3 Tips for the Artist Entrepreneur

Three Practical Tips for the Artist Entrepreneur

All artists are entrepreneurs. All entrepreneurs are artists.
– Seth Godin in The Icarus Deception

Aside from internal struggles artists face about their own work, the pragmatic question ringing in all our ears is: how do you manage your art career? How do you “make it” as a micro-business without going belly up? Artists must apply their creative skills to their career as well as their art media. Even developing your business plan is an intensely creative act. Like it or not, the day you decide to become a Professional Artist you take on not only the challenge of creating work that will say something in today’s noisy world, but also the challenge of selling it. I’d like to offer three practical pieces of advice for anyone who considers themselves in the category of emerging artist. Here are three things my experiences as an “artrepreneur” have taught me:

1. Build your Network

margot rogers muralOnline Community bears fruit only with our investment. I found my favorite illustration project to date via a twitter post by the famous Tim Ferriss tweeting: “Seeking line illustrators to contribute to The 4-Hour Chef!” Publishing my illustrations in a internationally distributed book by an author with a cult following was made possible by investing in my network. Another example is “The Revitalization Mural” my husband and I created and installed (a forty-foot mural inside the windows of an empty grocery market that was up for sale). This project partnered with Beverly Main Streets (a town just north of Boston) to help increase traffic to local businesses by improving the facade of a prominent empty storefront. This success was also made possible through networking.

An online/offline community that has inspired my entrepreneurial journey is CIVA’s Network of artists. My first encounter with CIVA was reading the SEEN Journal “Making It” edition, a diverse collection of artists with different goals sharing their DIY tips and stories. The combination of a dedication to learning with a sincere intention to collaborate and help each other makes the CIVA community unique. Find a community that inspires you, that you can present your ideas to and get helpful feedback; this is the best kind of network to grow your career.

2. Establish Trust

wallpusher guitars artrepreneurIn our connected economy where anyone can copy your style, trust is the currency that holds the most weight. In our time all successful art is branded. You must create a brand that people can trust, and show them why they should invest in your work. My husband and I make ornately carved electric guitars under the brand name “Wallpusher.” By investing our time to involve and educate many interns in the production of many instruments, we have been able to differentiate our brand by investing in students and others from the surrounding areas. This process has been mutually beneficial and has featured the Wallpusher Brand on Comcast TV, radio interviews and several print and online magazines.

3. Don’t get left behind: Take Initiative and Iterate

As an artist, you are already an entrepreneur. Apply your creativity to making your art business thrive. To make sure you don’t repeat the mistakes of those who have gone before you, get online and learn business. Bootstrapping is easier than ever. Youtube-strapping is the new form of grabbing that free education on the web, especially business resources, to make educated decisions faster. Use new venues like KickstarterIndiegogo and Artsicle to get projects funded and sell your work. The promise of a linear career path is broken, and there is less a clear map to follow, for artists or anyone else. Let’s give up looking for the “way” to be successful and instead create the career works for us, one collaboration at a time. That means synthesizing creativity and business sense. As Seth Godin says: “Instead of looking for a map, look for a compass.”


Originally posted on CIVA.org/blog

Assets for Artists

Assets for Artists is featuring Wallpusher (aka artist team Matthew Rogers and me) on their blog now. We are so grateful and honored to be chosen as grant recipients for the 2014 cycle.


My husband Matt Rogers and I attended the first training in Boston this fall. Esther Robinson (founder of ArtHome) led the training as our financial guru. Both Esther and Blair Benjamin from Mass MOCA gave financial advice that we started applying to our art business immediately.

Assets for Artists was founded in 2008 to provide financial and business training for artists specifically aimed at

As a creative, I am excited to be a part of this new initiative that helps train artists to plan and budget so that they can create more ambitious projects and grow their creative ventures.growing their creative enterprises and achieving greater financial security. By meeting a savings goal of $2,000 and completing the training, participants can receive a matched grant of $2,000 in working capital funds to put their new business skills into action. Assets for Artists is run by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Midas CollaborativeArtHome, and other regional partners

The Assets for Artists blog details the financial and business training. In the next few weeks I will be sharing some personal applications of financial tips that are helping me in growing my art business on this blog, so stay tuned.


