The 36 Chambers of Emerging Artists
Okay I'm a big fan of Chinese kung fu movies hence the title. If you're not it probably went over your head. The point is the typical emerging artist is ill prepared for the career they are about to face. It's unfair and soul-killing to hear about how artists are quitting their dreams or settling for a half realized career all because either they were under-prepared in college or ill-advised after. The idea of living completely off your creative ideas turned into paintings, sculptures, ceramics, drawings, etc, is truly romantic but often is portrayed as beyond reach and suitable only for the ultra talented or deemed impossible by our parents. Presently our age of technology and web 3.0 era is giving young dreamers the opportunity to turn a career in art into a serious possibility. Yet not all artists are proficient in the online dark arts (as I call them) it requires some truly fantastic insight into how their audience perceives, searches, interacts, and buys brands online. But I'm not here to give you the low down on the intricacies of online promoting. I'm here to tell you that this era of selling art online is still being cultivated and organized. Go ahead and search for "selling art online". If you have searched for that before you'll know that a lot of that info is the same across the internet just packaged differently. I've been caught up in the hype and fooled into thinking that I found the "secret sauce". Truth is there isn't one source online that comprehensively provides everything you need to be truly independent and successful. Even galleries are wondering what the secret is, because for decades they were the tip of the spear joining artists and collectors but its all changed now. The power is in the hands of the consumers and the creator. Just look at Etsy, Ebay, Facebook, Instagram, and many others where artists are connecting directly with their clients and fans. Traditional galleries are hurting, others that are on the curve or ahead of it are able to capture those collectors before the artists can or at least become the middle man online. Yet the formula for career artists doesn't lie with online sales only, it requires a "marketing mix" that I've heard referenced maybe once or twice by artists. The more I talk about the business of art the more I encounter artists that counter the idea. It's a very difficult topic to talk about with artists, some are convinced that business and art is an oxymoron. I can tell you that they are very much married together now more than ever. Some universities are beginning to offer business art classes for art majors and as far as I can tell they do an okay job. When I began my journey as an artist I quickly realized I had no idea what I was doing not only as a painter but as a business owner in general. I went back to college for my second degree this time in marketing (specifically e-Commerce). What I learned was highly valuable and fast tracked my art career exponentially. I felt like I took the shortcut you would find in Mario Kart to finish the race sooner. I've been a full time artist for about two years now. In that short time I've gone from non-existent as an artist to: being featured in two international art magazines, five solo shows, gallery representation, and followed on social media by thousands. How did I do it? Magic? Luck? Sometimes I want to say "yep" but I know looking back I worked incredibly hard and managed my time wisely. I found excellent mentors along the way and tapped into my past experience in sales (both direct, online, and military recruiting) as well as relying on my new degree. I also found time to catch up on new trends online and follow very specific steps with every new endeavor. I also found a way to focus on building relationships with collectors and developing a reputation as an artist (highly valuable) something you can't really do with gallery representation. I haven't worked a real job in over two years, technically I retired at 31 years old (mind blown) and I'm not the best artist out there not by a long shot. So if I can pay my bills, take vacations, provide for my family and have money in the bank I know you as an emerging artist can also. You don't have to pass through the 36 Chambers of Shaolin in order to be successful. However there is one topic that I never see fully developed for artists online and that is selling. Yes its talked about and referred to but the process of selling is never really mentioned. By process I mean the steps that one must go through to complete a sale from rapport to closing. Can you name the steps for selling to a customer? Most artists cannot. That in my opinion is where most artists fail. You can have excellent art work, great online presence etc. but if you fumble a sale if will be all for not. One of the most important skills anyone can learn in life is how to sell. Sure its the basis of capitalism but its also true. Whether its online or in person this skill is crucial for artists to develop. How many times have you lost a sale in person? How many times has someone asked you about your art and you rambled on for 20 minutes or fumbled on because you can't find the words? Think back and I'm sure you can answer that easily. The solution is learning how to sell. This is something you won't see associated with artist articles but only with searching for "steps of selling" or something associated with those terms. My final advice to you whether you are emerging or redefining your career is look beyond artist articles online and look toward how marketing and selling applies to other industries of business. You will find more answers there than you can imagine.