Getting To The Business of Art


“Getting To The Business of Art” by Karen Eve Friedland. I am pleased to present Ms. Friedland’s guest blog article on the business of art. Read on — you don’t want to miss her great tips on how to sell artwork.

Let me tell you a story, I met this woman who was redecorating her luxurious home and was very taken with one of my paintings. When she discovered I was the artist, she exclaimed that she loved it but wanted to know if it was for sale.  I was taken aback, how could she even ask that–of course it was for sale!  I was surprised that was not obvious.

But I realized that was unclear to her and most likely, it was to others as well.  My aim–to sell my art and have it be part of my clients’ lives- was not obvious.  In any other business where you make a product, there would automatically be an assumption that the product is for sale.  But with art, there always seems to be a question.

Creative work confuses people.  They understand that this is the work of your soul.  Your passion is clear in your creation.  But they don’t know what happens next.  Is this work meant to be shown in a rarified location like a museum? Or is it so precious that you cannot part with it?  Or do you want the work to be sold and in the hands of others.

Selling art is a business.  When you sell your work, you are in business.  But what do you know about your business?  Do you have a vision for your art business?  Do you have a plan?

For many artists, meshing their creative side with commerce makes them want to run for the hills or hide in a corner.  If you are one of those, you need a way to get the right side of your brain, the creative side, to work with your business, using the left side of your brain.

  • Your first step is to conceptualize your vision for your business.  Spend some time with pen and paper to imagine where your business will take you in the future.  We artists are creative people so using your imagination in your business will serve you in this area, as it does in your art making.  Where will you be? What are your successes?
  • Add to this the values that are important to you, for your business is a reflection of who you are, the same way your art is.  Write down every detail of your vision and it will tell you where you want to go.
  • Your vision and your values are the guideposts for your business.  This is what makes artists in business different from others.  As you go forward with your business plan, check in (mentally) with your vision and values are in alignment with your plans.  It is how we stay true to ourselves.
  • Once you know what your vision is, think about who will buy your work.  Describe this perfect client and identify what it is that you help them with.  What specifically do they want to buy from you–canvases, prints, quirky items?  What problems are you solving for them? Consider the possibilities and how your customers will use what they buy.
  • After you know what you want to sell and to whom you want to sell it, you need to figure out how to get the word out.  By researching the marketplace, you will see what trends exist and how others have reached out to their clientele.  Look at their strengths and weaknesses and your own.  Are there gaps?  Look for ways that you could fill them.  What are the opportunities?  Explore your marketing options, identify those which feel most appropriate to you and your goals.  Then put a plan into action for reaching your perfect customers.
  • Key to this plan is the financial piece–I can just hear the groans.  But, if you are in business, if you want to make moola from your art, then you have to look at the numbers.  Make a list with all the expenses on one side and the income on the other.  Make sure that your expenses include your rent, supplies and materials, costs of promoting, buying new equipment, marketing expenses (i.e. printing 500 flyers for your art show), networking events–anything that you are putting into your business, put a number by it.  Then, on the other side, enumerate what your income will be?  What are the possibilities for other ways of gaining income from you art?
  • Now it is time to turn your opportunities into goals.  Critical to turning your goals into actions is to determine how to quantify your goals.  It may be a dollar amount that you intend to sell or the number of new clients.  Perhaps your immediate goals have to do with visibility and your quantifiable goal could be a number of blog posts or a website or the number of hours spent on social marketing or reaching out to new clients.  Now you have a way to see the progress you are making.

This is a lot to take in and don’t expect to do it all at once!  It could put you in a left brain coma!  Take your time.  Finding a friend to go with the process with you will make it easier.  Bring your creativity to the process and do it in a way to have fun!

If this all sounds overwhelming to do yourself, a coach like myself, might be helpful.  In fact, if you want to get the process off the ground in a fun and interactive workshop, I lead Right Brain Business Plan® Workshops.   For more information & to register, go to click on Right Brain Business Plan button.  A great way to turn your passion into profit!

Karen Friedland: Intuit Orange

Karen Friedland: Intuit Orange


After a career in business and earning an MBA, study in Interior Design at Pratt Institute was the turning point when Friedland decided to pursue painting seriously.  Friedland is a creativity coach, a Right Brain Business Plan® facilitator and teaching artist for more than 12 years.  A community activist, Friedland founded and led the Flatbush Artist Studio Tour and a networking/charity group called Pay It Forward.

Top Image: “World Away” (detail), by Karen Friedland


11 thoughts on “Getting To The Business of Art

  1. Great article. This is definitely the spot that many artists have a hard time coming to grips with. Thanks for laying it out in such a thoughtful, concise manner.

  2. Well done!!! You hit on all the right points! I wish to be more business minded like you my friend….I needed to read this! Thank you!!! BTW. Absolutely love this painting!!! You are hitting it on all cylinders!!!

  3. I have met more than a few business people turned artist. The one thing they tend to have in common is abstract art. I have also repeatedly heard them say that art is unlike any other business they have been in. Your audience finds you. Then you grow that audience. You do not predetermine the audience. As an artist you must take a real look in the mirror and evaluate what type of art you make. Depending on what type of art you make will determine your path. Not all art belongs in all galleries. As you grow it is all about logistics.

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