One of the most-used business metaphors is the ladder of success.
With this metaphor it’s assumed that you start at the bottom and work your way to the top rung in a predictable, progressive fashion. Wouldn’t it be easy if you always knew your next steps?
But this isn’t how your business works.
Think about it. What’s at the bottom of the ladder of success? What is the progression of steps? And, most importantly, what in the world happens when you get to the top?
When you get to the top, are you finished? Is it all over?
I have never heard of a single artist – visual, performing, or otherwise – who thinks they’ve attained the highest level possible in their career.
I think that’s why, even though I use it, I have a problem with the word “success.” Growth-minded artists keep moving the target for success. They’re never quite satisfied.
You will keep going for as long as you breathe.
You’re creative, after all. You want to learn more, improve your art, and flourish from accepting new challenges.
You want your art to be seen by more people, to be acquired by ever-prestigious collectors and institutions, and to leave a legacy.
Artists don’t reach the top and say that’s it. They keep going!
Your Art Biz Career Circle
Rather than the using the metaphor of a ladder, I use the circle to explain how art businesses and careers expand. Here’s how it works.
I believe there are three primary areas of focus for an artist’s business:
- Inspiration – filling your well of ideas – about 20% of your time
- Studio – making art – about 40% of your time
- Marketing & business – everything else – about 40% of your time
The time estimates here are rough and certainly don’t break down this neatly daily or weekly. You bounce back and forth within the circle as your focus changes, depending on your goals and obligations.
You might stay in studio mode for one day or one week without giving a care to marketing and business. Or you could remain there in mornings and leave the afternoons for business.
At some point, you have to fill the well – you have to seek inspiration so you can continue making art and growing as an artist. This means enrolling in a class, talking with other artists, reading a book, or visiting galleries and museums. It could just as easily mean taking a nap or scheduling a vacation.
Your Expanding Circle
You don’t finish a marketing task and declare you’re done with it. You know you must return to it in the future. Ditto for inspiration and studio. You’re repeating many of the same things to build your business, month after month and year after year.
With this consistency and repetition, you become more sophisticated. You learn what does and doesn’t work, you adapt, and you add new tools, strategies, and technology.
So rather than looking like a ladder, your business growth looks like this.
The inspiration-studio-business distribution doesn’t change much, but your circle gets larger and includes more responsibilities.
The blue line illustrates the bouncy path you take, while the pink arrow represents the upward movement of your career.
Remember that there is no top of the ladder for growth-minded artists. There is plenty of room for more circles – more advancement – beyond what is visible.
Each artist finds his or her personal trajectory. You will find your own way.