Qualifications: great multi-tasker; organized, dedicated, creative, skilled, average to above-average accounting abilities, able to maintain inventory, packing and shipping aficionado, with ongoing ability to meet multiple deadlines. Willing to be rejected, criticized, endure money droughts, and paint-stained clothing. Sense of humor a must. Qualifications changes; ongoing…
Who in their right mind would willingly sign on for this job? Me, for one. I didn’t originally go into this with a business mindset. I started off, like many, with a love of creating; which morphed into a love of painting, which became a desire to sell my work. It sounds so simple when I type it, and in the beginning, it was. Eventually, however, I began to shift the way I thought about things and realized that what I wanted was to treat what I do as a job and a business. Saying something is a job often brings to mind drudgery, the dread of Monday morning, and working on the weekend. However, it is possible to love your job, even look forward to it, and ultimately isn’t that what we all want from something we spend a good portion of our lives doing?
In this multi-part series, I will be exploring what it takes to turn what may have begun as a hobby into a business, whether full-time or part-time. I will be covering all of the issues listed at the beginning of this article plus many more; things I’ve learned along the way, and things I’m still figuring out.
Let’s begin with the mindset. It is one of the most important factors in the success of all of the other aspects of the job. You have to decide your art, your work is a serious endeavor; which has nothing to do with your art being serious. You may be creating humorous cartoons rendered in scribbles…it’s how you think about what you do with it and how you present it to the world that should be taken seriously.
To begin a shift in the way you think of your art, from a hobby to a business, begins in your own mind. Declare to yourself first that your art, no matter what form it takes, is important and it deserves respect. You begin to show respect for what you’re doing so that others will, in turn, do the same. Stop apologizing for the time you spend on it; the mess you make, the space it takes up…which is difficult in the beginning, especially if you have a full-time job outside of your home, because these things do impact other people. To that end, have a conversation with whomever your new job will affect and hopefully get them on board and gain their support. Once your loved ones understand how you look at your work; perhaps the time, mess, and space won’t matter as much. Hopefully, the coming articles covering those topics will help, and in the mean-time please read my article A Space to Create for suggestions on how to wrangle your supplies and carve out a niche for your workspace.
Being committed to what you are trying to accomplish goes hand in hand with your mindset. I am committed to working on my art business 5 days a week. Are there weeks where that doesn’t happen? Sure, but I try not to make a habit of it because that’s a slippery slope. The more I’m away from the studio or other aspects of my work, the easier it is to skip things altogether and a snowball effect happens. I’ll discuss how I manage my time and organization in later articles, but for now I’ll say that especially in the beginning it is critical to set a goal of how much time you are going to spend on your art/business and do everything you can to try and achieve that goal each week until it becomes routine. To that end, I wouldn’t pick 5 days a week as your initial goal. Start with something achievable, and only you can decide that for yourself. If you can manage just one consistent day to carve out dedicated time then that’s a great start. This isn’t a race and setting your goals too high may lead to frustration, exhaustion and suck the joy from the very thing you love.
If you are serious about taking your art to the next level and turning it into something that will hopefully bring in money and maybe one day turn into a full-time gig, then you need to be thinking towards that goal. Certainly, there is a lot to consider, but the first thing I will suggest is to focus on the art first. When I was first beginning the process of considering approaching galleries and selling my art, a friend arranged a lunch with an established artist in the community so I could pick her brain. She was honest with me and told me I wasn’t ready. She looked at my work and said I was all over the place with no recognizable style and didn’t have enough quality pieces to even begin to think about approaching a gallery or having a show. Ouch! While it really stung to hear her blunt honesty, I took it to heart. I refocused on my art and spent a lot more time in the studio.
Seek out the opinion of an artist you admire who is “living the dream” and see if he/she would be willing to do the same for you. Be brave; lay it all out there, and be willing to hear a harsh truth or realize you’re on the right path. The bottom line is; any successful art business starts with the art and flourishes with commitment and a serious mindset. Until next time-
Read additional articles by Amy Hutto here.
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