DO YOU EVEN ART BUSINESS?
People really think that you can create art and do nothing else….and STILL sell it! They fail to understand that they are essentially an unknown in a large world full of millions upon millions of people. In addition to being an artist you really have to take control over your art sales and be a business entity as well. I don’t mean that you have to have several staff members in order to be taken seriously, I mean that you have to do the jobs of several staff members.
Sometimes thinking about all of the marketing and promotion as well as the creative stuff seems like you are doing way too much or that you are out of your realm in a way. I was lucky enough to have been a business type of person anyway, prior to my entry to the professional arting world. If that isn’t something that you have in place then my advice to you is to DO YOUR RESEARCH! It won’t hurt you to have more knowledge in your area. It really can only help you, and your art business. Even with my extensive background I actively seek more knowledge in all art business areas.
I suggest starting with the basics. I consider the basics to be the following:
1. Business Plan
· Artist CV
I know it looks simple and complicated at the same time. Really it makes sense to focus on your business plan first. After you solidify this, the other things will come much more easily. You might be saying “What is a business plan?” Well, simply put it is a literal plan for all of the aspects of your personal business. This is where you define who you are as an artist. Do you want to just do specific types of art? Are you going to teach? Are you available for commission work? Do you plan to exhibit? Will you make a storefront on Etsy, Saatchi, or any of the other sites? Or will you run your own store, with your own inventory either from your website or some other site like Tictail?
You will also need to figure out if you are going to use your name or just make a studio name. I personally went with a studio name because I offer teaching services and other things. It would have looked odd if I had simply said I offer teaching services at Jen Hernandez’s Studio. I honestly didn’t like the way that sounded and it certainly wasn’t as official as I wanted it to sound. I think it also helped me to solidify that this WAS a business when I removed it from my name and my personal art. Sure, my art is a part of me, but I can see where the line is.
When you decide on a name I would also start thinking of a color scheme, this is one of those things that can make or break your advertising…but also allows you to be a bit creative as well. Once you know your name and color scheme you will be ready for all of the other things that are to come. You should make a list and answer all of the questions that I listed earlier in this blog. You should also add other questions.
Some other questions you should be answering should be what social media sites are you planning to have a presence on? Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, Deviant Art, Blogger, Pinterest, YouTube? There are more popping up daily. It helps to know how far you want your reach to be and define how much time you plan to devote to keeping up with any of these. I personally have all of these listed, and more. I find that Instagram makes it super easy to post on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr at the same time that you post on Instagram. That is the part that I love about it. What I don’t really like about it is that it is hard to get loyalty with Instagram if you are relatively unknown. I also hate that it inevitably causes you to have to crop photos pretty drastically at times, which apparently only bothers me.
You may be the type of artists that only wants to do craft fairs and shows like that, you may only want to show in museums. You may never want to officially show your work at all. Some people only do digital art, some only do canvases. Some do both. You have to figure out what your personal business model requires in order to bring you revenue.
So don’t be afraid to ask yourself all of these things and more! Make sure you know what services you want to offer and settle on the prices. It isn’t legit when you are asked how much an item is and you’re like “um….how much is it worth to you?” That is NOT how you run an art business that succeeds. Yes, worth of artwork is completely up in the air because those who really are meant to be your audience will buy your art and pay the value they think it is worth…but you really set that standard. I am pretty tame with my costs, but I have an actual formula. Part of my costs depend on the quality of the paints and the time I have in it. You have to figure out what will work with you for pricing. You have to know what kind of product you are offering and what kind of price those things have. For instance, I have coloring books and calendars in addition to my normal artwork...I also have magnets. When I do events I put these on my table to generate interest and give people an affordable item so they will come to the website later looking for more.
I see artists all the time that really limit their success. They will charge $40 for a work of art that they spent a lot of time on or that is on a large canvas. Not only are they saying that their time and talent isn’t worth much, but they are limiting other artists who are willing to charge what is necessary. I have also seen those who add one scribbled line on a canvas and charge $5,000 for it. Personally, I think that it is a joke. I think they people make a mockery of art in general and of those who actually have talent. You can say what you want and have your own opinions, but not everything is art. Scribbling isn’t art, one line isn’t art, a dot isn’t art…yeah they sometimes get lucky and sell things because people are so quick to buy into controversy, but it isn’t art.
