Over the years of reading forums and comments on sites and blogs for artists, I have noticed a trend. There are unhappy artists who are more than willing to offer their opinions. I find most are either:
Sometimes you hit a trifecta and find someone who fits in all three categories. When I see that, I am sad for whatever circumstances have given them such a negative outlook. That’s because I know they are victimized to a degree by themselves. To be on balance, I must say I know many more happy artists than I know unhappy ones.
Stephen Covey in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, tells us in Habit One to be proactive. It was eye-opening for me to hear him talk about how this works. He explains that a unique quality of being human is ability to choose.
We don’t always get to choose our circumstances. Being born in poverty, or suffering from living in an abusive family, or being handicapped or disabled are all things you had no choice in. It is what has happened to you.
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You can, however, choose how you react to your circumstances. Covey found inspiration in Viktor Frankl’s book recounting of being in four Nazi death camps in a Man’s Search for Meaning. He lost his parents, siblings and pregnant wife in the camps. Frankl’s belief was while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how we will deal with it. His personal example and later as a psychiatrist was to look for meaning in suffering. Then use it to get on with your life with renewed intentions.
I have written before about the remarkable story of Jon Morrow. He was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy as a child. It takes the life of most children by age two. He is still very much alive. Until 2006, he got around in a van that allowed him to drive as a paraplegic. Then tragedy struck again and made him a quadriplegic.
Do like more than one million others have. Read this incredible account of what happened when he was hit head-on in a crash: How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World. That post has gone one to be viewed by more than a million people. He’s gone on to build a profitable, successful career and has helped thousands of people learn how to make blogging into a career.
I recently met another awe-inspiring person. Tanner Gers also almost died in an auto accident eleven years ago. He survived but was made blind as a result. He ran the 100-meter dash in the London Paralympics in 2012. Until earlier this year, he was a personal trainer in a gym.
Tanner has now launched a new career as a podcaster and event organizer. His The Athlete Summit program just concluded. He got dozens of top names to provide programming for it. Even if they have never heard of Viktor Frankl, Jon and Tanner follow his advice. They are exemplars for how to live a life with passion and purpose despite crushing setbacks.
If you are bitter about the state of your career, you need to turn your negativity around. Life is too short to be unnecessarily unhappy about your career or your life. We don’t all get the same skills and starting point. We do all have the same options to choose to make the best of what we have.
If you are struggling in your art career, it is under your control to fix it. You can find an unending list of reasons why things suck. Technology, geography, and apathy are biggies for many. Here’s the thing. People have never stopped buying art. Let me repeat. People have never stopped buying art.
I have known artists, art publishers and gallery owners who have stayed in business through thick and thin. Buying habits change. Some years are better than others. Nevertheless, art continues to sell. Always has, always will.
Okay, maybe they aren’t buying your art. If that is the case, you need to figure out why. The usual reasons are either you are making work that is hard to sell. That is, it has limited appeal to most buyers. Or, you have work people will buy when they see it often enough, but you are not efficient in getting it seen by the right prospects often enough.
If your work is a problem, you can keep making work like that, but you should lower your expectations about how well it will sell. Happiness is about meeting expectations. If yours are out of line with the reality of what you are making, you are making yourself unhappy.
You can also choose to make art with more appeal. Even though it is a creative endeavor, it is also a product that needs commercial appeal if you want to build a successful business around selling it. Otherwise, accept you have created a pleasant pastime where you occasionally get rewarded with sales.
If you know your art sells when enough people see it, and you are not moving your work, you have a marketing problem. Making art is part of your art business. The other part is finding customers and prospects and selling your work to them. That takes marketing first and selling second. Marketing and selling your work is your other job. One you cannot let lapse without risking your career.
Marketing creates interest and intrigue. It drives actions that lead to sales. You get sales with a well-designed website, strong traffic, excellent conversions with powerful calls to action. You might also get sales because you drive traffic to an e-commerce site such as FineArtAmerica.com, XanaduGallery.com or SaatchiGallery.com.
