When to Invest in Your Art Business

The resources for business and career development are endless.

You have so many choices to grow as a professional artist.

But how do you decide? How do you know when to invest, and when to save your money?

Indigene T. Gaskin, Violin Concerto. Oil on wood.

Indigene T. Gaskin, Violin Concerto. Oil on wood, 24 x 24 inches. ©The Artist

Indigene T. Gaskin wrote with a common dilemma: How do you choose what online seminars and webinars to pay for? Do they work? Or do they just make money for the presenters?

Full disclosure: I am, as you probably know, one of these online teachers/presenters.

But I am also a consumer. I pay for several learning opportunities every month, so I have similar questions. When do I register, and when do I sit it out?

Ask yourself these five questions whenever you are tempted to pay for a learning experience.

1. Might I learn one thing that will be of value?

You can learn a tidbit from almost anything you pay for and make it worth the cost.

I find this to be true in the products and services I pay for. One sentence can change my whole mindset, spark a brilliant idea, or confirm my direction. That one sentence is priceless.

2. Am I ready to receive the guidance?

If you’re not ready to apply what you learn, pass it by. You can gather information until the sun turns lavender, but nothing will serve you until you’re ready to receive it.

This means that you have a responsibility in the learning process. The instructor teaches and shares. You must make it work.

3. Do I respect the presenters?

The onus is on you to research the “experts” and make sure they’re a good fit for your learning style. Some people are more touchy-feely while others are more business-like. The vibe you seek will depend on where you are in your journey.

The important thing is that you respect the people delivering the message. Read their writings and understand where they’re coming from before signing up.

4. Do I already know or apply this?

Many of the opportunities out there are rehashing what you already know. Even then, you have to ask yourself: “Sure, I know this, but am I doing it?” (Go back to #2 above.)

On the other hand, you might be knowing and applying the topic already. For instance, if you’re great at staying in touch with your contact list, updating your mailing list, and making your collectors feel special, you do not need to take my Cultivate Collectors class that starts February 9. Save your money. Program no longer available.

5. How is this program different?

Every time you look at a topic in a new format, you digest it differently. You learn it from a new angle.

Is it a webinar instead of a teleseminar?
Is it a retreat instead of a lecture?
Is there a new spin on the topic?
Is it in person rather than online? (Come to Durham, NC May 20-21!)
Is it a guest you haven’t heard before?
Is there interaction with other participants?
Is a transcript provided after the call?
Is it ongoing rather than a one-shot event? (Look for the launch of my new membership program in February!)

You can’t sign up for all learning opportunities, but you can make informed decisions by using this five-question process.

What do you look for in a learning experience?

Send to Kindle

30 comments to When to Invest in Your Art Business

  • So very true. In most instances, when you go for it, you usually end up getting more out of it that you imagined and perhaps in more facets than just art alone. This is certainly how I felt about your blast off class Alyson. Those concepts travel with me everywhere in my journal!

  • Great post, Alyson, thanks!
    I like to make sure I am going to have the time to commit to the work on my end during the course of the class or right after. Otherwise, I am better off spending my money on a similar opportunity a little later.

    A good reason to take these types of classes is all the fellow classmates that end up being support and friends when the class is over – sometimes more than worth the price of the course.

    Finally, for anyone who thinks about taking Alyson’s Get Organized class, but isn’t sure it is worth the money, I can tell you from experience that you will find so much stuff in your studio that you thought you might have to re-purchase that the course will probably pay for itself 🙂

    • Good point, Hannah. I should spell out Time under #2. Maybe not “have time” but “am I willing to make time.” Because no one really has time for anything new, right?

      I’m happy you found the Get Organized class of value.

  • I’ve enjoyed the free webinars offered through http://www.artistsnetwork.com. They offer insights into an upcoming book or DVD by a particular artist.

    Free clips of DVD’s offered on http://www.creative catalyst.com and
    free e-books to download from http://www.artistdaily.com are also great.

