The Hard Part of Your Work as an Artist

Marketing wizard Seth Godin recently wrote about the hard part of any job.
He says:

Hard is not about sweat or time, hard is about finishing the rare, valuable, risky task that few complete. . . .
Identifying which part of your project is hard is, paradoxically, not so easy, because we work to hide the hard parts. They frighten us.

Toni Ruppert
Toni Ruppert painting Grandpa Reads to Me. ©2010 The Artist

The hard parts of my work are:

  • Sending an extra email to my list to promote an upcoming class or a new product. I know it has to be done because people rely on those reminders and that's when I make the bulk of the sales. But I also must prepare myself for a number of people who will unsubscribe.
  • Saying “I can't help you” to a potential consulting client.
  • Setting aside time to develop new resources for artists. In other words, making myself sit down and think and write. This, too, is changing. I'm overflowing with ideas and am about to hibernate so I can implement some of them quickly.
  • Holding my tongue and forcing kind words when I really want to slap sense into someone.
  • Not holding my tongue and wishing I had. (This happens more than I'd like to admit.)

What's the hard part of your work?
What frightens you?
What are you procrastinating?

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23 thoughts on “The Hard Part of Your Work as an Artist”

    1. Mostly I have done mailings to galleries, sending a cover letter, my website information and including a couple of postcards with images of my art. This isn’t hard, but it hasn’t been very successful. At a recent marketing seminar it was suggested that the best way is face to face contact with the gallery with portfolio in hand. I have my portfolio ready, I think you could say I am facing resistance to move forward.

    2. I would try multiple approaches, including using social media and sending postcards. I have a new Instant Answer Guide coming out with this approach.

  1. The hard part of my work is knowing when good enough is good enough and moving forward towards my goals, rather than stagnating on one small point.

    1. Right now I’m working on my website and putting the finishing touches to it. I want to make it as good as possible to convert people into buying customers. I have worked a long time on it now and I just want to launch it so I can start going out and taking more photographs again.

    2. I suggest setting a deadline and telling everyone about it. That’s the only way I got my new site done last summer. You sound so close!

  2. Alyson,
    You do such great work and help so many people. You are a role model to me of someone who keeps learning, working, and making a living from something that you have a passion for. Thanks for this post – it is refreshing to think that you have these “hard parts” and keep at it anyhow.
    I can have “issues” in all areas, but new technology gives me the most trouble. I’ve learned to go in little steps, make lists, and take breaks when I’m too confused. All this makes painting even sweeter.

    1. Lillian: Thanks for your nice words. And there are a lot of other hard part. Sometimes you just have to hold your nose and do it.
      Technology is a big one for a lot of people. You’re not alone!

  3. Hi Alyson, It was really nice to see the picture of me working. It seems like lately all I’ve been doing is eating, sleeping and painting(and sneaking to check my e-mail.) Thanks for sharing the hard stuff.
    Balance. Finding balance has been especially hard for me. I’m afraid I won’t make a penny at what I’m doing–or that my client will be mad at me for missing my deadline so I work, work, work. (My husband has helped out immensely with the home-life while I paint.)

    1. Toni: Don’t tell anyone, but I gave up on balance a long time ago. I realize I like what I do too much to fight for “balance.” I’m sure you do this, but remind your husband of how wonderful he is.

    1. Lawrence: Do you do formal networking events? Or are you just talking about informally at openings, etc?

  4. The hard part (most frightening) is putting my best work out there and worrying that it’ll be followed by complete silence… whether at a gallery, show or online.
    This hasn’t happened lately, but I worry about it anyway.
    the hard part (just plain hard) is managing a busy life along with making my own art and working on the business end. I need to streamline my activities by giving up some in order to work on the more important ones… the ones that will make a difference for somebody else besides myself.

    1. Lori: I think we all worry about our work not being accepted.
      Why do you think that your activities need to make a difference to others?

  5. The hardest part is balancing art with my day job: I’m PhD student in a field decidedly unrelated to art! Paining, let alone marketing, always has to take second place to studying. 🙁

  6. The hardest part is selling a painting at a discount to a friend (as wedding present for that friend’s friend) 5 months ago who initially paid you 50 dollars and said they would pay the rest in two weeks, but has yet to pay the remainder and refusing a payment plan offer twice in the meantime, all the while not returning 4 polite voice mail reminders (over the past 5 months) in regards to them moving to another city and us needing to settle before they move, then sending an email cussing me out for “bugging” them about it. Yeah, today sucks. Get a contract. Always. I wish had that painting back.

    1. Will: Gosh, I’m so sorry about that. It’s awful when money deals come between friends. I always say that’s where you need a contract most. It’s either a contract or a friend and I choose the friend.
      Doesn’t sound like a very nice friend to me!

  7. Hi Alyson, thanks for all your help!
    The hardest part for me is finding time to paint in large blocks of time.
    Balance is more of a problem now that my husband is retired.
    Also hard for me is fatigue, and other health problems. Some days I just can’t up the steam to do much at all, let alone paint.

    1. Leslie: Of course, your health comes first.
      Is balance a problem because you want to go out with your husband, enjoy his company? Or does he interrupt you?

  8. I’ve been given the responsibility of managing my father’s life body of art work. He is 88, has been prolific, dropped out of exhibiting in the 60s and is still working.
    We have over 400 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and lots more. I am recording conversations with him about his life and work to document and catalogue it. My goal is to re-introduce his work to the art world, to have it included in significant public collections and arrange some exhibitions while he is still alive.
    I love this project which will continue for the rest of my life, but I frequently feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do and I am not an artist, this is not my background. I feel comfortable with the documentation and cataloguing but approaching curators and gallery owners with a convincing proposal is a huge barrier.

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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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