Download the SMART goals for artists worksheet below.
Get clear about your big picture
The thing about being an artist is that it’s easy to get excited about a million different projects and ideas. It’s easy to get distracted or go down a thousand paths all at once and not realize you have veered from your original path.
If you are already a full-time artist, think about why you pursued this path. Was it to have flexibility, autonomy, or creative expression? If you haven’t made the leap yet, get clear about why you want to pursue this career.
Your artwork, projects, galleries, and business decisions should support your personal goals.
Before you make your goals you need to define your version of success.
Think about the areas of your life that are non-negotiable. These will act as the north star to your business and goals. There is a reason you aren’t in a traditional job or are thinking about leaving the 9-5 grind. You found something different in being an artist. What is that for you? Travel? Fulfillment? The ability to have a lingering cup of coffee in the morning? What does your lifestyle look like once you have achieved your art business goals?
Make quarterly goals instead of annual ones.
Many life or career coaches suggest structuring your goals around an “aspirational word of the year.” That word could be something like “growth", “ambition", “organized", “bold", “experimental"—anything you want to cultivate in your upcoming year. This word will act as the center point to which all of your intentions and goals navigate around.
The thing about selecting one word or one goal for the entire year is that as an artist-entrepreneur the year has seasons for your business. Different seasons call for different goals and “vision words". The start of the year is often very different from art fair season, workshop season, and holiday season and don't forget about a season for rest and regeneration.
If your goals and vision word stays the same throughout the year, you risk misaligning with the overall picture. Making quarterly goals and establishing a different word per quarter allows you to more easily align with your mission as an artist-entrepreneur. Breaking your goals down into quarters also allows you to focus on one area of your business at a time and re-adjust as needed for the time of the year.
It could mean that at the start of the year the word is “bold,” meaning you concentrate your time and efforts on finding and applying for upcoming opportunities. You put yourself out there and establish new connections. Q2 could shift to “growth", where you take time to more fully explore the potential of your craft and materials. Mid-year probably might shift to “industrious” or “focused” in order to translate your new ideas into a body of work for that year.
Having trouble coming up with your words? Thinking about how you want to feel at the end of each quarter. Do you want to feel accomplished, refreshed, productive, or stress-free? This feeling will help guide you in your goals.
Do a goal check against your “why”
A why is more motivating than a number of sales or revenue goals. If your goal is to make ten grand from your art sales this year, ask yourself why that is. Almost all of the time financial goals are stepping stones to achieve a lifestyle goal. When you dig deeper you will get answers like “I want to take my family on vacation to spend more time with them,” or “I want to work independently on my vision,” “I want to make an impact with my artwork.”
The why will help you act on your goals when the going gets tough.
Ask yourself some questions about the goals you set. Will the goal help me live out my desired business aspirations? Does this goal align with my overall vision for my life? Does it align with my quarterly goal words? Why do I want to spend my time and efforts on this goal?
Answering these questions will help you work on the goals that really matter. Don’t be afraid to scrap goals that don’t fit with your vision or change goals once you have set them.
The why of your goals is much more powerful than the outcome, it helps you readjust and come back to that why in the day-to-day. As artists you have the power to make a difference in your community, make connections with other people and illuminate and inspire change globally. Your goals can and should be bigger than money, followers on Instagram, and awards won. By acting with a purpose, you have a huge potential to influence others and build a better world for others and life for yourself. The numbers, money, and awards are all supporting players in getting to your ultimate goals.
Make your goals "smarter"
Now that you know why you are making a goal and are able to reap the benefits of your goal process—set better goals.
Successful goals are goals that are well thought out and doable. SMART goals are specific, achievable, realistic, and timely.
Specific: Is the goal clear and narrow enough in scope?
Measurable: Can you measure your progress and will you know when the goal is achieved?
Attainable: Is this goal actually possible?
Relevant: Is the goal relevant to your vision, both personally and in your art business?
Timely: Is the time frame realistic to achieve this goal?
SMART goals help you stay on track better than a generalized goal. For example, if your goal was to update your personal portfolio and inventory in order to better reflect your current artwork. The SMART version of that goal would be, “I will upload ten artworks per week to my Artwork Archive account in order to better catalog my career and showcase my artwork to clients.”
By making your goals SMART, you’ll have an easier time sticking to them and determining whether you’ve achieved them or not.
Knowing why you are making a goal is important. To get to the “why,” you also must understand that there are many pieces to achieving a goal.
Making smart goals is about choosing your steps to get to the deeper root of your goals.
Do you want to organize your art practice? Get more specific.
For example, if your goal for the new year is to get organized, change that to “cataloging all your existing art by February.” Much better. Now you know what you need to do to make your bigger goal happen.
Improve your workflow
You are ambitious and you have ambitious goals.
That doesn’t mean that you should let being a full-time artist should completely take over your life. Most of us are not alone in that we have gone through periods of working 12+ hour days to achieve our goals. This schedule is not sustainable over the long run. You can only decline dinner or coffee invitations from friends and family in favor of work for so long before it takes a toll on your relationships and your wellbeing.
The difficulty with being a creative entrepreneur is that there are so many different jobs to be done. You have to do the bookkeeping, the marketing, the administrative stuff, the shipping, the archiving—and, on top of it all, the actual making. After all of that, you can see how it would be difficult to even feel creative at the end of the day.
But, the goal is that you are running your art business, it is not running you.
Most of the time the issue isn’t about having an infinite amount of work to complete, it’s about the way in which we go about completing those tasks. We see it all the time, artists are spending way too many hours on the administrative aspects of their career, only to burn out before they get into the studio for the day.
By clearly defining your goals and the steps needed to achieve them, you will save time and mental energy along the way.
Artwork Archive is a workflow manager for artists to better organize their inventory, showcase your artwork, and generate professional invoices, tear sheets, and presentations in just a few clicks. The system behind achieving your goals is having a system to get your there. You can try it for free here.
Fill out the worksheets below to clarify the goals you have for yourself and for your art career.
Print out the following worksheets to develop SMART goals, set quarterly goals and big intentions, and map out the actionable steps needed to achieve your vision.