clamoring for his lushly painted portraits and finely illustrated animals. His secret? Patience, persistence, and PatronArt.

“There’s a need for an arts marketplace like [PatronArt]. Average Americans aren't ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a painting. That does not mean they don’t like art... PatronArt fills that void, and offers a solution that brings artist and patron together.”

Right before Hinsch first joined PatronArt in June of 2018, his core business illustrating training materials for multinational companies was struggling. Sensing the time was right for a change, Hinsch prepared to enter the world of fine art again, but knew he’d need help updating his business strategies for the 21st century.

Bill relaxes in his Toledo studio between paintings

Small changes and big success

Bill decided to make the move to a marketplace-based model after being inspired by other talented artists who were using PatronArt to attract freelance work. Aware that brick-and-mortar galleries impose steep fees on artists—a 50 percent sales commission is standard—Bill realized that a growing number of professional artists were moving online to work for themselves. “In any big gallery, I bet you wouldn’t find art as good as you can online, and you’re going to pay a lot more for it, too.”

He began by testing the online waters with Saatchi, but ended up with zero sales. Eventually, Bill made his way to PatronArt and found success with its marketplace model and emphasis on a personalized commissions experience. Like any seasoned pro, Bill started by getting to know his new gallery inside and out. “I had a lot of questions at first, but then I just learned by trial and error. I’ve made a few mistakes, but the [PatronArt curators] always set me straight.”

Gradually, Bill learned what it would take to succeed in an online marketplace by adapting his business strategies for the web. Over the last nine months, he’s racked up an impressive 13 commissions with PatronArt and currently has two more projects in the works.

“[When you’re starting out], don’t worry about the money so much. You can’t cheat the system. Work on your art, work on your business, make it better, and you’ll get there eventually.”

Bill credits most of his success on PatronArt to an “art-first, money-second” mindset. His other secret involves a few tried-and-true business tips, adapted for the online arena.

TIp #1: Invest in yourself

Bill’s gallery on PatronArt houses a stunning collection of paintings and illustrations from over the years. More importantly, he knows the value of presentation; each work is photographed multiple times to ensure quality, then uploaded into Photoshop where it’s cropped and adjusted until it looks just right. “I photograph all my work, no matter what. Make sure you get a good camera and take the time to do it properly.”

Tip #2: Make a sandwich

The quality of photographs is important, but Bill’s proposals to his clients are what make him really stand out. He uses an extremely effective method called The Sandwich Technique. “First, I start with praise. Then I address any potential problems. Then I offer a solution.” He also ends each proposal with a strong call to action, which could be as simple as asking the patron a follow-up question about their request.

Tip #3: Be realistic and flexible

Bill realizes not everyone can afford a large oil painting, and that the most successful freelancers are the ones who scale their business to fit the needs of their patrons. “I don’t automatically say, ‘This is the price, take it or leave it.’ It’s more a negotiation to find out what that person is willing to pay and then fashioning the work to fit the price.”

Bill poses with client Spencer Legros and and an oil painting of two furry friends

Persistence pays off

Even Bill admits that the commissions process is rarely perfect, especially if he’s working with a first-time patron. But by switching to PatronArt’s marketplace model, he’s able to connect with his clients on a deeper level and stay true to his “art for everyone” business philosophy. “In some ways, us artists have a responsibility to make art more public, to get it everywhere, to make it more accessible. Venues like PatronArt allow us to do that. And that’s a really good thing for everyone.”

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