    Then, there are the benefits of attending an actual workshop with other artists. As a student and instructor, I’ve had mixed experiences and wrote, Eleven Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Next Workshop. which is posted on my blog.

    And, I’m thankful for Alyson’s newsletters, which remind me of the business of art!


  • I have never been disappointed in any class I have taken with you Alyson, and I have to disagree slightly with #2. When I took your cultivate collectors class I was not really ready to receive help due to time and focus issues on my end … I only made a half-hearted attempt to work through the assignments, however about one year later I did purchase Bento, a database software program that I learned about in your class and it is going to change my entire business life. So even when you may think you are not giving a class your all, you are still soaking in knowledge that you may eventually apply when the timing is right.
    I say take classes whenever you can find time. It is not like buying a new dress, you can not weigh the value or look in the mirror to see if the fit is right. What I look for in a learning experience … it never really matters because I am always surprised at the knowledge that shows up, and when it may “really show up” … lol, sometimes a year later.

    • I return to how I responded to Hannah above. I really think you have to make time. But your disagreement with #2 takes me back to #1. You found something of value. Even a year later.

  • What about classes to further develop your artistic skill set? Or to have intensive time with like-minded colleagues? For example, there are a number of art centers – e.g., Anderson Ranch (Colorado), Penland Schools of Crafts (Maine) – where the instructors are outstanding. However, one has to travel to get to them, pay to stay in the area (usually a resort area and expensive), and pay a steep tuition.

    I was able to go to an Anderson Ranch workshop one summer for two weeks and it changed my life. But I would not have gone if my favorite elderly aunt had not given me the wherewithal to do it.

    When have you found it worth spending the funds to do this?

  • cyn

    LOL – love it. This is what we learned to call the “take away” close in negotiating classes.
    “if you’re great at staying in touch with your contact list, updating your mailing list, and making your collectors feel special, you do not need to take my Cultivate Collectors class that starts February 9. Save your money.”

    Truth is – EVERYONE could benefit from keeping collectors front and center in their mind. Would love to hear some of the “gotchas” and “ahas” from your students.

  • I took an artist business class from a local gallery a few years ago when I first moved to Athens, GA. It was definitely an eye opener to say the least and I felt so rejuvenated on the way home. I have tons of books on how to make art a business, etc. but find that I can’t just sit down to read, I’d rather be “doing” than reading about “doing”. I made it through the Art Marketing 101 book and I’ve started on your “I’d rather be in the studio” (which is great, btw) but I think I benefit more from hands on face to face situations. I like discussing art in general and it’s one of the things I miss most about art school. However, when I was in college, there wasn’t a class or workshop dealing with being a business person in the arts. I’m always learning and I’m confident in my skill set. However my business sense still leaves a lot to be desired.

    At this point, I don’t really know what I’m looking for in a workshop or if I should take another one. I don’t think I know all there is to know, but I feel like I’m doing the right things marketing wise, and that my art itself is “up to snuff” but I’m still having a hard time making actual sales. or at least as many sales as I would like.

  • Thanks Alyson. You’ve given me a lot to think about and some resources to look into. I’m looking forward to investing in my business, for then, I can pay forward to my collector base!

  • […] My question: How do you choose what online seminars and webinars to pay for? Do they work? Or do the… […]

  • Your Art Biz Blast Off class was the first time I’d taken a class related in a long time (and has figured in numerous of my blogposts:Artists, Go Back to School! and Best Art Business Resources: 1 – LOL your name features more than mine on my blog, Alyson!).

    I’ve always been an avid learner – as well as enjoying the opportunities for networking and making new friends that taking classes offers – but living in a place where these opportunities aren’t readily available had got me out of the habit. Your class opened my eyes to the wealth of opportunities available online to people like me who can’t just hop in the car or on a bus and get to a live class or seminar.

    What prompted me to take your class? Instinct! It sounded like just the right fit for me at that moment. I wasn’t at all clear about what I wanted to get out of it but I just had a gut feeling it was exactly the right thing at the right moment. So I guess the that would be the guideline I’d use in the future…i.e. Can I afford NOT to do this?

