5 ways to waste your skills and lose money

The historic cemetery next to the National Grotto on a very foggy morning.  This photo has won numerous awards and it makes me wonder if the voters see the ironies that led me to take this picture.  "The Ones We Love", (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2014, Emmitsburg, MD

The historic cemetery next to the National Grotto on a very foggy morning.  This photo has won numerous awards and it makes me wonder if the voters see the ironies that led me to take this picture.  "The Ones We Love", (c) Rebecca LaChance, 2014, Emmitsburg, MD

The backstory

Today, I am sharing five ways to be unsuccessful in your art or photography business.  These five tips were generated by a meeting of local artists I attended.  One fellow (let's call him "Unhappy Artist") had not sold an artwork in seven years and his frustrations spilled out.  Based on what he had to say, I understand why he hasn't sold anything in seven years.

1.  Stay in the past

The fellow complained bitterly that he has not sold any works since before the recession occurred, especially to local collectors. He, and a few others complained that our local community did not value"real art". He was distraught that none of the local galleries would support him.

2.  Don't take responsibility for marketing

"Unhappy Artist" stated definitively "it's not my job" to market his own art.  It is the job of the gallery owners. It is the art consultant's job. It is the job of the interior designer. My feeling was he believed those gallery owners, art consultants and interior designers should be responsible for "finding" him and his art.

3.  Keep a negative mindset

Several times, the "Unhappy Artist" made reference to the "starving artist" mindset.  You know this one...artists can't make any money because people won't pay appropriate prices for the art.  At this moment, can we agree whatever energy you project others will respond accordingly?  So, if he is projecting this negativity to potential customers they will respond accordingly.  They will not buy his art.

4. Ignore your target audience

"Unhappy Artist" could not define whom his target audience is; who is going to buy his art?  His only answer was "Not anyone locally."  Defining your target audience is so incredibly important to the development of a successful art & photography business. It is the foundation. Once that foundation is developed, the next steps become more clear.

5. Don't act as the small business owner you really are

"Unhappy Artist" showed up 90 minutes after the meeting had started.  (I will admit this is a personal bias.) If you commit to the group/meeting then you show up on time. It's how one shows respect to colleagues and about the entire enterprise.

You know that saying, "Presentation is everything"?  Well that applies to more than just the packaging of your artworks. It also applies to you, the artist, because you ARE a small business owner. And presentation includes being on time.

Let's change the scenario

So let's flip this around and identify ways to respect your creative skills and earn money.

1. The way business is done in the art world has changed.  We can thank the internet for makingart & photography accessible to everyone. We can also thank the internet for making the selling and purchase of art much more democratic and egalitarian. Artists can no longer depend on galleries, consultants, or designers to "take care of them." 

There are far too many creative venues to sell your art and they should not be ignored. Investigate and learn about these venues. Use these venues.

2. Successful artists take responsibility for creating, marketing, presenting and selling their own artwork in a variety of new and exciting ways.  Just as a side note; I have successfully sold photography to the very same population that "Unhappy Artist" believes does not value art.

3. The successful artist has a mindset of possibility and positivity. She refuses to believe or live the "starving artist" mindset.

4. The successful artist knows her target audience inside and out.  I'm not going to lie, this is probably one of the hardest parts of learning to market your work.  It is time consuming, can be very tedious and needs constant refinement. 

 "Unhappy Artist" inspired me to review my target audience description.  Rich, deep points of information were minedand opened a stream of ideas about how I can better serve my target audience, my ideal client.

5. Be and act as the small business owner you really are.  I will let you define what that looks like for yourself.  This is what it looks like for me; showing up on time, presenting my self as the "SUCCESSFUL" artist to my collectors and potential collectors, have procedures and timely administrative systems in place.

And gratitude...never forget the role of gratitude towards your colleagues, your vendors, and your customers.  Gratitude helps build a stronger relationship with those folks. And that relationship can only benefit each and every one.

Bottom Line

You can have a successful art & photography business.  You don't need to go seven years without selling a piece of art.  It IS your responsibility to market your works. You will have to commit to doing the work to make it happen.

Start where you are:  Start with changing your mindset about yourself, your creative work and your willingness to do what is needed.

Use what you have: The core tool for this work is you.  Use you. Challenge yourself to learn about what works and what doesn't in business.

I look forward to your comments or questions about developing a successful art & photography business.

Thank you and have a great week!