My favorite thing to do with an artist who is making some sales but not the income she wants is to determine whether she’s really capable of making that money with her current set up.
This is often revolutionary.
We fret over whether people will pay a certain amount for our art. And we fret over how to find enough people to buy the art. And we fret over how much money we’re making and how many sales we have.
But most of us don’t think about whether all of this work can actually, logically, give us the income we want.
That all ends today, my friend!
I want you to get out a piece of paper and work through this concept for your art business alongside me while you read this article.
By the end, you’ll know whether your business is set up to make enough money or if it’s time to make some changes.
STEP 1 – FIND OUT HOW MANY PIECES OF ART YOU MAKE IN AN AVERAGE YEAR.
The simplest way to do this is to go back through all your originals for the last 2 years and write down how many you made in each year.
Of course if you keep an inventory of your artworks, it should be pretty easy to search for all pieces completed in 2016 or any chosen year. I recommend Artwork Archive for inventory keeping (and if you click that link and end up buying, they may give me a little money to thank me for spreading the word).
If the figure for one year is far larger than the figure for the other year, you probably want to grab a third year, add them all up, and divide them by 3 to get a good average.
Once you’ve got your average production for a year, we’re going to do some rough estimates for everything else.
LET’S LOOK AT YOUR INCOME GOAL.
This one’s a bit fun.
Dream up how much money you’d like to have at your current stage of business.
In 6 months or a year, what would your ideal income look like.
You’ll of course raise this figure over and over during your art career, but we’re looking at whether your current business is capable of making you the income you want now.
You can make this more scientific by pulling together the expenses (both personal and business) that you would want your art business to cover and giving a little extra for your business to reinvest and for unexpected needs. But that’s way less fun and I find a lot of people don’t truly identify with the goal, which means they try less hard to get there.
So now you’ve got how much artwork you make in a year and how much money you want to make in a year.
LET’S GET YOUR MAXIMUM INCOME NOW.
Take the average price of one of your artworks (A) and multiply it by the number of artworks you typically make in a year (N).
A x N = I
Which means that (I) is the maximum income you can make in a year from your originals.
It’s what you would make if every original sells. We can safely assume you won’t sell out at this point in your career. So your potential income might be (I) but you will most likely make a good amount less than that.
Here’s an example. Anne can make about 40 artworks in a year and her average price of an artwork is $300. Anne multiplies those two numbers to find out that the most income she could make in a year is $12,000.
That’s great if Anne’s goal is $8,000 or so. She can probably achieve that with some hard work and proper marketing.
But if Anne’s goal is $25,000, she needs to find a way to make more money.
THE SIMPLEST FIX HERE IS RAISING HER PRICES.
If each artwork costs more, she may sell fewer pieces but she’ll likely still bring in more money (as long as she doesn’t price herself out of her target market).
But if Anne doesn’t want to raise her prices or can’t raise them to an average of $625 (the number she would need for it to be even possible to hit $25k revenue) or more, then Anne needs to look at other ways to make money.
How can she leverage the work she’s done in creating so many original artworks so that she has the physical ability to generate her goal income from her art?
Most artists create reproduction prints of their work, which is a great idea. This allows a single image to be sold as wall art to many people, though only one special person gets to own the original.
But you could also create products that aren’t wall decor. A common one is notecards, but I think it’s more helpful to expand your vision beyond the expected. Could you create journals, calendars, or postcards yourself? Absolutely.
If you worked with a manufacturer, could you put your art on cell phone cases, throw pillows, water bottles, duvet covers, clothing…? The list is endless. My favorite spot for dreaming (though I can’t vouch for the quality of each item) is Zazzle because they have practically everything. You can get great ideas there, then research the manufacturer you want to use or even order one through Zazzle to test their quality.
Branching off this idea of having your art on products, you may prefer not to have so much responsibility in creating and selling these things.
I highly recommend licensing your artwork to manufacturers for use on their products as a way to dramatically leverage the 24 hours in a day that you have and the number of people you’re physically capable of reaching, so that your art is making money for you even when you aren’t working.
If that sounds awesome to you, we’d probably be best friends.
Oh and you might want to look at the massive course I created to teach you how to do it.
But you could also make money through teaching art, applying for grants, entering contests, selling your prints (or other things) wholesale to shops, etc.
So if you realize that your goal income doesn’t line up with what you can possibly achieve with your current production and pricing, it’s worth considering whether your business model is the right fit or if you might see better results by expanding the revenue streams you are utilizing.
I talk about this in detail in my other course, The Artist’s Business Plan, which is currently going through a renovation to make it even more comprehensive and helpful to artists looking to nail down what their business should even look like.
If you want to know when the updates are done and the course is ready for new students, just put your name and email below and I’ll send you a note when I’ve swept up the virtual dust!
Let me know in the comments whether your business is set up to hit your goal income & what you’re going to do about it if it isn’t.