Turn your art into a business

How are you going to turn your art into a business?

As a fulltime artist and entrepreneur, this is a phrase that rings constantly in my mind.

I am sure we have all asked ourselves or heard this question a 1000 times.

And there are good reasons for that.

You see, making a business of your art is not something you can treat as a hobby. It requires you to break out of your comfort zone and push new boundaries.

The challenges artists and entrepreneurs face are real and often complicated.

Which is the reason why I have started with these 2 questions. If you are still with me here. Thanks!

I am going to assume that you are either in the process of

Deciding if entrepreneurship is the right thing for you.

Or have already taken the leap and now you are swimming in the deep end like the rest of us.

How successful you are or I am at turning art into a business will depend on a few fundamental factors.

This is my “survival guide” to navigating through the art world while trying to do some business.

Content summary

Personal Management.

Coming to terms with where you are.

Time management: Learning how to make time work for you.

Writing your artist statement: What is your art about?

Prepare a professional portfolio: How are consumers going to see your work?

Defining your value proposition: What does your art have to offer?

Register a company: Establish a B2B network

Build your brand identity: How are you going to represent yourself?

Creating a stable work environment: Where and how do you want to work?

Planning and fine-tuning: How to unpack your to-do list in phases.

Finding your niche market: How to figure out who will consume your art.

Reach out to your audience: How to engage with your buyer audience.

Figure out your pricing: The importance of doing your research.

Get to know your industry:

Find a support network

Put together some marketing campaigns

What’s next: Dialing into the services that you can realistically deliver

Where to start: How to define which direction to take.

Studio Overheads: How to deal with ongoing expenses

Establish meaningful connections: How to grow your network with a purpose.

Summary

Wrap up

Personal Management.

Are you working full time or part-time?

Before you decide to make any big business decisions its a good idea to figure out how much time you are currently spending on your various income sources versus how you would like to be spending your time to better your position financially and emotionally.

  • What job or jobs are you working on to sustain your lifestyle and financial commitments?
  • How much does the revenue from your personal art activities compare to your steady monthly income?
  • Are you trying to boost art sales faster to reduce the hours in your 9-5 position? Allowing you to focus more on your business development.
  • If you are starting a new project, or in the process of expanding your activities it is important to consider how you will reach your clients and how much time you can dedicate to this commitment.

Running an art business parallel to a full-time job is achievable at the risk an early burnout. Going for the part-time option is a safe bet but offers little space to grow. Being a fulltime artist is certainly the riskier option with the most to offer in return.

Keep this in mind as you progress through each stage.

When was the last time you

Updated & synchronized your personal profiles?

If you are planning to make your business about art? Being reachable across multiple channels of communication is vital. Verify that all your profiles are telling the same story.

  • Take some time to start screening through all your online profiles and update them so that there is consistency in your story.
  • This is a good time to delete any accounts and profiles that are inactive or no longer serve you any purpose.

Your online profile is a reflection of who you are and what you stand for. So think about what social media platforms you are using and why you are using them.

  • This will help you determine the relevance of your presence in each one.
  • Remember that you are trying to build a sustainable long term relationship with your connections.

Save time by focusing predominantly on the platforms that will serve you a purpose both socially and professionally.

Learn to manage

Your time.

Being time-poor is a term we hear often. It illustrates a common problem that so many people face.

Luckily most of our time issues can be fixed with planning, structure, discipline, and commitment. There are other factors that are not so straight forward.

Be ready for the unexpected

  • We are all familiar with unforeseen events. These are things that just pop into our lives and can get in the way of you sticking to your agenda.
  • This could be related to obvious events such as the weather, lack of materials and resources, parenting and community responsibilities, a canceled meeting or traffic congestion.
  • It can also relate to more significant problems such as falling ill or lacking sufficient funds to continue working in a sustainable manner.

Finding ways to minimize or counter these challenges comes down to keeping a few good habits.

Have you thought of

Your artist statement and are you able to write one?

The purpose of writing an artist’s statement is to include a short description of you, followed by your research topic and work process.

