Being a professional artist comes with a certain amount of inherent stress.
There's constant deadlines, economic uncertainty, and the pressure to produce. Between marketing and managing all the moving parts of your art business, the list of tasks you have as an art business owner seems never-ending. All of this can leave you wondering why you went down this path at all—it's exhausting.
There was once a time that you fantasized about the life of fulltime artist, but now that you have it ... you are stressed out. What's the point of pursuing the arts if all of the joy and energy has been zapped out of it by your anxieties?
The thing is: stress doesn't have to control your career and emotions.
Yes, stress will be present. But learning to cope with the stress and identifying what is causing the stress will help you grow stronger and more confident in your art. It will also make you a whole lot happier.
If you try to ignore it, the more likely you are to burn out professionally—and creatively. And, that certainly isn't on your long-term goals list.
We believe having an art career should be exciting. You are making a living doing what you love. Don’t let stress keep you from experiencing it to the fullest.
Check out five reasons why your art career is stressing you out, so you can learn how to fix it:
Your boss is overly demanding, and your boss is you.
As a professional artist, you are the boss.
That means you alone are responsible for your success. There are no coworkers or managers to fall back on.
What’s more? Your talent, creativity, and know-how are constantly on the line. Staying productive can feel like an impossible dream. You don’t always know what you’re doing, and the list of things you need to learn or solve practically goes on forever.
If you fail, it feels like you have no one to blame but yourself. It’s an exorbitant amount of stress to place on yourself.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a simple trick for eliminating that stress, and it’s called “flipping the script.”
Next time you are stressed about your duties as an art biz boss, think about all the things you love about your life since breaking out on your own—things you wouldn’t get to enjoy in a standard 9-to-5 stint as someone else’s employee.
It could be a number of blessings, such as:
- I don’t have to answer to anyone else
- I can make my own decisions, big and small
- I am following my passion for creating art
- I can set my own studio schedule and work when I am feeling most creative
- I don’t need to ask for permission to enjoy lunch with friends or run errands in the middle of the day
- I can go on a nice vacation without worrying about P.T.O.
- I can adjust my pricing and art business strategy when I am ready
- I can work in sweatpants or yoga pants
- I can take breaks without feeling guilty
- I can focus on myself and learn something new every day
With a little change in perspective, you’ll remind yourself of what you were after all along. The responsibility of owning your own art business actually provides you with a lot of freedom and excitement while you follow your dreams. And, it’s probably a big reason why you wanted to become an artist in the first place!
Instead of the worried thought of you being in charge, say it with gusto: YOU are in charge.
Make your own list that you can tack up next to your favorite inspirational quotes and to-do lists, and come back to it everytime you feel overwhelmed by responsibility.
There’s no cookie-cutter path to follow, no ladders to climb
We’ll say it again: you’re the boss. And that means there’s no one standing over your shoulder, telling you what to do next. There’s no corporate ladder. No job descriptions. No salaries. No promotions.
Being an artist means wading through much murkier waters. And figuring out your own path to success can be extremely daunting, especially when it’s your dream to make a living from your art.
A roadmap can take the stress out of exploring new places, but artists don’t really get one.
Some days you’ll have no idea if what you’re doing is right. You’ll waste time comparing yourself to other artists. There’s going to be a feeling of “not enough".
So, exactly when you feel like running away from this feeling, that's when you lean into it and learn to embrace that stress.
Sit quietly with yourself in that feeling of discomfort, knowing that you have the courage to pursue your dreams. Because not everyone does.
Accept that fact that you might fail, but trust in your ability to grow from it. Learn as much as you can about being an artist—from workshops, books, blogs, podcasts, etc. This commitment to learning will be a great ally in life.
Focus on your improvements, not comparisons. Remember, your art and your journey are unique. Celebrate your victories, and realize that comparisons will only stifle your creativity.
And, if you can, find a mentor. You can’t copy their journey, but you can bet they’ve been through a lot. And, they will probably have some helpful wisdom on what not to do as you figure out the best path for your career together.
Remember, a cookie-cutter path isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Embrace the freedom and self-discovery that not everyone gets to experience in life.
You aren’t getting the opportunities you crave.
At least that’s what it feels like. If you’ve applied, emailed, and called about all sorts of opportunities to little or no avail, it might be time to reevaluate your approach.
First and foremost, you want to make sure you are getting not just any opportunity, but the right opportunities.
