In 2000 I had been working in art museums for 10 years and had a great job as a director of education.
And I was miserable.
I had a choice. I could keep being miserable, or I could do something about it. I chose the latter. The next year I sold my house and donated many of my belongings. Then I packed up a U-Haul and moved to a small garage apartment in Denver.
I started an art-consulting business and was instantly happier.
I had no steady paycheck, no health insurance, and no idea how to run a business. But I was blissfully happy.
I chose happiness over the security of a museum job.
It was rocky in the beginning, but I kept getting requests for help from artists I had known in my museum career and others who found my art-consulting business online. I chose to listen to them.
I could have easily held firm to my original plan, but I made a different choice that has worked out pretty well.
Choice v. Sacrifice
We often think that building an art career requires sacrifice. You might sacrifice:
1. The janitor who cleans your gallery or apartment lobby.
2. The housekeeper who does good work, so that you can focus on your good work.
3. The gardener and lawn mower who tend to the outside of your space.
4. The tech person who was so patient with you when you thought the world was falling apart.
5. The person at the shipping company who “gets” that your art needs white-glove treatment.
6. The mail carrier who delivers important correspondence and packages.
7. The coffee shop owner who lets you mooch wifi for two hours in exchange for a $5 cuppa joe.
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.
External factors do not determine how you live. YOU are in complete control of the quality of your life, by either creating or allowing the circumstances you experience.
– Jack Canfield
It was in Jack Canfield’s seminal book, The Success Principles, where I first read about the necessity of taking 100% responsibility for your life. In fact, it’s no lower on the list than Principle #1 in the book of 64 principles.
He’s pretty clear. It’s not 100% responsibility for this or that. It’s 100% responsibility for EVERYTHING. This means:
- You have to give up all of your excuses.
- You have to give up blaming.
- You have to give up complaining.
Here’s the thing about taking 100% responsibility: It puts you in charge.
I understand that this amount of control can be daunting for a new business owner, but wouldn’t you rather have control than to cede it to others?
Embrace this power!
If you’re frustrated by your results, or lack thereof, don’t blame the economy, the online platform, the weather, other artists/people, or the venue.
Instead, consider the things you can control. This is taking responsibility and being a savvy businessperson and more enlightened human being.
Building a business is exciting and scary for anyone who undertakes the task.
Building an art business is even scarier because your artwork is so personal. It’s not like you’re making widgets. You’re baring your soul to the world.
You’d be crazy not to be a little scared.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve coached clients with the following fears:
- Fear of setting boundaries with a spouse. (It ended up that the spouse wanted the same thing. What a relief to have the conversation!)
- Fear of public speaking, and knowing that it is necessary when you get to a certain level with your art.
- Fear of the next step when you’ve reached what you always thought would be the pinnacle of your career.
- Fear of too much success and being overwhelmed.
The fears I have in my business:
Today we take time out to honor the humble, under-utilized, centuries-old, low-tech postcard.
Why spend virtual ink on such an old-fashioned method of communication? Because postcards can do what email cannot do.
Postcards can’t be targeted as spam by an aggressive filter.
Postcards can’t be accidentally (or purposefully) deleted by recipients.
Postcards are likely to be tacked to a refrigerator or kept as a memento.
Postcards are tactile. We can hold them in our hands and ponder them. They have the potential to delight, which is something we rarely say about email these days.
You, like the private clients I advise, would benefit from sending three or four postcards a year.
Postcards are most often used to invite people to an upcoming exhibition or open studio.
Some artists design a single postcard with a schedule of all upcoming shows they’re participating in.
But if you don’t have an upcoming exhibition, you might wonder what you’d say on a postcard or why you’d send one in the first place.
Here are 8 other occasions for using postcards to promote your art and build relationships with your list.
Many artists I encounter are pinning all of their hopes on getting into a gallery. Most of them are adopting this outlook prematurely. In other words, they aren’t even close to ready for galleries.
This leads to unhealthy expectations, which only results in disappointment and a sense of failure.
Don’t get me wrong. I think galleries are a great way to go for some artists, but you must be realistic about the process. You have to understand what’s required for getting and keeping gallery representation.
With that in mind, here’s a checklist of what you’ll need before you start approaching galleries.
This isn’t a guide for actively approaching galleries, only for your preparedness.
1. Learn patience.
Gallery representation is earned. It happens after years of hard work in the studio and schmoozing at openings and events.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Practice resilience.
How much time do the lessons take? How much time should I spend on social media? How much time on marketing vs. making art?
©2013 John Salvest, Forever. Secondhand romance novels on metal armature. Courtesy of the artist and Morgan Lehman Gallery.
These are questions I’m often asked to which there are no easy answers (except maybe the last one, and I take a stab at that below).
Everyone wants to know “how much time?” because time is sacred, and we should be choosy with how we spend our time.
There is a better question than “How much time?” Ask yourself: How much time and effort am I willing to invest?
The key word is “willing.”
When you’re committed, you don’t care how much time something takes. [Tweet this] You’ll find a way to get it done because it