Want to Know the Real Truth About Success? It’s Not What You Think

You Have the Skills | What Holds Your Success Back?

Have you observed the success of another artist. perhaps with a bit of envy, and wondered, “How the heck is she doing it?” You know what I mean. Her art is darn good, but not groundbreaking, extraordinary or spectacular. You’re sure she’s not on the shortlist for a one-person show at MoMA now or probably ever.

So, You Investigate

That’s because you think if that artist can do it, why can’t I?  You are certain without conceit that your art is equal or superior to hers. Upon investigation, one of the first things you find is a consistency to her artworks in this regard. That is, you can view her art and tell they were made from the same hand. It’s not so much the subject matter, although she has a range on that as well, more based on nuances and style. Subtle, yet apparent, nonetheless.

You think, well, all right, I can do that, too. Is that enough to start punching my ticket to success like hers? Moreover, you instinctively know that it’s never that easy. There must be more to it. What else is she doing?

Time to Look Deeper

The next step is to start competitive research by subscribing to her email list. That turns up more clues. You find she also is consistent with her frequency and messaging. She manages to mix her communication by keeping it informative, entertaining and exciting. Like her art, her messaging also has a uniform voice and style. Also, you note there is a call to action associated with nearly every communication.

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

Again, you think, “I can use her communication patterns to influence mine, except they will be in my voice and style.” The question comes again. “Is that enough? If I do these things will I have success?” The answer is you’re just not sure, and with good reason. That’s because while adopting and adapting those elements from her career that you have discerned will put you far ahead of other artists, you recognize there is something else going on.

Art Career Success Checklist

art career checklist

Head Trash

We all deal with head trash in some form. It consists of the thoughts and emotions that sometimes gain free reign fogging our brains in the process. Head trash is a lot to deal for anyone and is overwhelming for some. It’s always unique to the person. Fears, phobias, traumas, nurture, environment, and more contribute to it.

Since I’m a layman, I avoid analysis and boil it down to attitude. That is, how you deal with the fears, thoughts, attitudes, and emotions make an enormous difference in how well you cope with life and manage success in your career.

Clearing Head Trash a Worthy Challenge

I won’t say that is easy to conquer head trash because in many cases it’s not. However, you can overcome nearly any drawback with attitude and action, within reason. By that I mean you can’t fix or change things beyond your control. I can get better at golf with intense training and practice. But I still won’t shoot par. I lack the fundamental physical attributes to make that happen. (No one gets it all. Drat the luck!)

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

What I’m saying is you need to know your limitations and your abilities. Then you use your insights to set realistic goals that are achievable for you. In the case of an art career, if you have the gifts to create work others will buy when seen enough, then the only thing holding you back is lack of planned action. Head trash is nearly always what is keeping you from planned action that leads to success.

Head Trash Comes In Many Forms

Head trash can come in the form of rebelling against doing those necessary things success requires. You know what I mean. You have little interest in business and marketing so you avoid it at all costs, which are expensive! Alternatively, you have an interest, but little knowledge and are confused by the cacophony of voices shouting advice. Whom do you trust? What to do to get started? How to keep it going on a steady basis?

You’ll notice I’ve haven’t indicated clearing head trash and doing proper marketing is easy because it’s not. That includes those who seem to have it all. However, when you look closer at them, you find the ones who make it look easy also have paid a price. It’s just that their success tends to obscure it.

The path to sustained success starts with self-realization, acceptance, desire, and action. – Barney Davey

When you know what you want and that it is possible and within your ability, you must accept it won’t come easy or fast. It is crucial then to tap your desire to get the results you want. Finally, you must have a plan of action and the gumption to stick with it and the smarts to keep testing and refining your processes.

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

Of course, there is much more to it than the above-simplified formula. However, it need not be complicated. Simple is better, especially at first. Moreover, action beats perfection every time. Construct a manageable plan and begin to work it. You can modify as needed on the go. It’s never going to be complete or perfect. Working with an always improving “Good Enough” attitude and outlook gets stuff done.

