DIY Rescue for Artists

Your art is your present to the world, but it isn’t a gift until someone has received it. That means you have to make the work and market it (get it out of the studio!).
To do this effectively and sanely, you must first acknowledge you need help whenever and wherever you can get it. You must understand that the DIY mentality is severely limiting when you're trying to make money.

Keep the DIY Mentality for Your Art Only

Most artists are overwhelmed with the work that must be done to build a business, but they resist turning over tasks to professionals who can assist.
When you seek support for your business from consultants, assistants, and other professionals, you:

  1. Gain valuable time to focus on your genius work (making and marketing). This is what makes you money!
  2. Allow other people, who are probably better trained than you, to use their strengths for your benefit.

This is why you must lose the DIY mentality for every aspect of your business. You must learn to delegate.

Where Others Can Help

What is taking up your precious time?
What are you doing that someone else (who is more gifted in that area) could do better?
Keep a list of all the tasks you are currently performing that someone else could do. You don’t yet have to do anything with this list, but you must begin it if you want to experience future growth.
Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Home: cleaning, cooking, shopping, mowing, weeding, fixing, car washing
  • Studio: stretching canvas, finishing work, preparing work for installation
  • Venues: hanging art, mounting wall labels
  • Marketing: addressing and stamping postcards, certain social media tasks, preparing blog posts, website and email template design
  • Business: bookkeeping
  • Events & openings: catering, sales, host duties

What tasks do you need to be rescued from in order to make more money from your art business?

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26 thoughts on “DIY Rescue for Artists”

  1. I currently have people doing the cleaning for me, and although I still have to take care of the small children, the marketing part is the hardest part that I’d like to have someone take on for me. 🙂

  2. Two years ago I put an ad on Craigslist for a “household assistant”. I had specific stipulations for the type of person I needed, what I would pay, and probable tasks. I had a great response and found a fantastic person who comes ten hours a week as a supplement to my bimonthly house cleaning. I have given her tasks that sap my creativity, mostly the routine stuff like laundry and keeping up with household maintenance.She files reference images for me, will clean my brushes, and help with organizing my shows. I plan to have her add to my email list after my recent open studio event. What she does in 10 hrs it would take me 20 and I’m replacing those hours doing more what I love and am good at.

    1. Excellent idea on the Craigslist ad. I was thinking on getting an intern instead but i don’t know if they are required a minimum of hours of work. This sounds better and more flexible.

  3. Another perfectly timeg post Alyson. Thank you!
    And thanks Karen for your story, I plan to use your model for an assistant that crosses over from household and studio tasks!
    The good news about this season is that I have 5x the amount of inventory ever.
    The other news is that my marketing strategy is clearly designed for the previous amounts which I easily sold out, but now I have a heap! of inventory.
    I have known that the diy is limiting but only now do I deeply experience it. It has had me reach out, and so far, with great success: a long awaited assistant has appeared!
    and so has a venue for a pop-up gallery in a fancy local town where I know a total of 3 people who also happen to be extremely well connected to art buyers.
    Yay! and scary to rely on other people and be in relationship with other humans!! eeek!

  4. I think that the hardest thing in this world is to’ find the right person for the task. I come from a very strong marketing background and still strgling to find the right profile to seriously help in this business. I’d love to pay a serious professional to follow my ‘business’ career (contact galleries, now to which venues and event participate, have a strong organizational base to solve shipping and handling issues, etc) in order to concentrate on the art making, but how do you find such a profile and moreover how do you know if is a serious one or just a fake? It seems that in the artworld there aren’t any serious business lists/tools and it all works on a he/she says basis. I find this extremely tiering and time consuming

    1. I agree with you Rosamaria. I don’t know how to find people like this unless you have fairly big bucks to hand out. But this is indeed the task I would most like help with.

  5. As small a non-profit, we do not have the budget to pay an employee. We have reached out for volunteers and interns and had some interest, but all have been no shows. It seems what they really want is not gallery sitting or office tasks. What they want is to curate, write catalog copy or plan their own solo exhibitions. We try to be very clear what thier duties will be when they interview.
    We had one potential volunteer tell us when we called him to help with an opening, that he would tell us when he was available, not to call him.

    1. NFP: That’s horrible! As someone who used to work for nonprofits I can attest that training is paramount. You really have to have a dedicated staff person to do that training and keep an eye on employees.

  6. Hi Alyson,
    Thank you for a perfectly timed post. I began this just a few weeks ago by hiring Kim Bruce to redo my website and that was huge for me – now I am scheduling someone to come to the studio to detail my car as well as someone to do a nice deep clean my house! Hiring Lisa Call for some personal tutoring was a huge eye-opener for me too. I have had a personal trainer for years and could always justify that, so why not other areas?
    Like our President said, ““If You Are Successful, You Didn’t Do It Alone.”

    1. Way to go Aryana! I’m looking into the car detailing person myself. I just can’t seem to drag my butt to the car wash.

    2. OK, today the car detailer came out and I was able to continue working in the studio as my car became cleaner and cleaner – what a joy!!!!!
      Next week the house cleaning “team” arrives. I could get used to this………..

  7. Excellent advice. But I agree with Lucy, if I could turn over the marketing tasks to
    a capable person, creativity, business and life in general would be greatly improved.
    My biggest problem has been the inability to pay for any extra services, especially in this difficult economic environment.
    So I continue to struggle along, in hopes of a much better year in 2013!

