I believe that the question I get THE MOST from artists is: “How to make a living as an artist”?
The art business is filled with online courses from professional artists about how they succeeded in their art career. These artists includes: graphic designers, interior designers, visual artists and many more who were all able to live the ideal artist’s life!
But do these online courses apply to any type of artist ? Even the ones who are simply looking for a part time job? Making art, is different for every artist and I believe that to be able to earn enough money as an artist, you have to invest a large percentage of your time to the art world.
Too many artists only want to sell art online, but a professional artist knows that to be successful in the art business, you have to know how to make money from any other form of art marketing.
This is exactly the reason why I wrote my first book called “Living From Your Art” to help artists understand that, even though social media opened up a new era of marketing to sell your art, there are MANY different ways of promoting your art to your target audience.
For example, yes, you can create artwork like t shirts and sell your work online, but you can also earn money by doing art fairs and by finding prospective clients in-person.
The social media channels are very easy to use for creative people but they are not the only place where making money is possible with art pieces. Indeed, it is false that the only ways to make money as an artist are by using your own website, paid ads or social media.
You could sell your own work to your target audience, even if you would have to rely solely on various forms of creative market places; a solo exhibition, some street art performances, connecting with art consultants, a gallery representation, fellow artists, etc.
Making a living as an artist is also about helping other local artists quit their full time job and finally make their art business side become their main focus.
Emerging artists don’t have to feel overwhelmed in this art business if other artists help them to have the right mindset by showing them new techniques to earning money. This path is about collaboration and teamwork.
A huge amount of the knowledge that is shared from one artist to the other, usually comes from a professional artist who was able to become a full time artist. This is why you have to keep this unique perspective that the art business is not only about having a thick skin for a few years but it’s also about collaborating with other artists who have a similar artistic talent then yours.
A successful artist will always want to help other artists to sell art because making money from your artwork requires a fair amount of empathy.
Alright, now let’s talk about art fairs versus selling your art online. Of course, if you are a visual artist, you can sell your art wherever you want to. But, sometimes, fine art needs to be sold on an online marketplace and sometimes it has to be sold directly to your target audience in-person.
So, to be able to sell your artwork in person, it is crucial for your to create enough self-confidence as an artist.
A lot of times, the best thing I would propose to artists is to simply observe other artists and duplicate how they do business on social media AND in the real world. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time that you want to make a career from your artwork.
A lot of different artists already know how to make money with their art, thus it is easy for you to emulate their business abilities.
Learn how to sell and communicate and you will never again doubt your ability to make money and making a living as an artist.
Let’s take, for example, a graphic designer who creates designs for print on demand t shirts with high quality images. As an artist, he could make money by living only from his own online sales. But this can take time and efforts.
So, he could contact every online t shirt retailers and sell his art to these bigger companies who already have a bunch of traffic on their website and social media accounts.
The goal is to find a creative market for your art without having to spend 20 years to start getting traction.
So what do you do to create a success faster with your art? You create relationships with organizations who will be willing to let you make money off of their own fame and success.
To start making a living with your graphic design ability, it is crucial that you learn how to communicate your purpose as an artist to these bigger companies. Don’t be shy to reach out to them via any social media platform and to schedule a ZOOM call or a phone call with them to present yourself.
Follow up is key with this approach because these bigger companies have a lot on their plates and there is most probably many artists that are already trying to present their art to them.
Another example that I like is the artist who creates wordpress themes. Creating a website is a lot of work and I highly admire the ones who are able to be patient enough to create these themes.
A great way that I would use to start selling my wordpress themes, would be to find ugly websites and to build a one page website with the information they have on their ugly website and send them a demo. This way you could propose these potential clients via social media or email, to get your template and then, propose them to build their new website for a low fee.
Living from your art requires a lot of creativity regarding the way you communicate the meaning of your art to others.
Artists are, in my opinion, the most important people on this planet, because of the way their art makes people happier. So, it is important as an artist, to better your communications skills if you want to start making a living from your art.
It is not only essential for the every day life, but it is even more important for an artist to learn how to communicate because this is how he will be able to succeed in helping others with his art.
Art helps others.
This is a concept that every artist on this planet has to understand before being able to really push to make a living from it. Art not only helps others but it helps the artist as well, because imagine for a second if the superstars of this world would’ve never pushed to get where they are right now?
We would have no Lady Gaga, no Tom Cruise, no Celine Dion… the world would be very different without these people, but imagine how THEY would feel by not being full time artists…!
I believe that it is your duty to sell your art to the highest number of people possible throughout your whole life.
There is a mantra in the book “The 10X Rule” by Grant Cardone that says:
“Success is your duty!”
-Grant Cardone, The 10x Rule
If you have a talent that has benefited at least 1 individual, then this means that thousands of people could also benefit from your art. This is why you have to make sure to improve your communication skills to be able to reach these thousands of people.
