What is the reality of selling art? Artists are often seen as either struggling to survive and make ends meet, or as successful eccentric people close to being millionaires. Although I’m sure these two types exist somewhere, for most of us, this is not true at all. We’re somewhere in the middle. An artist career can be full of expectations but often reality ends up being quite different. Ever wonder what being an artist is really like?
The reality of selling art can be much more gruesome that what you were led to believe. It takes a lot of hard work and it may not always pan out. But it also can be so fantastic.
Selling art alone is often not enough
Most artists and crafters I know do not make a living through their creative business alone. They have a second job to supplement their income, whether part time or full time. I have a full time job myself, which I actually quite enjoy. Having a second job does not make you less of an artist. On the contrary, it may actually help you. When you have a steady source of income, you are more free to experiment new things without worrying about the money aspect of it.
Of course, most artists’ goal is to be able to make a decent living out of their art alone eventually. But if you’re not making enough money right now to be able to work on your creative business full time, don’t worry! Keep at it, and success will come!
When you’re an artist, you put yourself out there. You pour your heart and soul into your creations and you show it to the world. Criticism can be harsh and tough to hear. Not everyone will like what you do and some comments can be like a sharp knife digging into your chest. This is part of being an artist. The moment you show your art, you become vulnerable. People will assess and judge your work, and comments will flow.
You have to learn to move past it. Either take it in, accept the critique, and grow accordingly, or ignore it entirely. You have to be open to criticism for sure, but not all opinions are right and sometimes you just have to know what’s best for you and your art and disregard bad advice.
You never stop working
Being a professional artist is a lot of work. You spend your time creating, experimenting, marketing, and so much more. It’s not just painting (or whichever medium you use) and then sitting around for the rest of the day. I wish that was the case!
First off, even just the process of creating can take a very long time, then you have to upload your work online to showcase it. So it can entail scanning, taking pictures, making corrections, digitally editing, and so on. Then, comes the marketing part. Art won’t sell itself. You have to make it appealing to potential customer. You have to develop a brand, create a story, work on your social medias…
Everywhere I go, even on vacation, a part of my mind is always thinking about the next step. Whether it’s taking a good picture to turn into a story on Instagram, drawing inspiration from a landscape or city I visit for a new painting, thinking about a new color scheme to try or a new blog post to write. Work never stops. That’s the reality of selling art. But it’s the path I chose and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s what makes me happy.
Marketing is key
Buying art is an indulgence, not a necessity. People don’t need art to survive. Art is a luxury. When you’re an artist, you are bringing creativity into the world. And it’s important, and some might argue necessary, but the reality is, people don’t need to buy it. Not as they would need to buy a bed, a comfy mattress, food, drinks and such. So your art has to appeal to potential customers on a deeper level. I like to think it has to appeal to their soul.
Some artists choose to make original, unique art, that only them can do, that comes from their heart. They have a very recognizable art style so their pieces resonate with some people and they will get sales that way. Others choose to go down the road of following trends. They make art in relation to what’s popular at the moment. It typically appeals to a broader audience but requires more productivity.
Either way, it’s a lot of work. The most important part: you have to find your customers and put your work in front of them. They won’t magically come to you.
It costs money
You have to buy art supplies, a camera or a good phone to take pictures of your art, have a laptop, pay for advertisement, a website, they are fees to running an online shop, … It all adds up pretty quickly. Before you know it, you’ll have spent hundred of dollars already! It costs money to make money as they say. Being an artist is not cheap. In the beginning, you will most likely spend all the money that you make to get more supplies and material. Living off your passion is not a cheap endeavor.
Adopting an entrepreneurial mindset
In order to make a profit, you will need to become a true entrepreneur. You have to treat your art as a business. That entails learning everything you can about selling products, marketing, creating a brand, and targeting your customers. As said above, sales won’t just happen, you have to make them happen.
Selling art online and making a business out of it will require a true entrepreneurial mindset. The reality is, talent alone is often not enough. In fact, you don’t even need to be especially talented or famous to make it as an artist (although it obviously helps). If you plan it right and market to the right customers, you can make a lot of money.
Being an artist is not easy but it sure is a lot of fun! Doing what you love for a living is extremely rewarding and fulfilling and it’s worth all the hard work. So for all the artists, crafters, and creative entrepreneurs out there: don’t give up on your dreams! Keep working, keep pushing, make your dream lifestyle happen!
The reality of selling art may not be what you expect, but it is worth it!
- Art: Expectations vs. Reality
- Why Doing What You Love Is Important
- 7 Tips to Start a Small Business While Working a Full Time Job
- 10 Things I Love About My Art Business