Last week, I talked about the very first things you have to identify in your business to make the rest of it eons easier. Go read that article if you haven’t already.
This week, I want to build on that concept by talking about outlining a little roadmap.
I like to think of it as a loose guide you can use in place of a business plan. If you’d like to produce a real business plan, but one that works for artists (not corporate startups), then I think you’ll love The Artist’s Business Plan.
A roadmap like this is used to help guide you through the initial stages of your business. The “set up” of your art business. Since there are so many different ways to build a successful art business, working through this roadmap will help you make the necessary decisions to create a business that works for you.
Here’s what to do:
1. Identify what you sell and who you sell to. That’s the article from last week.
2. Think about what you are looking to do with your art business. If it could be anything you wanted, would it be fulltime? Would you teach in addition to creating? Would you want to work with corporations and businesses or with consumers? What kind of income would feel comfortable? Would you prefer working 9 to 5 or having a loose schedule?
Ask yourself all these sorts of questions and anything else that comes up when you envision how your business would look in your dream world, a few years from now.
3. Figure out what makes your art different. This can be a struggle for some artists, but it’s very necessary to be able to describe your art well and if you don’t know what sets it apart, you won’t be able to describe it well enough for people to “get” it.
4. Keep creating. I find a lot of artists slow down when they start running their businesses because it’s a bit overwhelming. They hyper-focus on the making money part of their business and it quickly leads to burnout and a disconnect with what they are trying to achieve. Try to create daily, even if it’s just doodling. Keep your mind in that mode of creativity and imagination. A great side effect is that you’ll become a better artist. The more you create, the better you’ll get.
5. Begin connecting with your target market. This is called marketing, but that word can be scary. Whether it’s social media, interviews, paid advertising, SEO, or just hanging a flyer on the Starbucks bulletin board… marketing is simply trying to connect with your target market. And when you think of it like that, the gross sales-speak goes away along with your nervousness.
Make a list of the ways it would be easiest to connect with your target market, keeping who they are (#1 on this list) center to your thoughts. For instance, if your target market is busy young moms (to sum it up much too simply), then putting flyers up where the Mommy and Me classes are hosted around town would be a great way to connect with them – they are already there and peeking at a flyer does not require a lot of their time.
Stick to your list, avoiding all the new marketing ideas you hear about and think “oh that’s cool!” and you’ll be very successful at connecting with your target market – the first step to sales.
6. Adopt the right mindset. There are two pieces of the mental/emotional puzzle I see artists missing when they try to make money from their art.
First, they think there is a prescribed way of doing things and if they just follow the formula, they’ll be successful. That’s just not true. There are some things that seem to work more often than not, but a business has soooo many different factors that make strategies succeed or fail that it’s impossible for one formula to work for every business. Your target market will thank you to keep them in mind when deciding what to try, but aside from that it’s all just continual experimentation. Give something a good try and if it works, keep doing it.
Second, they don’t operate from a CEO mindset. Usually it’s because they’re either overwhelmed by all the options (this planning stuff should help) or they’re subconsciously really scared or not even sure this is what they want. It’s very important you get a handle on this mental stuff. You have to want it, thoroughly, or you won’t be able to make it happen. It’s just too stressful. If you’re scared, you’ll block yourself from doing the most important things. And if you’re overwhelmed, you won’t be able to pick anything so nothing will get done. Bad, bad, bad. You’ve got to rid yourself of the baggage and take control of your business.
7. Write it Down. By now, you’ve got some ideas. Using everything you’ve thought about above, write down the things you want to do in the next three months to connect with your target market and sell more art. Schedule them loosely into your calendar and break each thing town into the smallest tasks that you can so it’s stupid-simple to get each thing done. And now you’ve got a plan! Just create one every quarter, semester, or year and you’ll be operating from a much better place.
Remember, if you keep going, keep trying, keep experimenting, and lead with what you KNOW about your business and your art, you will succeed. It takes a lot of time, but you will succeed.
If you’d like to create something a little more robust and specific, I can teach you how to write a business plan without all the annoying corporate things like a SWOT analysis, an executive summary, or an exit strategy. The Artist’s Business Plan helps you nail down exactly the things that will help you build your business and make educated decisions in the future.