Committing To Your Art Career Journey

Last week I dragged my busy butt down to a mineral springs resort and spa for a getaway with my dear friend, Kelly.

Road trip!

Conveniently, the getaway coincided with a discussion I had with one of my coaches about the need to create more “space” in my life.

Since that time, which hasn’t even been two weeks, I have found space not only in soaking in the springs, but also in embracing silence; seeking questions rather than answers; and saying No.

Kelly and I also found space on the road. The trip down to the springs should be just over 5 hours. We somehow turned that into 7+ hours.

There are people who see the dot on the map and race toward it without stopping for a restroom break. And then there are those who, like me, look for any diversion to learn or to be entertained along the route.

I tend to explore on my road trips. I have been caught:

  • Coming across a newspaper from a nearby town and rerouting the return trip because it might be an ideal place to retire. (It wasn’t.)
  • Visiting the local cemetery.
  • Driving out of the way because I heard on NPR about the “green” rebuilding of Greensburg, Kansas ten years after a devastating tornado and I wanted to see it. (It’s pretty cool. I’d go back! And I’d eat again at this Mexican restaurant where they were lovely and one of the few places open on Memorial Day.)
  • Veering an hour off the interstate to see a visionary artist’s creation.

Yeah, I could get there faster if I focused on the dot on the map, but where’s the adventure in that? I prefer the stories I can gather along the way – stories that will become part of the fabric of my life forever.

What stories are you gathering?

Your Career Journey

Your career path is marked by exhilarating highs and devastating lows. I wish I had learned earlier the wisdom in riding the waves rather than fighting against them.

When you seek shortcuts, you miss out on opportunities that might lead to bigger rewards.

When you have your eye only on the end goal (the dot on the map), you become blind to all that can enrich your art and life.

I contend that if you aren’t committed to the journey of your career, you surely won’t be satisfied with the destination.

Of course, the journey isn’t all roses and fairy dust. It’s

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What's Your #1 Goal for the New Year? (Curious Monday)

Barbara Ferrier painting

The New Year brings a time for reflection, but also renewal. There’s a blank slate – a sense that we can accomplish whatever we set our minds to.

These open-ended possibilities are often debilitating.

If it’s possible for us to do anything, why can’t we do everything?

Well, because you can’t. You just can’t.

You don’t have the time, the resources, or the energy to tackle everything you want to accomplish.

That’s why it’s important to prioritize, and this is where goal-setting comes in.

Some people may pooh-pooh goals, but I find that they’re a necessary step to not only getting things done, but also for feeling complete.

When we don’t have a goal and projects to mark off our list, we wander aimlessly and are never quite satisfied.

As you’re planning your year, what do you think is the most important goal you can accomplish in your art business in 2017?

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How To Plan Your Year

One of the first things I ask of my Inner Circle members is to put together a calendar for the year so we can talk about what’s ahead for them and how my team and I can help.

If the year looks sparse, we need to get busy. You can’t earn more money or increase recognition without exhibitions and events on your schedule.

What’s on your calendar for the New Year?

I’m not talking about your appointment calendar. I’m talking big picture here. You can use a desk or desktop calendar for appointments. For this job, you want to get a clear overview of your year’s rhythm.

You’re looking for periods that you know will be particularly busy and others when you might be able to sneak away for a well-deserved vacation.

You also want to be aware of potential for too much overlap on your calendar. There might events you’d like to schedule, but might bump up against others that are already in place.

It’s confusing to schedule events that occur too close to one another.

It’s confusing to your fans and followers because everything looks to have the same level of importance. They don’t know which message to pay more attention to.

It’s also confusing to you because you’re promoting more than one thing at a time. You don’t know how and where to spend your energy.

There are numerous ways to plan your year so that you can envision its rhythm. Here are the two most important ones that I use.

The Wall Calendar

The framework for all of my planning is a wall calendar so that I can see the entire year at once.

I’ve shared previously that I love the Seize The Year calendar by Neu Year. Its biggest asset is that it can be displayed either vertically or horizontally.

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What Did You Do This Year? Your Annual Review

You survived another year as a working artist. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to step back and look at all you have accomplished in the last twelve months. This is an annual ritual to take your mind off of the long task list in front of you and remind yourself that you really have done a great deal.

If you do nothing else, stop reading this right now and set aside time in your schedule to review your year. It’s too easy to neglect this exercise if you try to squeeze it in whenever you

I suggest committing to two one-hour sessions to start this process. You’ll need to gather your data from calendars, bookkeeping, and journals.

The format here is based on The See Plan (8 Cs for a balanced business). Please adjust and add personal accomplishments if you like.

