You might not think of it this way, but as an artist you are the owner of a small business. Accounting, inventory, and marketing are all part of the process of getting art out to clients. Finding time to build and maintain relationships is essential for success. Developing and managing a website and following through with your social media are time consuming, but necessary to extend your reach. Each of these tasks alone could keep you busy most days, and we haven't even mentioned the most important work: creating art.
Tip #1. Organize your Business
This strategy may be the least exciting to read about, but proper organization is critical to the long-term success of your art career. Some artists ignore this side of the business, as it is tedious and takes time away from creativity. I would encourage you to look at it a different way. Building a well-run, well-organized environment around your art will allow you to avoid the disarray and frustration that surrounds many artists as their work sells and inventory changes. By being organized, you free up time and energy to focus on creating.
The most important place to start is inventory tracking. It can seem overwhelming to inventory a career's worth of art, so I recommend working backward. That way you'll start with the art that is freshest in your mind-and the work you need to have details on hand for potential buyers. Then you can take a trip down memory lane and archive your past work.
Inventory each piece of art with a photo, and create a numerical system that enables you to find the work with ease and saves valuable time.
You'll need to record the title, dimensions, inventory number, creation date, price, medium, and subject matter. To get started, check out this free, simple to use PDF - Artwork Inventory.
Tip #2: Organization
I encourage you to take a look at the past year and the number of pieces you produced and what sold. By setting goals for increased or more efficient production in the next year you will be more successful.
One tip that saves me a lot of time is todoist.com. Todoist is a free online task and project management web app to organize workflow. It gives you a lot of flexibility to move tasks around and prioritize them, allowing you to adapt to changes in your schedule or production needs. This can help prevent you from bouncing from project to project without completing the task. Who doesn't love crossing things off their list.
Tip #3: Delegate
Perhaps the hardest thing is letting go control of any aspect of your business by delegating to someone else. As artists, we often have to figure out how to do everything on our own. After a while, it becomes a way of life and we feel pretty good about the fact that we can do so much by ourselves.
Ultimately, however, our self-reliance can become a hindrance to our long-term success. Yes, you can do your own bookkeeping and taxes, and yes, you can ship your own art, and yes, you can clean the bathroom, but is doing these things the best use of your limited time?
A week consists of 168 hours and every minute you spend on one task is a minute you can't spend on another.
You might say "I'm a starving artist, I can't hire anyone." Indeed, you may not be able to hire someone to work full-time for you, but if you can simply farm out some of the more basic parts of your business, you will find you have more time to create. Consider having a bookkeeper take over your day-to-day financial record keeping. Hire an art-student to come into your studio weekly to organize and clean the studio and catalog your artwork. Hire someone to take over and coordinate your social media. Any time saved is more time for creativity.
Tip #4: Keep the Social in Social Media
Artists know relationships sell art. Social media is a great way for artists to market and promote their work, connect with buyers and ultimately make the sale. Social media is the ultimate word of mouth marketing.
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? While sites like Facebook and Twitter are great for marketing your art business, social media is meant to be exactly that-social. People who follow you want to be wowed, not sold to. Therefore, when considering what to post, stick to the 80/20 rule: 80 percent entertaining, 20 percent promotional.
The way to accomplish this is through content marketing. By posting fun and engaging content about behind-the-scenes aspects of the art, you can actually help sell by creating goodwill towards your business. It opens the door to keep your patrons engaged and interested in you as an artist outside of shows.
For example, try creating a time-lapse video during the creation of your piece or make a video blog about your latest residency. Post a work-in-progress picture asking followers to stay tuned or give them a look inside your studio. Or, make posts as interactive as possible. Ask your audience questions like suggestions on what to name a piece.
Each social media channel is different, not only in the way you post but what type of audience may be following you. Instead of posting the exact same thing to all your channels, try to mix it up. If you post one work-in-progress picture to Instagram, add an entire photo album on Facebook of your process from start to finish. It may take more work, but it will be more enticing for fans to follow you on multiple social media accounts and increase your sales.
A successful art career depends on many factors and the above are just a few tips that are key to building a successful career as an artist.