This blog post was first published on the Huffington Post.
If you are anything like me, then you are more than tired of hearing about the “starving artist” myth. If there’s something I don’t believe in, it’s the notion that artists can’t succeed in business. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog arguing the complete opposite last Fall.
I truly believe artists can run profitable businesses without compromising their artistic and creative integrity. In fact, this should be true of all business owners and leaders.
The starving artist myth is a limiting belief that’s been passed on from generation to generation and it’s about time we put an end to it. Not only is it disempowering to artists trying to promote themselves and their work, it’s also a barrier for many talented teenagers and young adults who will not pursue a career in the arts from fear of not being able to support themselves and later on in life, their families. Many will major in a more “socially accepted” program and pursue a career they don’t enjoy. No wonder depression and infidelity rates are through the roof. Our society just doesn’t value doing what ignites your passion when it comes to earning a living. Instead, we are conditioned to do “the right thing”, even if it makes us incredibly unhappy.
So what should you do when the thing you are really good at, the thing that really drives you and excites you come Monday morning isn’t putting food on the table?
In my opinion, you have two options:
Option #1: Keep your passion as a hobby and suck it up at your day job.
Option #2: Make a personal, professional and financial plan, push through resistance and turn that passion into a thriving business.
I know both options very well. I’ve tried them both. No, I’m not a professional artist, but I work in the art business, and let me tell you, I’ve had to jump over my share of hurdles before I got to where I am today.
As I evolved in the art world and worked with artists from all walks of life, some starving and some thriving, I was able to pinpoint very concrete reasons why thriving artists are thriving and starving artists are, well, starving...
In a nutshell, here are the 7 mistakes that keep starving artists from thriving:
Mistake #1: They aren’t clear on their goals
When I ask artists what their vision is for their art career, the answer I often get is “to sell my art”. That, my friends, is neither a vision nor a goal. To be able to thrive in your art career you need to know what you want and create a plan to get it. Without a clear vision, everything you do is just hoping and guessing.
Mistake #2: Their pricing strategy isn’t working for them
Way too many artists sell themselves and their art short because they think that their prices are what’s keeping them from getting sales. The fact that the art industry has one of the least transparent market out there doesn’t help artists to be clear and confident about their prices. But one thing is certain, people will only take you seriously as an artist and value your work the day you start valuing your own work. Not the other way around.
Mistake #3: They aren’t using the power of storytelling
Social media has completely changed the way artists communicate with their fans and collector base. Only a few years ago, all communications from artist to collector were made through the gallery owner. Today, artists have the opportunity to create a brand for themselves, build relationships and connect directly with their collector base through powerful storytelling. It’s not to say that galleries don’t have their purpose, they still do, but artists can now control their message and stop relying exclusively on galleries for exposure.
Mistake #4: They don’t follow through
Call it consistency, call it follow-through, call it showing up, call it whatever you want, as an entrepreneur, because that’s what today’s artists are, entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to stay focused on what’s important and do what needs to get done. Building an art business takes time. So when artists jump from one thing to the next, I see so many missed opportunities simply because they simply don’t follow through.
Mistake #5: They aren’t comfortable promoting themselves
Selling has a bad reputation in the art world. Many artists feel that selling is beneath them or that collectors won’t take them seriously if they promote themselves. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Collectors want to see the artists they are following get visibility and sales, because it reassures them that they are making the right decision to invest in them.
Mistake #6: They can’t handle rejection
As entrepreneurs, artists need to learn that rejection is simply part of the process, that there will be many no’s before they get a yes. And the persistent artists, the ones that don’t stop after being told no over and over again, but rather listen to feedback and act on it, are the ones who end up making it.
Mistake #7: They don’t follow-up
So many missed opportunities are due to a lack of consistent follow-up. Maybe it’s due to their fear of rejection, but many artists pass on sales or visibility opportunities just because they don’t follow-up with their contacts. It really is as simple as that.
Most of time, a few simple tweaks in terms of mindset and how artists manage their business can make a huge difference in revenue at the end of the year.
Need help creating a simple, yet profitable plan for your art business? Then download my free guide "The Seven Steps You Need to Build a Profitable Art Business + Career" where I help artists develop a strategy to take their career to the next level.