  • Think of this statement as an extension of what you are showing your viewers to add to their experience of your art.
  • This is not your CV. Your artist statement explains specifically what your art is about and what processes you have used to execute your ideas.
  • In a few short paragraphs, your artist statement should engage a viewer in your work and clearly define what the expectations are.
  • It is important to remain consistent with your visual content and written content.

Your artist statement should evolve as you grow to understand your work, so keep this in mind as you define further your artistic practice.

How long should my artist statement be?

Your artist statement can be as short as 100 words and up to 400 words depending on your research and process.

  • Think about how you would like to experience someone else’s artist statement. Use this as a starting point to prepare yours.
  • By putting yourself as the receiver you can shape your statement with more intentional words. A short and concise statement is nearly always easier to digest than a lengthy essay.
  • Start by putting all your ideas down on paper. Making a list of everything related to what you do now and all the experiences that have taken you this far.
  • Then narrow this list down progressively to leave only the most valuable and relevant information to your art.

Your artist statement does not have to be a static text. You might need several attempts before you are happy with it. So take your time. It’s ok!

I think you get the picture. Right! Your personal profile and artist statement should always be up to date. It is the first point of contact people will have with you. Especially online.

Here is where things start to get a little bit more serious.

Are you prepared to take the step of registering yourself as a company? Here is why you should consider doing so!

  • Opening a company account or registering a brand will prove to yourself that you are committed to giving your future art business a real chance.
  • Separating your personal budget and expenses from your business ones makes it easier to track your activities and targets.
  • Managing your businesses cash flow through a business account means you are less likely to be spending for the wrong reasons.
  • Invoicing your clients through a business name will give you the confidence to push for more sales and find new clients.
  • Potential art buyers and future clients mostly come from the corporate or mainstream sectors. Banking and trading as a business is reassuring and familiar for them.

If you have never sold any art before, you might be thinking that tall this is going too far and you will cross that path when you get there.

The reality is that if you are pouring time and effort into turning your art into a business then chances are that you will start to sell more. Being ready in advance will start to sound like a more professional option.

As artists, we all love to create and be immersed in our processes and experimentation. Often neglecting the administrative obligations that come with the flexibility of our industry.

In 2020 it is no longer enough to rely on the ideologies of art for art’s sake. instead of Hiding behind the illusion that because you are an artist you can’t be a successful business too. Create a new image and boost your business.

Do your portfolio and credentials clearly relate to

The art and services you are offering?

The sum of your past is generally what will guide you into the future.

From a business perspective, it is important to have a well-prepared document or profile that clearly represents who you are and what you have done. Not necessarily what you will do or want to be.

Here are a few examples that can get you started.

  • Including some form of academic background or experience is a great way of letting people know what your interests and qualifications are.
  • Managing your artistic portfolio regularly will make it faster and easier for you to identify and connect with potential project opportunities.
  • Your portfolio and credentials are a reflection of who you are and what you have achieved. It is how you are being viewed from an external point of view.

Before starting your portfolio. Decide how you want your viewers to experience your work. what are some practical ways you can set up a portfolio to reach the post people in your desired niche market?

Consider some of these options

As you prepare your artwork and portfolio.

1. PDF documents are easy to attach, email and download. But at the same time, you might not update a static portfolio as often.

2. Videos are becoming easier to digest and accessible to everyone. A great option offering maximum creativity. But they do require more time for production and editing. Not to mention the cost implications for the equipment.

3. A professional social media platform like LinkedIn can bring structure and purpose to an online portfolio. Sharing content with other social media platforms is easy to do. Consider this option if you want to start reaching out to business people.

4. Starting a blog site or website is a way of keeping yourself and others up to date with your work as it evolves. The sooner you can start a website the better. Follow tutorials online and take your time to figure it out. You will not regret it.

Write down 3 different ways that you would like to present yourself and your work in order of priority and practicality. Work on them simultaneously to keep consistency.

Consider how adaptable your artwork and services are to each format.

Try to keep it realistic.

  • If you are already present on social media platforms. Try to keep your accounts active and updated. It’s better to delete a dormant account than to show up as inactive. If you are active on them, then use these platforms to share your portfolio.
  • What are the impacts of you not having or having a website? Is it important for you to be online for exposure, trading, and networking?
  • Do you prefer to present your self physically in the form of a gallery or studio? If yes, then think about how you need to set up your physical environment. This will play an essential role in how you are presenting yourself to people.

