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 Kickstarter, Indiegogo 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.”


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