Our first grade classroom photo was taken on St. Patrick’s Day. I was the only one who wasn’t decked out in green that day. Mom had just made me a beautiful red and white dress, and I guess that seemed like a better choice for such a formal photo.
Guess who got pinched that day? Guess who stood out in the photo?
Maybe this was an early hint of rebellion.
Or maybe I didn’t believe that I would really have bad luck if I didn’t wear green. After all, I had been pretty darned lucky to that point.
I was lucky to have been born into a healthy, loving family that always had plenty of food on the table. I was lucky to be in a safe school where parents cared about a decent education for their children – an education that eludes so much of the world’s population.
Later, I would be lucky to have a higher education and the continued support of my parents along the way.
What I did with that luck was up to me.
Luck had little to do with the success of my business, and it has little to do with the success of your art career regardless of whether you feel lucky, were born into luck, or are convinced you are unlucky.
I’m fond of quoting what our third president had to say about luck:
I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
― Thomas Jefferson
When you work hard and take action toward your goals, you put yourself in a better position for luck to find you.
Why Some Artists Seem Luckier Than You
Have you ever observed that many artists whose work is on par with your own seem to have luck on their side? Chances are good that they worked for that luck.
I’ve included here a few of the reasons for their good fortune so you can emulate their success and duplicate their luck.
I live by lists. They’re so beautiful on the page: one item after another after another.
Whether we process each item in the order in which it appears on the list or, more likely, get around to them someday in no particular sequence, lists help us create order in our hectic lives.
The most valuable thing about making lists is that it gets tasks, projects, and ideas out of our heads and into a place where we can find them again. At least that’s the idea.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 5 lists (yep, a list of lists) that are useful to artist-entrepreneurs.
1. Your To-Do List
This is the list that you’re probably most familiar with.
Your to-do list consists of urgent or near-future items that you must accomplish. It might look like this:
- Pay bills.
- Order framing supplies.
- Write draft of newsletter.
If you’re disorganized, your lists are probably all over the place – likely on sticky notes covering your desktop or computer monitor. Not the best way to be productive.
If you’re organized, you have a single to-do list in a single place. You know where to find it and how to prioritize the items on it.
Next, you need a place to store the not-so-urgent things. This is …
A neighbor knocks on the door and invites you to coffee during studio time. Mmmmm. Coffee would be good, you think. Do you take her up on her offer?
Everyone in your artist organization knows that you are the go-to guy to get stuff done, so they ask you to chair a committee for next year’s group show. You know your schedule is packed, but you feel a sense of duty. Do you give in and help them out?
Every time your father gets the chance, he insinuates that you aren’t a real artist. It’s really driving a wedge between the two of you. Do you say anything?
You hop on to Facebook to post to your business page and are tempted to click on an old (and previously long-forgotten) roommate to see what she’s up to. Do you do it?
In order to act confidently in these situations, you need to have a solid commitment to the boundaries around your life and career.
Bagging your studio time, agreeing to be the go-to volunteer, allowing people to poop on your dreams, and wasting time on social media are all career-killers.
Here’s how you can handle these situations.
Any change in your routine — holidays, illness, vacations, family deaths or weddings — can bring a slump in your creative work.
Even when you’re completely into your art, there’s often an inertia that keeps you from rebooting and being productive.
Cynthia Morris and I recognize this in our clients and thought it would be juicy content for a podcast.
But first … full disclosure … we went to a yoga class. It was an experiment. What would it be like to record one podcast, go to yoga, and then try another after taking a break? Would we be able to get back into the groove?
It was a tall order and it didn’t quite work. I think you’ll see that we empathize with the topic when you listen to this podcast.
When your income doesn’t match your aspirations, it’s easy to blame everyone but yourself.
But my students and clients understand that you have to accept 100% responsibility for your results when you want to be successful.
With that in mind, let’s look at 5 reasons why you may not be reaching your income goals.
1. You’re out to lunch.
What I mean by this is that your head just isn’t in the game. You enjoy making art, but you aren’t quite committed to turning it into a business.
The thought of the work required to run a business, or even the thought of finding out what might be required, is more than you can handle. So you ignore it.
It might not always be this way, but until you confront the truths about making money from your art, it ain’t gonna happen for ya.
2. You’re out of mojo.
We have all been in this dark place. The Universe rudely cuts the source of energy and magic that has been propelling us along.
Sometimes it happens after an opening or after a show comes down.
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.
You thought …
It sure would be great to have someone help me with my art business. Any old warm body will be better than nothing.
Boy! I am going to have all of this extra time to work on my art and I won’t have to do anything else. (Scene setup: I think you were smoking somethin’.)
So you hired an assistant to work in your studio or office. Either would be fine with you.
Hooray! Your first hire.
Fast forward to the inevitable:
Yikes! What was I thinking? This person can’t do anything right and I’m spending too much time teaching him.
Wait just one minute.
It’s not the employee’s fault if he’s not a good fit. It’s your fault because you didn’t hire correctly in the first place.
Assistants can’t do a good job if they don’t know what’s expected of them.
The onus is on you, the employer, to get super clear on the person you want and need to help your art career grow.
You won’t get the right person until you’re certain what you want from them.
So stop deluding yourself that any warm body will do. The any-warm-body mentality usually results in wasted time and money.
Use this outline to write an ad that helps you attract the perfect assistant.
Artists tell me there is too much work to be the creative director, CEO, chief marketer, and social media manager of their businesses.
If you could wave a magic wand and have help in your art business, who would you hire?
What would their responsibilities be?
Would they help you in the office or in your studio?
Is it a single person? Or multiple people?
Do they need to work in your space or can they work virtually?
Since you’ll never get help until you define the parameters of the job, let’s start with those questions.
Doing business on a handshake seems to be the easiest and best way to do things – until we realize it was a really, really, really bad idea.
Putting terms and conditions on paper will save your butt.
And … I know that artists don’t always go to the trouble to get things in writing.
So, here’s what I want to know.
What situations/projects/venues do you have contracts for?
When do you do without contracts?
Have you ever been in a situation in which you would have been better served with a contract? (You kicked yourself by not having a signed agreement.)
Every day takes too much thought. – Gwen Meharg
Gwen left this comment in our Art Career Success System private group. I was struck by her insight because I had been reading about this at the time. “Decision fatigue” is a real phenomenon in contemporary society.
According to researchers, we make over 200 decisions per day about food alone. Just food decisions! I don’t know about you, but all of these decisions wear me out.
As an example, I spent 3 months last fall researching espresso machines – dreaming of holding the perfect cup of coffee while still in my jammies. But I could never click the button to buy.
My husband took me out of my misery. He decided on one, bought it, wrapped it, and put it under the tree. Best. Gift. Ever. No decision (on my part) was required.
Don’t get me started on making travel reservations. I can’t stand to make plane reservations or to find a hotel. What if I book “the wrong” flight or land at the wrong airport? Don’t laugh. I recently did this when I was confused about a small airport name, and it cost me a lot of extra driving time.
I contend that we’re happier when