Taking the time to figure these things out progressively will help you shape and define your vision and who you are as an individual and a professional.

Defining your value proposition.

Your customers need to know what kind of art services you are offering.

Do you have a clear vision of what your art practice represents? Is that vision clear to the public?

  • Your value proposition as an artist is the totality of the knowledge, services, and products you can provide. Which is why it must not be neglected.
  • If you were to think of yourself as a business then turning your art into a business requires clarity, curiosity, resilience, and commitment.

Like it or not, people seek comfort in categorizing most things. So knowing in what categories you would most likely fit makes it easier to make decisions about your work.

Think of what

really stands out about your work and what are the areas that stand out the least. Narrowing your offer is a way of creating a niche market that is tailored to your story.

  • A niche market does not have to mean a small market. So trust in your convictions and you will find your market along the way.
  • For example, you might need to think about multiple value propositions for different sectors of your art business.
  • Tweaking your story to adapt to a particular audience or market is a way of showing people that you are open to discussing terms as well as being flexible to adapt to new opportunities.

Whether or not there are similarities or differences, you can use these experiences to help you design a value proposition that fits your profile.

Being clear

About your values and services is a way of monitoring what jobs you can deliver and what jobs you should let go of.

Saying no projects that don’t fit your profile is ok. Don’t be that person who is remembered for biting off more than you can chew.

This form of self-evaluation can lead to a niche following. Finding your clear path will make it easier for you to reach out to the right audience or attract a following that is in tune with your offering.

Have you considered

representing yourself as a brand?

You can easily do this by getting your work trademarked with your name and copyright regulations.

This is essential to formalizing your art hobby and or activities into a business.

  • Protect your intellectual property from Copyright. Letting people know that you respect your work and value your personal identity as an artist will show them that you are committed to your practice.
  • To find out how to do this you can contact your local government departments to ask them for more details.
  • Contact some local and international media providers. Such as newspapers, magazines, and directories.
  • Ask them to publish some of your work. This is a way of establishing some authority in your industry and creating a brand name.

A Stable Environment To Work In

Is Essential To Help Your Hobby Grow Into A Thriving Business.

How many times can you recall moments where things just didn’t go to plan. Leaving you wondering why everything you try to do just keeps failing apart.

art-business-teaching

I found myself in this position recently. Being against the wall financially and emotionally pushed me to look for creative solutions to develop my business. Here is what I did in fast forward mode.

I started by stopping all my paintings momentarily to reflect on the direction I was going.
Art-business-pallet-furniture
This gave me the idea of building some furniture for a studio space, which I didn’t have at the time. I eventually found a place and was able to operate quite quickly having built most of my furniture already.
art-lessons-art-business-development
The transition from working at home to being in a studio instantly created new opportunities for my art activities.
art-business-exhibition-collaboration
I eventually found a more suitable studio space. This photo was taken from a group exhibition and performance event.

A lot has happened in between these four slides, however, they seem to represent for me a way of illustrating how one action can always leads to another if we keep moving forward.

In my case.

I felt that the experience I could bring to my art community would be best utilized by offering workshops and fundamental courses for children and adults.

Having a studio space meant that I could start marketing this activity and generate some revenue to sustain other projects and personal research.

You too can start thinking about what would be the ideal workspace for you.

  • Maybe you have some very specific requirements that will play an important role in developing your art practice as a professional.
  • Things such as equipment and machinery might be something to take into consideration.
  • If your work is minimal and small, perhaps all you need is a desk and some internet. Everyone has their own way of working.

The Keyword Here Is “Planning”.

The main reason why a hobby business may fail comes down to proper planning.

Once you have the big picture view of what you want to achieve then you can start unpacking it in phases that are manageable and in context with your current situation.

  • Knowing that I needed a studio in order to build up my business meant that I would have some fixed expenses.
  • One of the main reasons why I decided to look for an alternative studio was due to the high rental fee that I needed to cover each month.
  • Sticking to my big picture plan I managed to find a better-suited location at a cheaper rate.
  • Reducing my financial burden gave me more time and less stress to focus on developing my activities and growing my network of clients.

