Are you seeing your art business clearly?
As artists, we often have blind spots. Just like driving, there are things we don’t see that affect our business.
When we are so close to and invested in what we are working on, this “heads down” approach can affect our view of the situation around us. And there’s not always someone else there to look over your shoulder and double-check that you’re on the right path.
Maybe great ideas or breakthroughs are ignored because they don’t fit our current expectations of what works in the art world. Or, maybe we can’t see the true value in them yet. Focusing so hard on one thing can make you miss something else important—the things we could be doing better, or the secrets to the success we crave.
What is the blind spot in your art business?
See if you have any of these common blind spots and learn how to make the change once you see more clearly.
Not embracing your role as an entrepreneur
“Professional artist” has a secret job description. Under artist, it should list CEO, marketer, social media specialist, inventory manager, accountant, etc. Because you’re not only an artist, you are also running your own small business.
Many working artists find themselves floundering when trying to make a living, either because they don’t want to accept this business aspect of art or because they don’t have the exact training. But, nobody is born knowing everything—and it’s only a weakness if you don’t embrace it.
We’re not saying to spend your life savings on an M.B.A. You simply need to devote a little time each week to develop your business chops and find the tools that make it easier to do business.
Keep an eye out for books, blogs, podcasts, workshops, art coaches, even online classes that offer great insights into running an art business more effectively (and many available for free!). Then, find an art inventory software like Artwork Archive that offers a suite of tools to easily manage and grow your art business, so the business part of art is taken care of easily.
Pricing with emotion
As an artist, you might understand the "creating” part of your job like the back of your hand, but what we often struggle with is the part that comes after we put that last final touch on an artwork—pricing. And if you’re not getting the sales you think you deserve, it may be time to reevaluate the cost of your pieces.
Especially in this field, it can be easy to let your emotions dictate your pricing on something so personal. But, the cornerstone of making more sales and having a profitable business is staying consistent in your pricing, so both galleries and art buyers understand why they are being charged a certain price.
Really do your research on comparable artwork and make sure to give yourself a living wage, but be sure to separate fact from feeling. This free art pricing guide helps you to take an objective and critical look at your current pricing structure and giving you some guidelines on how to tweak or improve that structure for your benefit.
Devaluing the importance of organization
Odds are, if you have been an artist for any significant amount of time, you have piles and piles of work and information collected. That’s good; it means you have been working!
But how many hours have you wasted digging through those piles to find important details of your work? How often has your professionalism been called into question because you doubled booked a piece, you couldn’t remember what day you were supposed to pick your work up from the gallery, or worse, which gallery had your piece to begin with? We’ve heard the horror stories.
What’s more, how has the value of your work been affected because you couldn’t build provenance? What pieces, details, and customers have been lost forever because you didn’t stay on top of things?
In reality, disorganization leads to missed opportunities.
There is A LOT to keep track of when you’re an artist: your inventory, where those pieces are, show dates, application details, income and expenses, client contact info, your schedule… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why you need to get all of the moving parts of your art business organized in one place, using an art inventory system like Artwork Archive.
With this cloud-based site, you can easily manage every aspect of your art career—and even use this organized goodness to create professional reports and a polished portfolio of your work online at the click of a button.
Not only will you save time, appear more professional, and impress clients, but you’ll get back more time for your art.
Allowing perfect get in the way of progress
Perfectionism is one of those traits that people often try to disguise as a strength. But when you take a deeper look, at the core of perfectionism is fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear of not measuring up to other people’s expectations.
As you most likely know, it is difficult to be creative when you are coming from a place of self-doubt, anxiety and worry about failure. And this can cause of a lot of harm to your career and growth as an artist.
That being said, there is one pretty awesome aspect to being a perfectionist: you want to produce your best work possible.
You can use that inner drive to your advantage! Prepare for projects ahead of time. Hone your craft. Learn all you can about running an art business. Just know the warning signs and that a job well-done doesn’t necessarily require perfection. Acceptance takes practice!
Remember: it is better to finish a good project than never complete the "perfect" one.
