By Carolyn Edlund
What’s working for you? What has failed? What have you learned?
I make a living by speaking with artists about their businesses. Most of the time I find them to be very positive, with great resolve to grow their little piece of turf in the art world.
There may be a few glitches, though – perhaps their website isn’t getting traffic, they aren’t sure of their perfect market, or they feel uncomfortable talking about themselves. Sometimes suppliers are unreliable, or the artist spends too much time on everything but studio work.
Step back and take a look at your own art business. Having a few issues that are slowing your exposure, sales or business relationships doesn’t mean that you aren’t talented, that your work is not saleable, or that you are a failure. Most likely if your business isn’t producing for you, there is a little tinkering to do under the hood with the systems in your business.
You may not think of them as systems, but you have developed ways to operate your business – some parts may be highly functional and others maybe not so much.
If your business isn’t working like a well-oiled machine, take stock of the systems you use:
Business Planning. Do you have a business plan? Where do you want to be in a year, and in five years? Would you like to expand, and hire employees? Or perhaps quit your day job? How do you set goals, and how do you measure your progress?
Production System. Do you have a dedicated studio space without distractions, where you are undisturbed for sufficient lengths of time to accomplish what you need to do to build your body of work? Do you have a market you want to design for, projects in the pipeline? A method to work efficiently to produce enough work?
Support System. Are you interacting with an art community, such as a guild? Do you have support from other creatives, who may share resources, ideas and emotional support? Is your family supportive and do they give you the time and space you need to create art? What about an online community – do you engage your network on social media to get the word out and help to share about other artists as well?
Financial System. Do you have a system to keep all your expenses and income organized? Are you confident in pricing your work? Do you have profit built into your pricing and do you keep accurate records, or do you have someone doing this for you?
Marketing System. Do you have a marketing budget and plan in place? A marketing calendar? Are you happy with your website and is it working for you? Could you plan and execute an event such as an open studio, or have access to assistance? Do you use email newsletters, postcards, press kits and other forms of marketing?
Sales System. Are you following up on leads to interested collectors, galleries or other opportunities? It takes 5-12 contacts for most sales to close. That means you need a system to stay in touch with people who appreciate your work, and who have purchased from you in the past. Does your calendar have these reminders and are they effective?
Sometimes all it takes is a little insight into the systems in your own business which aren’t fully developed or working smoothly to get better results. Do an analysis of your own art business and identify those systems that need your attention, so that you can focus on making them a more productive part of your art business.
See more of John Borys’ artwork at the Mary Tomas Gallery.