Strategic Planning for Artists

By Carolyn Edlund

Wordle: Galleries Mix


If you don’t know where you are, how can you get where you’re going?


It’s September, and soon will be that important fourth quarter of the year. Are you ready to move forward with a focused plan to sell more of your work? Make a self-evaluation of your progress this year. See where you stand now so that you can do some strategic planning.


Are you out of sync with where you are in your business?

Some artists want to get gallery representation, but they hardly have enough work to show. Or, their body of work is all over the map, and they haven’t developed a defined style. They need to start working hard in the studio to create a portfolio of art that makes sense and expresses who they are first. If you try to jump the gun at this point, you will only experience frustration and rejection.


Are you aware of your possibilities?

Sometimes an artist has had success in one arena, but it’s not working so well any more. It could be that times have changed, shows have declined, or maybe a gallery you worked with has gone out of business. It’s easy to become despondent if you don’t keep cultivating new opportunities. You may just keep doing what you know and end up with diminishing returns.


Do you have a system?

Have you created a structure for your business that allows you to make ongoing sales and get referrals? If not, you must develop ways to market your work, cultivate customers and collectors, and make the most of each sale.


Is your website working for you?

Many times, an artist has a website already built, but it doesn’t have focus or impact, and gets little or no response. They also have no idea of how to drive the right kind of traffic to their site. They may even revise their site endlessly without a real plan in mind.


Do you have an overall game plan?

Many new artists don’t have one. They go with trial and error, blowing with the wind and jumping on the next new thing that promises success.  Without a grasp on the big picture, they don’t really know where they are. This means they can’t move to the next step because they don’t know the next step.



Using the SMART goals method with specific time-based objectives can help you get started on big picture planning. Breaking it down into smaller bites means you can measure results and check them off as you tackle your list.  Belonging to an arts community, taking business education workshops and engaging with a mentor can also help you organize your thoughts, get them written down, and create a road map to get where you want to go.




  1. you’re so spot on here…i use to be all over the place with my art, cuz i love to create. but getting really focused has tremendously helped me this year.

    i have learned a lot over the last 4 years with the hit or miss method, but now i am taking all that knowledge and honing in on a good marketing plan and goals!

  2. That’s wonderful, Kathryn, I’m so glad to hear it. When you get focused, you start getting traction which leads to sales and more success.

    I wish you all the best with your plans – and your sales!!

  3. Well said Carolyn! couldn’t agree more – having a strategic plan is very important so one can align all other actions to it and success based on a defined path :). it’s so fun to do anyway and see what one can actually accomplish at the end!

    • Thanks Alex – I know you are very cognizant of what you are doing, and how you are interacting online.

      One of the biggest questions marks I see with artists is their website. A website is “central headquarters” for anyone in business, but there are an awful lot of people who have one because they know they need one, but don’t create it to be effective and really promote them as artists.


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