Being a professional artist can be a discouraging road to take when you are attempting to make a career of it. In fact trying to make a career of anything creative is usually met with a struggle between having what is considered a “Real Job” or being able to live the rest of your life on Ramen soup.
That’s how I used to feel. The truth is that although the concept of a starving artist is popular and somewhat romantic, having that perspective won’t do anything to pay bills. Some people may feel that they need to have hardship in order to be creative… This won’t do anything for your bills either.
The truth is that my discouragement came from viewing myself as some kind of socially awkward creative genius who was misunderstood by society. Although this made sense of why I wasn’t openly sharing my art with the world, it was a lie to excuse myself from doing more as far as creating a career as an artist. The interesting thing is that the more I talked about how hard it was, the more people I found to agree with me on how impossible it was to do what you love.
Honestly, I had to get a few things straight in my mind before I was able to fully apply myself in making a living as an artist.
I needed to view myself as a business person and not a socially awkward misunderstood artist who was being kept down by the system. The only system that could keep me down is my own lack of willingness to expand my business and open myself and my art up for criticism.
Remember, starting a business of any type can be difficult at times, especially during the first year. Most businesses don’t start to turn a profit until the third year. As an artist you are your business, you are the brand so your ability to interact and mingle with all kinds of people is paramount. This doesn’t mean you have to be a social butterfly, just be yourself.
On a side note, my advice on “criticism” of any type is to remember that everyone has different taste and different expectations of what art is. That’s the beauty of art, it is unique to the perspective of the artist and some people will love it and some people will hate it. The trick is to not care either way and appreciate and love whatever it is that you create. I’ve made it a point to say “thank you” to everyone that comments on my art because they are going out of their way to share their opinion, even if it’s negative.
Although running your own business can be difficult, the payoff is immense. First off you make your own hours, you are your own boss, and you get to do something you love all day, every day. You also will share a part of yourself with the world and grow immensely from that experience in talent and confidence.
For a lot of artists, having galleries display and sell their art is a dream come true. Although this is a step forward, it takes time to build a reputation that will allow your art to sell for the kind of money that will allow you to live comfortably. The time it takes to build this reputation is up to you and consists of marketing yourself and your art.
The first and most important marketing strategy is word of mouth. Find events and festivals that you can go to or display your art, the most important element is not selling your art but talking about it and yourself with everyone you meet. Talk about it.
Find ways to market your business, then find some more ways to market your business, then find more. It’s fantastic that you are doing what you love and you are creating art, but remember that this is a business and not a hobby. Find ways to market your business through ads, marketing materials, or other creative ways to create a buzz about you and your work.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in running my art business is that as long as I don’t allow myself to get discouraged and continue striving to get my name out there it is impossible to fail unless I give up. So it’s quite simple for me… If I don’t give up, I could never fail.