Your Most Powerful Business Strategy

by ABI Executive Director Carolyn Edlund

Why do some artists seem to make it in business, while most others fall behind? It’s not about talent or ability, or desire.


Everyone is creative. Everyone is talented. Few are disciplined. How does this relate to building your art business? Read it at


In my experience working with thousands of artists over the years, I’ve noticed some clear distinctions between the people who rise above, and make a successful business out of their dreams, and the people who don’t.

It’s actually not hard to spot those artists who have the best chances of success, because I see them taking action and approaching their goals in a positive, proactive disciplined way.

You need a destination before you can draw a road map, and this applies to your art business. What is your vision? How do you see your life, and your daily activities once you have reached the goals you have set? What will you be doing? How will you be earning money through your art or handmade work? What does your business model look like?

Once your vision is established, and you clearly understand the chosen result, work backwards to set goals and make plans to reach them. In that way, you will have a checklist to follow that leads to realizing both your short and long-term goals.

Artists who succeed are not only disciplined; they are devoted. They create because it sustains them, and they build their small business because it fulfills their vision.

The business half of your tasks can be challenging – can you embrace them? Each day, do you look forward to taking on the work of building your small business? Do you delight in and celebrate every small victory, every step forward along the way?

Create your vision and set your goals, then begin work immediately. When I work individually with an artist and we create “next steps” to move their business forward, I usually get an email from them within a few days listing what they have accomplished. Keeping that motivation and drive sustained is key to getting traction and seeing results.

Watching artists give up can be heartbreaking. I’ve spoken to people who worked very hard for months, enduring rejections and difficulties, and rising to challenges, and then they stop. They lose the energy and the passion, and take the easier path.

Simply hanging in there can be more powerful than almost anything else. Consistent, persistent action is the secret to success. Show up and be seen. Outlast the competition. Follow up, move past obstacles and rejection, and don’t give up. When people know that you are still there – that you are still creating, you are in it for the long run and you are working hard, they take you more seriously. Being taken seriously builds confidence.

Discipline and self-motivation are more potent forces in business than any amount of talent or artistic skill. Planning and reaching for the vision you create will keep you on your path to success.



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  1. Thanks for the excellent article, Carolyn – you really nailed it when you talk about the discipline part of being an artist. Sometimes creatives have a hard time staying focused, but if you want to sell art it’s imperative you stick with a schedule or marketing to-do list and follow through. I have seen my sales soar when I make a regular effort to market my work – and have felt the decline in my bank account when I don’t. The art business takes momentum to grow, and if you stick to a marketing plan and a painting schedule, you will see the results. It may take some time, but success is out there for the patient and determined artist.

  2. Structure and consistent action are exactly what creative people, such as myself, need. It’s easy to overthink things, procrastinate or do something else that’s “not so hard.” Pushing through that is an effort but one that is well-rewarded. Thank you for the insight!

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