Ten Things You Can Do When Your Art Business is Slow

Artwork Archive | June 23, 2020 (Updated September 20, 2022)

Managing your art career is a practice in time-management and planning ahead.

There are so many aspects of an art career—creating, marketing, selling, organizing works, keeping track of your finances—to name just a few. 

Downtime in your art career is the perfect moment to recalibrate, find inspiration, and take care of the nitty-gritty. 

Taking care of tasks during a slow period supports your present and future career. Jump in on your to-do list. With each task you take on in a period of art career slowness, you are boosting your career and preparing for a busier future. 


Create a system for managing your collector contacts

Now is the perfect time to go through your contact list and see who you should be catching up with, reaching out to, or updating about your work.

First things first, make sure that you have all your contacts and their information all in one place. Scan through your contact list for duplicates and missing information. Do you have all of your contact information up to date? If you are missing information, reach out to contacts. Let contacts know about what’s new in your art practice, and ask for their new address, phone number, or other missing information. 

Avoid the need for a mass follow-up in the first place with more regular check-ins. For example, following up with contacts after a sale is a great time to make sure that you have their most up-to-date information.

It's helpful to not just know the basics about your contacts, like their email addresses, but to be familiar with their personal details. When you interact with your contacts, it's as much about them as it is about your art. Building personal relationships go beyond basic networking. Remembering important details and being able to interact on a variety of topics allows you to connect with clients and ensures that clients feel a connection to you and your art. 

If you are juggling many contacts, consider using a system like Artwork Archive where you can make notes about the last time you interacted with a client and record their personal details. With Artwork Archive you are also able to group your contacts. If you reach out separately to past buyers, workshop attendees, gallerists, or fellow artists, you’ll want to make sure to have separate lists for your various contact groupings. 


Send out a newsletter to your audience. 

Now that you have your contacts cleaned up, it's time to reach out and reconnect with clients and partners with a newsletter.

A good newsletter is an opportunity to not just update, but to engage. 

When you draft your newsletter, what are you looking to accomplish with your outreach? If you are looking for feedback for something like workshop themes, include a poll. If you are wanting to showcase new work, make sure to include photos and information about the process of making these works. 

When people buy art they want to feel a connection to you and to the work, you can help your readers build these connections.

Keep it short and sweet. A good newsletter is personal, informative, engaging, and readable. 

If you don’t normally send newsletters, experiment! If a newsletter format doesn't work for you, think about other email outreach ideas. Here are some email outreach templates that can help get you started. 

Review your finances.

Downtime is perfect for rainy-day tasks, like evaluating your finances. 

Tune into your accounting brain and review how you are spending and what is bringing in income. If you are using a spreadsheet, think about upgrading to accounting software or Artwork Archive so that you have a digital tool to keep track of how you are spending and what you are spending on. 

Look for insights and then find solutions. Is there an expense that does not make sense to continue based on its financial return? Where do you spend the most, is this worth your expense or is there a cost-saving solution?

Expand on successes and adapt your past successes to be increasingly better. If there is a way that you successfully generated income? Try it again! Think through how you can make things that already work for you, work even better. 

Look for what’s missing. Is there a way to bring in revenue that you haven’t tried yet? In Artwork Archive, you can track your revenue and expenses. Looking at the revenue categories in Artwork Archive’s expenses and revenue feature can help you determine if you are missing an income-generating medium. Artwork Archive revenue categories are: Commissions, Fees, Grants, Licensing, Rental, Royalties, Stipends, Teaching, Sales, Merchandise, Awards, and Other. 


Apply to an artist opportunity.

When things are slow, plan ahead. There are so many different artists opportunities, from residencies to calls for submissions, that there is something for every artist at every different point in their career.

Take a look at opportunity lists and websites to see what’s out there. Think through not just what is exciting to you, but how each opportunity will support you now and in your future art practice.

Be open to tips for applying to opportunities. Take your time now while you have more of it, to find and apply to an opportunity that makes sense.


Experiment with your art and creative process.

