SOME ARTISTS COME TO ME FEELING OVERWHELMED.
They’ve been working at their businesses for a little while and they’re seeing some success & sales, but they want more. And when they think about getting more, it’s terrifying.
Because what they’re doing right now to hit the level they’re at is already incredibly stressful. So what they’d have to do to hit the next level or the level they want to be at would be crushingly overwhelming.
That’s the “overwhelm plateau”.
One thing you can do if you’re at that point is identify the small number of tasks you’re doing that really bring you the most profit.
For most art businesses, those things would include creating new art, getting media attention, sharing their inspiration & process with their fans, and reconnecting with past customers.
I’m sure in reading that list, you were adding lots of other tasks.
But really when you think about it, what’s bringing you the money?
Having something to sell. That’s the creating new art thing.
Getting eyeballs are on your art. That’s the media attention.
Showing up enough in your fans lives that it feels natural to buy from you. That’s the sharing your inspiration & process.
And turning those customers into collectors. Which is done by reconnecting with them.
IF YOU’RE DOING THOSE 4 THINGS, YOUR BUSINESS SHOULD STILL FUNCTION AND MAKE A PROFIT.
So you may be able to cut back on all those extras you’re doing.
(Though I will make a note that a lot of art businesses are more complicated than this. If you do licensing or wholesale, for instance. Or if your main goal, aside from making an income, is to be well-recognized by the academic art world. There are a variety of reasons you may add 1-4 things to this list. But if your list of essentials is longer than that 8 things, you’re probably putting too much pressure on yourself.)
Not to say that you can’t do the extra stuff. If you have time, physical energy, and emotional energy, those extra things are wonderful too.
Interacting more regularly on social media.
Redoing your brand.
Keeping a blog.
Developing prettier packaging.
Offering a course to teach your favorite techniques.
Dipping your toe into merchandise.
Contacting interior designers.
I could go on and I’m sure you could too. None of those things are crucial to a functioning business that makes a profit.
SO WHEN YOU’VE HIT THE OVERWHELM PLATEAU AND LOOKING UP AT THE CRAGGY PEAK IS SCARING THE BEJEEZUS OUT OF YOU, THE FIRST STEP IS TO PARE DOWN TO ESSENTIALS.
The second step?
Get some help.
Whether you hire a professional, scoop up an intern, or force family or friends to spend a little time making your life easier, getting others to help you isn’t a sign that you’ve failed – it’s actually a sign that your business is doing well enough to step things up.
People talk online about 6-figure businesses a lot. And maybe you’ve got a dream to hit that million-dollar mark? Well, I don’t know of a single 6-figure art business that doesn’t have help.
But help can come in a lot of ways.
HERE ARE SOME IDEAS TO GET YOU EXPLORING WAYS TO TAKE A LITTLE BIT OF THE BURDEN OFF YOUR SHOULDERS SO YOU CAN WAVE GOODBYE TO THE OVERWHELM PLATEAU.
An assistant is an extra set of hands who can usually do a lot of different tasks and jump in wherever you need them.
Assistants can answer the phone, answer emails, package your art, track your inventory, maintain your website, update your social media accounts, etc.
A virtual assistant.
There are all sorts of assistants who can work for you from anywhere in the world, which makes it much easier to find the right person and sometimes it’s even less expensive to hire them.
Virtual assistants can return phone calls, answer emails, track your inventory, maintain your website, update your social media accounts, etc.
Some virtual assistants can do more advanced things in certain areas. For instance, some virtual assistants specialize in copywriting or in marketing or in a particular software like your website or email platforms.
A business manager.
Business managers take over the majority of your non-creative workload. They usually work closely with the artist to make sure the business is always going the way the artist wants it too.
They’re responsible for finding you gallery shows, keeping in touch with collectors, handling sales conversations, and generally marketing and selling your work for you.
But it’s very difficult to find a good business manager with experience in the art world, especially if you can’t pay them a solid full-time salary.
A marketing manager.
This might also be a virtual assistant or an in-person assistant if they have skills in art marketing. A marketing manager’s focus is getting more eyes on your art work by any means possible.
A marketing manager can handle your social media, blog, emails, PR, gallery relationships, and sometimes even events like open studio nights or pop up shows.
The words surrounding your artwork are incredibly important and often make the difference between a fan and a customer.
A copywriter can handle not just what’s written on your website, but they can also write artist statements, printed materials (flyers, business cards, portfolios), social media posts, email newsletters, emails to collectors, grant application answers…
Anywhere that the words need to be compelling, a copywriter can make it happen.
They’ll watch the day-to-day income and expenses and make sure everything stays organized. They’ll also alert you if anything’s amiss in your finances.
They may or may not do the bookkeeper’s duties, depending on which accountant you’ve hired. They also prepare your taxes, advise on your business structure (should you become an LLC?!), make sure you know how to collect & pay sales tax and sometimes even pay it for you, and generally are a resource for all your financial woes.
If you like to have your work photographed instead of scanned, passing this task off to a professional can be really nice.
Often you pay just for the number of artworks they are photographing for you or the number of successful images they give you, instead of paying for how long it takes them to get those images.
So instead of you spending 3 hours of your time staging a photograph, getting the lighting right, experimenting with camera settings, and taking photos from loads of different angles to make sure you get something usable, you can hand the piece to a photographer and it’s all taken care of.
If you prefer to scan your work instead of having it photographed, a printer can do that for you and even color-correct the digital image. They can usually get a larger, higher-quality scan that you can do at home.
A printer can also take care of your reproductions of course, but most artists don’t realize that many printers are willing to send the prints to your customers for you. Some will even use your provided packaging to enforce your brand. So you can take some of the packaging and shipping tasks off your list with the right printer.
THIS IS JUST THE BUSINESS TASKS!
You may prefer to hire help for personal tasks, giving you more time for your business.
So you might hire a housekeeper, a babysitter or part-time nanny, a yard crew, a dog walker, an accountant for your personal finances, or even someone to pick up groceries for you (that totally exists!).
If you can take a few things off your plate entirely, it will give you more time for the business tasks you enjoy and are good at.
And it can help you focus on the essentials first so you don’t hit overwhelm as often.