Is Fear Running Your Art Business?

by Carolyn Edlund

Most every artist deals with some level of fear, manifesting itself in a variety of ways. Fear often drives behavior, most of which is destructive to your art business.


Go Confidently


Some of these are:

  • Fear that your work isn’t good enough. Can you even call yourself an artist?
  • Fear of failing as an artist.
  • Fear that your prices are too high – or too low. So you waffle on price, or have a sale, or just stress because you aren’t sure if price is even your problem.
  • Fear of competition. You might do shows that are below your level, just to make sure you get in. You might not even want to be in the marketplace. Sometimes, seeing what everyone else is making causes anxiety.
  • Fear of being ripped off. Will your copyrights on your work be infringed? You may not even want to show your art online.
  • Fear of losing business. How to keep those customers who have bought from you. Do you need something new? More of the same?
  • Fear of dealing with customers. You want to follow up, but don’t feel comfortable bothering people who have shown interest in your work. The words “closing the sale” are excruciating.
  • Fear of being rejected. By anyone, really. It hurts.

These all boil down to one basic fear, though. Fear of taking a risk.

Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear.  ~ George Addair

It’s risky to expose your art publicly, and to criticism. It’s risky to open your heart and share your passion and hear the word “No” in reply.

Going into that uncomfortable place – doing it anyway, when there is something to lose, is actually where you have the most to gain. Because other people understand those fears. They have many of the same fears, even if they are secretly held. And they want you to succeed.

When you choose to consciously take a risk, you expand your comfort zone each time. Throwing yourself and your work out there to let “the net appear” helps diminish and overcome those natural fears.

In many environments such as guild meetings, art salons and online discussion groups, artists bring up these topics, and inevitably they spur conversations that focus on compassion and support.  Seek out those communities where others believe in you. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting voices.

Overcoming fear is a process, and it may never be totally conquered. But each time you allow yourself to risk, you take a little bit of that fear and replace it with confidence. Take that confidence, and step forward with your art business.

It’s not about winning or losing, it’s having the guts to show up and be seen when there are no predictions of outcome. ~ Brené Brown

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  1. I like to think, risk=problem solving=creativity.

    • Very true, Chris. I recently saw an interview with Brene Brown (who is quoted in the article) and they discussed creativity being the “new literacy” – something that everyone has to embrace.

  2. I experience pretty much each and every one of these fears pretty much every, single day. I embrace them, recognize them, and get on with it in spite of them. Will they ever go away? I think not. It is how you go forth anyway that makes or breaks you. Let me say that 40 years of these challenges gets tired and old. A positive attitude, educating oneself, surrounding oneself with positivity…..sometimes none of it helps. I just make it part of who I am as I work harder and harder. Adversity is there every step of the way; an artist who gives up the battle was never an artist to begin with because if you truly are one, you HAVE to do it, in spite of every, single one of these.

    • Leisa, I think you could have written this article. Only by embracing those fears and stepping into them and beyond does anyone move themselves forward into the business they want. Thanks so much for sharing this!

  3. Hi
    I came across your site and this particular post and what timing!
    I am preparing to take part in a local art & craft market (my first ever) and these are all my exact fears that you have listed. Though these fears will take a loooong time to go away, what you have mentioned kind of makes sense now to me…’each time you allow yourself to risk, you take a little bit of that fear and replace it with confidence…’
    I am hoping that to happen.
    Thank you 🙂

    • Best of luck to you, Anu. Starting out with your first show is exciting, but I agree – it takes guts!

      Hopefully you will find that overcoming your fears by taking this risk will be well worth it, and you will continue to do markets for a long time to come.

  4. Good Day,
    It’s a relief to be remember I’m not the only one who is living in fear. It’s part of every decision I’m taking.
    I’m always scare I will do the wrong choice, wrong price, wrong exhibition….but I decided to give myself the right to make mistake, to learn, to grow as an artist. I fell before I could walk.

    Each time I overcome my fear I’m proud of myself, just that I think it’s worth the journey.
    Thank you for posting so interesting and diverse articles.

    • Sylvie, I would consider you a courageous artist – to take chances anyway, and be willing to make mistakes. Isn’t that really the only way that we grow as people, and as artists?

  5. Thank you for writing this article. It is relevant …. every few months!!! (growth is sprial – we revisit issues on newer levels, if we continue to mature and grow). With each step of the journey, walking along the edge, new levels of fear arise – each more delicate and hidden than the last. I moved here to Montana a little over two year ago to pursue a career as a composer. I stole a coffee mug from my sister-in-law with that exact same quote (misquoted) by Thoreau (actually, she let me have the mug, after I left). Below is the actual and full quote, which is even more inspiring. Thanks again, great article to share!!!! Here is the complete quote, it come from Thoreau’s Walden: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. . . . In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

  6. LOVE that ending quote by Brene Brown, it sums it all up so well! Yes, the fears are there regularly as most of us artists can attest. But what are we going to DO about it? Sit still & paralyzed while wallowing in it (as I’ve done on some days, I hate to admit…) or just “grab the guts” and show up anyway? Having NO expectations of outcome sure helps! Reminding myself of the alternative life I would face NOT being an artist helps keep me plugging away at it, and I know causes growth in many ways as well. Thank you for this refresher on the topic!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Lisa. Showing up and “doing it anyway” is the way that artists, and other entrepreneurs need to run their days to make it all work. It’s part of the challenge, and certainly the reward when we see our businesses grow.

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