Work on Your Art Business

Artist Matt Tommey, author of the book “Crafting Your Brand” shares an excerpt about the story of his transition to becoming an entrepreneur and what artists need to know.


Crafting Your Brand


“Most entrepreneurs are merely technicians with an entrepreneurial seizure. Most entrepreneurs fail because you are working IN your business rather than ON your business.”  ~ Michael Gerber, Author of The E-Myth

Back in the early 2000’s I stepped out on my own with a Mac computer, some basic marketing materials and a dream of making it as a freelance graphic designer. Until then, I had been working in a creative job within the nonprofit sector but never really considered going out on my own. Things went south where I was working and my wife and I felt like it might be the right time to go for it. So I did.

I can remember those early days – me and my Mac in the sitting room of my master bedroom, working on small business and nonprofit marketing collateral. I’d literally pound the pavement during the day going door-to-door to businesses, asking if they needed any printing, design or web development work. At night, I’d come back and do all the work until late in the night and get back up and do it again.

After a couple of years, like most entrepreneurs that work hard and stay focused, I had business coming in regularly, was making money and was coming to the point where I knew I needed some help. I ended up hiring a business coach who helped me triple my business revenue within three months, which enabled my wife to stay home and be a full-time mom and bookkeeper for the business. I was also able to hire an assistant, expand my design/development team and I literally turned around one day and thought wow, how did this happen? I’m running a business here.

I have to admit that was both a scary and an exciting time for me. On one hand we had lots of business coming in and with that, revenue. That was great. However, what I had to learn to balance was this whole idea of working IN my growing business vs. working ON my business.

As a creative entrepreneur, you have to manage this delicate balance on a daily basis because it is at the core of whether you will be successful or not. Most creatives hate this balance with a vengeance. They want to spend all their time alone in the studio doing what they love. That’s great and part of what we’ve been gifted to do. The other side of that coin is that if an artist doesn’t sell that work then nobody’s eating. Then in some sort of self-righteous fit, they want to tell us all why they shouldn’t have to sell out to the capitalistic demands of our society. Hogwash. Again, it’s not about embracing one or jettisoning the other, it’s about balance – balance for success.

So let’s take this apart. What does it mean to work IN the business vs. ON the business. If you’re anything like most artists, it’s the IN the business side of things that you love the most. That would include things like:

  • Working in the studio
  • Coming up with new creative ideas
  • Talking to customers about new commissions
  • Filling wholesale orders
  • Making deliveries

These are simply the things that most of us as working artists do every day and love. They are probably most of the reason that we even wanted to become an artist in the first place. However, they are only half of the picture.


Enjoy Matt’s easygoing style and wisdom? Readers are raving about his new book, which is available from Amazon here.


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  1. And the things we don’t like are … hopefully to be posted tmrrw?

    • Actually, Nadia . . . that was a cliffhanger, but you might have to read the book. Unless of course I can get another excerpt from Matt. He’s a very nice guy so I think that’s possible!

  2. Buscaré el libro en castellano, espero y deseo seguir leyendo tan interesantes artículos, sobre lo que realmente interesa
    La independencia económica y el éxito,dependen enteramente de nosotros
    ¿por que ser solamente creativos en asuntos de Arte?
    La creatividad en los negocios es una asignatura pendiente en muchos artistas
    Creo verdaderamente que quien mejor puede representar nuestra obra, somos nosotros mismos, y si hay que trabajar MUY duro para llegar a conectar con nuestros posibles compradores , pues hay que ponerse a ello
    Mi arte es mi vida y un hijo que no me gustaría que fracasara
    Saludos para todos!

  3. another interesting post from Matt Tommey…can hardly wait to receive his book from Amazon!

  4. Thanks everyone!

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