Are you an artist that sells their own work? Then let me tell you a secret – you are an entrepreneur. Or maybe a small business owner. Those labels might not sit well with everyone, but that is the reality, and to be able to continue creating and selling your passion, it helps to have a few basics in place, and basic number one is a vision for your business. As the old saying goes, you don’t set off on a car journey without knowing the destination, and for a business, that destination is the vision. The place you want to get to as an artist. By clearly defining the destination, you can dedicate time to what will help you get there. What's in this blog?
Let us have a look at a simple example to bring the idea to light before I show you how to build this yourself and the benefits it will bring. Artist A, who has been generating some good money selling paintings as a side hustle through a friend's gallery, has decided they want to make this a full-time job. Their vision could be…
"Within 12 months, I want to be able to give up my day job, promote my work to people outside of my local community and eventually make a comfortable living whilst having the respect of people I know in the art community."
… we will come back to this vision at the end.
What Do You Want
Whilst writing a vision for your future as an artist might seem quite a commercial and uncreative endeavor, it’s about allowing you the freedom to express yourself, putting the focus more on what you want to achieve, and keeping you looking ahead. It should actually be a very selfish process – what do YOU want for your future?
Think about short and long-term goals, put them on paper and look at what that means for you in two, five, or maybe even ten years. Your art is what defines you, so make sure you are clear in what you want to achieve so that your art will work for that future. The worst thing you want to do is work hard for another 12 months and then, at the end of it, realize you are not fulfilled – setting a vision gives you something to measure and target.
How To Get Going
It’s never easy coming up with a vision for a business, it’s even harder when that business is you and your art. To help you get going, I find people benefit from asking themselves a series of questions and then looking at what those answers mean.
Is this your full-time
It’s a critical starting point that has a big effect on how you will work as an artist. Most people will be targeting one of three areas:
I am working full-time as an artist and want this to continue
I am working part-time as an artist and want to make this full time
My art is a hobby and side hustle, and I want this to remain the case
Depending on your category, the vision for your art business will be different. Anyone that’s looking to convert to being an artist full-time will need a strategy for how that happens. They will need to understand what level they need to earn to make this financially viable. You also need to think about how you sell your art. Do you want to sell it yourself or have someone else do this? How involved in that side of the ‘business’ do you want to be? These affect your involvement with the audience, so consider how important that is to you as an artist.
Who is your audience?
Understanding who you want to appeal to will have a significant effect on your future and how you work. A lot of artists have a specific audience in mind when creating their art, which in the world of marketing is a great advantage, it’s something we call your niche. By identifying this niche, you can target them better and increase the chances of people buying your art. You’ll need to find the right galleries to display in or the most appropriate websites to place your products on. The greater your understanding of your end audience, the better you can appeal to them. This can significantly improve the experience for you as an artist, cutting out so much wasted time. How will you measure success?
Understanding this will drive plans for your year. Maybe if your measure of success is about becoming recognized and being talked about for years to come, then you will want to take part in a specific number of exhibitions each year or enter a certain amount of competitions. It will require a strategy of raising your profile. If it’s just about the money, then you’ll be focused on the number of art pieces you produce and how well they sell. You might target gradually increasing what you charge for your artwork or producing smaller pieces so you can produce. This could also be about targeting a specific audience that can afford to pay more for their art – again, this informs your artistic direction, so think carefully about this. For some, it might simply be about fame. If that’s the case, then you’ll think harder about the artwork that will stand out and get media attention, and you might also consider how to utilize marketing to raise your profile.
Mission vs Vision?
You may want a mission statement to compliment your vision but remember they achieve different things. The mission statement is about your values and guiding principles. What is your passion, and how do you want to achieve the end vision? For example, if you are a crafter and your vision is about becoming renowned in a specific field, within your mission statement, you could explain that you’ll achieve that through any means necessary, or maybe you could state that you only want to achieve that by working sustainably.
Times, They Are A-Changin
As Bob Dylan kindly taught us, things will always change. It is ok for your vision to evolve. You should review it annually and assess if the things that mattered to you 12 months ago are still critical. Ask yourself those same questions again and see if any of the answers have changed. If the last 2 years during this pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that we can never settle and assume the world won’t change. Circumstances change, people change, and you need to react to that and set out your vision accordingly.
What This All Means
Let’s return to artist A and the vision they set out with and look at what that means for how they go about the year ahead. “Within 12 months, I want to be able to give up my day job, promote my work to people outside of my local community and eventually make a comfortable living, whilst having the respect of people I know in the art community” This vision informs many actions they need to set themselves
They will need a financial plan for how much money they need to live on. They also need to review their savings to understand how long they could survive if they fail to get increased sales immediately
They will need to review how much art they produce currently and what that generates. This information is used to set a target for the amount of art they will need to produce regularly
They might want to take the opportunity to look at add-on sales, like putting their art on accessories or clothing to obtain additional, passive income
They will need to seek out new places to display their art, they cannot achieve their vision just by utilizing their friends’ local gallery
It’s also nice to recognize what doesn’t need to happen. They won’t need to seek out PR because they are not interested in general fame or recognition outside the art community. And ultimately, that’s what setting a vision is all about. Have a focus on the things you need to do to achieve your goals, and don’t waste time on things that do not matter. Think about what matters to you, set yourself goals, ask yourself questions and in the end, this little bit of work will drive you forward and allow you to focus on the thing that matters, your passion for your art.
Do you want to know more about turning your creativity into a business?
Of course, you do! That’s why I'll write more articles on this topic. I want to help you understand that creatives can also be good entrepreneurs.
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