Yes, but how can I reach more people?
This is a great question and before we even dig into the HOW, I think you have to understand the WHY, your why! As cheesy as it can sound, your why, your purpose, your drive… however you want to call it, will be THE single most important factor to be able to sell your art to people.
The reason is that, it is NOT easy to make a living from your art because if it was, then any artist would be doing it… and believe me, there are a LOT of artists everywhere that are NOT making a living from their art.
So, because it takes a lot of consistent hard work and dedication over long periods of time, it is crucial that your purpose as an artist is high enough that it will keep you pushing forward, even during the toughest times of your career.
Is the art world a closed community?
Of course not! Anybody can succeed as an artist, but it still takes a way of being able to reach enough people on a long enough period of time to make your art well known in your particular niche.
How do you find this niche?
Well, do you know anyone who is successful who makes similar creations as yourself? There are very good chances that in your current city, someone is living from his art and you have to find this person.
That way, you could analyze this person’s social media followers, analyze this artist’s website and his art work. The goal is not to copy or anything like that. The goal is to understand what is the market for your specific art and how to actually reach and eventually sell to these people.
You have to become great at following up.
Alright, now the most important aspect of any business, art business included, is the follow up. What does following up mean? Does it mean to harass someone every day until they give you money? Does it mean to follow your ideal client to their home and knock on their door?
Of course not (but maybe that could work! Ha! Ha!) because following up with someone is no different than calling one of your old friend that you did not talk for a while.
You are NOT used-cars salesman!
Maybe you believe that when you call a potential client, that you have to wear this special coat that transforms your personality into a kind of weird “used-cars” salesman that wants to lie to the prospect? If that’s the case, take this off of your mind because you are ruining all your potential future to sell your art by doing this.
Instead, what you want to do is to be VERY interested in the person you are talking to about your art and instead of pushing your art work down her throat, you actually have to be genuinely interested in understanding his needs.
Empathy is crucial in the art business.
Because you are not selling a consumer product (I don’t believe that any kind of art is a consumer product), you have to really understand your target audience’s needs. Of course, you can create art and then sell it, but you can also survey your ideal client and THEN create a piece of art or provide an artistic service that will fit his needs.
This is why you have to be able to LISTEN more than you talk when you are “pitching” your artistic services. That way, your potential client will tell you exactly what YOU need to tell him to be able to sell your artistic services.
Consistency wins the game.
I cannot tell you how important it is to be consistent with your approach to start to make a living from your art. You are probably very familiar with the concept of the 1st of January?
You know, when you take the firm resolution that you will go to the gym 5 times/week and eat brocoli every day? Well, how many days do you usually last? If you are like me, you probably last a month or 2 and then you go back to your previous bad habits.
This is why I compare the fact of wanting to make a living from your art with your January 1st resolutions; the ONLY way to be able to achieve them is by being consistent EVERY DAY with your actions.
Nobody is perfect…
Of course, nobody is perfect and we are not robots, so we can have more productive weeks than others, but on the long run, you have to become “obsessed” by your decision to make a living from your art.
Of course, your ultimate goal should not be to make money but instead to inspire and motivate the people around you. But, sometimes, it is a good thing to be “obsessed” about the fact of finding your next client and your next opportunity. Your thirst for growth has to be there; if not, you will stagnate and stop going forward as an artist.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Asking questions is my SuperPower! I kid you not when I say this. Asking questions has been one of the most powerful tool in my successes as an entrepreneur.
Because it opens doors that you would have never thought would be possible to open. The vast majority of people, when they ask someone a question, will accept the first answer. But the top 1% of successful people on this planet, if they are not satisfied with the answer, will actually ask more and more questions… until they really understand the other person’s viewpoint.
This is why I want you to practice your “questioning ability” (or something like this!) when you talk with potential clients for your art. It’s very simple and easy. Be curious like a child, that’s it!
Do like a children would do!
Children are the most curious people in life and they learn A LOT of stuff when they grow up because of this very useful ability of… being VERY curious!
Don’t worry and don’t be scared if your potential client tells you that you ask too many questions; simply tell him that you really want to make sure that your art is the right fit for their needs. You are not selling vacuum cleaners, you are selling happiness… so never feel bad about “selling” your art, alright?
Invest in learning sales and marketing
There is no investment whatsoever that you will do regarding sales and marketing that will be a bad investment… never!
Learning sales and marketing as an artist is something that a very few people actually do, so if you do invest in some courses or even an art business coach (like myself! Ha! Book a call with me here: https://calendly.com/livingfromyourart/30min) you will be part of the 1% of artists with the greatest ability there is: the ability to sell your purpose as an artist!
I recommend that, before investing any kind of money, that you actually try to sell your art to your potential target audience. That way, when you actually invest in some courses or a business coach, you will have specific things that you will want to improve and it will go faster!
Never be afraid to say… NO!
