Setting and Reaching Your Art Business Goals

by Carolyn Edlund

What do you want to achieve? Define your vision, set specific goals, and build a road map to get there.


How to set SMART goals


Give some serious thought to the vision you have as a working artist. What do you really want to achieve in your business? Imagine what that would that look like and feel like. What would you do every day?

With a solid vision in mind, you know your destination. This enables you to create a road map, and avoid getting distracted, or end up pulled in different directions. With the overall vision in mind, write down long and short-term goals.

Goal setting is an exercise in which you name the results that you want to achieve in a clear and logical way. It helps you avoid being pulled off task, and empowers you to say no to things that don’t align with those goals. Then you can plan out next steps to move forward.


Write down your goals in such a way that you understand them, can take action, and measure results. The SMART Goal system helps you set goals that you can effectively reach. SMART is an acronym for:

S =   Specific 
M = Measurable
A =  Attainable
R =  Realistic
T =  Timely

In the chart below are definitions of those terms and gives you a guideline to set your first goals.


SMART Goal chart


Work on setting goals that fit these guidelines. Then, break them down further into tasks that are clearly defined and manageable. As you complete these, check them off your list.

Let’s take a look at a few examples of goals that don’t meet SMART guidelines:

  • I plan to do a lot of marketing this year. This statement is too vague. How do you define “a lot”? How much is enough? And when will you know when you have completed it?
  • I want to dramatically increase income from the sales of my work. This goal is relative; what is a dramatic increase? And how will you do it? Take a close look to make sure it is realistic and attainable.
  • I plan to improve my painting skills. How will this be achieved? When? Where? How will you measure your improvement?

Here are a few examples of SMART goals that meet the guidelines, give direction, and require accountability:

  • I will create an ecommerce website for my handmade business that is ready to launch three months from today.
  • I will create a business Facebook page and an Instagram account by tomorrow, and set a calendar schedule to post on each profile three times weekly for the next four months.
  • By the end of next year, I will have exhibited my work at five art fairs.

As you set specific goals, prioritize them and then work backwards. Break your tasks into manageable pieces that can be accomplished and checked off the list. To jump into action on your goal, ask “What can I do today?”

Small actions taken over time are the building blocks of your art business. If you were to take a look at the average day of full-time successful artists, you would see many mundane tasks that don’t look very exciting. But those actions, taken on a regular basis, produce big results.

Let’s take one of the SMART Goals above and work backwards, to what you can do today:

My goal by the end of next year is to exhibit my work at 5 art fairs.

5.  Submit applications to 5 fairs.

4.  Put together all written materials, jury fee and images to complete fair applications.

3.  Take photographs of my work (or have them taken professionally) to submit to juried fairs.

2.  Research events in my area to determine those fairs and festivals that are appropriate for my work and check the deadlines.

1.   Do internet research to find listings of fairs and festivals in my area, and sites that provide reviews.

What Can You Do Today?

Look at things realistically, and see what you can do now to start working on building your small business. It’s very easy to become inspired, and then get overwhelmed by what you have to do – and either give up or postpone it indefinitely. Don’t let that happen!

Make a plan to move forward by setting SMART Goals, and working backwards, listing steps and deciding what you can do now. Remember to make those steps “bite-sized” so that you will be able to tick them off your checklist and see what you’ve gotten done. That is a very satisfying feeling, and will help motivate you to move toward the next step.


Want to stay current on cutting edge business articles from Artsy Shark, plus artist features, and an invitation to the next Call for Artists? Subscribe to our twice-monthly Updates, and get a free e-book on Where to Sell Art Online right now!


Speak Your Mind