Christmas Exhibit

Advent is a time of waiting, and reflecting. My husband and I were honored to be invited to create a series to accompany a Christmas Concert at a local church on the North Shore of Massachusetts.

As the weeks leading up to Christmas are the busiest time for us this was no easy feat, but we enjoyed conceiving contemporary images that would bring Biblical stories a little closer into our frame of mind.

Isaiah 9

I chose to name each of my pieces after the verse that they are illustrating or reflecting on. Since Advent is a time for preparation, I decided that the majority of my pieces should be depicting Old Testament predictions of the coming of Christ. As I did some research, I found that the image of the lamb as the only source of color in my grayscale pencil drawings illuminated the images with the fore-telling of the lamb of God who was to come.

The first image is a pattern of men walking in lines with their hands on each others shoulders. This piece reflects on Isaiah 9:2, “Those who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The darkness of the generations of men who have to hold onto the person in front of them to know where they are going is juxtaposed with the color of the lamb half hidden in the bottom right of the picture.

In this series I chose to depict the lamb in blue, which in traditional Christian iconography is the color of human life. This is why in many icons Jesus is depicted in a blue robe with red over it,  since in his deity Jesus took humanity upon himself. Since Christ came to be the sacrificial lamb

Eze 34

The second piece in the series depicts a verse from Ezekiel 34. God is the shepherd of Israel, and in this verse it says “you are my sheep.” This piece refers to God looking after his sheep and caring for the injured and weak, but also looks forward to the shepherds who were encouraged by the Angel in the Gospels to “Fear not.”

The composition leans on the pattern of the sheep in the background, interrupted by the large shepherd in the foreground clothed in contemporary jeans and t-shirt. At his side is again the symbol for Christ, in blue.


FPC Christmas Concert – Friday, December 20th at the Ipswich High school  

This year, the FPC praise band will be presenting Andrew Peterson’s Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ for our Christmas concert. It will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the Ipswich Middle/High School in the Performing Arts Center on Friday, December 20th. Cookies and punch will follow.



Thrash Early

In this post, I continue with my best advice for artists starting a marketing plan, which I began last week. Even if you’ve never thought about marketing your art or don’t think you could, this post is for you.

One of my favorite Seth Godin quotes (who is one of my favorite marketing leaders) is simple: “Thrash early…so we can ship on time and on budget to the right market. When you work to make Art that is your best work, art that is worth Marketing, it is important to ask all the questions that your potential collector will ask. Will it last? Perhaps it’s not meant to, but anyone would ask whether it will or not. Will it travel? What does it invoke? Does it speak to the viewer? Does it make a statement? Does it draw people into conversation?
Essentially when you are ready to market your art, your first job is to start thinking about who your work will speak to. Marketing your art is much easier when you make art to connect with someone. It doesn’t have to connect with everyone- on the contrary, it is preferable that it connects to a select audience. Don’t try to make work “everyone” will like, instead take the time to get into your customers’ head and figure out what they are looking for.
Now more than ever the boundaries of “Artist” are blurry, but that only increases the need for focus in the particular artist’s career. Are you a photographer, graphic designer, muralist, or fashion illustrator? Each of these “Artists” has a totally different customer with different needs, so the sooner you figure out your audience the easier selling to them will be.

What is your calling card? Next week I’ll talk more about how to think creatively about your art business.

