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7 Ways Creatives Can Embrace Entrepreneurship

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What is an artist? Ask an art purist, and they’ll tell you that art exists for its sake and for expression alone. Therefore, an artist exists to create art. This outdated definition feeds into that romantic idea of a “starving artist.” Someone who lives for their art, so much so that they’re willing to go hungry and penniless rather than “sell out” by making money for their work.

It’s 2023, though, and we need to update our definition of an artist. Artistic ability does not know gender, age or sexuality. And it doesn’t require you to give up your money, energy or goals to express it.

An artist is someone who values themselves and their work — and doesn’t shy away from building a successful livelihood around it. You can be an artist, but you can also be an entrepreneur. Or art-preneur.

Related: How to Build a Business as a Working Artist

What is an art-preneur?

As an “art-preneur,” you’re not just an artist, you’re a brand. You’re not just a painter or sculptor or filmmaker; you’re a CEO. A marketer. A strategist. Of course, it also means you’re a bookkeeper, salesperson and your own administrative assistant.

When blending art and business together, you become not only the sole creator of your product but also the CEO of your business. You are in charge of how your art business performs.

You make the decisions, you call the shots. And to be honest, you’re going to make mistakes on the CEO side of things. But that’s all part of the fun. It’s how you learn and improve as an art-preneur. But how can you, as an artist, embrace your entrepreneurial side so you can make a living from your art?

Here are 7 ways:

1. Learn how to market yourself

Paint one collection, and put it up for sale. If the collection doesn’t sell (or doesn’t sell as well as you hoped), what should you do? The first step is finding a new way to market yourself, your art brand and your collection.

There are many different ways to market products and services out there, so I’ll share a tip with you: Find a marketing style that feels right to you.

You’re an artist, so you have a creative mind already. Use it. You don’t have to use traditional marketing tactics or learn all the marketing jargon to do it successfully. Do what feels right to you. That might include teaching in-person workshops, hosting a Q&A on social media, dropping exclusive prints or working on commission for a limited time.

Try different strategies if you’re not sure how you’d prefer to market yourself. See what performs well and what feels authentic to you. The main thing to remember is to get your art and brand in front of people who want to buy.

2. Fill in your calendar

Hope is not a strategy. This is a tough love moment, but you need a solid business plan from the get-go — something more tangible than hope.

The best way to get past the pipe dream stage and into something actionable? Use a calendar. Digital calendar, pretty planner, old-school calendar you can nail to the wall: It’s up to you. Choose a goal, such as “sell X number of paintings,” and pick a deadline for your goal.

Then work backward and fill in your calendar. Fill in events like:

  • Collection drops

  • Art shows

  • Commission works

  • Courses or workshops

  • Any upcoming projects

  • Any upcoming events

With these events, how can you use them to reach your goal? Maybe you push commissions during your downtime. Or you hype up new collection drops earlier than you originally planned.

When you have your goal planted in your calendar and your events filled in, your strategy for reaching said goal will start to take shape.

3. Be present on social media

Social media gives you a direct connection to art lovers and your ideal collectors. That’s why it’s so important to keep your social media updated and to stay present.

Announce new collection launches and upcoming events. Promote last chances to buy products, or tease a new piece that’s dropping soon. Share anything and everything related to your business. Give your followers all the information they need to buy your art.

Related: How to Build and Maintain a Successful Art Career

4. Create an art brand

Art-preneurship is not just about focusing on your art. It’s about creating an art brand for your art business. To develop a brand that stands out just as much as your art, ask yourself:

  • What’s your “why?” Why do you make your art?

  • What sets you (as an artist) and your art (as your product) apart from others?

  • Who is your market? How can you best reach them?

Whether you’re showing up on Instagram or hosting your art in a gallery, remember that people are buying you as much as they’re buying your pieces. When you know your why, what and who, you’ll be able to show up in ways that are authentic and unique. At the end of the day, that helps your art get more reach (and more sales).

5. Look to your community

Your audience is more than subscribers or followers — it’s all the people you have in your community and your network. Your relationships with people online and offline can help you find success as an art-preneur and increase your reach to new places.

Make a list of all the different groups you belong to, like art communities, churches or worship groups, business networks or masterminds, neighborhood groups and so on.

How can you leverage your connections in these communities in a way that feels mutually beneficial? Are there people you’re close to in your life who can spread the word about your art? People in your life can offer you valuable support that you can’t buy, but you’re richer for having.

6. Get comfortable with numbers

As artists, it might seem like we’re just not wired to manage the financial side of things. You might even hate doing it. But as an art-preneur, learning how to manage your finances is part of the job title.

Start small, and start with the basics. Keep track of what you’re spending and what you’re making. Know how your art is selling. From these basic numbers, you can get a sense of the health of your business and predict how it will do in the future.

Related: 5 Non-Negotiables When Building a Successful Art Business

7. Take risks

As an artist, you’re already used to taking risks. Every time you put paint to the canvas or clay to the wheel, you’re taking a risk. As an art-preneur, the risk might seem even more substantial, but the alternative is staying where you are, feeling like you can’t make a living from your art.

It boils down to deciding which risk you’re willing to take: The risk of trying something new — or not trying anything at all.

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