Everyone feels that the artist life is glamorous and easy, but that’s the furthest from the truth. The number of artists making their living from their art is small and those who do have a sustainable business work very hard splitting their lives between creativity and business.
If you want to create an “art business” the four pillars of success are: vision; challenge; perseverance and motivation. Developing actions surrounding the four pillars will give you a giant leap from “Starving Artist” to “Successful Artist”.
VisionAs artists we have over developed right hemispheres of our brain so creativity is not in short supply. The interesting thing is that we don’t use that creativity as it pertains to our business. Having a vision for your business will enable you to begin a different type of portfolio, a business portfolio.
Take the time to be specific about how you want your art to serve in your life. If your art is your bread and butter then you must treat it that way, with respect and lots of elbow grease. If your art is an avocation, then what do you want to accomplish and by when.
It’s important to develop the road map to success or you’ll wander aimlessly, you’ll become discouraged and you’ll put out the fire better known as your dream. Set an intention and once you’ve set the intention build upon that intention. Each action you take should support your vision, shoring up the first pillar of success.
ChallengeIf the business of art were easy then every artist would be successful. When we challenge ourselves creatively we are looking for new ways to express ourselves. The same is true in our business, the challenge is to show potential buyers that you wear more than one hat and you do it with conviction.
One of the key challenges for artists is not confidence in their work, but in how they present their work to the world. Artists are notorious for engaging in conversations from a one down position. We feel as if there is a caste system and we struggle to be taken seriously as an entrepreneur. Standing in the role of entrepreneur takes practice. It takes support from others and encouragement from peers. When you take yourself seriously as an “artrepreneur” others will follow suit.
PerseveranceI’ve heard it said that it takes three years to become an overnight sensation. I believe that to be true and I see it as I attend gallery openings, poetry readings and other venues of artistic expression. Those who have separated themselves from the pack have one thing in common, perseverance.
The successful artist has to be focused and find renewable sources of energy to keep moving forward on the journey. The primary factor that hinders perseverance is isolation. When artists have a support system they are more inclined to stay the course toward their vision. They are able to unload the emotional detours that arise from not getting selected for a show or not getting a call back for an audition. We gain strength by the cheerleading squad we’ve assembled in our lives. Create a success team to help you navigate your unchartered waters and you’ll be amazed at the results.
MotivationYou would think creating beautiful work would be enough motivation, but that is the external motivating factor. How do you keep the internal flames that propel you forward burning bright? Reward yourself! We all love rewards and by creating our own incentive program keeps us in the game.
Having mile markers along the way that show your success in measurable outcomes is essential for maintaining motivation. Ever wonder why nonprofit organizations or religious institutions create a huge thermometer during their fundraising drives? It’s to show the public the progression of their mission. As they get closer to the top it draws others who want to be a part of putting the organization over the top. Create your own gauge and make it visible so it stays in your consciousness. When you hit the top of the gauge be sure and shout it from the rooftops because you’ve shown that motivation yields results and that is evident by your success, both personal and professional.
Greg Katz is a national juried artist and the owner of the Artist Success Studio, a virtual artist community that transforms “Successful Artist’ from oxymoron to declarative fact.