Neglecting networking as a real opportunity to connect
If even the idea of small talk and forced conversation makes your knees rattle, you’re not alone.
But the hard truth? Artists can't build a career on their own.
Just like most careers, a successful art career is based on key relationships—with current customers, galleries, consultants, art dealers, interior designers, art suppliers, other artists, art organizations, family and friends, influencers, websites and blogs. Whether it comes in the form of direct sales, repeat collectors, word of mouth referrals, or valuable testimonials that build your credibility, having people on your side in the art world can bring in more opportunities than you could ever get on your own.
But, the thing is, you don't have to think of networking as polite introductions, the swapping of business cards, and LinkedIn connections. In fact, forging deeper, meaningful connections—ones that feel like real, genuine exchanges can be the key to networking like the boss artist that you are.
To alleviate the anxiety, practice your sales pitch ahead of time or bring a few loved ones to your opening for support. Engage in the lost art of listening. Ask more questions and then respond to the answers. Most people, even people you perceive as intimidating, are looking for ways to relate and connect with you.
Get their contact information and follow up with them later, instead of worrying about sealing the deal right then and there. A system like Artwork Archive lets artists easily manage their art business contacts, so you never forget who you met or when to follow up.
Confusing risk-taking with fear
Artists and creative entrepreneurs, especially, have a lot riding on their success. So, why would you do anything to jeopardize that?
The only problem is that with great risk comes great reward. In fact, if you want to get ahead as an artist, you are going to have to take chances. Sometimes it’s the only way to find the success or happiness you crave.
Don’t confuse fear and risk.
Fear is a natural instinct. It’s trying to keep you safe. Fear tells you to stand back from that ledge, run from that snake, or throw out that expired milk. The problem occurs when fear keeps you from doing the things you really want to do, things you’re excited about, things that would be great for your art business. That kind of fear keeps you too safe.
If you see a successful, hard-working artist in the world, we would bet money that they are still scared of failing. In fact, success in life is mainly about just showing up. Showing up for the challenge, despite your fears. Then keep showing up, equipped with the knowledge that you can always learn and grow, whether you fail or not.
The only way to get ahead in life is to take risks, so check out our tips on becoming a better risk-taker.
Updating your online portfolio as the last priority
You’ve put in the early mornings and sleepless nights in the studio. You’ve taken the workshops and improved your skills. Now you have the artwork to show for it! The only problem? You’ve put it online and nothing is happening.
While the answer to the question of low art sales online seems so elusive, we recommend going straight to the source: your online art portfolio.
Your portfolio is the first place people look to see if they want to go forward with acquiring a piece from you. But, if it doesn’t scream professional, your credibility (and sales) might be shot. That's why you should take the time to get it right.
Start by completing your art portfolio with all of the essentials: artist statement, biography, professional headshot, high-quality images of your work, details that buyers need to make decisions, testimonials from your clients, links to your social media pages, and a good way to get in contact.
If you’d rather be in the studio than on the computer, check out Artwork Archive’s Public Page feature. It uses the inventory details you’ve already recorded (yay for being organized!) to create a polished portfolio with the click of a button. You can choose which works and important details to display, mark which works are available or sold, and build a connection with buyers—no coding necessary!
You can even integrate this portfolio into your own artist website! Say goodbye to double data entry and hello to more time in the studio.
Ignoring your finances
Money can be a pretty taboo subject—but keeping quiet about it won’t make it go away.
Having an unpredictable income month-to-month is extremely stressful, and it can lead to huge money insecurities that damage our ability to objectively handle our finances. But as artists, we need to develop a healthier relationship with money, or else we’ll never be able to make a living from our work. It’s the key to the longevity of our careers!
Fortunately, establishing clear financial practices in your art business is not as scary as you may think. You just need to develop a financial strategy. Start by examining both your personal and business financial needs. See where you can save money and where you can open yourself up to more revenue streams, and don’t forget to set short-term and long-term savings goals.
