There are three things that work against artists making a living from making and selling their work: the (seemingly) fickle nature of people’s taste, the fickleness of the market, and (sometimes) the artists themselves.
Movies and television have fed us that trope for years: the temperamental artisté who isn’t good at “real life.” The writer who won’t use a computer. The painter who hates cell phones. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with liking typewriters or hating cell phones. But if you are counting on being discovered, lauded for your eccentricities, and left alone to create while other people handle your money for you, you might be waiting a really long time.
If you’re not interested in making a living with your art, that’s one thing. You working a day job and you make the time to create. But if you want to make a living with your art, you can’t afford embrace that faux artistic temperament and ignore the practicalities of running a business.
If you’re going to make a business of making art, you need to be able to approach it, in part, as a business. It helps to start doing that from the very beginning. That means creating a workable business plan.
What you need to know about creating a business plan
The Mission and Vision Statements
Every business plan, and every business, begins with mission and vision statements. Naturally you know why you’re an artist. You understand the drive it requires. But there’s something about putting it down in writing, codifying and clarifying it so that as you move forward, they are more than words on a screen. They are the foundation of your future success.
Yes, you want to create art and sell it. That’s the larger goal. Establishing some benchmark goals, however, will help you plan the steps you need to take in order to make that a reality. Where do you want to be in three months? Six months? Nine months? A year? You want your goals to be ambitious, but they should also be reasonable. You want to be able to march forward, but you also want to make sure that your goals aren’t so abstract that you grind to a halt when you hit a stumbling block. (And you will.)
Identify your customer
No, it’s not about making art to satisfy a customer. It’s about focusing your marketing and social media strategies to create the best possible outcome. The thing about being an artist is that while it may sometimes feel like no one notices what you do, it’s important to remember that there is an audience – and a customer – for everything. The hard part is knowing how to focus your marketing so that you’re working smarter, not harder.
That’s really the entire trick to giving the business enough time so that you can keep making art. Work smarter, not harder. It means more than just being comfortable wearing multiple hats and working on multiple levels. It means that, on some level, you thrive on it.
Starting and running your own business is always a risk, regardless of the kind of business it is. Turning your art into your business is a unique kind of risk, though, because you’re risking more than just the very important tangibles of time and money. You are also risking that intangible part of you that drives your art and makes you who you are. The bravery required to put your passion on the line is necessary. But you need to protect that passion as much as you can.
However, if you forged ahead without a business plan, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and write one out. There’s never a wrong time to sit down and rethink how you’re doing things, and creating a business plan is a good way to re-evaluate and reorganize your business so you can focus on your art. There’s plenty of information out there to help you, too. Remember, part of working smarter, not harder means making use of available resources. Check out the Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Development Center, and SCORE a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses in your state.