You are in charge of your art career.
That means you are the person who decides what to do today, tomorrow, next week, and next month.
If you’re accustomed to a boss telling you where to focus your energy, entrepreneurship probably thumped you on the head with some snide remark like, “You want freedom? Here it is! Go decide for yourself.”
This sounded ideal until you realized how hard it was to prioritize your day, week, year, and life.
If you’re actively looking for opportunities, as you should be, there will be a time when you have more opportunities than you realistically have time for. You’ll be hit with new projects from all sides, and you think it would be lovely to involve yourself in all of them.
Wrong! You can’t take on every project that comes your way.
Intellectually, you understand this. Emotionally, you want to believe you are somehow superhuman.
The projects might be exhibitions, commissions, licensing deals, wholesale contracts teaching possibilities, separate jobs, or something else. They’re all projects that beg for your time, and they sound so exciting!
Your resolve is being tested. Some people call this interior voice a gremlin or troll. I call it the tester when I see it testing how much it can get away with. How serious is he about this other project – really? How good is he at knowing what he wants and needs?
All good entrepreneurs struggle with decisions in moments like these, especially if there is the potential for a big pay off at the end.
This is when you must ask yourself hard questions to help you answer the biggest question of all:
Should I take on this project?
Below are some of the questions I ask my clients, which you might adapt for your own self-interrogation process.
When you are ready to be proactive instead of reactive in your art career, look at the naked truth about where you are now.
You improve your chances for big business growth when you track your numbers, which isn’t always a pleasant task.
While it’s difficult to confront low numbers in any category, insist that it’s absolutely necessary when you want to expand.
Your Monthly Business Checkup
For many years at Art Biz Coach, I had a simple Word document that I used to record my numbers. I made a bunch of copies and kept them in a notebook. At the beginning of a new month, I completed the form with the previous month’s results.
My business grew by 25-40% every year as a result! I contribute much of that growth to this tracking procedure.
I didn’t do it when I felt like it. I committed to doing it every month.
I called it my Monthly Business Checkup, and you can easily implement a version of it for your art business.
Every so often, you have to conduct a brain dump.
I hear you asking: What is a brain dump?
A brain dump is a magical process that gets everything out of your head and onto paper. And, yes, I find that paper is where it has to happen. The computer is too distracting.
You know it’s time for a brain dump when you’re overwhelmed. Your head is about to burst, your stomach is fluttering, and your chest feels tight.
You’re feeling like you can’t get all of your tasks done in the time you have, and God bless the poor person who asks you for a favor right now. Oh, boy! Will they ever get an earful!
Another sign it’s time for a brain dump is that you are unfocused – you know that you have a lot to do, but can’t decide what is the best use of your time in this moment.
Brain dump to the rescue!
Here are the 6 steps I recommend for the process.
Step 1: Prepare For Your Brain Dump
I like to begin tasks with focused intention and name the task: Now, I am sitting down to get whatever is in my head onto this piece of paper. Sometimes I even
There are no set steps that can take you from the beginning of your art career to the pinnacle of success.
I know you would feel much more at ease if I could advise you to first do this, and then do that, and then do this other thing, and if you follow each step precisely, you’ll be assured a spot in the history books. But I can’t do that.
What I can do is give you some sort of idea of the phases artists work through over the course of their careers: a timeline of artists’ career moves from just starting out to the highest levels of establishing and cementing a reputation.
First, a word of caution: Because an article is linear, you might read this and think that you have to implement one step before you can move on to the next step. This isn’t the case.
I can’t come up with a single artist who has hit on each one of these points.
Artists who are full of confidence and forging their own paths can jump past entire sections!
Hopefully this list will plant the seeds for your next move.
Beginning Your Art Career
Start your mailing list immediately. You will have no idea what to do with this, but trust me. Just
It’s a New Year and new start.
Everyone is talking about either setting goals or why you should avoid setting goals or making resolutions at all costs.
I’m not big on resolutions, but I stand firmly in the “goals are good for you” camp. I’ve seen them work for my clients and know they’ve propelled me further than I would have been without them.
So, let’s set some goals!
I’ve adapted the questions from the annual review and The See Plan to help you set goals for the New Year.
Promise not to go crazy with the process. Aim for 3-5 big goals for your year. This list is a starting point.
Most business and marketing plans are linear, and most artists are anything but linear.
What if, instead of having a traditional business plan, you nurtured a holistic approach to your art career?
That’s what I want to help you do with The See Plan, a new tool to help you see your art career in total. I want you to see that a successful business is not all about making and marketing (the M’s).
The See Plan: 8 C’s for Getting Your Art Seen is circular rather than linear. You need all of the C’s for a healthy business and balanced life, however you define these.
Let me tell you about the 8 C’s.
Everything begins with the art. Without the art, you are not an artist.
Here’s a question that my clients know is coming: By when?
By when will you send that email?
By when will you make that call?
By when will you send your application?
When I ask clients for a deadline on a task – like sending an email or making a phone call – they are most likely to say, “I’ll do that by the end of next week.”
Fair enough. They’re allowed to set their own deadlines, and it’s my job to push them a little because I know they are capable of more.
My response, when appropriate, is: “Why don’t you do it as soon as we get off of this call? Now seems like the right time to take care of it.”
Gulp. I can “hear” the hesitation in the brief moment of silence.
Hmmm. It seemed like such a good idea until I suggested immediate action.
I probably don’t have to tell you that selling only original works of art doesn’t always pay the bills. Sales can be seasonal, galleries can shut their doors, or the economy might tank.
This is why I am all for artists having multiple streams of income – when it makes sense.
Multiple Income Streams for Artists
An income stream is a source of money.
Your income streams might include employment outside of your art business, but I’m going to focus on diversifying how you make money from your art.
Selling original works of art is probably the most appealing way for you to make money from your art. Other avenues include, but aren’t limited to, teaching, licensing, and selling reproductions.
Sometimes multiple income streams go together.
For example, if you teach art, there might be money from both online and in-person classes. Additional funds might come from how-to books and information products.
They’re all information based and marketed to the same audience.
Likewise, you could probably market products with your art on them
Are you like a lot of my clients? You want to do/try it all. You’d like to be everywhere but time runs out.
Lack of time is the number one anxiety for most of my clients. It’s not fear of rejection or failure or even potential criticism. It’s there’s not enough time in the day to do it all.
Like you, I’ve been overwhelmed with possibilities for business development and strategy.
Just three years ago, I remember sitting down and crying to my husband that I couldn’t work any harder. If I wanted to increase my impact in the world, I would have to work smarter. That’s when I hired a serious business coach and got back on track.
Here’s what I’ve learned about dealing with overwhelm and a seeming lack of time.
1. The important stuff always gets done.
I don’t know how, but I know why the important stuff always gets done. It gets done because it’s important! I recognize its value and somehow manage to make it happen.
Knowing this truth is a relief.
2. There is no such thing as time management.
You can’t manage time. The clocks keep ticking and the sun continues to rise and set. There’s not much we can do about that.
But we can manage ourselves. Here are a few ideas for doing this:
A checklist can keep you on task for your exhibition.
The tasks on your checklist, and the deadlines you give them, will depend on the following:
– The type of exhibition (juried, self-curated, open studio)
– If the venue is in charge of sales and refreshments or if that’s up to you
– Whether you’re showing with other artists
– How much time you have to plan
Do It Now
Set a goal. What would you like to have happen at this exhibition or as a result of it?
Plan your budget. How much can you afford to spend on materials and framing? How much can you allocate to promotions, printing, and a reception?
Identify a theme and