The Best Ways How to Manage Your Career Expectations

Do you have a plan for your career expectations?

Art careers are like art. Both look different depending on your perspective. None are ever alike. They are, as Da Vinci noted, never finished only abandoned.

Art careers also are like success. That’s because they are intensely personal. And, only the artist can define what success and career expectations mean to them.

It’s not their monkeys and not their circus

not their monkeys and not their circus
It’s not their monkeys and not their circus!

People can attempt to put expectations on you. It doesn’t matter if they are well-meaning, ignorant, or mean-spirited. They can neither decide what success is nor set career expectations for you.

Some will try. It’s your job and your right not to let others push your buttons. That is not to discourage you from taking input from qualified people. It is constructive more often than not.

Live Your Best Artist's LIfe
Live Your Best Artist’s LIfe

For sure, opinions from your spouse, partner, and family matter. You should at least listen if your decisions impact them. But, they don’t get to decide. That’s your job alone.

The choice is yours

Patrons, pundits, critics, gallerists, dealers, educators, and friends are also worth a listen. Sometimes they are in a position to offer useful suggestions or insightful ideas. But, as already emphasized, it’s your decision and your choice.

I know it’s easy for me to tell you these things. The reality is resisting dominant persons who insist you act on their suggestions is sometimes hard to do. It takes the courage of conviction and a dose of gumption to stand up for yourself sometimes. But, it’s within you to do it. Believe in yourself.

It’s true. We all make compromises. It’s how most progress gets done. Still, it’s your choice alone to empower anyone else to affect your decisions.

The art world has the occasional maverick who may prevail for awhile. In due time, they will find their sharp edges rounded by life and experience. A deep dive on the most iconoclastic characters will reveal they had strong influencers in their careers.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

How do you manage your career expectations?

We already noted the uniqueness of this answer. Many factors go into coming to grips with your decision. Your age, your income, your full-time job, your family responsibilities and more. It’s complicated for almost everyone.

There are outside factors that influence us. For instance, you are reading this blog. And, you know I usually champion artists to go for the gold. I want you to fulfill your potential. To explore all possibilities that can bring your finest achievements. That’s terrific if you want a fantastic, robust, profitable career.

But, that’s me pushing my agenda. I want you to enjoy high recognition and reward. I want you to join my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop to help you achieve those goals. The reality for some of you is when you get down to what is real for you this is not what you want.

It’s easy to fantasize about success based on how I define it. But, it’s possible you can’t or don’t want to put in the effort, or flat disagree with me. It happens every day. When you get Zen about it and center on what’s important to you, you may realize you reject the type of success I promote. I’m okay with that if you are.

Such a decision is better than okay. It’s outstanding. It gets better when you have a clear, purposeful view of your career expectations.

The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.

Here is what is most important. Learn to give yourself permission

To achieve success, you need to manage yourself first. To manage your career or define your success, you must be comfortable with your decisions. That’s where permission plays a role.

You have the power and the right to give yourself permission to make decisions about your career. You choose the path. You might be like an artist who contacted me recently. She wanted to talk about my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. At 75 years of age, blessings on her for thinking about any art marketing training program.

Creating for the sake of creating

She is not done making art. But, her inventory piling up was bedeviling her. She was feeling the pressure of outside influences from folks like me about making art and not having big plans to sell it. She has undeniable talent and at various times in her career has enjoyed success.

Here is part of her email to me:

Do you take phone calls?? I want to take your course. But, at my age – almost 75 – ( I have been painting since I was 11 years old ) I need some sage advice on whether I should keep stacking up paintings. I had enjoyed success with galleries and shows when the art market was strong but now I seemed to feel I have lost my way. Social media is not for me.

And, in part, my reply:

It’s hard to tell someone what to do about inventory piling up. It depends on how much time and effort you want to put into building a list and marketing to it on a regular basis. If you enjoy the painting, there is a reward for just doing it. You can give yourself permission to keep working without having to feel guilty about not spending a lot of time and money to market it. If you are gung-ho to make something happen with sales, it has to come at the expense of time doing other things.

To which she replied:

Thank you very much for your email. You are amazing!! The answer was right in front of me—just enjoy painting at this time of my life. I enjoy your marketing ideas and have really done them all at one time or another with great success. Life happens in so many stages you just have to except each stage and keep on moving.

The moral of the story is don’t let outside influences control your emotions and decisions. It’s okay if they color, but not control those things. Make your best decision and be at peace with it.

My advice is if you want to achieve great success and have the means and ambition to get there, then let me help you. Join my Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. The course is evergreen. You will use what you learn for the rest of your career. It is the most comprehensive training on how to build a lasting, profitable art career.


The Guide to Art-related Careers
Learn about art-related Careers.


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  1. Hi Barney,

    Your advice is always perceptive and personal. As you know, I actively sold art to Interior Designers as a “road warrior” into my seventies. During the 20 years I was an art rep I accumulated an extensive collection of artwork, my own and by artists and publishers, I represented. Kind of like the 75-year-old artist with an ever-growing inventory of her paintings with no desire to continue to spend time and effort on marketing, galleries, and shows.

    My art – more than 1,000 pieces – was just sitting unseen and unsold in portfolios. It took up a large eight drawer flat file and overflowed beyond. It hurt me to think that no one was enjoying it. Then I down-sized my home twice and just keeping it became a problem.

    Here’s my solution: I knew many IDs, including many who became good friends. I had done business with one exceptional partnership right here in my home town. They were both active in, and often held offices, in the ASID. They knew all of the other ASID members in the area and had a large studio and warehouse. They also did pro-bono design work for worthy organizations – Hospice, the Boys and Girls Clubs, funded a yearly scholarship an Ringling College of Art and Design.

    And they had space for my art collection, which I put in their hands with instructions to make it available (no cost) to other ASID members as they see fit. I still have access to the art for any purposes I want or need. Perhaps your correspondent would consider doing the same with her overflow. I think a call to her local area ASID could lead to a similar arrangement.

    At some point, we come to realize LIFE is really about giving – not getting. The satisfaction of helping others through what we create or contribute (like your generous advice to artists) brings the greatest joy! I enjoy sharing in this on-line group and through books and articles at

    1. Dick,
      Thank you for sharing your insights. Your generosity and use of the vast collection of art you acquired is a lesson for all of us. You offer my reader an excellent suggestion. I will make sure she has a chance to read my post and your comments.

  2. HI Barney, Wow your post today made me realize something really huge. I’m so busy making art to sell, that it’s been such a long time since I’ve painted just for the sheer joy & pleasure of it. When you make your living from the sale of your art, it’s easy to overlook how important it is to take time just to paint something that interests me, and not care if it sells or not. On a regular I need to take the pressure off and paint just for me. I know it will keep me fresh and engaged.

    1. Hi Fiona, It is my pleasure to provide information you find helpful. Life and art don’t always have to be about making money. As the saying goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”

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