The secret to making a living as an artist is that there are no secrets. Artists find their own paths and each path is unique.
There are some qualities, however, that you must have:
And … a willingness to learn, adapt, and grow.
It also helps to have a positive outlook, people skills, and a grateful heart.
Elizabeth St. Hilaire has all of these – in spades. I have always admired her business savvy and work ethic.
I was delighted to spend 3 days with her recently. During a hike together, where we talked mostly about art and business, I blurted, Hey! We should do a podcast while you’re here.
So we did.
In this podcast, Elizabeth breaks down where she generates income (teaching, licensing, art sales, books, and DVDs). She also outlines the various teaching models that are available to artists today.
The follow-up process for students is different than that for buyers and collectors.
Once someone has studied with you, they are likely to take additional classes from you, which means it’s just as important to follow up with students as it is with your collectors – if you want to grow your class sizes and offerings.
You have to show students that you care before, during, and after the program they enroll in.
Here are five ways to do that.
1. Ask for Evaluations and Testimonials
Evaluations can help you improve your offerings while showing students that you care about the experiences they’ve had with you. You’re asking to hear their opinions.
Evaluations can also be a source of testimonials for your programs – if you ask the questions the right way.
Keep your evaluation short. I suggest some variation of these three questions:
What did you most enjoy about this class?
What was your
If you want to teach, you need a pool of potential students.
You need a following. And a following suggests there is a leader. If you expect people to sign up for your classes or buy your how-to book, you must step up and be the leader.
You’ve got to position yourself as an expert.
Becoming known for your skills is not an overnight process. It’s a process that you must be dedicated to and in it for the long haul.
I built Art Biz Coach using all of the tactics I share below. I think it would be harder to start my business today because the market is much noisier than when I opened back in 2002.
Your market is also robust. There are more people seeking instruction, and there are a lot more artists who are teaching in their own studios, in art centers and supply stores, and online.
In business terms, this presents both a threat and an opportunity. The threat is that more people are competing for students. The opportunity is that you can differentiate yourself.
The distinguishing characteristics of a successful, independent art teacher are:
As I was flipping through my notebook last week, I came across notes from a lecture by ceramic artist Doug Casebeer at the Foothills Art Center in Golden, Colorado on January 25, 2014.
Doug Casebeer, Vessels. Image found without credit details on Northern Arizona University site.
There is so much wisdom here that I’ve decided to share them in their raw form. Enough time has passed since I first heard these words that I hope I am honoring Doug’s intent.
What The Artist Said
It’s difficult to wear the title artist. I prefer the title builder.
I seek to build community and friendships. This is the spirit of what the artist’s life is about.
When you have 150 artists going to the studio every day, stuff is going to happen.
The kiln is a social magnet.
When Takashi Nakazato
I have been teaching artists online and at live events since 2002.
While students pay to get valuable content from me, I learn almost as much from them as they do from me. That’s one of the great joys of teaching, and why I will continue to offer live learning.
I can’t possibly put all I know about teaching into a single article, but I have selected a few gems in hopes that they help all of you instructors out there. Take note!
If you teach for hire, you must be clear up front about what your expectations are for the venue. Everything must be in writing.
Speaking to members of the Tennessee Arts and Crafts Alliance. Photo by Mary Claire Crow.
The venue organizers who hired you will never conduct the event in the same manner
Artists often go out of their way to learn new techniques from well-established instructors. You might drive a long distance, hop on a plane, or invest a good chunk of change. Today’s deep thought comes from a reader who thinks you probably have something to say about these classes.
Think you can take a few classes or attend a workshop and you’re suddenly a genius at business? Of course you don’t. Being an Art Biz Blog reader, you know better.There’s so much to learn, know, and do. Every step forward reveals even more options, and we only begin to understand the implications of an action after we have been implementing it consistently. Here’s how to immerse yourself and really learn how to promote your art effectively.
One of the most valuable things you can do in your marketing is to teach people how to look at and appreciate your art. It’s not just good for you, but a gift that will last throughout the lives of those who experience it. I learned long ago when I worked in a museum that teaching people how to look at art empowers them and gives them confidence. Teaching people how to look at art empowers them and gives them confidence. Empowering them with skills is invaluable – to both you and them.
If I were asked for advice on promoting my workshops, these are the actions I’d encourage organizers to take. Please use this format as a guideline and adapt it to any event.