While not all entrepreneurs are artists, all artists are entrepreneurs.
Artists, like entrepreneurs, have a product or idea to sell, and they need to get out into the marketplace. In order to do this, artists need (at the very least) basic business skills and a willingness to approach selling art as any entrepreneur would.
If you’re serious about building a sustainable art career, there are definitive steps you need to take to build and maintain your business:
Define your signature style (mission/brand/identity in business-speak).
Your idea or your approach to your work is ultimately what you will be putting out in the market. By determining what it is you do, how you do it, and the content, subjects, and form/media, you will be defining your signature style. Once you have developed a style, you can then present it seamlessly to your audience. By defining your brand or style, you are unwittingly determining your audience.
Understand and know your audience.
Who collects your work is important information to have. Every entrepreneur studies the habits of their audience. They know what prices their audiences are willing to pay, where they are willing to buy, when, and how often. An artist should know this information too.
For example, they know that buyers will be different at local art fairs than at trade shows or galleries. By identifying your audience early, and re-evaluating often, you’ll be better able to keep up with demand, price your work, and know where to spend your precious time selling (and more importantly where to avoid).
Price your work appropriately to cover costs and make a profit.
There are many methods to pricing and evaluating work. In her book Secrets of the Art World: Getting Real About the Process, Business, and Selling Your Work, Lisa Spanos, owner and president of ADC, breaks down just how to price one’s work on a price-per-square inch basis as well as various other methodologies common in the art world.
She also recommends factoring the cost of overhead, materials, and supplies, as well as a recommended markup for retail pricing. One of the biggest mistakes artists make is not understanding the value of their work. So often artists either over inflate the value of their work or undervalue it—either way they miss the opportunity to sell their work. Entrepreneurs understand that pricing is a fine art and so should artists.
Understand basic marketing and sales practices.
Every entrepreneur knows the key to getting their idea or product to market is through marketing and sales. You must employ marketing strategies to do that. That means you need a website that reflects your signature style, which includes high-resolution pictures and descriptions of your work, as well as a means to buy the work directly from the site (or has links to contact information or the galleries that represent you).
It should also include an artist statement and a section with a regularly updated blog or newsletter. Keeping in touch with and building an audience is key to selling your work. With social media tools like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and search engine tools like Google and Pinterest, there are no more ways than ever to reach audiences.
You should also take advantage of resources that will promote your work for you. Art Design Consultants (ADC) owns and publishes Blink Art Resource, which is sent to interior designers all over the country, as well as Curated by Blink Art, which is sent to residences. Both are excellent ways for artists to get their work in front of thousands of buyers instantly. Partnering with galleries, or investing in space at trade shows, and paying for online advertising and optimizing your websites SEO are all ways to increase your exposure and reach potential buyer to ultimately sell more art.
Keep excellent records.
Every business needs to keep track of money going in and money going out, as well as inventory. Maintaining and cataloging your work is key to your success as an artist. You simply cannot overlook the details—often they are what make or break artists. Artwork Archive helps you get started, so you can concentrate on creating and leave the inventory management to the experts.
Surround yourself with good people, strong mentors, and individuals who are succeeding and want you to succeed too.
Entrepreneurs know that networking is more than trading business cards. Business is all about relationships. And, having a network of great people around is a key to success. Most entrepreneurs know they can’t run a business on their own. They get advice from other successful business people and they reach out when they need help or don’t know what to do. ADC is passionate about helping artists thrive, and have created an extensive artist resource page to provide a place where artists can learn about how to succeed in the business of being an artist.
Thanks to guest contributor ADC, Art Design Consultants, LLC for this article. Check them out and subscribe to their newsletter to keep in touch with all the latest information about the skills and tools you need to succeed as an artist and an entrepreneur.