Choices, Head Trash, and Inaction

One of the brightest marketing minds on the planet, Perry Marshall, says this:

Your ability to succeed or fail has far more to do with how clear your mind and emotions and beliefs are than it has to do with your marketing or business education. People sabotage themselves financially the same way they sabotage their marriage or douse their problems in alcohol. Physical anorexia and financial anorexia aren’t all that different from each other.

The first part of fixing head trash is the recognition and acceptance of its existence. The next step is to forge the desire to do something about it. Follow desire with positive action aimed at making significant changes. The path to success with gaining clarity looks different for every person. You might take a counselor, guru or mentor or several to help you sort things out so you can create a doable action plan. Never doubt you can do it.

You Can Have the Success You Want If You Want It Enough

Self-awareness and vulnerability are necessary components to first steps in gaining clarity on why you do what you do now and what you need to do to get the results you really want. Add in self-motivation and you may be all set to change the course of your career. It’s sometimes hard to accept that what’s going on in your brain is keeping you from success. We are programmed in many ways to assess blame away from ourselves. Knowing what you truly want is a gift. Once you have it in your mind and can feel it in your heart, then you can act to make it happen.

Choose Success and Know This!

Right down where it matters most, you must know this. “You are the boss of you!” – Barney Davey

Others may exert influence, but it’s your life, your career, and your decisions. You make the choices, and you live with the consequences. I believe the artists who will have the best careers are those who take control of their distribution. They realize they can’t rely on galleries or social media. Both are great while they work, but you are always out of the loop when it comes to decisions that affect your business directly. Use galleries as much as possible to supplement your sales while you build your email list and subsequent purchases from it. Just don’t rely on them in the long haul.

The best option for artists is to develop direct patronage. That is where you sell to patrons who know and love you and your work directly. You only need a relatively small number of collectors to gain self-reliance and independence.

The Gallery Representation Conundrum

I think you should have gallery representation until you don’t need it. You want distribution where you can find it at first. You may never give up on galleries. Although my advice is to rely on all third-party distribution only as much as necessary. That’s because it’s expensive, time-consuming, and offers no control. or guarantees of longevity or protection.

It’s easy to understand why artists desire to work with galleries. Then they think they don’t have to worry about marketing and sales. You trade for worry about the gallery instead. While gallery representation lends certain prestige and more, always remember this. If your galleries develop 100 collectors of your work, you can make roughly the same income with 50 patrons who buy from you directly. Plus, you can’t have your patrons taken from you. Galleries don’t share buyer information with artists. So, when the inevitable happens, and you are out in the cold, you lose connections with the buyers developed by a gallery.

Social Media Is Not the Solution

Social media is both fantastic and fickle. I advocate you milk it for all it’s worth. Use it to build your email list. Never make it the centerpiece of your marketing. Instead, make it a spoke to your hub, which is your website. Spread your marketing around, so you never rely on one social media platform exclusively.

Be Honest and Accept Success as You Want It Takes Time

Today’s crazy, wired world, so full of instant communication, makes it harder than ever to accept we can’t build fast changes and start getting fabulous results overnight. We want it, and we want it now. You can have the success you want, but you probably can’t have it right now. You must earn it, and that takes time.

The Fine Art Career Roadmap Ebook Is a Great Place to Start

Fine Art Career Roadmap ebook cover 2.1 As with any business, there are many moving parts and aspects to creating a successful endeavor. The Fine Art Career Roadmap is a free 21-page PDF download.  Use it to gather your thoughts and inspiration and advice on these topics:

  • Goals
  • Creativity
  • Customer Avatar
  • Create Connections
  • Direct Patronage
  • Gallery Representation
  • Online Marketing, including Social Media
  • Traditional Marketing
  • Alternative Marketing
  • Branding
  • Reproductions
  • Art Business Matters
  • Non-Art Income

It’s a great place to start researching what you need to do to get your career on track. After you download the book, you’ll get a free email series that dives into each of the topics mentioned above. Get your free copy at And, don’t forget to tell your friends.

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


art career, art career advice, Career Success, success

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