There are a bunch of tools that can help artists keep track of expenses and revenue. An art inventory system like Artwork Archive helps you track your expenses, so you’ll know where all of your sources of income are generated, where your money is going, and what you can write off. More than that, you can tie your expense records to a client within the database, gain insight into how much you are spending in certain categories (advertising, supplies, rent, etc.), and generate one-click invoices and expense reports.
Running an art business is much less stressful if you can understand how your money is flowing in and out. Not only that, having your finances in order gives you more freedom to focus on your passion and take on the jobs and shows you actually want.
Thinking your work should speak for itself
If you are stuck in a place where your work and skills are up to par, but you aren’t making the sales you want, your beliefs about how marketing and a creative career mix could be derailing your success big time.
We often see other artists who have made it and think it “just happened” for them. But, rarely do we see the hard work that goes into promoting the already amazing work they’ve created.
Should the work speak for itself? Perhaps, but in reality, that’s simply not how it works.
The art world is rife with competition, now more than ever. “You can have 4,000 brilliant images on your hard drive, but they become insignificant without exposure,” reminds artist Jill Sanders. Almost every successful artist would agree that while marketing may not sound that glamorous, becoming your own marketing expert is necessary if you want to have a thriving art business.
Don’t be afraid to put your creative talents to use in your marketing endeavors, too!
Tell a story with your words and let people into your world of creativity. Find the audience that sees the world the same way you do. Learn how to use social media correctly, build a lasting connection with your contact list and newsletter, and make good use of online platforms that will end up saving you time.
And most importantly, have fun with it. Because then your audience will, too!
Lacking a focused strategy
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to step into the studio and have the creative juices start flowing. But in the end, making a living as an artist depends on one thing: selling your work. Artists need to strike a balance between creating and selling so that they can be both inspired and profitable.
You not only need a strategy but an informed strategy. And when your work is tracked through Artwork Archive, you have these insights at your fingertips.
First, you’ll be able to see which works are selling the best and quickly compare how many works you’ve created versus how many you’ve sold.
Why? You’ll get a better sense of what you need to be focusing on—creating or selling. For instance, if your stack of available works is quickly shrinking, it might be time to get back in the studio. On the flip side, a bunch of unsold work might make you realize it’s time to put the brush down and hit the pavement again.
Are your more expensive works selling better? Maybe it’s time to make more limited edition prints? You can see what type of value is resonating with your target buyers and keep that in mind while creating.
What’s more, you’ll be able to keep tabs on how your galleries and other sales locations are performing. That gallery selling the most work and value? You’ll want to keep that location stocked and on good terms. It will also help you see which cities or parts of the country are best for your art sales. Then you can seek new places to sell your art in those locations.
Being informed directs your efforts in the best way. This bird’s eye view will help you understand when it’s time to switch things up and try new locations or put more time and effort into what’s working without reinventing the wheel.
Letting imposter syndrome creep in
Do you ever have that nagging suspicion that you’re going to fail no matter what? Or, like celebrating your successes doesn’t feel quite earned? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, it’s so common, there’s a name for it. It’s called Imposter Syndrome.
It’s a problem in every profession, but especially pervasive in creative careers where success can often come from subjective works. The irony is that the deeper you dive into your art career, the more opportunities there are for imposter syndrome to bubble up inside you. Did you sell that piece because you earned it, or did you sell it because you got lucky? Did you nail that artist grant because you had the best body of work, or did you get it because the timing worked out this time?
While it may appear harmless, it can manifest itself in many ways, including social anxiety, devaluing your worth, and underestimating your own expertise. And not only does it seriously affect your self-confidence, but this fear can keep you from taking the necessary risks to further your career and personal growth.
You have to figure out a way to tackle imposter syndrome head-on before it affects the success and future of your art practice and damages your self-confidence beyond repair.
Start by recognizing these negative thoughts when they pop up and use logic against them. Practice celebrating your accomplishments and write down why you deserved them and the hard work that led to them. Trust the competency of the people who got you to where you are. Love the work you are making first and foremost and the rest will follow.