Moments of doubt are an inevitable part of being an artist. When sales have slowed or late-night studio sessions seem ceaseless, it is easy to start second-guessing your path. But in order to be able to work professionally as an artist, we must be able to confront these doubts.
We outlined the biggest problems that artists face when making the transition from hobby artist to career artist, and how to overcome them.
As a team of artists, designers, developers, and writers at Artwork Archive, we have been lucky enough to spend the last five years talking with thousands of artists about how they have grown their businesses. Here are the five most common mistakes we hear, and how to fix them!
Problem One: You Accept Chaos and Stress as the Norm
One universal artist problem is that we jump from project to project, driven by sparks of inspiration, deadlines and financial pressure. We fail to realize that taking the preliminary steps to have a strong foundation in place will make all of our future work easier.
Staying organized is crucial for those of us who want to make a living doing what we love, and to actually have the peace of mind to enjoy the process along the way. Without something in place, we run into the same problems day in and day out, wasting valuable time searching for information and perpetuating a cycle of stress — when we should be making work.
Fix: Find a system that works for you and that you will actually use. There are many productivity, inventory management, and financial tracking programs that can help give your business structure.
We suggest setting aside one night a week to download and compare these programs. Then, and this is the hard part, take the time to determine which one is right for you.
Evaluate whether or not the system is making your workflow easier, or if you can see it benefitting your business. Most of the time we try these apps in a crisis moment, but then never follow through fully to see how beneficial they can be.
Problem Two: You Let Deadlines Slip By
We’ve all been there. You wrote all the upcoming important dates on a whiteboard in your studio. You thought you were on top of this year’s applications and events. Then, in passing, a friend asks about your submission that was due … last week.
Half the battle in making it as an artist is applying. You need not only to apply yourself to your craft but also apply to every opportunity out there — the residencies, grants, juried shows, and fairs. There is a lot to keep track of in an art career.
Fix: Get in the routine of setting reminders for yourself. If you aren’t already using a system that keeps you up to date on important deadlines set reminders on your phone, on your computer, on an old-fashioned paper calendar, everywhere and anywhere that you will actually look to see what you have coming up.
Problem Three: You Don’t Know What Artwork You Have Available
So, you just heard from a potential collector that they are interested in your work—and you are ecstatic! You get to talking and they love all your artwork, but one series in particular. Here’s the problem: you don’t remember which gallery those pieces are in, or even if you’ve already sold them.
The more work you make and the longer you practice your art, the harder it is to keep track of everything.
OPA member Jane Hunt shared this all-too-familiar story with us. “As my art business has grown, it’s been increasingly difficult to keep track of everything. I’ve also entered a painting into a show when it was actually unavailable in a gallery. It was very stressful not knowing where everything was. I kept feeling like I was going to mess up.”
Fix: Start tracking your artwork from the start. Or, if it’s already past the beginning—start now! The sooner you start tracking your work (where it is, which galleries it’s been in, who you sold it to, when and for how much) you will be able to not only build a comprehensive overview of your inventory, you will be able to make more informed decisions about your art business.
Then, check out these 5 FAQs about art inventory management systems.
Bonus: Did you know an accurate and up-to-date provenance makes your artwork worth more? According to Christine Guernsey, ISA CAPP, “Solid and documentable provenance increases the value and desirability of an artwork.”
Problem Four: You Waste Time
You don’t have to be producing all the time, but learn to waste time productively. Taking breaks is absolutely essential, and can be a healthy way to stay creative and rested. However, many of us waste too many hours or days or weeks doing administrative tasks that steal away our energy and only lead to frustration and burnout.
Fix: Take time to plan your week, work around your peak creative time, set a timeframe and take breaks, use productivity tools, then reward yourself and recover for the night. We are most productive when we don’t take work with us everywhere and we actually take the time to relax.
Problem Five: You Don’t Appear Professional
Notice that we didn’t say you aren’t professional. Even if you are at the top of your game skill-wise, if you don’t make a good first impression with potential clients or galleries, you won’t appear professional.
Collectors want to purchase artwork from someone who they feel confident in and can see the path of their success. They want to know that you will be around in a few years, and perhaps the value of the artwork will increase. Galleries want to know that you are easy to work with and will follow through on your word.
Fix: Have inventory reports, invoices, and consignment sheets ready to hand over to clients. Before you head out to meet with a gallery or collector, bring along a list of your current works available to present them with. Make it as easy as possible for the other person to say “yes” to a purchase.
Don’t make a potential client do the leg-work to get the information they need to make a decision about acquiring your artwork. Having professional reports that include details like contact information, images, price, and creation date help buyers understand the big picture of your work — and help you make the sale.
The good news is that these are all fixable. The main takeaway is that having a system in place frees up a lot of your time tracking down information and a reduces the stress of trying to remember things or find things. With these fixes, you’ll be more productive and have more peace-of-mind.
Guest Blog by Artwork Archive
One inventory system that can help you accomplish all these goals is Artwork Archive, an online inventory system that gives you the tools to track your work.