Nine Lessons To Learn The Hard Way

April 13, 2009 at 5:18 pm (Uncategorized)

If you enter into a creative field, there seems to be a list of lessons that artists always learn the hard way. At first, I thought it was a bad thing, but in retrospect, learning these things early, by living them, is far cheaper than learning them later down the line.

Putting your artwork in restaurants and model homes is a great way to get our name out there. Go ahead, try it. And after 6 months, try and retrieve your tomato sauce stained painting, or your cracked sculpture from the model home. There’s a good chance also that it is gone, and nobody knows what the heck happened to it.

First off, these people are not your market. Sooner or later, you need to spend the time getting your work in front of people that are looking to buy it. If you spent a year putting your work in restaurants, its a full year you didn’t market to the right people.

Local boutiques and speciality storesEvery town has a few boutiques and speciality stores that will hang artwork on a commission basis. Are they out trying to help artists? No, they are collecting free inventory to make their shop look better. And most think they are justified in charging outrageous commissions, up to 50%! For any commission larger than 10 or 15%, they should have a background in art marketing and promoting artists. If not, they are just using you to get a freebie.

Artist co ops are a great place to hang my work and make friends. Not all co ops are bad, but the majority are filled with insecure drama queens who love being the big fish in the small pond. They are full of politics, and are very friendly until your work sells better than theirs. Then, look out, which leads me to the next item.

Collaborating with other artists is fun and great networking. Let’s face it. This is a business, and it’s filled with alot of people who will never be able to get their business off the ground. Instead, they try to ride on the coat tails of others, thinking its an easy way to jump start their careers. Be wary of the friendly artist, chances are, they are out to use you.

To be an artist, I have to look the part. Cool, go buy a beret and walk around town wearing a smock. The truth is, if you stop being yourself, and begin wearing all black because “that’s what artists do”, then you have already sold out your unique vision, and will have a hard time creating anything worthwhile.

Take work based on what’s “to come”.Every creative person runs into potential clients who promise tons of future work and tons of referrals if they are happy with the price and quality of the first job. Your best course of action? RUN!!!  There is a very specific personality type that throws this type of comment out there. You will never get a referral and never get any future work from a person who makes this claim.  And they will make you jump through hoops to get paid off the original job.

Borrowing money from yourself against future work. You may have the work lined up, or have an agreement for future work. The reality is that you have nothing until it is in the bank. Borrowing from yourself thinking you have work lined up can easily send you scrambling or directly to the poor house. It only takes one time for this to happen. It’s not a done deal until the money is in the bank.

When times are lean, offer more services. There are many artistic business practices that operate the opposite of regular businesses. This is not one of them. When times are lean, you may have the idea to spread yourself out, and offer new and exciting services. The best course of action is to take your best selling, proven items and effectively market them. Every new item or service you offer requires marketing, time and money. And if times are lean, do you want to focus on learning how to market a new idea, or market something that is proven to generate cash and you already know how to market?

Online communities are great networking tools. Every field has an online community. And online communities all go through different phases and growing pains. For most fields, online communities play a vital role in professional development, NOT marketing. While it’s nice to create relationships with other people in your field, this time does not market you to your potential clients. Watch where you spend your time.




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