So you are a professional artist. You are self-employed. You are the Chief of Production, Finance Manager, HR, President of Marketing & Sales. You are the Chief Executive.
You wear many hats and that’s just the way you like it. You like spinning plates; or else why would you be here?
There isn’t anyone who will tell you in the morning that you are late for work or indeed early to clock off, and these are human temptations especially when the sun shines.
Just like the singing Sirens in ancient Greek mythology, the women whose beautiful singing lures sailors to wreck their ships on the rocks; just so the prospect of lingering a little too long in the deli for another cup of tea, taking time away from making for a tennis match to be had with the folk down at the courts, maybe you might be able to squeeze an hours sailing, a dog walk, cutting the grass, or painting the gate…all beckon! They are sent to stop you working.
Some of these things are true recreation and are needed in work-life balance like sailing or walking the dog.
But the cutting of the grass, painting of the gate are work which steals your time and had it been used to make art and had you paid an odd job dude to finish these things for you, you would have a healthy net profit. Finishing the commission, submitting for the next competition or show, or even completing the funding application for that community arts project are all more important than any of these daily life flotsam things which result in no work being done for week after week after week.
Understanding that not all reasons are excuses
You might not have been waylaid by the sirens, you might have lots and lots of good reasons why you have not produced any new work, tweeted any images, written your blog, listed your event, uploaded your new products to your online galleries or simply sate down and painted anything new.
You might say you have a child under the age of five, or that you have been busy building a website or decorating a rental or supporting your teenager through their exams..or this…or that…or whatever.
All valid reasons and good, excellent so you have not been building the brand – you are the boss. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to moan about a lack of money (like so many artists), or are you going to work your way into a viable position? Excuses are boring.
Remember; if you treat this like a part-time job, you will only ever have part-time money.
You and your artwork are the brands
Like any business which produces stuff for sale; your artwork needs a brand to support it. In the world of art and artists, the artwork and the artist are the brands. The artwork on its own will be a tougher sell without you being dynamic, on point and without artwork you can’t very well say you are an artist – well you can but an artist doing what?
Striking this balance is essential. When do you need to be out and about sharing your art and when should you be in the workspace making more art? In your heart, you will know when you have neglected one or other. There is no room for guilt or recrimination; just get back on the horse and do what has to be done. That is the word ‘professional’.
What’s in a name?
You need to think about this and decide how you are best represented. Some artists will use their whole name, some just one name, others will use the name of their studio or house. In essence, it does not matter the name is purely a vehicle; a brand you can work to strengthen and promote over time.
The name (and logo) will need to be replicated everywhere from business cards to fan pages, pricetags to websites. Everything needs to reinforce the brand.
Using social tools
With social media these days it is relatively easy for anyone with hard work and diligence to get a social following in the thousands. This is essential if your reach is to extend beyond you’re the real-world locations of where your art actually is.
With social media, you can promote yourself and your work around the world. With paid-for advertising, it is also very easy for you to target your work to be seen by folk who like or have an interest in whatever it is that your work depicts.
You can do it organically and free or, you can save time and just pay for that service to be done. You need to decide what is the best fit for you. If you have lots of time, do it yourself. If the time spent tapping a screen means you do not get more artwork made, get someone else to manage this for you and pay them.
Feeding the social animal
Once you have an audience, you need to coax it, nurture it, feed it regularly and talk to it. Otherwise, it will show signs of neglect and like anything in your care, if you neglect something its probably best if someone else takes care of it.
This means you need to be producing something fresh all the time. You can share shots or details of works in progress so your followers can see you are hard at work. You can show finished pieces, you can share good news if your work is now available in a gallery or elsewhere. But you must feed them at least three times per week. This is a rule for growing your audience.
Keeping a social record of your progress
In reality feeding the brand by way of social media also provides you a very good benchmark based on your own output which you can measure yourself against in the future in terms of how ‘good’ you feel your work is, to review what you were doing last year and the year before against the new work being produced this year, how many events did you attend? How many places showed your work? How many pieces did you sell?
You will know if you are busier this year with your output and you need to be. Constant improvement is the goal – Kaizen!
Keeping it fresh and new – always
It should not need to be said that if a piece of work has been seen at open studio and maybe two other exhibitions and has still not sold, place it on a wall somewhere where it can be seen by the public and swiftly move on to finishing the new stuff you started when the old one was being framed.
In art, there are no Laurels to rest on unless you are dead.
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