Will You Survive As an Artist, or Return to a Life of Slavery?
An Important Art Career Message from Eric Rhoads
Maybe you never thought of work as slavery, but many artists spend their lives trying to pursue art full-time -- therefore the thought of returning to a former job is devastating.
Today I will focus on established artists who are concerned that they may have to return to their former careers or take a full-time job.
This morning I heard about an artist who had been in three galleries, and all three galleries recently went out of business. Fortunately, he was able to get all of his artwork returned, but he now has to sell the art himself. He is afraid to go into yet another gallery that might go under. He had been in a no-win job selling life insurance, and dreads the idea of going back to it. What should I recommend?
Put on Your Business Hat
I, too, am an artist, and the idea of mixing art and business is a turn-off for some of my artist friends. But if you want to sell paintings, you have to think like a businessperson.
Sometimes it's easier to see things if you can distance yourself from the problem. So let's pretend you have a widget business. At XYZ Widgets, you have been selling your widgets through three distributors -- but all three distributors have just gone out of business. What would you do?
You would try to find three more distributors -- fast. Why? You're only one person, and chances are three people selling your product will potentially be three times more effective. It's a better use of your time to find sales agents than it is to try to sell the widgets yourself. Plus, distributors are expert sellers and might be more effective. You cannot worry that they too might go out of business -- you can make a judgment regarding their solvency when you interview them.
Preventing Business Loss
Why did XYZ Widgets get into this position in the first place? If you track the numbers, in every business there are warning signals. If you required each distributor to sell 10 widgets a month and one distributor started selling only five a month, it's critical to react rapidly to replace the lost five widgets the moment you see a dip in business. The best scenario is to find yet another distributor that can sell 10 a month. If they sell only five, you are even. If they sell 10, you are ahead of the game. Of course, if each distributor is losing business, you need to find replacements or additional distributors so that you sell your required number each month.
Using the analogy in the art world: If you count on each of your galleries to sell a certain number of paintings each month and one galler is not selling enough paintings, you need to add another gallery to make up for the loss of sales. In this man's case, all three galleries probably did not go out of business at once -- but he missed the warning signals. Had this artist disciplined himself to count on a certain number of sales for each gallery, he would have seen the signals that he needed to add additional galleries when they fell short.
Today he is playing catch-up. Had he added galleries when he first started losing business, he probably would be about even now instead of scrambling to survive.
Throw Out Old Rules
It used to be that a good artist could not support more than a few galleries. One artist I know (name available on request) had two old rules:
1. He only signed with galleries within a three-hour driving distance.
2. He never had more than three galleries.
This artist runs his art business like a business. When things started getting slow this year, he gave up his old rules and took these actions:
1. Each gallery he had was selling about 50 percent fewer paintings, so he set a goal to get three more galleries.
2. Because business was soft in his region, he got three galleries in different regions where the economy was stronger.
3. He decided to paint smaller, less expensive paintings -- but he painted more of them. The lower price encouraged sales, and he had more inventory available in the event that all of the galleries were successful.
The result? This artist is not suffering. The addition of three more galleries did the trick. By having six galleries, he has not skipped a beat, and is making about the same income as before.
How Did He Find Three More Galleries?
This artist discovered Artist Advocate Magazine, which presented his artwork to 6,500 galleries by mail and another 8,000 galleries by e-mail, plus made it available to art licensing companies and art publishers via a digital online edition. It's like a catalogue of available artists for galleries, and it has been successful for many artists, including the artist mentioned above.
The important fall issue of Artist Advocate deadlines on August 12. The production team will do the artwork for you and design your profile page to display your best work.
A Funny Thing Happens When You Remain Invisible: Nothing
As an artist, you can hope things get better, or you can hope someone discovers you, or you can hope you alone can sell enough artwork to survive. But are you willing to risk giving up the life of an artist and returning to a job? It's important to stay visible and find more galleries to sell your artwork across the country. Contacting over 6,500 galleries on your own would be a difficult and expensive task. Plus, many galleries prefer to find their artists in Artist Advocate, which prevents the inconvenience of artist solicitations. Artist Advocate exposes your work to thousands of galleries, and has many recent success stories to prove that it works.
What will you do? Remain invisible in hopes something will change -- or be proactive to save your art career? Hoping things improve isn't enough. Being proactive to boost your career stands a better chance of success.
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Read my art marketing blog at http://ericrhoads.blogs.com/artist_marketing/
PS: Most artists I know spent years getting into a position to quit their jobs and be full-time artists. Don't place your freedom at risk. If you're not selling enough artwork, you need someone selling it for you. Though some galleries have disappeared in this recession, most of them remain successful. In fact, we talk to dozens of galleries every day, and most are still selling artwork. The good news is that most are seeking new artists because they feel it could boost their business. This is a great time to take control of your career and ad more galleries. Why remain invisible?
For information on Artist Advocate, go to www.artistadvocatemagazine.com Or hit reply and say, "Eric, please have someone from Artist Advocate call me."
Artist Advocate Representatives:
Peggy Taylor (email@example.com)
Kathleen Lawrence-Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jaye Alison Moscariello (email@example.com)
Lisa Freedman (firstname.lastname@example.org)