Build a Successful Art Career

By Mary Edwards (Career & Life Coach for Artists)

Are you working well towards your goals as an artist? Are you on your way to building a successful art career? If you can agree strongly with most of the following statements, you are in good shape. If you hesitate with any, take note, because the checklist will help you identify areas where you need to spend more time.​

 
Checklist for a Successful Art Career:
 

  • I have a regular consistent studio practice
  • I ask others for advice about my career
  • I am able to overcome rejection quickly
  • I’m comfortable using technology
  • I use the art resources in my community
  • I’m good at talking about my art
  • My work has a signature style or content
  • I’m clear about the goals for my art practice
  • I am following an action plan
  • It is easy to find my work online

  

1) I have a regular, consistent studio practice.

No matter where you create your art (in an actual studio, spare bedroom, or garage) the key is making time for your art. You may have more demands on your time if your children are at home or you have family members to care for, but if you can carve out a schedule and stick to it you will be taking a strong step in the right direction.


2) I ask others for advice about my career.

Asking for advice is a way to get connected. I recommend that you ask for advice rather than help. Busy people, even those close to you, often don’t want to add more to their to-do list. However, everyone enjoys giving advice about what YOU should be doing. And sometimes that advice morphs into the help you need.

Begin by finding someone who is a few steps ahead of you on your chosen path. The person’s work should be different from yours so that you’re not in direct competition. Choose people who are generous in spirit, or at a point in their own careers when they are ready and able to give back.

Prepare your listener. Let them know you are looking for advice about your career. Send your resume, or a list of your goals, a link to your website. Be specific about what you want to know. Always ask, what should I do? Who should I contact? What’s the best way for me to reach them?


3) I am able to overcome rejection quickly.

When you want to make progress in your art career, you have to put yourself out there. The art world is a competitive place, and your efforts make you vulnerable. You need to be ok with rejection.

If you embrace rejection you can apply to more shows, submit for more grants, reach for more residencies. The more you get rejected the more you are likely to find a match. When a rejection comes in, you will feel disappointed, but then you’ll know it is just time to move on to the next opportunity. You build momentum, so that a single rejection doesn’t derail you.


4) I’m comfortable using technology.

When you don’t know what a technology term means, look it up. https://techterms.com is a good place to start. Here are a few tech tasks you should master.

  • how to create and send a JPG image at the correct size in terms of kilobytes (KB) and pixel dimensions.
  • how to label your images with your name and a number (avoid unusual keyboard characters)
  • how to navigate website builders like FolioLink.com and Squarespace

    If you don’t know how to do these basic tasks, YouTube offers a range of good videos. You can also simply Google the answer.


5) I use the art resources in my community.

In 2020, the pandemic has made local community resources like your church, bookstores, libraries, schools and colleges harder to access. Many “emerging” artists have their first show in one of these venues. During 2020 it is still worth reaching out to see if there are any online opportunities to share your work. Maybe they have website space for you or can include your work (or a link to your website) in a newsletter. Keep reaching out, as opportunities are in flux right now.


6) I’m good at talking about my art.

Talking about your art is important because it makes people want to look at it, or look at it longer. Think about your experience with a good docent at a museum. Instead of putting you to sleep with a lecture on art history, good docents point out details in style, materials, and subject matter, and use those details to help you understand how the work conveys its meaning.

When you talk well about your art, you help the viewer see it. Remember, nobody falls in love with a work of art, or considers buying it, unless they look at it for a considerable length of time. For more specific examples see my blog post on this subject:
https://www.coachingforartists.com/blog/talking-about-your-art


7) My work has a signature style or content.

In order to grow you need to experiment.  This means that your work and style may seem to be all over the place. Looking at your early work may make you wonder whether you are a serious artist, but this is all part of the process of self-discovery. By keeping your studio practice consistent, you will mature, and your work will become more coherent. You may explore the same ground, or the same ideas, because you are going deeper. If you allow yourself to keep going in this direction, your work becomes more consistent, more subtle, and complex. It is also more recognizable as YOU, even before your name is well known.


8) I’m clear about the goals for my art practice.

Try to imagine what success would look like for you. Let your imagination run free, and discover what you really want. You might see your work in a gallery, or see yourself teaching or giving a talk, or spending all day in your studio, without interruption. Your goals are embedded in your vision of success.


9) I am following an action plan.

The best action plans are focused on activity rather than results and include simple measurements. For example, you might be trying to become more visible through juried exhibitions. These opportunities are highly competitive, with many shows receiving hundreds of entries. You might decide to follow an action plan of entering two juried shows a month, for a year. Sometimes you get in, sometimes you don’t, but you just keep going. You put yourself in motion. When you focus on your efforts, the results will eventually follow.

 
10) It is easy to find my work online.   

There are many reasons why it should be easy to find your work online, but the most important is to build an audience for your art.

In 2020 your potential online audience includes gallery owners, curators, art consultants, interior designers and other people looking for artists. They all expect to find you online.

Even if you don’t yet have a website, google your name (+ artist) and see what comes up. You might be surprised at how little or how much you find.

If you are not online, Instagram is a good way to begin, as it is a visual tool that allows you to connect with other artists and art organizations, including galleries and museums.

Your Instagram account should be accompanied by a simple website. Decide whether you want to do it yourself, with a techie friend or family member or hire a professional website designer. You don’t have to be very techie to create your own site.

If you ask a friend or family member to design your site, get a clear commitment and timeline, and make sure they understand what you need. The downside is that you probably won’t be able to maintain the site easily on your own.
 

A couple of techie notes from FolioLink:

If you can create your own JPG files, you can use our artist website service.  We do tech support by phone and have been helping artists since 2003.

As you develop your Instagram presence, don’t forget that you can use an online tool like Buffer.com (they have a free version) to schedule your posts and create them from your computer rather than your phone.

A note from Mary Edwards:

Please visit my website, coachingforartists.com, for blog posts providing more information on the checklist and building a successful art career. 

 

Mary Edwards, Ph.D.

Mary Edwards is a Career & Life Coach for Artists, based in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She works with artists across the United States and all over the world.

Mary has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and received her coach training from the College of Executive Coaching.  She brings a unique combination of business knowledge, art world experience, and professional coaching skill to her practice.

To receive Free Tips for Artists (twice a month), visit www.coachingforartists.com and click on “Mailing List Sign-Up.”  If you would like to schedule a time to talk, see “Contact Mary.”


 

Career & Life Coach for Artists

www.coachingforartists.com 

coaching@coachingforartists.com

 

 

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