Succeeding as an artist
So this topic is very popular and has a lot of different answers. Some of them are good and accurate others are lacking in fundamental ideas and a few are not asking the right questions. So let me be up front about this blog post. I do have a bachelor's degree specializing in e-Marketing which I have applied to my own artist career which has helped greatly along with experience in marketing and sales positions. All of these experiences have helped me understand the art business world to a larger extent. What this blog post will be focusing on is "where to begin". I know many artists that want to be successful that are extremely talented but get frustrated when their sales are lacking or non existent. I also know artists that are just starting that are interested in how to figure this art game out. Now this is important to say at the same time, I also know very successful artists that have figured it out or at least to an extent. Lets remember these important distinctions for the later in the post.
I want to preface this topic by saying that I have not attended any formal art school or training. I've only developed my skills through practice and natural talent. So lets address the elephant in the room. "Why am I not selling?" This is the question that every artist that is not selling or is going through a slump asks. There is no one good answer, there are many. From a marketing perspective this is the most important question to answer and to answer it we must research our actions against our results. Easy enough right? Look at your actions for promoting your art in the past 3 - 6 months. It takes at least that amount of time to generate a sale if the right avenues are used. Have you done any promoting? If so what type? There are many. There are business cards, social media, outside ads, media ads, emails, direct mail, third party online sales and etc. If you have not used any or consistently promoted on any of these or even showed your work in a physical location then its easy to pinpoint your problem. You are the problem not your art. Think of your art as a child that is itching to know the world to become exposed to knowledge, would you keep your child from education? No? Then don't keep your art hidden. Now let's say you have done some of those things to an extent, naturally the next step to examine results in a quantitative way. In others words by stats. What type of impact did your campaign(s) have? If your online its relatively easy to see how many people interacted, viewed, clicked, shared, and commented on your art. You need this information. It will help pin point activities you are doing that has generated meaningful interaction with your audience. And that ladies and gentleman is the key. Finding out who your audience is. I want to add that I know some artists are introverts and struggle to interact. We all know that artist and if you don't it might be you. Its ok to feel that way if art isn't anything but a reflection of us and society then what is it? Be yourself. Having said that don't let your fear of interacting with people stop you from achieving some very achievable goals. You don't have to be the life of the party but you do need to be able to talk about your art in a genuine way. Someone once said "The secret to life is being sincere. If you can fake that you got it made". Be real and be confident.
Lets back track a second. I'll be very blunt about this so don't be offended. Its the truth and you need to hear it. Most artists that I know don't have a plan. They just create and expect to sell. To an extent if you are lucky to get into a gallery that promotes you well then you are set. But times have changed and so have galleries. You need to do more than create. You need a plan."I don't have time. I don't know where to start. I just want to paint. I'm no good at that. My art speaks for me". I've heard it all from artists. Let me tell you, you don't need a four degree in business or marketing to develop the skills you need to be good at marketing your art. The information is out there. You need to have a fraction of the same passion you have when you create art to apply to managing your success. The best plans will identify your objectives and develop a strategy that helps achieve them with specific methods and tools, (notice I didn't say all the methods and tools). The reason you are not selling isn't because people don't like your art (and don't waste your time trying to figure out what people like I guarantee trying to figrure that out will drive you nuts and lead you in circles). Paint with passion and promote with a good plan. "Thanks Alejandro but how the hell do I do that?". I can't put that all together for you but I can tell you that I did it and before 2012 I had never picked up a paint brush. So if I can find the information and the motivation so can you! We live in the most amazing technological time in history. Where anyone can learn just about anything while sitting at the car wash reading their phone. The tools are out there and I challenge you to find them and do something with them. I read a lot of material online and not for one second do I consider myself an expert. I watch artist youtube videos about how to succeed or how to improve your skills, its all free! I seek out knowledge on subjects that are of importance to me and dedicate my time to learning and implementing it and most importantly I follow artists that are successful and ask them questions. Have you ever wondered why the best tennis players in the world are the best? Its not because they always play against five year old tennis players, its because they continue to compete in a pool of talented players.
So that's my post. There was some knowledge in there but most of all it is a wake up call for you. Take a look at what you've been doing and be ready to answer some hard questions. Be honest, you're only hurting yourself if you don't. Seek out information about starting a marketing plan. Your local SBDC (Small Business Development Center) gives out free information on how to do it. There are loads of sites that can help just make sure you do your homework on which ones are legit. It never hurts to ask questions.
Be Distinctive. Be Fearless. Be Humble.
Please feel free to comment and ask questions. I'm all ears.