Life is Art, and Art is life, but life requires money to live comfortably. Success is measured not by the amount of money you have, but by your contribution to the world.
What have you contributed? Do your fans and followers want more? This guide will give you a few creative solutions on how to make a living as an artist and be successful living your dream.
1. Make your portfolio
A portfolio is a collection of samples of your work. Choose your best pieces, this is your "resume" as an artist. It is a good idea to have a physical representation of your portfolio, and not just post pictures online. This will allow you to show your work when you are out in the world. In today's tech savvy world, artists can even use a PDA or phone device to store + display work. I use my iPod touch to store my art portfolio. I showcase my work + have an easy way to show on the train, at a party, or meeting new people at school. MocaicGlobe.com offers a free portfolio making service for artists. Another great option is to use Flavors.me to bring all of your other social networking sites, blogs, or even your Etsy art shop into one place.
2. Set a price for your work
As far as setting prices for your work, the sky is the limit. Take into consideration who the artist is, and how long they have been creating art. Look at how much you would like to make per hour, then multiply that by the amount of time it took you to make a price. This is just a starting price. Art is subjective, so you can honestly sell it for whatever price you feel comfortable with. The important thing to remember is that once you set your price, stay firm. Your time is valuable, and if you respect your art, others will too. EBSQArt.com offers some good tips on pricing on their website.
3. Get a website or blog
You can hire a designer to create an amazing website for you, and expect to pay between $500-2,000 for a really good one. Or, get one fairly cheap or even free from Yahoo and sites like Mocaic Globe. There are other free services to create flash portfolios sites out there. I love using Blogger and Wordpress to showcase my artwork and give visitors the story behind my paintings. If you build a free site, you are limited in your layout and photo options. With the free Blog services, you may choose to purchase a custom domain and received added benefits and options for your site or blog. When designing your website, choose a domain name or user name that is easy to remember, yet describes your work. Use the pictures you took from making your portfolio, then scan them into your computer. Upload them onto your website, and you will have an electronic business card you can refer people to.
Visit galleries in your city, tell your friends and family you are selling art, go out to meet new people interested in art, and always network! You can network through traditional ways like art shows, or go online and join one of the social networking sites. Many people have also been successful using Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to promote their work. A good portion of my sales are generated by posting progress and final painting photos through my Facebook and Twitter pages.
5. Read books and blogs
There are countless books written by other artists who have become successful, and lived to tell about it. If you want to know more about what it takes to be a successful artist I would recommend you read Cay Lang’s book Taking the Leap: Building a Career As a Visual Artist. In addition to the great books out there for artists, many artists and collectors have started their own blogs to assist artist in their quest for success. You can search the art blogs for tips, industry trends, and upcoming shows in your area.
6. Establish good habits
Building your career as an artist is difficult, especially if you are just starting out. The essential characteristics that can lead to your success as an artist are curiosity, commitment, and good work habits. Good work habits are the most important. When an artist is consistent, they are able to gain trust from your clients, and build confidence in the ability to produce quality work.
7. Join the conversation
Communities like the Graphic Artists Guild can provide you with a handbook with pricing guidelines, sample contracts, and other valuable information. There are many other groups and guilds to join, depending on your medium. Etsy is also a great way to start conversations with other artists and art buyers in the forumn and group pages. The point is to get out there, let people know about you and your art, and JOIN the conversation!
8. Get funded
Financing your artistic endeavors can often be a daunting task. It can seem impossible to find money with all the recent cut backs in national art funding, and the state of the economy. If you want to go the traditional route and receive a loan from a bank/ attract investors to your project, you may need a well written business plan or at least a great pitch. A good alternative to banks is to get funded by your fans, family, and friends through a site like Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter is a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers, and more!
I was once "successful" as a Financial Consultant for Huron Consulting Group and Arthur Andersen. I was making great money, but hated the hours of travel, tedious analytical tasks, mountains of documents, and cut throat working hours. In 2006 after two years of saving money, I decided to quit my job and go back to school at Columbia College for an Arts, Entertainment, & Media Management degree. The knowledge and networking opportunities at the school gave me the tools I needed to get my current Producer job. Now I actually ENJOY what I'm doing. I am even used to getting up at the crack of dawn to produce the morning traffic reports at WGN-TV in Chicago but its worth it.
During my final thesis presentation to Columbia College, I was offered a teaching position with the College. I completed my first year teaching Arts Entrepreneurship to undergrads in 2010 and I loved it. I had to move on from teaching once I became Operations Manager for Chicago Innovation Mentors, my dream day job besides creating art full time. People are often surprised that I am able to do so many things at the same time. I work a demanding job, raise two kids, blog and create new art. I tell them that I am many things and that I thrive best when multitasking. I can work in the morning as a manager and still create new artwork for my people.
I believe that a successful artist today can have a day job and still produce wonderful works of art. You just have to really be dedicated to your craft and also not neglect your responsibilities at work. It helps to have an understanding boss, or a job that doesn't take up too much of your time. That way you can have some energy and passion left over for your own art. When you are working on your dream, then its not work. It is your life, and you have a purpose to CREATE!
"Artists aren't people who simply create art and then drift off into oblivion: they want their work to be seen and to receive some sort of reaction from those who see it." ~ from The Business of Being an Artist, 3rd Edition, by Daniel Grant