Now that I’ve graduated from college with a Fine Arts degree, I’m concerned about making a living as an artist. My parents didn’t like my choice of careers, saying that it would doom me to the life of a “starving artist”, but I’d like to prove them wrong. Art is my passion and I want to try and make a living as an artist. Any advice?
Well, since I’m not an expert on this issue, I did some research for you. What I found out, and what I gleaned from my own business experience, is that there are several key components to making a living as an artist. First, you will need to treat your career more like a business than a job. That is, unless you get a job in an art affiliated field…more on that later.
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As with any business you need to pay close attention to your finances and follow a budget. Make smart choices with expenditures and find ways to finance your art projects in advance if at all possible. This will keep you out of a deep hole of debt. That’s not to say that to get started in business, or for that really big “break-out” project, you won’t need to borrow some money. Be smart and get creative with financing in order to minimize your risk. Then, hopefully, you will get a return on your investment, aka, sell the art you created with borrowed money.
The challenge of most artists is that they need to market themselves. This is not always easy for them as often, the real joy in what they do is in creating their art, not marketing it or running their art as a business. Yet, this is what moves you from the realm of hobby to career. This is what can lead to living off of your art, instead of tinkering with it evenings after working a long day at what your parents would call a “real” job.
Just as you would need to do with any business, you need to utilize tools such as a good website and social media. Keep putting your art in front of people. Brand yourself as an artist and stay on course with your style of art, at least until you become known and respected for your talent.
I know that artists are creative people and if they like to paint, they like to throw clay pots and they like to create jewelry and they like to photograph…many like to do it all. I’m just saying that stick to one primary art form until you have a following. Then, it will be easier for you to switch your art from, lets say, ceramics to photography, and your followers will come along for the ride. Then again, who am I to tell a creative person what to do? This is your journey and you get to create and let it unfold in the way that brings you joy!
Another key component gleaned from my research is that if you want to succeed as an artist you will need to get comfortable networking with that small percentage of the population who buy art. The 1% crowd. Rich people. If that thought makes you groan, I’m here to tell you to go paint houses instead of Rembrandts for a living!
You’re going to have to get comfortable hobnobbing with rich people. They are the ones who buy art. They are also the ones you can turn to for financing your really big projects! Some might even donate money to you if you agree to engrave their name on the bottom of your potted art masterpiece—their egos have fueled their success, so take advantage of that. How do you think art projects get funded on Kickstarter? Who cares about getting your name on something unless it feeds your ego? Something to think about. Play in to the egos of your supporters.
If you’re not comfortable forging forward with just yourself and your creative talents to sell, you can always make a living working in areas related to the arts. You can teach, work in an art gallery or museum, or take a side job that utilizes your artistic talents. For example, if you are fine arts photographer you can sideline as a wedding photographer. Even if it’s not your first choice for work, most of us don’t have the luxury of enjoying every piece of the jobs we do to make a living. Yet, it’s all part of the success formula.
I have a real soft spot for artists, musicians, writers and all creative spirits. It would do my heart good to have you write me again and tell me that, yes, you were able to prove your parents wrong and you are making that living as an artist…no matter how starving at times! Please pass the Ramen Noodles!
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What first steps can you take to brand yourself as an artist?
What do you need to learn about marketing yourself in business?
How will you set up a business budget that helps drive you to success?
How willing are you to be flexible with your career and do the things that may not be your first choice, but are necessary to your success?
Get more information on making a living as an artist by listening to my Podcast: Making Money as an Artist. Share your comments, we learn from each other!
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