If by now you are thinking to yourself that this sounds exactly like the situation you are in.

Then chances are that you are simply not leaving yourself enough time and space to produce and structure yourself efficiently.

The leap of faith. Starting your business.

The hardest decisions are often the most rewarding ones. Nevertheless, a lot of artists never leave the starting blocks of their dreams simply because they are focusing on the now, instead of the “tomorrow”.

  • In order to fast forward your business into a success, sticking to a few established guidelines will ensure that you have something to fall back on as you discover your full potential irrespective of the time it takes.
  • Having a long term approach to your practice allows you more space to experiment, reflect and repair as you go.
  • The key thing to remember is that you need the big picture insight as you shift between phases.

Knowing and accepting that you will be making mistakes along the way. This will essentially help you to define your business and become resilient.

art-business-mural-painting
Documenting your work process and showing people what you enjoy doing is a good way to gain more exposure.

Finding your niche market, and knowing how to reach them?

Is essential to turning your art into a business

If you have already made good progress with your value proposition and your artist statement is being defined as you go.

Then Identifying a niche market becomes much clearer. Knowing who and how you are going to connect with more customers will shorten your path to making more sales.

Finding your niche market does not have to mean entering a popularity contest. Stay true to what your plan is even if other artists are taking a different path.

That is OK!

Try to focus on positioning yourself as a leader in a particular style or subject.

The idea is to stand out where you are comfortable.

  • For example, if your art is all about horses and horse riding, then your niche market will be focused on people who also like horses and horse riding.
  • Make it a point to thrive in this context by exposing your work to like-minded people. Otherwise, referred to as creating your tribe.
  • Knowing who your niche market is can save you tons of time when it comes to your marketing strategy.
  • Finding your place within a niche market is much easier than selling your work to an open network where you are more at risk of a hit and miss scenario.

There is no harm in keeping a few niche markets open if you are currently unsure of the direction you want to take.

Here are my two niche markets in no order of priority.

One.

I provide services related to art education and coaching. My clients come from diverse walks of life mostly with interests to learn how to make art or develop an art business.

Two

My professional art practice is currently focused on traditional & digital art illustrations for books and large-format paintings.

Getting To Know Your Audience.

If you want to scale your art hobby into a business you must be ready to externalize yourself to a wider community.

Knowing your target audience will make it easier to find opportunities.

Understanding what your audience is looking for can shape the way you create and market yourself.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that you have to share your work for people to see it.

Who is your target audience for your art business?

Can you identify 3 distinct environments where you might reach a compatible audience to present your work to? How to find the right audience for your work is essential for you to generate more income for your art.  

  • Just like in every industry, it is important for you to find your market and where your work can thrive to generate more consistent sales from your art.
  • Identifying your buyer profile can take time especially if your work is constantly evolving.

The value proposition and buyer profile go hand in hand. Something to keep in mind as you navigate your options.

This Picture was taken at artlab Mauritius. Several emerging artists exhibiting their art from workshops and courses.

Don’t guess about your pricing.

If art is your business. Then do your research.

Pricing to sell your art does not have to be complicated.

  • Find out what other artists in your community and niche market are selling their work for.
  • Then align yourself sensibly based on the industry-standard practices. This will give you a practical approach to enter the market.
  • If you have doubts, then consider testing the market with a variety of prices to see where you have the most success.

Format.com gives a great break down of the various aspects of pricing structures.

Selling your art does not have to mean you are selling out and going commercial.

Keep an open mind about how you want to make a living and live your dream.

How should you be pricing your art?

I have provided a link to another post that is relevant to pricing your art. If you want to check that one out just click on the title above.

  • Understanding the basics of how and why you are pricing your art will go a long way when it comes to finding your market and long term audience.
  • Not to be taken literally but it is of my opinion that it is no point rushing towards high prices until you have established a clientele that will follow you throughout your career as an artist.
  • Pricing high may have a psychological effect on the buyer even if that person sees something special in the painting.
  • Avoid the risk of burning your candle too soon by doing some research before setting your prices.