As an alternative, you might network online and offline and generate direct sales to collectors. This scenario, selling direct to collectors, is the best for artists and collectors. It is what I teach and preach about. Selling through galleries works. There just are too few to go around.
Some artists are confused about how things work. I saw a comment the other day on a blog post on The Abundant Artist. The post offered some useful ideas on how to sell more art. An artist commenter was bitter that there was also included an offer to buy an in-depth program to learn even more ways to sell art.
I’m not sure if the comments were just plain whining, coming from a misguided sense of entitlement, or utter frustration at making work, but not getting sales. It could have been another trifecta with all three of the options mentioned above in play. I alternately reacted by thinking I’m sorry you had such a terrible career going, but another part wanted to scream out about taking responsibility and starting to do the things necessary to make something happen.
Cory Huff, owner of The Abundant Artist, is a generous person. He devotes lots of time and effort to create free content for artists. He’s not alone, so do I and Jason Horejs, Alyson Stanfield, Owen Garratt, Carolyn Edlund, Aletta de Val, Lori McNee, Gary Bolyer, and many others. There is a ton of great free stuff out there. You just need to do the research to find it.
This artist has the misconception that everything art marketing gurus do ought to be free. What a concept?!! I don’t know him from a rock, but I bet a dollar to a donut he is not making any money. He has no concept of what an abundance perspective is. Instead of being grateful to find some useful free information he is griping that he can’t get more information for free.
He may just also fall into that latter category of a sourpuss. It starts when you look at how life has been rough for you. Then it gets worse with the misguided belief the art industry is skewed and screwed up so no one makes money, especially artists. From there, it’s easy to slide further downhill into a black pit of negativity and self-pity. No one can fix this for someone else. You gotta slug your way out of the quagmire.
Someone can give you a buck so you can buy a clue, but you have to be ready to use it – to embrace the knowledge. Life’s not fair. Business is hard. Only the strong survive. These things are all true. None of them means you can’t have great success. When you realize what is really holding you back is you, you can have a breakthrough. You can come into the light and bask in its glow.
You have to make your own way. When you begin to move in the right direction, you will find there are those who want to help you. Start making little victories. Each one makes you a winner. We love winners. We want the best for them.
Work for the day when it is you helping an up and comer. Give back. Pay it forward. Shrug off your negativity and get moving. Your career is waiting. You, yes YOU, can achieve great things. Start to believe. Aim high. Aim higher. Be restless. Most of all, get going.
It is a whole lot easier to do these things if you have a happy quotient going on in your life. Here are ten things to help you boost yours to new highs and lock in being a happy artist.
Be yourself, everybody else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde.
It is senseless to measure yourself against other people. There is always, always going to be someone taller, shorter, slimmer, with more hair and with better hair. There are those with more brains, more talent, more money, great teeth, and a spouse you still can’t figure out how they are with them, and so on. Accept who you are and what you are without comparing it to anyone else. At least, unlike Jon Morrow, you can pinch a nice butt when the occasion arises.
I am sure I could add dozens more examples and suggestions here. I could go on about how to live a satisfied life and enjoy a happy career, but I won’t. I will stop here and choose to be pleased that a select few readers will reach this last sentence and be inspired to go on and make changes that will lead them to their contented place as a happy artist. I hope you are one of them.
If you are that guy who complains he reads things, finds help, but wishes everything was free and came without a sales pitch. Stop reading now.
If you are looking for a way to get your career in the happy zone, I can help you. Join the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. The workshop is a culmination of my best work — and I’ve been helping artists since 1988. I didn’t leave anything out. In fact, I’m busy putting lots more in. CLICK HERE to get on the list.
I get that for some reading this that all you can afford right now is what you glean free from the Internet.
Here’s a free webinar I did for Artists Network. It covers a lot of the same ground and theory you will learn in the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop.
Watching the webinar will give a blueprint for the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop offers value for you. Feel free to use it to model your successful art career. Or, if you can afford to make a relatively small investment into a lifetime program, please join me in the workshop. Either way, I’m going to be happy you looked me up. 🙂