Secrets of Successful Artists

In my 12-part series on Successful Art Careers, I blogged about Using the Rule of Three.

Today, I want to talk about three things that successful artists and businesses of all sizes use to fuel their growth. If after reading this you recognize you are not doing these things, don’t feel down. It’s a common problem with too many businesses that are struggling or failing for lack of attention to these important aspects. The good news is it’s all fixable.

Getting ready for art career growth.

These three principles can help catapult your career to quick success (even after you have had years of slow growth). They are essential for any business that desires to grow and prosper.

You may think of your art business as one that is casual. You can work on whatever strikes your fancy. This approach is fine if you are an amateur and want to remain one. Don’t get me wrong; there is no shame in not wanting to turn your pleasant hobby into a career. Creating art as a profession is not for everyone.

Making art based on your career needs is like the difference between married and single.

In a happy marriage, you learn to make concessions and not just do what you want to do all the time. There are myriad benefits to making concessions in your career and your marriage. We’ll save digging into those benefits for another day.

1The first secret is to concede to stop “flying by the seat of your pants.”

You must embrace a systematic, organized approach to making your art and marketing your art. If you don’t, you will never get enough done to come close to reaching your potential or your ambitions.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Do you have written goals? Do you have a formalized marketing plan? Do you have a project management schedule driven by your goals, your resources, and your marketing plan? Do you make appointed times to visit your systems and adjust them as needed?

We remember old sayings because they are laden with the truth. These pithy truisms apply here.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

Plan your work and work your plan.

2The second secret is kaizen.

Kaizen is a Japanese term for constant improvement. Creating an attitude for continuous improvement is crucial to ramping up your career trajectory. You can’t have the success you want if you are working on a slow growth curve. You will run out of time and never get there. You cannot expect to grow without improving what you’re doing.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Here is a simple fact, by not improving, you are not just maintaining status quo, you are getting worse in comparison to your competition that is getting better. You can bet your rivals are not sitting still, and those who are don’t matter because they will fail.  Even when the product is the same, everything else can get better.

How do you kaizen M&Ms?

m&msTake M&Ms candy as a perfect example. Although the formula for its core product has never changed, the color of the shells change, the packaging, the distribution, and marketing get better. The company creates spin-off splinter products as a way of kaizen.

Kaizen starts with understanding the processes that comprise your business activity.

How many repetitive tasks do you do in a day? How many could you do better by rearranging the order in which you do them? How many could you stop doing altogether with no loss of production? Do you review your advertising and marketing plans on a regular basis?

When you stop improving, you start losing.

You can never grow complacent when working on your art or your marketing. You never want to think, “Hooray, we’re done improving on those things!” Accept and embrace that there is room for improvement in all things. Don’t confuse perfectionism with kaizen.

Perfectionism is the mother of procrastination. It usually masks other problems such as a lack of confidence, fear of success, or not admitting you are working to meet someone else’s expectations.

3The third secret is measurement.

What gets watched gets done? You need to track what you are doing. How are sales going? What is selling? What is the cost of your customer acquisition? Which of your marketing efforts is paying off or not?

If you don’t have a handle on what you are doing and what is working and what is not, then you are guessing.

Using the S.W.A.G. Factor doesn’t work.

Sure, you have experience and instincts that help you make decisions. Without reliable information, you are using the S.W.A.G. (Scientific Wild Ass Guess) Factor.

You can’t leave essential conclusions about how to operate your business to guess. Those who are making wise, information-based decisions will leave you behind.

Accurate reports and business knowledge give you an edge.

When you set up systems that create reports about your business, you give yourself the ability to predict the future. Start with knowing month over month and month over the same month last year as ways to chart your growth. Build on that knowledge by capturing even more granular information about your business operations.

Dig deeper into analyzing where and how new customers and prospects are coming into your business. Track how many and what type of messages you send to a customer before they buy.

Stop leaking money!

Examine everything. Where are you leaking money? If you make a 10% net profit on your sales, you need to earn an extra $10 in gross sales to cover the money you spend unnecessarily. Learn to negotiate for better prices on nearly everything. Don’t be cheap with the quality of your products, make sure you get the best price. Don’t spend money on things you don’t need. I could go on, but it’s the subject of a future post.

Here’s one last secret.

Take heart in knowing many big companies struggle with how to get these things done. They are laden with legacy systems and 20th Century corporate culture. Some lose because management focuses on the wrong things.

Don’t get despondent and beat yourself up over how things are today. That is a waste of energy. Commit to getting started moving forward on making headway in just one of these three areas as a means to improve.

There is much more to running a successful art career than these three things, of course. But, these things are big rocks. As Stephen Covey would say, always put the big rocks in first. By that, he means to do first things first. That is work first on those things are both urgent and important. Don’t let the (what seems like) urgent, non-important tasks bog you down.

Being committed and taking action, even on just one of the three things listed here will get you moving towards greater art career success.


Subscribe to Art Marketing News
Click and join. It’s free!




You may also like

  • Hi Barney,
    We have spoke before so I thought you might like to correct a typo I found in this paragraph. I believe you mean “non-urgent” in the last sentence here: btw thank you for all the free stuff you send out and hope your business is doing well!

    There is much more to running a successful art career than these three things, of course. But, these things are big rocks. As Stephen Covey would say, always put the big rocks in first. By that, he means to do first things first. That is work first on those things are both urgent and important. Don’t let the urgent, non-important tasks bog you down.

    • Hi Debbie,

      Thank you for your comment and your desire to help. That is not a typo. It’s taken from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People book. It’s on the quadrant of Urgent/Not Urgent and Important/Not Important. He contends too many people get stuck in Quadrant III, and I agree. I did amend the copy to make it clearer as I could see how it was confusing as written. Steven Covey Quadrant

  • Barney your articles are always spot on and are always what I need to hear.
    I too found a possible typo. Under #1 We remember old sayings they cause are laden with the truth.??
    #2 You can bet your rivals are not sitting still and those that (are) aren’t don’t matter…
    #3 If you don’t know (or) have a handle on what you are doing…
    I may be off base on these corrections and if I am, I am sorry.

    You always give us the important information without all the fluff and I appreciate it and you.

    Thank you for caring for all of us.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

    Subscribe to weekly updates. 
    "Helpful information & encouraging inspiration for fine artists."  

    Search This Site