A long term following is more sustainable than gambling on a few overpriced paintings.

Get To Know

Your Industry.

Do a comparative & competitive analysis report. By this, I mean. “figure out where you fit in the market.” Your competitors don’t have to be your enemies if you know where you fit in.

Very often successful businesses require the growth of their competitors to help push the market forward.

Understanding the trends and tendencies of your industry is important for the decision-making process.

MIAF-panel-discussion-mauritius

When possible, try to participate in activities, events, discussions that fit into your style of work. Visit galleries and meet artists.

Find out who are the curators and event planners in your area of interest. Getting to know your industry can be a lengthy process, so stick to your plan.

Identifying gaps in your market can open possibilities for collaboration and partnerships that are beneficial to several parties.

This is especially important for SMEs and individuals looking to expand into different markets.

What’s next for your art business?

Once you have identified one or perhaps several niche markets, the contact time to reach potential clients is much faster.

  • If you have friends and or competitors in the same niche markets then you might decide on collaboration opportunities to increase your exposure.
  • Put together a small marketing campaign.
  • You can do this easily by prioritizing the products and services that you know you can deliver in the current context you are in.
  • Leaving less accessible ideas and projects to deal with at a later stage.

False advertising is a fast way of losing your credibility and slowing your business development to a halt.

Its no point reaching out to a wider audience for more business.

If you will not be able to deliver professionally.

  • This is a good time to reflect on what you can do now as opposed to what you are hoping to do in the future.
  • Marketing is a good way to get to know who your customers are and where you can find more of them.

Use this time to go through the trials and errors while you can. Marketing is not a one size fits all so expect constant experimentation.

Where to start?

Start by identifying a few marketing channels that suit your activity.

  • Group them into clusters of priority and their potential for a return on investment.
  • For example, knowing if your marketing is going to be free or paid can make a big difference in how you plan your cash flow to meet these targets.

Remember that free is not always the best option and investing in your hobby might be essential to seeing things develop faster than if you rely on free services or platforms.

Paid advertising.

Online is a good way to test your market research without having to spend too much.

  • Platforms and services like google add words, or FaceBook boosting are 2 examples that might show clear indicators of where your ad spend should go.
  • If you are more traditional and your target audience still reads the newspaper or buys magazines then maybe advertising in the press is a better option for you.

Why not do both if you have the budget.

Paid advertising does not have to mean expensive advertising.

There are a number of other solutions that can be met by using inexpensive online platforms that still reach your desired audience.

It’s worth doing some research and finding out which ones suit your art industry the best.

Find a support network.

Find someone or several people outside your immediate family network who can give you constructive support and motivation.

  • Participating in workshops and group gatherings is a way of sharing support together.
  • Your support network or mentor can help you with objective support and encouragement so that you can be prepared for most scenarios.
  • Relying on family support is great, just keep in mind that they will always be your biggest fans. And this is not always a constructive way of moving forward.
  • If you are in the right support network, getting access to information and equipment is a good way of collaborating and sharing knowledge.

Creative hubs, studios, and educational institutions are great for all of these things.

Turn your art into a brand and promote yourself like a professional.

Get access to pricing tools that will help you grow your network and sell more work.

Price your art correctly the first time by knowing where you fit in your industry. Develop multiple revenue streams and diversify your creative activities.

  • Again with pricing, it is important to have a support network that can guide you towards the right direction when it comes to pricing your work.
  • Close friends and family will always want your success and for that reason, they might not be the best source of reference.
  • Rather look towards a network that has experience in selling art and or art services.

This will give you a better indication of whether or not you are pricing correctly or need adjustments.

Consider studio, production, material and gallery costs

As an investment in your art business.

To turn your art into a business, you will likely need a place to produce and keep your work. If you have a big enough house you might consider making your studio from home.

In the case of the latter, you will need to factor in the cost of rent and your operational expenses. At first glance, this may seem like a huge step out of your comfort zone.

  • If it is then you are probably in a comfort zone that is stopping you from progressing.
  • Now might be the time to trust in your convictions and make the transition.

