When you examine most businesses, especially those trying to up their game to create a sustainable, profitable operation, you will often find fear and doubt. It’s a common problem. Can you relate to those feelings? Even if you have never expressed them to others, you’re far from alone; you’re in a crowd.
Besides having a worthy product or service, here is what separates the winners from the losers. The winners push through the fear and doubt. They use those feelings as motivation to get better. They know from instinct and observation that those above them experienced the same state of mind. They realize head trash is both transient and fixable.
I say this because artists as small business people carry an extra burden. Just because it is the thing you love doing does nothing to alleviate the added stress of conceiving and creating work. Think about it. What other business requires the owner and marketer to make the product first?
Lawyers don’t write briefs, and dentists don’t make crowns to put in inventory. Retailers, including gallery owners, don’t make what they sell in their shops. You have all the same marketing and back-end tasks as other businesses. And, you’re responsible for creating products as well. Plus, your art is subject to routine criticism and judging by others. That’s why I think fear and doubt run high in the art business, especially at the early and emerging states. It’s only natural.
As always, before you can make a change, you must recognize one is needed and why. In this case, you know, or suspect, fear and doubt have crept into your business and are holding you back. Maybe you’re pricing too low. Perhaps you’re targeting friendly people who don’t have money to buy your work. You might be making work on the small end of the scale instead of thinking grandly. And, the list goes on.
If you have thought about your business, or if you are willing to get introspective now, you’ll discover, (or you already know), where the obstacles are. And, that is where your awareness of the problem comes into play. Learn to face it full on and determine to conquer whatever is holding you back.
How many times have you seen someone succeed, or heard a success story that you innately know could have been you? If you have tamped down the thoughts because thinking them makes you feel sad, or uncomfortable, or raises fear and doubt, you must stop it.
If you take the time to look more closely, you will nearly always find the luck someone else seemed to get had nothing to do with luck at all. That is those artists with all the luck manufactured it.
Usually, what you find is the “so-called” lucky person worked hard at getting to the point where they were ready to step into a situation ripe for the taking. They overcame fear and doubt and pushed themselves through to the intersection of hard work and opportunity. A consistent big contrast is what looks like luck is more like a leap.
You can’t wait for the ideal situation or to be perfectly ready. When the chance for something out of the ordinary comes, jump on it. Sometimes, going Ready, Fire, Aim is the best way to play your hand. If you are always cautious, you won’t reach the top. Taking a calculated risk is a good option when the right deal is available.
Opportunities are all around us all the time. But, you must be open to the fact they are there and intrepid enough to act on them now. Sometimes you need to force the issue. Waiting takes too long. You need to be out there. You must get your antennae raised and start seeking opportunity.
Howard Fox is former Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Fox annually attended hundreds of exhibitions and visited 50 to 60 galleries regularly. He also received letters, emails, slides, and invitations to shows and to view websites.
Fox says he found the incredible velocity and volume of the offerings made it difficult for the unknown artist to stand out with him. He believes what it takes, besides talent, is the slow, steady drip of frequent exposure to make a lasting impression.
What Howard Fox advised works on patrons and prospects as well, or better than on curators. You have to get on someone’s radar, (preferably your ideal buyer persona’s radar). Then you need to find effective and appropriate ways to connect so you can eventually tell them about you and your art. Then you need to keep telling them about you and your art. When you are afraid you are telling them too much, you are probably not even close to telling them enough. Getting over your preconceived perceptions is Part One. Taking persistent actions to advance your cause beyond them is Part Two. Get out there and Go for It!
While getting into a museum must feel right, it is not a prerequisite to have a fabulous career. One of the beauties of being a solo entrepreneur is you get to decide what you want. You determine what success means to you. You and only you. Others may have opinions, and you can listen, but in the end, it’s all about you.
You may not have come to grips with what you want for your career. While drifting along is okay, it’s not desirable for lots of reasons. Right at the top is that state of mind is a primary cause of fear and doubt. I recommend you end the confusion by making decisions about your future. Doing so will inform all other choices and get you off the fence.
Once you decide, you can start making plans for what do to next. What is in your heart and best interest? You want to be full-time, but you have obligations that keep you from it. You can grow into full-time when you have time. In the meantime, you can decide you want to be a dedicated part-time artist with full-time aspirations. You can also choose to be a skilled hobbyist.
For years, I was the president of the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild. We had artisans who could design and make incredible pieces of art in the form or turned bowls, fine art furniture and more. Most had no desire to turn their mad skills into a business. They didn’t have time. Didn’t want to ruin a hobby, or didn’t like thinking about business and marketing. All were valid reasons for not taking the plunge into the world of commercial woodworking.
All these things apply to you as a fine artist. Can you see how knowing your path is freeing? There are no bad choices here. It’s indeed all about you. And, you are not locked into any decision. You can choose to change lanes and go full-time or to ratchet down and work on the things that make you happy.
There are layers of decisions. For example, some artists only want gallery representation. Some artists crave the recognition that comes from being in a museum. Some artists wish for fame and fortune while others are happy to make a simple life on a small scale. If you judge people for their decisions, you should stop.
I’m not your shrink, but if you do have issues with the decision of other artists and their choices, I will bet it’s your insecurities, i.e., fear and doubt, feeding them. Instead, embrace them for their difference. And, know that diversity makes things interesting.
Speaking of interesting, regarding your decisions, I believe you should always strive to be interesting in making art. And, that’s the only thing I will ever give an opinion on when it comes to telling you what kind of art to create. That’s because I know you can’t bore people into buying your work.
The more you work at making better art, and at achieving the goals that come from your career decisions, the closer you get to art nirvana. You know you never really get there because to be trite, it is not a destination.
You are on a lifelong journey to make art, add beauty, explain the unexplainable through your vision, and scratch the deep itch of acting on your creative urge and talent. – Barney Davey
If you also decide you want to have a successful, profitable career, one where you sell your art on an increasingly steady and profitable trajectory, I am here for you. I created the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. It is designed to help you:
Since 1988, I’ve helped countless artists find the best way to get their work to market. I’ve put everything I know into the workshop. It’s like downloading my brain where you get 30 years of experience to put into practice.
It’s not just knowledge. It’s active participation. When you join the workshop, you get access to the Art Marketing Mastery private Facebook group. So, you get my expertise and that of hundreds of other artists who are also on a quest to have the best career possible. You will find it a refreshing place where you can ask any question from mundane to thorny, complex issues of marketing and more. You can expect to get back helpful suggestions and professional advice from them and me.
Learn more about the workshop in a free 55-minute online seminar. You will learn the three art marketing secrets every artist needs to know and the ten steps to lasting art business success. CLICK HERE to register for a time convenient for you.