It’s no secret that we love some parts of our business more than others.
There is no way I can say with a straight face that I enjoy marketing and bookkeeping as much as leading my classes like Create Opportunities or coaching my dedicated private clients.
I don’t expect you to like everything you have to do.
I can, however, say with confidence that artists who happily embrace their role as CEO of their businesses do better than artists who fight it and wish they didn’t have to deal with the grind. Wishing won’t make it go away. It only makes you more frustrated, anxious, or resentful.
This doesn’t mean that you need to fake joy whenever you’re paying bills.
It means that you accept that it comes with the territory. You rise to the challenge because you know it’s a necessary step toward achieving your goals.
I will continue to remind anyone who will listen that not every artist should turn their art into a business. It's a whole different game when you start asking for money for your art, and many artists don’t feel the same about making art once they start offering it for exhibition and sale.
But if you choose to go the route of earning money from your art, do it wholeheartedly. Own it.
You can be pouty and grumble about all of the hard work necessary for something you said you wanted. Or you can find ways to enjoy the journey.
How would you rather go through life?
I choose to find ways to be happier, and to remind myself to be grateful for the incredible opportunity to control my destiny. To work with talented, generous, and inspiring artists.
I want to tell you what makes me happy about running my own business. What helps me get through the rough patches, and there are plenty of those! Then I’ll share some ideas for you.
What Makes Me Happy About Running My Business
Running a successful business means long hours and many sacrifices, but the rewards are unparalleled.
I am over the moon happy …
That I can work anywhere in the world and at any time of my choosing.
When Clients have Aha! moments. When they really get what I'm encouraging them to do or try. And then …
When students and clients implement what I'm teaching and start seeing results. We celebrate client results frequently as a team.
That I can introduce students and clients because I believe they might collaborate or inspire or motivate one another. And that later, sometimes years, I receive a photo from them after they finally meet in real life—often going out of their way to pay a visit on the other side of the country or even world.
When I receive an email or card full of gratitude from a client who took the time to write.
That I could go almost anywhere in the U.S.—and almost anywhere in the world—and meet up with someone who has read my book, listened to The Art Biz podcast, or been a student in one of my online programs.
All of these things make me ecstatic to have my business.
You Should Be Happy About
If you are listening to this you are likely an artist who can express yourself freely. Millions of people in the world face jail or worse for self-expression. Forgive me for should-ing on you a bit, but you should be a little happier to remember that you have this freedom.
Moreover, you should also be happy that you have the autonomy to start and run a business that focuses on something you have such a passion for.
If you have created a business from your art, you should be happy and extraordinarily proud that you took this initiative and built it from scratch. It’s a huge, brave step. You’re not just making money. You’re also building a legacy.
Many people will never have the guts to do what you’re doing.
Yes, there are things you have to do in your business that you won’t love, but avoiding them will only hold you back. Try to have fun along the way. Try to smile more, and remember your blessings and all you’re grateful for.
Discover the little things that bring you joy, and do more of them.
Because I’ve been working with artists like you for so long, I have an idea or two (6, to be exact) that might make you even happier about running an art business.
1. Go complaint-free.
Stop complaining about being so busy or about doing work that you don’t like. It’s exhausting to be on the receiving end of this, and it feeds a negative mindset.
Complaining is an enormous waste of energy–yours and that of those around you. Nobody wants to be around a complainer, and the complainer just keeps digging a deeper hole for their woes.
It’s easy to jump on the whining bandwagon, and more difficult to ignore the noise and irritations. Notice the things that are riling you up and practice ignoring them. I say practice because this is a muscle you will build.
Stop complaining. Period. Then get to work.
2. Raise your prices.
There are few things more dispiriting than selling your art for a price lower than what it’s worth.
[ Free report: How to Price Your Art ]
You’ll be happier when you place a proper value on your time, talent, and effort. Low prices hurt other artists as much as they hurt you.
I love it that two members of my Art Biz Accelerator just held virtual hands and raised their prices 20%. Together. They each knew they needed to do this, but it was a big deal for each of them. They took the plunge because of the extra support and accountability, and they’re both doing better than ever.
3. Collaborate more often.
I seem to have to remind students and clients how important their network is, and that they need to make a point of seeking collaborations.
I use the term collaboration broadly to refer to working with other people to advance your goals as an artist. Any. Other. People.
Seeking collaborative relationships is some of the highest level thinking I’ve witnessed in the thousands of artists I’ve encountered over the past 2 decades.. Artists who collaborate simply have more ambitious goals.
I’ll give you four quick examples from The Art Biz.
In episode 27, Jill Powers talked about how she collaborated with volunteers, chefs, scientists, venues, and more for a single exhibition.
In episode 86, Jerry McLaughlin and Rebecca Crowell discuss how they collaborate on a learning platform for artists.
In episode 126, Willie Cole reveals how he collaborates with top brands.
In episode 153, Danielle SeeWalker discusses a long-running photo and film documentary with a fellow artist.
All very different collaborations designed to help the artists fulfill their creative visions.
I know it can sometimes be frustrating working with other people, but the potential reward is too promising to overlook. As curator Melissa Messina said in episode 136, your network is everything.
Not only will you be happier when you collaborate, you will also stretch your business muscles and expand your audience when you bring more people in on what you’re doing.
That brings me to my next idea for how to be happier about running your art business.
4. Find your (artist) people.
I don’t have to tell you that the artist’s life can be solitary. You might be okay with that. I know how much I value my alone time.
But there is no reason you should try to figure out all of the pieces of your art business on your own. Your people—other artists who get you—are out there somewhere.
Within the right artist community you will:
- Learn about opportunities before they are ever made public.
- Find understanding for your challenges.
- Get help figuring out strategies for your next move.
- Celebrate your wins with like-minded spirits.
- Be inspired by artists you admire.
Artists’ communities are everywhere, but you must make the effort. It might be a local artist group or perhaps an online community like our Art Biz Connection, which you’ll find at ArtBizConnection.com.
As I like to say, it’s fine to DIY (Do It Yourself) but you don’t have to DIA (Do It Alone).
5. Encourage someone else.
Be happier by making a fellow human happy.
Send a direct message to tell someone what a great job they’re doing. Brag on your students. Brighten someone’s inbox, Facebook page, or mailbox with your art.
I’m not encouraging you to spam people with your art, but if you make uplifting art, send images of it along with sincere love and gratitude to your friends and family. Imagine their joy when they receive your message.
This should make you smile.
6. Get your art and yourself out of the studio.
There are stretches of time when you must disappear into the studio—laser focused on making new work. Eventually, you have to come out of hibernation.
Too much time alone in the studio isn’t good for your mental health, your creativity, or your prosperity.
What happens when you're in the red and unfulfilled? Disappointment, negativity, gloom.
Getting your art out of the studio and in front of people gives you a greater chance of selling it. The circle of creation is complete because people are viewing and responding to it, and you are connecting with those people.
This leads to greater happiness.
Connection is the Strongest Theme
The strongest theme that emerges from this list of 6 ways to be happier about running an art business is connection.
Connecting with the right people can lift your spirits—whether you’re initiating collaborations or being a valued member of an artist community.
And remember that you don’t have to do all of this. It’s what you said you wanted.
You have freely created an art business where none existed before. Be proud of all that you have accomplished on your own while knowing that you don’t have to do it alone.
If you have been missing that community of artists, but haven’t found your people, we’d love to have you join us in the Art Biz Connection.
This post was originally published on May 5, 2016, updated May 1, 2019, and has been updated significantly with original comments intact.