The days are long gone when artists were discovered post-mortem or on the street corners painting stills of the Eiffel Tower. When your parents told you that an art degree was useless, you trudged ahead believing you would be the exception. The good news is that it’s easier than ever to make a living — even a decent one — as an artist. Nevertheless, there’s a lot more business, marketing and promotion involved that most artists realize.
It’s one thing to create stunning pieces and quite another to sell them regularly so that you don’t have to hold down a second job. While it might be a blatant stereotype, many artists aren’t the most business-savvy people and their passions are in a completely different realm.
As a result, budget for a financial advisor or CPA as soon as possible and count on these experts to guide you in the right direction.
Look at Me!
Show your work whenever, wherever and however possible. Consult shop owners and café managers to see if they’d like some “free” (on loan) art for their business’ walls and you’ll gain exposure to a bevy of new customers. Get to know the art gallery owners in the area and be on the lookout for any opportunity to share your creations, especially in the virtual marketplace.
Pinterest is an excellent platform to showcase your work and social media sites can be linked directly to your website. Make sure you have a great web designer in your corner who has experience with online galleries, payment options and knows about responsive design and trends.
Count web design cost as an ongoing budget expense, because well-run websites that update content frequently rank higher in search engine results. The bottom line is, whenever you’re not creating, you need to be promoting — whether it’s on social media or the coffee shop down the street.
Follow the Money
Make sure customers have the option to buy work directly from your website and/or brick and mortar studio. Remember, galleries, some shops and other outlets take a cut for promoting your work for free and that can quickly eat into an up and coming artist’s budget. Also be open to offering commissioned work and promote that service whenever possible. Consider a deal — or even taking a daily deal avenue — to get the first few commissions under your belt.
Another interesting way to find funding is through foundation and government grants for artists although the requirements can vary drastically. If you fit into a certain niche, such as being a Native American artist that creates Native American-centric paintings, you can start searching for grants geared toward that market.
There are definitely avenues for making a living as an artist, but it takes time, sweat and determination — sometimes even more than you put into your creative process.
Adrienne Erin is a social media marketer and wannabe artist who works with cut paper and animation. She’s had a great experience combining her artistic interests with her more technology-oriented interests in marketing.