Take advantage of having fewer demands on your immediate time and energy by expanding your art practice. Use this time to tap into your creativity.

If there’s something you’ve been wanting to experiment with but haven’t had the chance to, now is the perfect time to mix up how you are creating. Whether it is technique or theme, switching up your normal practice can allow you to access new areas of energy and creativity. 

Lean into this slow period to expand your practice. Take advantage of creativity boosting exercises and prompts. Take risks, make mistakes, and enjoy unbounded creativity. 

If your mission during this slow period is to be able to ramp up your sales, think about adapting what you usually create for a buyer’s climate. In difficult financial times, artists find success in creating smaller-scale works that are easier to sell over mediums like Instagram. Experimenting for you could be less about new themes and more about finding what type of production will excite your buyers.


Tune into the artist community around you.

Reconnect with not just your personal creative space, but the creative environment around you. 

Being a part of a larger creative community gives you sustained connections, support, inspiration, and enjoyment. Being an artist is not a solitary experience. Get out of your studio to enrich your art-making. Engaging creatively outside of your immediate practice helps you to keep working and thinking within your art practice.

Go to a gallery opening. Read up on current art events in your city. Find an artist group to join. Propose a collaboration with an artist you respect. There are an unlimited number of ways to connect with other artists and to engage with your creative community. 

You can seek out a larger artist community outside of your immediate area. Seek out podcasts, find galleries and museums working in interesting ways, try attending a digital workshop. 


Clean your art studio.

Having a clean studio will allow you to create efficiently and without stress. 

Go through all of your materials. Toss the dried up acrylics and make note of the products you already have. Clean your brushes before deciding to throw them out. Knowing what you have to use will prevent you from over-buying or realizing that you need supplies at the last minute.

Ditch artworks you no longer want to work on with a studio sale. Think of this as spring cleaning, but lucrative! 

Double down on projects you’ve been meaning to complete. Once you get rid of clutter and refocus on what you’re wanting to create, commit! Since there will no longer be distractions in your studio, you’ll have a clearer idea of what art projects should have priority.  


Inventory your artworks.

Having an organized studio is half the battle for keeping your art organized. Use your slow period to inventory your new works. Inventorying your art is essential to managing your art career.

If you already have a system in place, make sure that any new artwork is up-to-date with an inventory number, and full documentation. Follow consistent steps when inventorying your work.

To archive your art you’ll need to be able to document your work and then record and save this documentation. 

If you don’t have a system in place for archiving and inventorying, consider using an online platform like Artwork Archive that can help walk you through the process and keep you accountable.

Update your website. 

Freshen up your website with updated photos, information, and news. 

Your website should help your art business, not hurt it. Go through the steps of double-checking that all your links work and that there are no typos on your site. 

Your website is representative of you as an artist. Make sure that your viewers are taking away what you want them to be. Like when drafting your newsletter, think about how you want viewers to engage and think about you as an artist and your art.

If you’ve never gone through the thought exercise of determining your own brand, now is a  great time. 


Make a marketing calendar.

Use the extra time now to plan ahead for the next few weeks by creating a marketing calendar for yourself.

Having a plan in place will make it easier for you to market your business each week.

If you’ve never made a marketing calendar or a marketing plan, never fear! Think through what your marketing aims are. What mediums do you have at your disposal? What works best for marketing your art and engaging with your clients?

A marketing calendar can be as simple or extensive as you need it to be. Planning out your content ahead of time will make drawing out marketing insights and continuing to tweak your marketing plan and calendar easier. 


Make the most of a slow period.

A “slow period” by name, insinuates nothing happening and implies that there is nothing to do for your art career. However, a well-used slow period is anything but slow! 

A slow period can be your busiest and most productive time. Organize yourself now and prepare for the coming months to ensure that even your busiest times feel calm and under control. 

Using professional platforms like Artwork Archive can help you manage and plan out your career through all points in your art career, including slow periods.

Try Artwork Archive for free with a free 14-day trial and see for yourself how Artwork Archive can strengthen your art career.

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