I know you would feel much more at ease if I could advise you to first do this, and then do that, and then do this other thing, and if you follow each step precisely, you’ll be assured a spot in the history books. But I can’t do that.
What I can do is give you some sort of idea of the phases artists work through over the course of their careers: a timeline of artists’ career moves from just starting out to the highest levels of establishing and cementing a reputation.
First, a word of caution: Because an article is linear, you might read this and think that you have to implement one step before you can move on to the next step. This isn’t the case.
I can’t come up with a single artist who has hit on each one of these points.
Artists who are full of confidence and forging their own paths can jump past entire sections!
Hopefully this list will plant the seeds for your next move.
Beginning Your Art Career
- Start your mailing list immediately. You will have no idea what to do with this, but trust me. Just start the list, even if the names are on scraps of paper in a shoebox.
- Join and become active in a local artists’ organization.
- Show your art at local coffee shops, restaurants, bookstores, churches, salons, and, libraries.
- Post your art on Instagram or a Facebook business page.
- Try selling your art from Facebook.
Host open studios. Invite people to be on your mailing list.
- Sell your work to friends and family. Rejoice in the fact that they want the work and are happy to support you, rather than bemoaning the fact that you have only friends and family buying your art.
- Enter juried exhibitions. Become increasingly particular about your venues.
- Develop a recognizable style.
- Get a professional website. Start driving traffic to it.
- Add another social media platform to your marketing mix, such as Pinterest or Twitter.
- Offer commissions. Always deliver on time (or early).
- Invest in a white tent, and enter the art festival circuit.
- Meet artists, curators, writers, art consultants, and influential people.
- Teach classes to become known as an expert in one area.
- Dedicate yourself to a monthly newsletter or regular blog posts.
- Continue your education. Challenge yourself to expand as an artist.
- Enter more prestigious juried exhibitions, including those in other states.
- Speak to an audience about your work.
- Write about art for a local publication.
- Have a solo exhibition at a local non-profit space.
- Gain local gallery representation. Continue promoting your art – knowing that you do a better job of it than a gallery can.
- Meet local collectors and businesses. Start selling your art to them.
- Get featured in local publications and blogs.
- Inventory and improve your marketing material.
- Win awards.
- Apply for grants or public art commissions.
- Snag a solo exhibition at a non-profit space in another city.
- Meet more curators, writers, art consultants, and influential people.
- Receive grants. Don’t rest for too long! It’s time to leverage your success.
- Plan art journeys to see what is available in other cities.
- Continue learning.
- Sit on grant and awards panels, and judge exhibitions.
- Receive public art commissions.
- Place art in corporate collections.
- Have solo or small group exhibitions in nearby small museums and in university galleries.
- Donate your work to a local museum or art center.
- Gain gallery representation in other cities.
- Hire people to help you with certain aspects of your business. You will always be CEO of your art business, but you’ll need help juggling commitments.
- Understand that higher levels of success come with more business responsibilities.
- Gain gallery representation in a larger metropolitan area.
- Work is acquired by a larger museum.
- Receive more prestigious honors.
What’s your next move? Tell us in a comment below.