The Business Side of Art – There’s No Need to Be Intimidated
Every artist knows that the biggest obstacle to success is fear. Fear is what holds us back from taking that risk, pushing that boundary, and exploring the unknown. To become great, an artist must taste that fear and push forward anyway.
But there is one area where even the most brazenly adventurous artists can find themselves cowering in the shadows, afraid to push forward even slightly into the unknown. When it comes to the business of art, many artists become wallflowers, shy and terrified and clueless even of how to begin to go from brilliant and broke to brilliant and successful.
There are no shortage of reasons why this aversion to the business aspect of art is so prevalent. Since the dawn of time, artists have been portrayed as flighty right-brained dreamers with very little grounding in The Real World (whatever that is). Left-brain tasks such as money management, taxes, bookings, and contract negotiations should be left to those non-artistic types who took Management and Finance classes in college (rather than Art 401: An Introduction to Raku).
Even further, the fear of “selling out” in order to become a commercial success is drilled (If you doubt this phenomenon exists, just listen to a bunch of fans discussing a veteran band that has only just won a measure of mainstream recognition.) There is this underlying belief among artists that being financially successful as an artist is somehow less noble than struggling for your art.
Fortunately, these outdated ideas are finally falling by the wayside as artissts are taking the business of their craft into their own hands. By becoming business-savvy, artists can arm themselves. When an artist understands the basics of business, promotions, marketing, and contract, they are no longer at the mercy of others. Brushing up on the financial end of things can be much easier in the long run than cleaning up the mess made by a crooked or incompetent agent or accountant!
In her article, The Art of Self-Promotion, Diane Rapaport offers the following suggestions to artists wanting to become more involved in the career end of their art.
- Network. One of the best ways to promote your art is through connections with peers. Joining local associations such as guilds and workshops can garner excellent feedback, advise, and tips on upcoming shows and jobs. If membership dues are a problem, an artist can connect with peers by attending openings and shows by other artists–anywhere industry folk tend to gather and exchange information.
- Learn. There is no truth to the rumor that the artist brain is neurologically incapable of learning about business. The trick is to put an equivalent amount of energy into learning business as you did learning how to make art. This education doesn’t have to be boring–workshops and seminars can be much more entertaining than a conventional classroom. And while you’re at it, don’t be afraid to check out the competition. You can learn a great deal about promotion and marketing from artist websites, even if they aren’t working in your medium.
- Distinguish yourself. At last count, there were 436,034,233,042 websites out there, give or take a million. But there is only one you, and your success as an artist is going to pivot on how well you distinguish yourself from the crowd. When building your brand, you must establish a hook, something that will catch the eye so that your talent has a chance to work its magic.
- Get organized. It may seem a hassle, but a well-organized promotional tool kit can make or break a professional artists. These toolkits should include business cards, a short biography, photos and fliers, and samples of your work. And all of this should be tied together with a well-designed website that is consistent, user-friendly, and easily accessible.
- Gain exposure. Is an artist an artist if no one ever experiences their work? This is a great question for a late-night philosophical debate. However, in the real world, the answer is clear–if no one sees your work, no one is going to buy it. In this, we return to the old fear issue–nobody wants to risk rejection, especially not artists. But getting your work out there to the public, whether through group shows, street fairs, contests, or charitable work, is the first step in the journey from amateur to pro.
When it comes right down to it, artists are far removed from the days of patronage and isolation. In order to thrive, the modern artist must be equal parts creator and promoter. But you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re interested in learning more about how to jump start the “career” part of your artistic career, contact us. It’s never too late to get started.
New York Artists Online is the only online gallery that includes social media marketing as part of artist membership. Artist members are featured on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest, and Youtube.
Paintings by NY Artist Gloria Rabinowitz
Top: “Snowy Mountains” (to keep you cool on a hot summer day)
Bottom: “Britain – Aerial View”