Step one should always be making sure your art is the perfect fit. Because no matter how good your work is, if it’s outside the realm of what a client or juror is looking for, then you have a slim chance of moving forward in the process.
Never get down on yourself! There’s a whole world of opportunities out there, and there are opportunities that will be right for your work. You just have to grab them when you have the chance. Always be on the lookout and save any opportunity you’re considering in your calendar to follow up on.
If you’re applying to a juried show or fair, or even working with a gallerist, the crucial next step is understanding what you need to submit.
While it may be tempting to go above and beyond, make sure you send exactly what they ask for—subject matter, file types and sizes, piece details, the number of image submissions, consignment lists, etc. Respecting these wishes shows that you take direction well and will be easy to work.
While galleries may seem like the “thing to do,” it’s okay to look for other opportunities besides gallery representation. Get on the radar of interior designers and art consultants—their job is to literally sell art! Devote more time to social media. Look for artist grants. Teach a workshop. Apply to art fairs and residencies. Think about commission work or even licensing your art for fun products!
And, don’t forget to perfect the small stuff! We’re talking clear, well-lit images of your work and double-checking that all links work on your website and newsletters. Don’t be afraid to update or rewrite your artist statement or bio either. All of these elements build credibility, so clients trust you enough to buy your artwork.
You feel like you have so much to get done and no time to do it.
Between applying for calls, keeping up with social media, updating your art inventory, finishing commissions, showing at galleries, creating new work, and everything else in your jam-packed schedule, it’d be a miracle to escape all the stress.
The easy response would be to shut down or procrastinate, praying it magically gets sorted out. But, if you really want to eliminate some of that stress, being proactive and managing your time more effectively is going to make all the difference.
If you haven’t already, sit down each morning before you begin any work in the studio and go over your to-do list. Then, rank each item on there by its deadline and order of importance. This will help you avoid a big guessing game about your schedule, so you can be sure you’re working on what absolutely needs to get done first.
Next, analyze your current schedule.
How productive are you actually being? If your routine needs an upgrade, start by blocking out time for different tasks throughout the day: a few hours for creating, a few hours for marketing, and so on. The less time you spend deciding what to work on or frequently switching focus, the more time you’ll have to get things accomplished.
On the other hand, do you feel swamped, without a free minute to think or relax? It might be time to start saying no to opportunities.
Don’t add more to your schedule if you can’t handle it. Yes, you read that right! There will always be more opportunities down the road. You are only human, and pushing yourself beyond your limits isn’t going to help anything.
If you think it would take the edge off, consider delegating some admin work to a studio assistant.
Finally, pencil in some “me” time.
It feels counterintuitive with the amount on your plate, but taking a break can be the cure to feeling overwhelmed. Personal time allows you to clear your mind, so you can walk back into the studio re-energized and more focused than ever. Which leads us to our next point…
The business side of things is spinning out of control
We don’t blame you for focusing more on creating art than taking care of the behind-the-scenes tasks. Art is what you know. Business might not be.
But in this case, ignorance is definitely NOT bliss. If you plan on making a living from your art, you can’t ignore the business side of things. The disorganization will lead to one problem after the next until you’re swallowed whole by the stress.
Don’t believe us?
Have you ever wasted time scouring your studio to find info or images for a potential buyer? Have you double-booked or double-sold an artwork to two different galleries before? Do you put off invoicing customers or sending out price lists because it’s so exhausting to make them?
Or maybe you’ve forgotten when you were supposed to pick up artwork after a show? Have you lost all record of who bought your previous pieces? Are you grasping at straws for what strategy your art business should be taking next?
As much as you try to ignore the stress, when you don’t stay organized, your art career suffers. Not only do you appear unprofessional to the people you need to impress most, but the details you can’t keep track of end up costing you valuable time and money.
And if you ask us, barely keeping your art business afloat is nowhere near as satisfying as owning a thriving art business.
What you need to do is find a tool that can manage almost every aspect of your art business. One that’s easy to use, made specifically for artists—so you can eliminate stress without causing more.
Use an art business software like Artwork Archive.
With Artwork Archive, you can manage your pieces, their locations, contacts, show dates, sales records, documents, expenses, and more.
Generate professional reports like invoices and portfolio pages at the click of a button. Never miss a deadline again with a schedule and weekly email reminders. Get important insights into your sales strategy. Display a professional portfolio that’s up-to-date with your latest work
Artwork Archive supercharges your entire art business workflow, so you remain stress-free and ready to create!