You might be making mistakes in your art business that are holding you back from big growth.
Mistakes aren’t bad, and I don’t want you to feel like you have to be perfect in everything you do because seeking perfection is a sure way to be paralyzed by fear. We have to make mistakes in order to learn and to grow.
Mistakes are only detrimental if you keep repeating them without learning and correcting your ways.
Are you making any of these mistakes?
Not knowing where you want to go with your career.
I’m not talking about the need to have a specific plan, but I’ve noticed how few artists, especially when they’re just starting out, don’t “get” that running a business is serious stuff. You’re no longer making art for pure pleasure.
Everything changes when you start asking for money in return for your talents. For some artists, it changes for the better and you’re fired up to get your art out there. Other artists can’t stomach the pressure and lose all interest in making art. They can’t seem to get into the studio.
Is it more important that your work is in a museum, or that you earn $50,000 a year? The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but you will make different decisions if one is more important than the other. Only you can decide what is best for you.
Set goals and plan a path (or at least make some decisions) to get you there.
Not following up with people who express interest in your work.
Wow! Someone said they liked one of your pieces and talked with you about it for 25 minutes! And you just let them go???? Were you hoping that they’d magically find you, call you up, and ask to buy the work?
1. Ask such people if they’d like to be on your mailing list. If you can get one of their business cards, even better because you can send a personal “nice to meet you” note in the mail.
If they say No to the mailing list or if you forget to ask, track them down and find an email or address and send a quick note their way.
2. Tell them about a show or event you have coming up and ask if they’d like to receive an invitation.
3. Invite them for a studio visit.
Too many artists find a safe place and stay there for decades. You hang out with only watercolorists or potters and enter the same shows year after year.
Is that not you? Maybe your protective shield is the Internet. You stay in your studio and live your life online.
In both instances, you’re avoiding challenges and, therefore, avoiding growth.
Great art is informed by what we encounter on our journey in the world. Get out! [Tweet this.]
Ignoring your finances.
You can’t expand a business if you don’t know what your profit margin is or you don’t pay taxes and bills on time.
Ignoring your finances doesn’t make the problems go away. On the contrary, it compounds the problems.
My clients who start paying closer attention to the money trail find the experience enlightening. Either the situation isn't as bad as they had imagined, or they are able to identify what must be done in order to improve their bottom lines.
Trying to do it all yourself.
There comes a point when you have to stop wearing all of the hats in your business.
Investing in help for your art business means that you are then free to work on the most important tasks that bring in income and recognition. These include making art and being the face of your marketing.
You will wear yourself out if you continue doing everything yourself. Not only that, but your best work will suffer and everything else will be substandard.
In my experience, you should hire help while it still stings your pocketbook a little. You’ll never wake up suddenly with an extra wad of cash to spend on personnel.
Waiting on someone else to sell the work.
Nobody cares about your success more than you do and very few people – gallerists, curators, agents – are going to be interested in buying/selling/showing your work until you demonstrate your interest in the same.
Artists who are just starting out are especially fond of focusing on gallery representation or in finding the mythical agent that will do all of the work for them. The gallerist might come in time, but you have to pay your dues.
You have to create a market for your art from the ground up. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You must be dedicated and ready for the long road ahead.
Presenting yourself in an unprofessional manner.
Examples of unprofessional presentations include:
- Talking smack about festival organizers within earshot of visitors.
- Self-designed (especially over-designed) marketing material that has no coherent message.
- Missing important deadlines.
- Showing up late to appointments.
- Not returning phone calls or emails promptly.
- Using crappy photos of your art.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Again, the goal isn’t to be perfect, but to show the world you care about how you and your art are perceived.
And, without a doubt, the biggest mistake you can make in your art business is . . .
Neglecting your mailing list.
The people on your mailing list are your collectors, fans, and supporters. They have asked to be part of your career.
Nobody else has the same list.
When you ignore the people on your list, you are saying that you don’t care enough to stay in touch.
When you promise a monthly email and fail to send it for many months, you are saying that your art career is unimportant.
When you contact your list only when you want something from them (e.g. sales, attendance, signups), you are saying that you value the relationship because of what you can get from them rather than what you can share with them.
Don’t you see how much easier it is to enjoy nurturing relationships in an authentic way rather than contacting people only when you want something?
Use your list! It’s your #1 asset.
I know this is just the start of a list. What mistakes have you made in your art career? Please share in a comment so that other artists can learn from your experience.