Art Biz Blog

Business tips for artists on Social Media, Marketing Mindset and Creativity.

The Top 7 Mistakes Artists Make When Going Professional

In this blog I will share The Top 7 Mistakes Artists Make when going professional or starting up an Art Business and trying to build your Dream Art Business.

So, how DO you make money from your art? That question is one of the most commonly asked questions of course.

When I started out as a professional artist many years ago, I was given some very sound advice, a lot of which I will share here in this article. If I had ignored it, things would have been very different, and I would have not made it very far. 

That advice stood me in good stead, as when I left my full-time teaching job, I had two children to support. And I did this from my art for a good few years, before moving on to coaching.

Things were quite different back then though, as there were no Social Media, or other great free online marketing options to help build your profile, so you could more easily make money from your art. I remember spending lots of money on physical posters, flyers and cards, a large number of which just got wasted or thrown out. Not to mention the endless stuffing of envelopes in order to get your Private View invitations out.

Wow how things have improved!

So Let Me Get Into My Top 7 Mistakes Artists Make When Going Professional:

1. Not Setting Up As A Business

This was my very first big learning and the one that made all the difference. When you set out as a professional artist, you need to switch your mind-set away from ‘hobby’ mode and over into ‘business’ mode.

You are going to make money from your art, not just as a one-off, but consistently month in month out. You will be living from your creativity, and the aim here is to find a balance between the freedom to create and investing in the time to ‘run the business’. So yes you will need to do all the boring tasks, from admin, finances, planning, marketing, sales, customer service and growing your brand.

Register yourself as either Self-Employed or set up a Company – ask your accountant to help you.

2. Not Having A Good Business Plan

Now I know this is the one task that pretty much everyone I have ever worked with in my other (coaching) business, avoided like the plague. Somehow this is always the ‘elephant in the room’; the task that is so big that it just never gets done.

It was the very first thing I learnt and got done first. Just like the old saying: ‘no business plan, no business”. What happens if you’ve never done one before? Well, you find someone who has and get some help. Sounds simple I know. Or you can subscribe to this blog and find out everything you will need to do to set up, market and run a successful business, so you can make money from your art.

3. Not Spending Enough Time On Marketing

This really is one of the most damaging mistakes artists make. Having run a busy coaching practise for some years, I know only too well the importance of marketing yourself. So, are you doing it? And are you doing such a great job that you have a massive following, so much so that every time you complete a new piece of work there is someone ready to buy?

If the answer is ‘no’, then you must dedicate much more time into your marketing. That means having a great profile online, setting up a blog site something like this one, some Social Media accounts, maybe YouTube or similar, building a customer list, and much more.

It also really means scheduling in a set amount of time each and every day to do this; consistency is the key.

4. Not Having Any Financial Targets

Another mistake artists make is not having some very clear financial targets and a strategy to get you there. As well as keeping a regular account of every area of your finances, like a profit and loss, cash-flow forecasting etc.

I like to divide my calendar year into quarters and set my targets for those. If you plan on having a set number of shows for example, you might not be paid every month like that, so it makes everything easy to keep on top of. Being in control of your finances is essential to make money from your art. 

5. Not Creating A Clear Brand

Sometimes your brand can develop as you progress, but I think it’s better to set yourself up with a trading name (which could simply be your name), and have a logo or brand created for you before you start. Then build an online presence using this.

Straight away you are demonstrating you are a real business and are looking to be taken seriously. You should present yourself professionally in everything you do.

There is nothing worse than a half-finished website, wish-washy Social Media, with mixed colours, nothing up-dated or looking like they don’t belong together. I also recommend starting with a Personal Brand.

6. Not Planning Your Time Effectively

When you are running a business, rather than supporting a hobby, you will benefit from dividing your time up and setting some sort of timetable. As simple as ‘making’ days and ‘business’ days; or mornings and afternoons for different activities, or sub-dividing your days into 2-hour chunks.

Allocate set days/times to get some of the more tedious tasks like the admin and bookkeeping etc. I suggest trying some different ways to see which suits better. 

7. Not Keeping Up The Education

Finally I think this one was possibly the biggest mistake I made personally all those years ago. I just didn’t see any value in investing in myself not just with furthering my painting and drawing skills, but also in terms of my business skills (or lack of them).

Some years on, and many thousands of pounds later invested in personal and business development courses, I have completely flourished, grown and improved, to the point where my life will never be the same again. So I think this really is a game changer – avoid at your own cost. 

Avoiding these 7 mistakes artists make is just the beginning to set you on the road for success. 

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