You love making art.
You probably think it would be great if you could just make art all of the time and do nothing else.
The title of my book on self-promotion for artists didn’t come out of thin air. It came from hearing artists whine about not wanting to do the business stuff: I’d Rather Be in the Studio.
Yeah, the studio is a great place for you to hang out and to be creative, but two things cannot happen if you stay holed up in the studio:
1. You cannot be financially viable by hiding out in the studio.
2. You cannot be emotionally or professionally fulfilled by keeping your art to yourself.
For these two things to happen, you have to embrace your role as the leader of your business. This doesn’t sit well with many artists who prefer pretending that they can ignore the business stuff.
There are ways to be happier about running a business, but first you must decide that this is what you want. As part of that decision, you can decide to be pouty and grumble about all of the hard work, or you can decide that you’ll find ways to enjoy the ride.
Which way would you rather go through life?
What Makes Me Happy About Running My Business
Running a successful business means long hours and many sacrifices. But if I had known about the deep satisfaction that results, I might have explored the options much sooner.
I love that …
Have you ever created a body of work just so you could sell at lower prices? If so, you might have created a problem for yourself.
Do any of the following ring true for you?
– You are afraid that people won’t buy your art if you charge what it’s worth.
– You believe that the people in your geographical region buy only cheaper art.
– You’ve started making smaller pieces because they’re less expensive.
– You have signed up for a service like Fine Art America to begin offering multiples of your art, even though the originals aren’t selling.
If you have created lower-priced work for any of these reasons, you might be lowering the bar along with your prices.
Let’s face it: selling lower-priced art is safer. There are many more people in your pool of prospective buyers at the low end.
But I can’t believe that your goal is to appeal to the masses. You, like my clients, surely have big dreams, and that means selling big art at fair prices.
So I have to ask … Are you running to this safer place of inexpensive art because you’ve been inconsistent with your studio practice, marketing, exhibitions, and networking? In other words, are you producing “more affordable” art because you don’t want to do the work required to sell your best work?
Every contact you have with someone is an opportunity to wow them with your art and your professionalism, so you don’t want to miss the chance to wow from the beginning.
Robert Mapplethorpe knew this. For his first solo exhibition in 1973 at New York’s Light Gallery – a show of Polaroids – Mapplethorpe’s invitation was a hand-printed image from a Polaroid original.
He embossed his name on the outer edge, included the protective Polaroid cover, and inserted everything into hand-addressed, cream-colored Tiffany envelopes.
His invitation was a work of art in itself because, he believed, an exhibition doesn’t begin when you go to the opening, but when you receive the invitation.
An art exhibition begins when your guests receive the invitation.
The moment people hear about the show, they start judging. Will it be any good? Who else will show up? Is it worth my time? Is there something better I could do that night?
What experience do people have when they get an invitation from you?
Here are 7 ways to use your invitation to elevate the cachet of your exhibition.
Even if you work with a bookkeeper and accountant, as I do, there’s still much work to be done this time of year.
Every year I learn something new at tax time that I wish I had known in advance – insights that would have made the filing process much easier.
These three actions are a compilation of what I’ve learned from my experiences and those of my clients, which should eliminate some of the crazies around tax time.
1. Take charge of your business finances.
Don’t rely on a spouse to take care of your business finances. You, as CEO and CFO of your art career, need to know how to manage the money. You must take 100% responsibility for your future.
As sad as it is, I’ve heard many stories about people being duped out of their life savings by spouses who made poor financial decisions. These weren’t features in the paper or characters in a television exposé. These were artists and clients.
At the same time,
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could call up your genius whenever you needed it?
Hey, genius! Help me out with writing this article, please.
What would be even more amazing is if Genius would come running whenever you issued this command.
But Genius runs on its own time and has a pretty smart mouth.
My Genius lets me know who is boss:
- I’m tired. Leave me alone.
- You really should have used me when I was in better form. You know … like 6:00 a.m. That’s my power hour.
- Are you kidding me? You spend the last four hours doing diddly-squat and now you expect me to drop everything and run to your rescue?
- Hey, lady! I worked hard for you today. I’m entitled to stupid time.
Stupid time. That’s what I call the hours when my brain can’t make sense out of words or come up with a single creative idea.
I imagine Genius is taking a hike, sweating it out at hot yoga, or gulping down a green smoothie. You know, because Genius is Genius. She doesn’t need naps. She only needs to refuel.
Whatever happened to Genius, I’m left alone to endure stupid time.
And then there is someone else’s time. This becomes an issue when
Your email list is a means for nurturing trust, for building relationships, and, if you teach, for demonstrating your knowledge.
Your list is, as I’ve often said, your most important asset. It’s unique to you, your art, and your goals. No one has the same list of names and email addresses.
For more than 10 years, I relied on good content to build my list. I thought, correctly, that if I just share good stuff, word will get around and more people would subscribe. They did!
But I missed out on helping even more artists because I wasn’t proactively adding names to my list as often as I could have been.
I am more convinced than ever that we need to use as many avenues as possible to build our lists. Not quantity for quantity’s sake, but seeking the highest quality of loyal subscribers.
From time to time, ask people who follow you to sign up. Don’t beg, just ask. You can use the ask in combination with any giveaways mentioned below.
If you’re out networking, as you should be, don’t be afraid to ask people that seem interested if they’d like to be on your list.
When it comes to building an art career, I subscribe to Thomas Jefferson’s view of luck:
I’m a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it. ― Thomas Jefferson
In other words, don’t rely on luck to hand you a successful art career. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Every. Single. Day.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves how lucky we are. But every lucky gold coin has a flip side to be aware of.
You’re lucky you can express yourself freely through your art form. We take this for granted, but not everyone in the world can safely get away with doing so.
In many countries, artists are a dangerous lot because they refuse to go along with the status quo and have “outrageous” ideas about democracy and freedom of religion.
Above all, be grateful for freedom of expression.
On the flip side:
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.
Art Biz Coach has been helping support artists since 2002.
There are 25,000 people on my current email list, and perhaps thousands more who have left that list. There are 9,000 fans on the Art Biz Coach Facebook page, and thousands more that are somehow connected to me.
My point: I’ve crossed paths with a lot of artists.
They buy my book, sign up as a private client, attend a live workshop or event, or learn from me in an online program. Others might comment on a post on my blog, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.
Every so often I come across some familiar names in an old file or document. They were active in the Art Biz Coach community at one point and have since disappeared.
I wonder what has happened to them. Have they given up their art business? Are they more active on other sites?
While thinking about the engagement level of artists on my list, I wondered if you might have some of the same people in your life.
See if these sound familiar….