Along with practical tips to help artists who are going pro, I like to share my current projects on the blog. Most recently I have been working on a project in collaboration with a  local non-profit art organization called “Express Yourself.” This organization has earned awards from the White House for the positive benefits they have brought to the community through their creative work with kids. They help kids make art, put on performances, and show work in their downtown gallery. I was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to create modular murals with the Express Yourself Kids that will travel around the city of Beverly and be featured in their 25th anniversary performance at the Wang Theatre in Boston.
This project is a great example of being able to enter into an exciting, out of the box collaboration that benefits the community and a non-profit. As an artist it is important to give back, developing the cultural richness of our cities is more important than ever. In my next post I will talk about the importance of trying different types of art income streams until you find the ones you want to focus on.

Marketing Your Art Teleseminar with The Grove

Artists take on a lot when they take on the title “Artist.” Whether the title logistically means as an artist that I “day-job” by day and “art-job” by night, when an artist endeavors to sell their work they add an entire set of skills to their existing artistic responsibilities, and one of the most important skills is marketing. The starting point for marketing your art is of course, the art. That said, there is art created just for the sake of saying something, and perhaps you don’t even want to sell that art. But then there is also art created to be seen, enjoyed, and sold. The art that needs marketing is the latter, even if the art that supports the artist is only a small percentage of their work.

I’ve been marketing my art, my clients’ art, and my husband’s art (Wallpusher.com) for several years, so I was honored and pleased to be invited to share my experience and expertise in an online Grove Class. On September 19th Joey O’Connor hosted the online class titled “Marketing your Art with Margot Rogers.”  We had a lot of great insights discussing everything from the basics of starting  your marketing plan to more specific difficulties that artists face in marketing their work, and current tools that I use to market art for clients and myself.

As an illustrator/muralist I have encountered the challenges of refining a portfolio, following trends, narrowing my work to a niche, and identifying the target audience who will be interested in my work. Our conversation started with a general but very important topic, the mind-shift that all artists must make to market their work: start thinking of your art as a product.

Join the Online Class
I invite you to enter into the conversation by watching the “Marketing  Your Art” Teleseminar. You can view the online class at The Grove Center’s website. A little caveat for when you do watch the class: my slides are a little crowded by design. I intended each one to have enough information to look at for a second or third viewing. Don’t you love those movies that hide something in the background so that on first viewing you can hardly see everything in frame, so you are compelled to go back and take a second look? I was kind of going for that with lots of practical tips, illustrative images and quotes by marketing geniuses at the bottom of the slides. I just had so many inspiring people’s voices come into my head when I was preparing for this important topic that I just had to include them.

Here is just a slice of all the great marketing strategies and concepts that Joey and I discussed during the class:

Mapping your Marketing Plan
When you map out your marketing plan, your map should include these things: Product, Placement and Promotion.  My favorite story that illustrates these marketing principles in action is the illustration project I did for Tim Ferriss, author of the Four Hour workweek, body and chef. How did I get such a gig? Well I had been following Tim Ferriss for a while and waiting for his new cookbook to come out. I was following him on twitter when he tweeted a call for art, which I responded to, and was hired.
How does my Marketing Plan apply to this? The Product was illustrative drawings; published on my online portfolio. The Promotion:  via free social networking tools. The Placement was the most interesting. I was directly commissioned by Tim Ferriss to illustrate certain concepts for the book, but he had hired an intermediary publishing group to help him manage the project, who sent my drawings to the author and then sent them back to me with his edits and comments.

Main point: be sure that you understand the channels that get your art seen and sold. This model of intermediaries is pretty common all over the art world in galleries, museums, publishers, agents, and more. There is definitely a way to play the game, while at the same time recognizing that we are moving into a business space where the artist can connect directly with their collectors, or the illustrators with their authors, so your story will be more important than ever to reach your target audience.

Creative Marketing
One of the most important things to keep in mind as you wade into the marketing space is to “be yourself” aka: “be creative.” Take the creativity that you have honed with your art experience and apply it to the business of sharing your art.  If we (artists) apply our creativity to business and marketing problems, developing a marketing plan will be easier, more successful, and more fun. More on that in a later post. Sharing my experience with other artists who are looking for creative ways to market their work has been very rewarding. Next week I will share more useful tips and practical advice to help you as you start developing your marketing plan.