    1. Joanne: Try budgeting a small amount here and there so you can focus on your genius.
      You will ALWAYS have to market. Always!

  8. My biggest time consumer that takes me away from my studio is a different kind of marketing. I have to do my families marketing at Trader Joes, Costco, the local super market and if I am feeling like an Earth Mother that week, then I need to do marketing at the local Farmer’s market as well. Sometimes my husband helps out, but he is busy at his work. I am trying to train my teen aged daughters to do the marketing and once in a while that works out.
    I’ve talked to other women artists about how they get their household tasks done and we have all agreed, we need a “wife”.

  9. A book that might help us artists get organized is one a calligrapher friend of mine gave to me. Its called Organizing for the Creative Person by Lehmkuhl & Lamping. Since most creative people have very strong right brains, this book is helpful because it shows the best organizing methods for right brained people. It also explains why we are the way we are and what is good about us.

  10. I totally agree with the necessity to delegate….I now have a friend help me with FB posts and Etsy updates…earlier, I would put a new piece for sale on my website and leave it at that….once in a while I would upload new artworks on Etsy…but then in September I sold a $500 painting on etsy…which made me think…and look at statistics…I realized that I sold more on etsy than through my website..which meant I can’t ignore etsy…which meant I need help…now that I have someone to do all that…I am much more relaxed and focused…

  11. Hi there Alyson – thanks for the excellent article.
    Oh boy I sure fit the bill as the stubborn DIY artist who is thwarting her own progress!
    But I’m **finally** getting the courage to loosen my “DIY” grip on stuff I know would better served with expert help. I’m taking the ‘slow and steady’ approach, ie: do what I can afford to delegate today, then take another step. It’s helping me move forward.
    My most recent ‘let go’ step: hiring a photographer to shoot 80% of my art. Getting over the photography hurdle will allow me to finally move ahead with a web-store on my site and increase my art mix.
    What a relief to finally sell the photo cube and lights I wasn’t using, and to collaborate with a professional who takes great photos in a fraction of the time I spent still fiddling with my darn lights and cube!
    I’ve got a long way to go to release more tasks off of my plate – I see the vision and will continue to get out of my own way in 2013. The list is long!
    Alyson, thanks again for all that you do. As I begin to look back on 2012 – I realize I’ve taken some big steps with my art biz, and you’ve been instrumental in providing the information and on-going encouragement to take them.
    Hugs from Yes and Yay HQ,
    PS/ one possible resource worth mentioning for short-term studio/business assistance: my artist friend Marcia has hired a studio assistant for a 2-3 month period via a website called HelpX ( Both women are really happy with the arrangement. From what I understand it works as an apprenticeship program in exchange for room and board. Not for everyone, but perhaps worth a look for those willing to try something new!

  12. This is a great post, Alyson! Effective use of time is a key aspect of success in any business, but I think it is even more critical for artists. The ideal situation would follow the 80/20 rule. In this case 80% of the artist’s time would be devoted to creating, researching and skill development.
    With the electronic world developing at a rapid pace, artists may want to consider a Virtual Assistant (VA). The write VA can help with everything from social media, blogging and websites to travel arrangements, proposals and marketing. If an artists choses to go this route, communication is paramount. You really have to know specifically what you want and be able to define success. The nice thing is that you can choose how many hours per week/month that they work to control budget. Michael Hyatt recommends a company called “eaHelp” for VAs. You can google them to see if there is a fit.
    Thanks for the post. I think it is excellent advice for artists to focus on their strengths and outsource to open time!

  13. Reading comments from Frances re. hiring someone to do her photography gave me
    a (hopefully) great idea.
    I am going to try to find among my list of folks who want to take some of my classes,
    someone who is a great photographer. And I will try to barter classes for photography.
    This will help greatly to finally get more of my art out into the world, and even though the classes take some of my time away, I would be getting something done that I
    hate doing and I am not very good at. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Hi Joanne – glad I could spark an idea for you re photography.
    I love the idea of bartering too if there’s a good trade between your art/classes and a service you need to move ahead. Perhaps a photographer will snap photos of your classes at the same time? : )
    I should also clarify that I have LOTS of my own photos on my website (including my new e-store) because otherwise I’d be waiting a long time to get anything ‘out there’.
    I’m trying to relax about ‘waiting for the perfect photos” and put my best effort out there NOW, knowing that my delivery system(s) will improve with time and experience!
    Take care!

  15. Hi there, thanks for the great article! I’d love to delegate, especially the many different marketing tasks. I think a professional help could not only disburden me a lot but also provide me with interesting oppurtunities. I really missed out some design and art fairs this year just because I didn’t manage to take care in time. Being a starter I thought, if I gain more experience in marketing, the time I need fulfilling these tasks would decrease. Wrong! There more I improve, the more there is to do!
    And I agree with Frances, taking pictures is a real time eater, especially when you still learn how to do it properly! It is not only taking the pictures itself, but the hours I spend on photoshop.
    Being a starter I can’t afford hiring anyone yet, sad but true. But in the creative quarter I rent my studio, now an association of the local artist has been founded, I hope that we all together might find a way to hire someone for the heavy works e.g. before a venue (painting, building things for a booth or other ways of presenting the art).

    1. 26 years, of doing my own promoting of my art and art of course itself and day jobs and dealing with people, who could help or be supportive, but generally, don’t.
      On a positive note, good things and opportunities are only there if I show up. Balancing it all and staying committed and believing in my art through all that’s available and that could be.

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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