This part has 2 important concepts.
The first concept is that, at first, when you are just starting out as an artist, it is wise to say YES more often than NO to specific client’s requests. Even if you are not doing EXACTLY the kind of art that you wish to do, you have to at least start somewhere and get some experience in the field.
You are allowed to say NO!
The second concept is that you are allowed to say NO when you feel that a client or potential client is actually “abusing” from your services. For example: extreme price negotiation, bad communications, never satisfied, very critical towards you, etc.
As an artist, your role in society is to help others have happier lives, so it is preferable to NOT surround yourself with people (clients or colleagues) who are bringing you down all the time.
Being able to REALLY understand the people who surround you is key for your success as an artist.
A great course that I found very useful to be able to understand which people you should surround yourself with is called the “Emotional Tone Scale course” and it is a free course online. You can send me an email at: email@example.com and I will send you the link for this free course if you are curious.
I personally did this course, multiple times, and I can proudly say that 98% of the time I am right when I choose my clients, colleagues and friends because of this course.
Always be looking for new opportunities to sell your art!
One very good strategy that I teach to any artist who hires me to coach them is to go deeper into a niche as soon as they get a new client from that niche.
What I mean is that, let’s say for example that you just got a client that is a Museum; and this is the first time that you ever got this kind of client. A very bright thing to do would be to find all the museums in the same city or area and contact them by saying that you are already working with XYZ museum and that you would like to collaborate with them as well.
This is called: social proof!
Always ask for referrals!
Then, when your work is done with this particular museum… what do you do?
You ask them for 3 referrals. 3 other people that they know who are working in similar or different organizations who could also use your services. Never be afraid to ask for referrals, because, on the long run, this strategy will make your client base grow exponentially.
Of course, some people will not want to give you names or contacts and that is normal, but over time, you will become better and better at asking for these 3 referrals.
Reviews are also very important.
You would’ve thought that obtaining reviews from your clients after the work is done would be like a walk in the park, but unfortunately, to obtain any kind of review or testimonial, it requires a good amount of follow up and persistence.
I don’t know why, but it seems that people in general are not naturally inclined to leaving reviews for the people they hire. That’s alright, it just adds a little bit more work on your part to get these people talking about you.
Where can you ask them to leave a review?
In a lot of different places, so what I would suggest is to start with just one specific place, would it be Facebook, Google, Linkedin, etc. That way, instead of having many reviews spread out all over the internet, you have one platform that gets a lot of tractions and social proof because of these reviews.
Then, when you feel that you have enough reviews on one platform, you can start again and ask the same clients to leave you a review on a different platform. Of course, it will take some follow up, but it’s part of the game.
Keep creating new stuff.
I think that this part is easy for any kind of artist, but just in case, I believe it’s important to mention that creating new art is important. Would it be a new show, a new album or a new visual creation.
People like new stuff and that gives you an opportunity to talk to them about your “new XYZ” creation.
At the same time, you have to understand that the creations that you consider as “old” are actually “brand new” for the people who never saw them! That is also a very important concept to grasp because it can help you keep your self-confidence regarding your “old” “has-been” creations…
Of course you can create new stuff regularly to please new clients, but the things you’ve created 20 years ago can still be good for clients who never had the opportunity to see them.
When there is something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
I am not perfect in any way, so it happens that , sometimes, there are some situations that I don’t understand that can result in conflicts if not handled soon enough.
This is why, I highly recommend that when there is a situation with a client that you don’t fully grasp, don’t wait until you start criticizing him; make sure to ask more questions and to communicate MORE so that you can handle it faster!
My goal with this blog is to “teach you how to fish”.
After writing my first book “Living From Your Art”, I realized that I wanted to start writing more about this subject that is helping artists to make a living from their art.
That is why I created this blog, to be able to talk to you even more and give you tips along the way, as soon as I find new interesting strategies for artists.
Remember: ARTISTS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET.
You are part of a very important group of people and do not take this lightly because your success is a duty. Your role is to help society be happier and, believe me, after a pandemic, people REALLY need to be happier, so don’t wait and start working towards your dreams NOW!
If you found this article useful, can you share it with an artist friend?
My goal is to reach the most artist possible on this planet to help them gain more certainty and self-confidence about themselves and their art.
It would mean the WORLD to me if you would share this blog post on your social media or if you would send it to a friend that would benefit from the information contained in this article.
Thank you so much my friends and until the next article, stay creative! Your success is closer than you think! 🙂
Art Business Coach
🖥️ Book a free ZOOM call with me: https://eliecastonguay.com/contact/
Be like this cat, get my book here: https://eliecastonguay.com/books/
- 9 Ways to Be More Happy with Yourself as an Artist - October 15, 2022
- Ep 15 How to stay true to yourself by not complaining about others as an artist - October 15, 2022
- Ep 14 How to use surveys to help you serve more clients as an artist - October 14, 2022