Going Belly Up

By Carolyn Edlund

You want to start your own business as an artist. But what if you fail?


Sure, you have a lot of talent, and you create some great art. You want to make it your life’s work. You have big plans. Maybe you have even prepared for years, but you haven’t pulled the trigger. You’re not sure it’s the right time. Will it ever be?

It’s all on-the-job learning

Sometimes I talk with people who would like to start their own creative business, and they tell me that they have been building a body of work for a long time. Plus they have a website, only it’s not published yet. They need to have more information, and more reassurance that they will start out on the right foot.

But guess what? No one call tell you that. Every single entrepreneur who ever started a business had to learn by doing, even if they thought they knew it all going in. You will make mistakes, and find out what not to do – the hard way. Then you will adjust and make different decisions that work better for you. One day you may look back at what went wrong and be glad for the experience that made you a wiser business owner.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Maybe your idea of the worst is that you get rejected by everyone. Or, you lose a lot of money, and feel like an idiot while going broke. You might fear how much competition is out there, and that they could be smarter, more talented or luckier than you. Perhaps you are afraid to leave your day job, because all of your ideas of being an artist are foolish and unrealistic.

But if you never start, then you don’t have to worry about failing – because you already have.

What if you didn’t know you could fail?

Sometimes the best thing about new entrepreneurs is that they don’t even imagine their dreams won’t work out. Imagine being in that place. What would you do if you were guaranteed success?

Start a business on your own terms. Part time, full time, with a partner or solo. The most important thing is to take action. Start with your vision of what you would be doing if you couldn’t fail, and work backwards. What action can you can take today towards your dream and your success?


Want to stay current on cutting edge business articles from Artsy Shark, plus artist features, and an invitation to the next Call for Artists? Click below to sign up for our twice-monthly email. You’ll get all this plus opportunities and special offers that you can’t get anywhere else!

Sign Up For Updates!


  1. Very nice post Carolyn and such truth. It’s difficult to imagine how different my life would be if I hadn’t followed my heart. It’s been one heck of a ride. Even with all the ups and downs I am happy to have traveled in the direction art has taken me, always looking forward to the next fork in the road. Love your blog.

  2. Great post, Carolyn.

    I think it’s important to realize that every successful person, every successful act, has a history of failures behind them/it. It is in the failure that the learning occurs. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should expect failure, but recognize that there is something with in the failed effort that is really important for us to know along the journey toward living out dreams.

    Philosophically, I always plan for variables. This way I’m never disappointed with outcomes. And you are so correct, no plan, no strategy, no journey comes about without simply taking action.

    As I tell the Haggus Society artists, “No think. Do.”

    • Terri, you are so right (and I think your philosophy sounds a little like Yoda! which I love)

      It was in fact a strange set of circumstances, which were in a context of a failure, that led me to take a night course in blogging and starting this website. If not for following that path, it would never have happened.

      I firmly believe that taking that first action, no matter how faulty, is one of the most important thing anyone is business can do. And persistence is the second.

  3. I’m ready – just retired from my career as a Graphic Designer!
    I won’t deny being a little nervous but any big transition can bring a bit of unease. Mostly I’m really excited! Thrilled to be able to take this important step for ME!
    Woo hoo!

    • Congratulations Dorothy! You are in a big transition – but your your business experience will serve you well in your new endeavor.

Speak Your Mind