And … begin!

1. Challenge Creativity

What artistic medium or skill did you attempt or master?

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Which Ideas are Worth Your Time? (Podcast)

Recently I was talking with Cynthia Morris, when, in response to who-knows-what, she said with a scowl, “Ideas! I’m so tired of hearing about ideas.” Or something like that.

Right then, I knew we had to talk about it. I knew she was on to something.

Listen in to the podcast as Cynthia and I talk about why too many ideas can be a bad thing for artists. Cynthia also gives practical tips on how to choose among your many ideas for your next big project.

Show Notes – Authored by Cynthia Morris

Creative people are blessed with an abundance of ideas. New ideas arrive daily, pulsing through our awareness and lighting up our sense of possibility like a scintillating fireworks display.

How fun! We love inhabiting the land of possibility, where our ideas inspire us, energize us and make us feel like omnipotent creators. We could do anything!

The problem is, we can’t do everything.

This abundance of ideas can become painful when we arrive at the crossroads of what to make next. The fireworks we loved so dearly becomes a dissatisfying decision swirl, making us second-guess everything, including our desire to make anything at all.

So, how can we know which projects to work on, and when?

Which of the seductive ideas do we devote ourselves to?

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Planners and Bullet Journals (Curious Monday)

Planning for Artists

It’s getting to be the time of year when we start looking for new calendars and planners for the New Year.

I am highly reliant on my electronic calendar and task lists, but I’ve never given up paper for the daily to-dos. And I’m constantly refining how I use each piece in the planning process.

What Do You Use?

How do you keep track of your schedule, projects and tasks?

What do you have on paper? What’s your preferred method for using paper? Notebooks? Journals? Daytimers? Bullet journals?

What is kept electronically? What programs do you rely on to keep you focused?

Please share in a comment below.

When you’re finished commenting here, please hop over to my Facebook page and share a pic of your planner with the top post.

Read about and subscribe to Curious Monday posts.

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Getting The Difficult Things Done (Podcast)

This month I asked artist/author/coach Cynthia Morris back to the podcast to discuss a topic that comes up often with my artist-clients. See if this sounds familiar.

You have things you don’t want to do. It’s painful to even think about tackling them, but you know that you need to work through them in order to move forward.

How do you do it?

In this episode, Cynthia and I talk about how to accomplish things in your art career and business that you don’t enjoy doing.

I was particularly interested in the discussion we had about happiness v. satisfaction.

Listen in and then please leave a comment to let us know you’re listening.

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Someone Else Could … (What To Delegate in Your Art Business)

Indigo Winds - Victoria Pendragon

There’s a certain point in your business when you can’t grow without hiring someone.

Your work is in demand, and you sell the work as fast as you make it. This is a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem because you can’t keep up by yourself.

You’re creator, packer, shipper, marketer, janitor, and warrior rolled into one. You spend as much time in the studio as you can and perform ninja maneuvers to get all of the business stuff taken care of.

You don’t watch television, your family barely sees you, and you’re not getting enough sleep.

You’re maxed out! But you don’t feel like you can afford to hire help.

Here’s the thing: You can’t afford not to hire someone.

Your art business will never grow if you continue doing everything yourself.

It’s not just you who hesitates to get help. Very rarely does an entrepreneur feel like it’s the right time to hire new people because there’s never “extra” cash lying around. It’s a catch 22: you don’t have surplus funds, but you’ve reached your limit on what you can accomplish alone.

If you believe in your work, it’s time to take risks.

When my clients reach this point of frustration, I encourage them to start keeping a list of everything they do in their businesses that someone else could do.

It’s even better if you start this list before you reach this point. You don’t have to go out and find someone right away. Just start the list. I’ll help.

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Self-Interrogation Process Before Taking On New Projects

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.

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Tracking Your Numbers for Career Progress

©Cathleen Savage, Seashells 3. Watercolor, 21 x 27 inches. Used with permission.

When you are ready to be proactive instead of reactive in your art career, look at the naked truth about where you are now.

You improve your chances for big business growth when you track your numbers, which isn’t always a pleasant task.

While it’s difficult to confront low numbers in any category, insist that it’s absolutely necessary when you want to expand.

Your Monthly Business Checkup

For many years at Art Biz Coach, I had a simple Word document that I used to record my numbers. I made a bunch of copies and kept them in a notebook. At the beginning of a new month, I completed the form with the previous month’s results.

My business grew by 25-40% every year as a result! I contribute much of that growth to this tracking procedure.

I didn’t do it when I felt like it. I committed to doing it every month.

I called it my Monthly Business Checkup, and you can easily implement a version of it for your art business.

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