You want to be a self-employed artist or craftsperson, but maybe you don’t know where to start. You might be lacking clarity on what a business plan is, or whether you even need one. Or, you don’t know how to price your work. These are common threads running through many conversations with creative entrepreneurs who may have plenty of talent, but not a lot of business experience, or confidence.
Sometimes, people work on their art very seriously in the studio for years, but have sold little or nothing. Other times, a website has been in the works for an extended period of time, but never actually published. Projects get started, and either abandoned or put on hold.
There are a number of reasons why prospective creative entrepreneurs become “non-starters” instead:
This is a huge deterrent to putting yourself out in the world. You may fear rejection, or you may fear business failure. Perhaps you are afraid to put a financial investment into a business you aren’t sure about. Or you fear being ridiculed by people you know who don’t believe anyone can make a living as an artist.
Some creative entrepreneurs overcome the jitters by forcing themselves to start showing, talking about, and promoting their art, even though they are uncomfortable doing it. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Perhaps you won’t sell anything. But if you never get started, you won’t sell anything anyway.
Stepping outside your comfort zone actually makes that comfort zone larger. Quite often you find that you become quite good at talking about and selling your work more effectively than you ever thought you could.
If you currently experience a lack of emotional support from family or friends for starting your own business, you need to surround yourself with others who believe in you. “Unfriend” the naysayers and seek out an active arts community, in person and online, where you get encouragement, resources and ideas, and networking with those supporters to find opportunities, and to share them.
Yes, it takes money to get started. But aren’t you spending money on supplies already? Using cash wisely should be a focus of any business, so make a list of priorities: you will need a website, business cards, materials, a way to display your work, a method to collect payment (such as merchant services provider for credit cards), and other items specific to your individual needs.
One huge benefit to having an online presence is that there is so much free advertising and exposure to be had. Everything from social media to guest blogging, to getting your images into articles online doesn’t take a financial investment. It does take time, though, and your time has value. Creating a marketing calendar will help you stay consistent in these activities, while also putting boundaries on your daily involvement.
Lack of Business Knowledge
Every business involves on-the-job training. There is no way to escape it. You will make mistakes along the way, which is one of the best ways to learn how to do things better, and make your business more solid.
Arm yourself with the best business skills you can acquire, by researching, reading and learning about running a business as an artist or craftsperson. Some of the main things any artist needs to know:
- Is your body of work ready to sell? Is it large enough, cohesive enough, in a signature style that makes sense?
- How to price your work to make a profit, whether at retail or wholesale;
- How to communicate your story and how can you use it to create value in your work;
- Your target audience and how to reach them
- What channels you will use to sell – retail, wholesale, consignment, licensing, using agents, etc.
You alone can decide whether or not it’s truly your passion to take your creative talents and make a business out of them. It’s your vision, and your opportunity to take or to not take.
Making art for art’s sake or because you enjoy it is totally valid. Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. If you want to go through with it, prepare yourself for success by getting the knowledge and your art community behind you, and start by taking the first step.
Want to learn how to market your art or craft work like a professional? Our self-paced digital E-Course is available online, and instantly accessible. Marketing for Artists and Craftspeople is a comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs just starting out, as well as seasoned businesspeople who want to ramp up their sales and exposure.