It will come across to your potential clients as more professional when they visit your studio rather than your garage or even worse, your parents house. Something to keep in mind.

Preparing for more overhead expenses.

More production will result in more initial expenses. You will need to acquire a larger amount of stock to keep up with a consistent flow of work.

  • Try not to let high expenses hinder your creativity and block you from working and pushing your art.
  • Some initial planning can go a long way when it comes to managing your cash flow in the initial set up of your new art business.

Below are a few links with more information on how you can learn how to commercialize your art as a business, and create a steady revenue stream through your passion without breaking your bank account.

How to make better art in 3 easy steps

Too often overlooked by most of us.

Artists tend to focus more on the details rather than getting the big picture right from the start.

  • The result of this is creating an abundance of art that relates to the same subject matter and often with similar techniques.
  • Breaking away from the traditional applications will automatically release a feeling of freshness and originality in your work.
  • Generally resulting in unique experiences by your viewers. Keep this in mind the next time you are stuck for ideas.
  • Try painting or drawing from your imagination. Experiment with one new technique or medium, try a different surface texture or scale.

If money is tight, which is generally always the case for emerging artists anyway, then maybe group projects and collaborative work will suit you better until you get on your feet.

As a creative entrepreneur.

Why not turn your art into business with your stories.

Everyone loves a great story.

  • Depending on the context of your current situation and activities, developing more business might not be the best solution.
  • Make sure you are staying in line with what you can deliver instead of spreading your time thin with too many ideas and services.
  • You will have to reach out to a variety of different institutions, individuals, and groups.
  • Identifying a coherent language within these clusters is essential to getting your story heard.

Think about.

What are the key elements to your story that can remain consistent?

Focus on them and share them to fit the context of your current needs. For example.

  • If you have decided to seek financial support or a partnership with an organization, banking institution or government body.
  • Then the way to structure this story needs to be presented in a format and language that is familiar to that industry.

If art is your business then make a point of it to be business-like about your art.

Establish Key Player Connections with artists & business people.

Connect with industries and professionals with an open-ended approach.

Being upfront with your intentions is a good way of establishing trusting and lasting relationships.

  • If you are not ready to leap into a project, then its best to make clear what your purpose of connecting is to avoid any misleading conversations.
  • It is ok to do some research and scouting as long as you are clear about it.
  • Try to think of a few people in your network that you would like to reach out to. See what is required of you to make these connections happen?

Consider these connections as accounts you are opening or tracking devices that you are creating between yourself and your network.

So that when the right time or opportunity presents itself, you will be ready to take action.

Summary

Think

About creating a brand around what you are doing. This could be a personal brand, or you could create an art and design company, maybe a retail company.

Either way, it is important to be registered as a business when planning to sell art commercially or on a full-time basis.

This will make it a lot easier for you to track your activities and expenses. As well as your revenue and progress while keeping your personal accounts separate from those of your art activities.

Consider

putting into place a marketing plan with strategies and outcomes that allow you to start sharing and promoting your work and services with purpose and intention.

  • This may be a short term or long term plan depending on your goals.
  • Don’t guess, rather do a competitive analysis report. Simply put, figure out what other artists are doing to sell instead of guessing and complaining.
  • This will help you to understand the local market so that you can find your place.
  • Next, Prepare your pricing guidelines and test the market with your new body of work.

Look for ways you can have access to networking opportunities by being present in your industry or participating in things that interest you.

Sketch-illustration-character

Wrapping this up

Too often people start with good intentions and then for various reasons they either lose faith in themselves or lose patience.

  • Perseverance is the key to success in any industry. If you take your business seriously, then people will also take you seriously.
  • You will find that you can scale your art hobby into business faster than you thought.
  • There are obviously countless other ways that you can develop your art practice.
  • Some of which you will discover along the way and others that might come from your encounters and experiences.

If you want to learn how to commercialize your art as a business. Then first you have to ready to commit to a step by step process. Secondly, you must be aware and accept that it will not happen overnight.

And lastly, consistency, resilience, and determination will eventually give you the rewards you are working towards.

Stick To The Plan & turn your art into a business. Remember to have some fun along the way. Why not start a blog!

Artist

David Lagesse

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