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Successful Art Careers | The Curse of Thinking Small | Part Five


Thinking small is a common reason for any small business to fail, or fail to grow.

thinking small

As an artist, you are an entrepreneur who has chosen to launch and grow a business around selling your art, and, in some cases, related products. How you perceive your business, and how you plan for its growth, has a huge impact on the outcome of its success.

While the wise saying, “Fail to plan is a plan to fail” holds true for visual artists, there is more to success than that. You not only need plans to follow in order to grow your business, you need a vision that underpins your plans.

Your Vision Drives Your Plans

Although your plans do not have to be over the top grandiose schemes for you to become the next Damien Hirst, they need enough meat on the bone to insure your success. In other words, you need to think big. There is nothing wrong with small successes if they are stepping-stones to larger ones.

When you stop asking, “Is this all there is?” you are dead in the water. It is possible and most likely you will start small. Just like acorns into mighty oaks, we can all trace to humble beginnings. Unrealistically shooting for the stars from the outset can be as bad as thinking small.

Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

Informed Ambition Based on Realistic Goals Will Get You There

The point here is to routinely examine what you are doing and where you are heading. Take the time to think it through. You need to see clearly where the path you are on is taking you, and to be ready and willing to change course when you realize what you are doing is not going to get you where you want to go. Just because you are having modest success at doing something is not reason enough to continue doing it. There has to be a bigger picture.

Ambition Will Where Talent Will Not

Talent and ambition are keys to success in any creative endeavor. Your talent will help you to get noticed, but your ambition is what will power your art career. You can have misguided ambition in that you may be seriously pursuing a goal, but the goal is mired in small thinking.

If you can step away and see with the same amount of effort directed at a higher goal that you could have had a greater outcome, and then you have had an epiphany telling you to set a different career course. It is never too late to begin anew. Whatever you have learned up to the point of your epiphany will help you gain traction and grow faster on your new career trajectory.

The Courage to Change Is a Key to Career Success

The first step towards change is the recognition that better opportunities are available and within your grasp. The second step is to muster the courage to make the change. You may have gotten quite comfortable doing what you are doing. You may have achieved a certain amount of celebrity and success. To have the courage to step away from these things and take yourself out of your comfort range is what will free you to reach for the stars and take your career to new heights.

The Making Successful Art Careers Happen Series Goes On

  1. Making Successful Art Careers Happen | Part One
  2. Successful Art Careers | How to Make Yours Happen | Part Two
  3. Successful Art Careers | Marketing Art Effectively | Part Three
  4. Successful Art Careers Happen | Grow Where You Are Planted | Part Four

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Go Here to Read Part Six

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Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use
Download List of 7 Essential Tools Artists Use

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art, art career, careers, Sell Your Art, Your Art, Your Career


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  1. The difference between DREAMING BIG, THINKING BIG, MAKING IT BIG and the ADVANTAGES OF THINKING SMALL.

    We’re all capable of DREAMING BIG and most everyone does. Just look at the lotteries and the million dollar checks from Publishers Clearing House. Look at thousands of teenagers who spend hours on their neighborhood basketball courts dreaming of NBA careers. Consider how many folks sit at their computers and dream of starting a Microsoft, Apple or Facebook. Look at the hundreds of people with cash who dreamed Bernie Madov would make it into a REALLY BIG fortune. How many have seen their dreams turn into reality?

    Lots of people are capable of THINKING BIG. They’ve attended multilevel “opportunity” meetings, clicked on the link to “Single mom in ‘my town’ makes $600 an hour, part time,” “Make a fortune in Real Estate with no money down,” or “Billions in Grant Money going begging.” Some have taken at least a few of the recommended steps investing time and dollars toward reaching BIG. And some have made it – there ARE “triple diamond” Amway distributors, and some savvy speculators own properties they bought for pennies at tax sales or foreclosures! There are more inspirational books, blogs and seminars on THINKING BIG than anyone could read or attend in a lifetime. Thinking, reading or attending isn’t the key to BIG. DOING is the difference.

    As an art rep for more than twenty years, knowing many artists with big dreams and loads of talent, I’ve met quite few who went from DREAMING BIG to THINKING BIG. I’ve represented a few who went from THINKING BIG to MAKING IT BIG, by taking advice from the best and following through on what they were taught. The best of these experts, in my opinion, is Barney Davey, who gives practical, no nonsense, steps to success in his book HOW TO PROFIT FROM THE ART PRINT MARKET and his blogs on http://www.artmarketingnews.com, while keeping in mind that what constitutes success varies in scope with each individual and his circumstances.

    If only I had Barney’s book when I started my art career, I might be able to look you in the eye today and say, “I MADE IT BIG!” – while leaning on my Lamborghini Countach in front of my waterfront mansion and glancing at my Rolex watch.

    The truth is, like most want-to-be-artists supporting a family, working to pay the mortgage and stay current with the bills – I NEVER MADE IT BIG. I also learned that HALF BIG or even a QUARTER BIG ain’t that bad.

    On the way to becoming owner of an ad agency, then building a business as an art rep, I learned THE ADVANTAGES OF THINKING SMALL – accomplishing one small goal, before moving on to the next, without spending time or stress concerned with how far I’d come to reaching BIG. I’m not claiming the way I did it is the best way to earning a living as an artist, but I can attest that any artists willing step outside of their “Comfort Cage“ by actually standing in front of a potential buyer and selling what they create, will find one sure way to earn a living. But, keep in mind, it’s just one way.

    At age eighty-one, retired, happy, comfortable and married to the biggest MAKING IT BIG event of my life, I still have a small goal ahead – seeing the book I just finished (number 14) SALES TIPS FOR ARTISTS in print or some other readable format, so that it will help some artists achieve their own sort of success, whatever it may be.

    Dick Harrison

  2. Hi Dick,
    Thank you for the thoughtful reply and your positive comments about my book. I wish you great success with getting your own book published, and for great sales with it. You are inspiration to us youngsters in our mere 60s!
    Cheers,
    Barney

  3. Hello Astride,
    Thank you for the question. As far as I know Barney would never consider paying for a review. From the time I graduated from the Maryland Institute of Art with a BFA and started teaching art in public schools, then on to a career in advertising and owner of an agency, a second 20 year career as an art rep, I always had a “side” project going to help support my family. In addition to learning by doing I read whatever I could on how to make a dollar with art or writing. I read a lot of books, worked with accountants, lawyers and bankers, in order to run two different businesses so I know a fair amount about what’s out there, and got pretty good at spotting the phoneys. In my opinion, Barney’s book belongs on every artist’s desk – not their bookshelfs. It’s jam packed with information and not just on the Print Market because when he writes, it’s because “he’s been there,””done that,” and has the T-Shirt to prove it.

  4. Astrid,
    Should have mentioned. Because I’m researching the best ways to improve my yet to be published book, I just bought a Kindle edition on Literary agents a few minutes ago, and have three sample book excerpts, still to read, on book covers and digital publishing. Keep reading – it’s a good way to learn. You can get Barney’s book on Kindle.

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