How to Devastate Your Art Career with Inaction

Inaction will rock your art career in a devastating way

A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. — George S. Patton

What General Patton is telling you is that doing something is always preferable to doing nothing. Waiting to perfect your marketing plans before you take action will wreak havoc on your art career.

Your art career success is on you.

Your art career is only as good as the actions you take to make it happen. You know there are no organizations or persons waiting around with big plans and fast actions to make you successful.

Wait! There is someone – it’s you!

Fortunately, you are there for you, and for now that is all you need. By launching your art career, you automatically became the CEO of you, the artist. You also became the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker. While it there is awesomeness in being in command, as you are already aware it is always challenging to manage all the facets of running a successful operation.

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On the business side of your art, knowing what business you are in, as covered in this recent How to Cure Your Art Career When It Needs a Kick in the Ass post is crucial. Besides the critical understanding of knowing the surprising answer about what business you are in, to compete and succeed, you need an efficient art marketing plan. Moreover, your plan requires frequent, if not daily, actions aimed at getting your art seen and sold. You need focused effort to create awareness, stimulate interest, build desire and make sales. Without it, your career can stall and stagnate.

Don’t be a victim of the 3P’s.

While some plan is necessary, action is more important as emphasized in the quote from General Patton. Often, artists and other entrepreneurial careers are stymied by the 3 P’s:

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Procrastination
  3. Paralysis

For artists, perfectionism can strike in two critical areas of their business. Some lack the ability to know when good is good enough and take forever to finish their work. This leads to a dearth of production, which causes many other problems. Without adequate inventory, it is nearly impossible to gain gallery representation. It also hinders sales because the lack of variety loses sales. If your work becomes popular, and you can’t meet demand, you have more problems. All these things can lead to lethargy and depression that further complicate the issue of career lift off.

Make perfection a work in progress rather than a completed goal.

The second area of potential perfectionism for artists is in the field of marketing. Waiting until every aspect of a marketing plan is thoroughly planned, scripted and produced wastes an enormous amount of time – back to General Patton’s advice.

When you sit on something until it’s “perfect,” you miss many opportunities. — Michael Hyatt

Bestselling author, blogger, podcaster, speaker, and consultant, Michael Hyatt, calls it the Perfection Trap.  In the post linked here; he describes a paradigm shift that changed everything for him. Here are his three ways you can adopt this new paradigm and break free from the Perfection Trap:

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Change your perspective. We need to reframe the way we approach our projects. Almost nothing is permanent; why would we think our projects are? In a world where things change as often as they do, it’s a strategic advantage to adapt and update a plan as needed.

This is especially true in information products. However, it’s true for other projects too, even art. Finishing means you’re free to add value to a new project sooner.

Narrow your focus. Perfect is the enemy of the good, but so is distraction. If you have too many irons in the fire, you’ll get burned out. It’s better to focus on what matters now and see it to finish. Then you can turn to the next thing.

Much of the time when something is not perfect, we put it aside and work on something else. However, we lose focus, and when we try to do too much our quality suffers along with our output.

It may not be grammatically correct, but good is better than best, especially if we’re trying to do too much.

Don’t confuse perfection with excellence. Anyone who knows me knows that excellence is a high value for me. But it’s not the same thing as perfection.

Perfection doesn’t take into consideration of the cost, time, or significance of something. It’s just an illusive, unreal, unattainable goal.

It’s better to do good work really well. That way you’re contributing to people’s lives, instead of locked in your own head about whether your work measures up an impossible standard.

A Pox on New Year’s Resolutions.

I am not a big fan of New Year’s Resolutions because they are a waste of time. I think the best time to make changes is now. Further, I don’t look at business, especially from a marketing perspective, like working in an annual calendar year. I think it is much more efficient to plan and work in rolling 12-month increments. It is a central part of what I teach in my 8-Steps to Art Marketing Mastery course.

Steven Covey is the author of the seminal self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which has sold more than 25 million copies. Covey has great advice on how to get more done each day. Being proactive is Habit #1, and is integral to the other six habits, which require it. Because proactivity is so important to each of Covey’s habits, it proves the inverse that inaction will devastate your art career.

Seek your Highest Value Opportunities.

To get the most from being motivated to take action, it is important to work on your highest value opportunities (HVO). Not understanding this concept thwarts many careers. I can’t tell you how many times in my career, I was derailed because I didn’t use this concept. To be honest, for a long time I was not even aware of the HVO concept. Now, I realize all kinds of small businesses lack of awareness about it.

For me, and many others, it seems we get off track and move away from the HVO for a couple of reasons. I have felt at times like there was a competition between bright shiny, objects and responding to urgent, but not important activities. I found pursuing them ultimately led me astray and wasted my time.

I have too much personal experience in being blown off course.

These were sometimes reacting to an offer to collaborate with someone else to pursue a potentially high flying venture. Other times, it was just me becoming distracted by an idea, (seemingly brilliant at the time), of my own. Alternatively, it might have been something else alluring I encountered that pulled me away from the urgent, important activities on my business. In these cases, it wasn’t necessarily a lack of action, but rather it was a cause of inaction on my most important business dealings that languished without my attention on them.

For the latter, it might have been me chasing a “hot” new moneymaking idea of my designs or something I encountered, usually on the internet. Regardless, I ended up wasting valuable time I can never get back. So while action is always better than inaction, targeting the HVO is what makes the action, however imperfect, pay off.

Prioritize your HVOs!

I tell you this to urge you to prioritize your HVOs and make the commitment to stay on your HVO no matter what. In a sense, they become touchstones that will guide your decisions about whether to jump into an attractive, compelling offer, or get involved in some other time consuming activity.

Warren Buffett is the world’s best investor and one its richest men. He makes investing decisions based on what he calls opportunity cost. His top criteria, when determining where to invest his money, are to make sure he uses the available funds for the best opportunity. He asks, “What is the cost of lost opportunities if I tie my money up in this investment.” If you use this concept to prioritize your art marketing activities, you will continually refine your business practices resulting in greater returns for your efforts.

Targeted action is a killer app that will boost your career!

So, besides urging you to take action without being perfect, I want you to have confidence you know the value of the actions you choose to take  –  especially what the long-term value and profit is for you.

I will throw in one last admonition. When you make decisions involving partners, you need to know how much control you will have in the business. The less control you have in the deal, the more awareness you need of the opportunity cost. I’m not telling you never to partner, just carefully weigh what you will give up in lost opportunities to join.

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Cardinal Rules for Pricing Art

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Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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