    Oh, and re: Time – ditto (Can I afford not to?) But also your self-study Blog Triage is allowing me to fit in the curriculum as and when I can and also apply the bits that are most relevant to me at the moment. I know that can’t work with all course structures but it’s a great option when it’s available 🙂

  • June Rollins:
    THANK YOU THANK YOU for another list of great resources!!!!

    I agree to add a #6: Will it break the bank?
    Having limited vacation time and funds (just like all of us, eh?), most learning and doing has to be planned. For example, I decided that the encaustic conference in June was not really going to further my project goals for 2011, but taking the CC class by you that begins in the next couple of weeks DOES. The conference would break the bank in light of my projects while the CC will fit in my “off day job hours” and budget.

    As for seminars, etc., there are MANY free podcasts out there (like your archives and the newer Artists Helping Artists and 15 Minute Craft Website Tips). I listen and track ALL of the them…and know where to go for information when I need it. All of your list weighs in when deciding to pay for a service…and like others who posted sometimes I need the interaction with others…even if just online. Add #6…it is a huge consideration!

    Looking forward to CC! Scared about how much I’ve bitten off to chew…but I WANT/NEED to follow my dreams!!!! Oceanography can be passed with a C! LOL

    • Duly noted. Any updates will include #6. What’s your favorite podcast? Or do you get a little from each one?

      • Current favorite podcast would have to be Artists Helping Artists, followed by 15 Minute Craft Website Tips, followed by yours (you have some gems!!!). I used to enjoy a few others, but some have stopped without warning (what happened to Art Heroes?). The other podcasts are “fun” like The Great Detectives of Old Time.”

        I get a little from each podcast. As I need/want to do something, I listen to the same ones over and over. Each listen gets interrupted 1,000 times, but I still learn. Something always sticks, and when sitting down to do something, I remember and do it.

  • My problem is both choosing and “wherewithal.” Primarily the latter. I just saw the post about Alyson’s free salon program. It looks stupendous! I just have to find some local artists who are as committed to their careers as I am and who also can see the value of these. That’s actually a lot harder than it sounds.

    Which brings me to a related question. Is it appropriate to push if one’s attempt at first contact with a local art league is completely ignored and disregarded? It’s not even a professional group (as far as I can tell. they promote concerts and paintings in city hall, but I can’t find out much about them other than they have an office (not always populated) at the Library/Senior center.

    Maybe I should think bigger and approach Silvermine (given that Guilford has also proven less than welcoming).

    • Patricia: What are you pushing for? What do you want from the league?

      • A long time ago Dorothy Parker had her round table. A convergence of poets, writers, and other artists. They interacted with one another and I have to think each gained something from the exchange – if only reassurance that there were other artists struggling with the various aspects of life as an artist in a world that maybe doesn’t understand your ideas.

        I feel so isolated and being a member of something like this where everyone is an artist who is working toward something would allow me to feel less isolated. That may not necessarily be the function of the Hamden Art League, of course. It probably isn’t.

        You know what? Forget them. I’d still be isolated given my present life circumstances. Anyway, I have everyone here who replies (Alyson, Sari, etc). That’s my art league!

  • I am a big believer in investing in myself, but I am also guilty of thinking that “this is going to be the class that changes my life.” This thinking has led me into signing up for a few too many classes and not really applying what I was learning…. or at least that is what I thought.

    I just completed a project that has been on my “to do” list for a couple of years. After completing it, I realized that I had finally incorporated many of the techniques I had learned about in the classes and from articles and books (loved yours!) I had read. I set goals and made timelines. This stuff really works!

    This is a good topic and I just have to let you know that I tell everyone about your blog triage class. I loved that class and learned so much. I also met some pretty awesome artists that I am still in touch with almost 2 years later.

    Thank you!

  • Musehunting: 29th January 2011 – Becky Hunter

    […] to decide when to invest in art workshops, education and other “learning-based […]

  • One last thought (for now). Alyson, how about a post on taking the time to assimilate everything one learns (from all the different sources).