The bottom line here is that it is art if you really use your creative mind to make it. It is art if you take your time and energy and you leave a bit of yourself imprinted on it. Don’t be the cop out…don’t be the one that causes other people to laugh at art and the artists that really expose their souls in their work. I will even go as far as to say you can even be the “Artist” that paints pictures of already famous cartoon characters and other things that have a following already as long as YOU are doing the work and you aren’t COPYING someone else’s lines and overall concepts. You are allowed to sell your talent and creativity short by only marketing ideas that were originally thought of by someone else or making art that is based on popular opinion rather than feeling. There is nothing that says you have to be a GOOD artist or even one with ORIGINALITY. Just don’t infringe on copyrights and licenses. If you got that I am telling you to copy someone else’s work that is NOT what I said. I said that you may take a character like Mickey Mouse for instance and paint your own Mickey doing different things or Alice in Wonderland concepts with your own spin….BUT you lack originality, AND you have to be careful to NOT infringe on COPYRIGHTS and LICENSES. Regardless, it is always best to use your talent and skill for good, not for evil.
After all of those things it makes sense to take a look at the contracts that you may need to run business. Are you using other people to finish things on the work like models or anything? If so you will need a contract for them. Are you using references from photos? If you are you will need a contract. Are you going to do commissions? You will DEFINITELY need a contract for something like that. Do you plan to provide services that would require payments or anything? Those would need a contract. There are plenty of sample contracts available online for almost anything you need, but again…DO YOUR RESEARCH. You can tweak them to be what you need exactly in most cases, but if you do that too much they could lose their original meaning….or be way too involved to use or help you. If this is a huge issue for you then I recommend consulting an attorney for these. That being said, you will most likely require some sort of contract for some aspect of your art business. Do not disregard this and do not engage in certain types of business without having an enforceable contract in place. All too often I hear an artist say that they did so much work on this or that and the customer just petered out on them and they put so much money into a thing that they won’t be able to get back….they didn’t have a contract. So sad, they could have enforced an agreement if they had the foresight to just require it before work started.
Finally, for the business plan part you will need to have an Artist CV. This is a basic resume for ART ONLY. Nobody cares that you tend bar or that you were a dancer. Nobody really cares about your fancy over-priced education at whatever college you think makes you better at arting. Hopefully, you have some art activities or shows that you have been included in to put on your resume…but if you don’t then start MAKING some. Enter “Calls for Art” and “Juried Exhibitions” so that you can start adding things to your resume. Don’t neglect to make one because you don’t have those things though, just show what experience and skills you do have until you solidify the others. I have what they call a “Visual CV”. You can find examples where? ONLINE! Pinterest, Google, whichever you have. Search and ye shall find. I used Canva to make mine, which I really stand by their stuff by the way! Inside TIP: I USE CANVA A LOT….FOR EVERYTHING THAT I CAN USE IT FOR….AND I LOVE IT.
There is such a large world out there for artists now, and so much room for exposure or ruin. You don’t have to have a website for your art business…but I recommend it. I say this because people use the internet more for every aspect of their lives now, some people ONLY have social lives on the internet. If you don’t have a web presence then you don’t really have a business.
That being said, there are SO MANY OPTIONS for websites and web hosts. I have used a few builders and eventually settled on my favorite, but I recommend researching hosts and costs PRIOR to settling on one. You want to also make sure your business name is what you want it to be before you spring for a specialized domain name. My first website looked okay, but the builder was hard to navigate and the host was awful so even though I paid for my site it was almost never really online and running. I ended up having to start completely over because they messed up my stuff so much and then having to transfer my domain and stuff. That was a hassle I hope you never have to go through. I was much more careful the next time.
So, at the point that you have researched the hosts and things you should already know all of the content that you want to build. I know that there are free websites and services, but that may not meet your needs for what you want to accomplish. You should expect that you need to spend some money on your business to actually succeed. You are asking people to invest in you and your product, they don’t want to do that for a product that isn’t even defined. People are a lot more likely to take you seriously if you are willing to invest in yourself. Especially in the art business people are looking for a certain type of status before they feel comfortable investing a large amount of money into art. They also want to know that they are buying a real artist and not just a wannabe.
In conclusion, you ARE a business now. How you choose to find success or failure is really up to you at this point. You have the option of putting the work somewhere and hoping for the best, but real success in the art business takes effort. If you don’t give it a fair shake you will never really know if you failed at it, but you will still feel as though you failed. So, I suggest really taking an inventory of what is needed for success, what you have, and what you are willing to give. If you are willing to put in the work then GO FOR IT! If you want something handed to you then it is possible that art isn’t the business for you. I know how hard it is to identify all the things that are needed, but I hope that this is a good jumping off point for you. Let me know what you think and how it is working for you!
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