The stereotype of a “starving artist” can often ring all too true for creatives everywhere. The challenge of finding buyers, keeping a steady workflow, and maintaining your own sanity at the same time can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are a few strategies for thriving as an artist.
Learn to Fail Well
Any artist is going to encounter moments of self-doubt and failure. However, to make it as an artist, you can’t stop there.
As Ashley Longshore puts it, “Self-doubt keeps us humble and human…You fail just as much as you succeed, if not more.
So, you have self-doubt, but you learn how to overcome it 100%.” The problem is not failing, it’s failing well. Learn from your mistakes and allow them to empower you to try something new. Thomas Edison was well known for this approach, as he famously said, “I have not failed 10,000 times…I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”
Maintain an Online Presence
It should come as no surprise that online presence is everything. A high-quality website showcasing your work is a good place to start, but so is an online store, an active blog, a presence on social media, and the like.
In addition, regularly posting on or updating these platforms will ensure that people (i.e. your buyers) maintain connection with you on an ongoing basis.
Serve Your Audience
In a similar vein, you’re more likely to maintain a strong following on social media platforms and on your website if you seek to serve before you sell.
Freebies, DIY tutorials, practical art tips — whatever is relevant to your brand — will help keep the conversation going and encourage people to interact with you regularly.
In addition, serving your audience will build trust and help customers value you beyond the products or services you offer.
Charge What You’re Worth
This is often the hardest lesson for any entrepreneur to learn, but perhaps more so for artists.
Take a good hard look at the range of prices on the market for the services you provide, add up the amount of time you invest into your work, and take into consideration the practice or training that it took you to achieve the level of skill you possess.
Then, price yourself accordingly. You can always adjust your prices as needed, but do try to “pay yourself” what you’re actually worth.
If you still struggle with this, try asking some friends or family members what they might be willing to pay for a particular art piece or service — this can help you get an idea of where to start.
Outsource as Needed
It’s tempting as an entrepreneur to do all the administrative work yourself, on top of actually creating your art.
While this may be a valid strategy if you’re already gifted in those areas, sometimes it makes more sense to outsource the task to someone who is already an expert in the field.
Entrepreneurial social media groups are often a great resource for this, as you’re likely to find someone who can complete speciality work for you in a fraction of the time it would have taken you to do it yourself.
Freelance online marketplaces are another great source for one-off tasks or even an ongoing business relationship. In the end, this will free you up to do more of what you love while sparing you from entrepreneurial burnout.
If selling your work or services isn’t quite cutting it, get a little creative. Host a workshop in your area, start teaching art classes, or see if local vendors will host your work for sale.
This need not be limited to in-person avenues as well — online art experiences or pre-recorded lessons are also an excellent way to get your work out there and help you make ends meet.
Connect with Others
In addition to growing your network with other artists, it’s helpful to connect with other businesses as well.
You can expand your audience by offering a little bit of your work for free; for example, donate to a charity auction, offer your service to a successful local business for free, or host an event featuring your work.
This will allow you to connect with a slightly different audience than you would have otherwise, effectively expanding your reach and helping you get more potential customers as well.
It can be hard to make it as an artist, but the most important thing you can do is to simply keep your momentum going: keep sharing your work, serving your audience, and reaching out to make new connections.
Though it may feel overwhelming at times, know that you’re not alone. Almost every entrepreneur has encountered the same challenges you may be experiencing.
As long as you keep going and keep pursuing what you love, you have a good chance at thriving in the field
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