Do you ever see an artist on Instagram who looks like a total overnight success? One day you had never heard of them and the next day, they’re everywhere and doing tons of projects – from their own studio work to all sorts of business relationships, catapulting their financial success.
And while it’s highly unlikely they got there overnight (or yes, even in a few months), they are successful nonetheless and you want some of that for yourself!
Not to be greedy, but boy would it be nice to stop worrying about whether you can afford that course on art licensing, a new set of brushes, or a virtual assistant for a couple hours a week to take care of customer service emails.
And the validation? That alone would make you cry – tears of joy of course!
I know you’ve been trying really hard to get there and it’s like you’re missing the magic combination that would make it reality for you. So I want to fill you in on the stuff that makes these artists successful 90% of the time.
If you can check these boxes, you’ll get there.
1 ACT LIKE YOU’RE ALREADY THERE
Artists who succeed almost always start by doing the same things they would do if they were already successful and well-known.
Dream of getting your work in Anthropologie? A soon-to-be-successful artist, would go ahead and approach them now, even though she might get rejected and even though she doesn’t think there’s any reason for them to take her art.
Like hanging out on Instagram? A soon-to-be-successful artist would be posting at least once a day, making use of Stories, and documenting practically everything happening in their studio.
Wish you had an email list of thousands ready and waiting to buy your next print release? A soon-to-be-successful artist would send their baby email list the same emails they want to send their future list of thousands.
Pretend you already have the success.
This has two huge benefits. First, it changes your own mindset. You’re more likely to see opportunities and take advantage of them because you don’t really see yourself as lacking. You see yourself as on your way or even almost there.
Second, it changes everyone else’s mindset about you. When people think you’re successful (because you’re acting like you are), they are more likely to give you opportunities, take you up on your requests, and buy from you. People love to associate themselves with success. It’s human nature.
2 BE METICULOUS
Successful artists are almost always attentive to detail. Their meticulous touch is in everything they do.
They plan out what they post on social media to make sure it’s the right balance of personal life and art life, that everything feels really relevant to their audience, and that all the images look good together (especially on Instagram).
When they approach someone about a potential business deal (like wholesaling your prints to a local shop), they think carefully about what kind of email will have the best reaction. They include all the pertinent information and make sure that everything is phrased with the shop’s interests in mind, not their own.
Photographs of their art are well-lit and well-staged. They make sure that every picture looks like a professional photographer took it.
3 WATCH YOUR BRAND
Which leads us to branding – successful artists have very well-defined brands.
They usually know who their target market is (an essential part of branding) and what visual and lingual cues they respond best to.
At the very least, they choose a consistent visual & lingual lexicon that reflects their own personality and they stick to it so that it attracts the same type of person every time and they can adjust their business according to how that person reacts.
There are two benefits to this too! The first is that their potential customers know instantly whether or not that artist is right for them.
The second is that potential partners believe that you are a professional they can trust to do business with. If you are consistent with this then you are likely reliable. And that means we can safely work with you on a project without fear of things falling apart or you not holding up your end of the bargain. And really, who wants to work with an artist who doesn’t have their visual brand together? She doesn’t seem like much of an artist to most people.
4 GO BIG FROM THE START
Similar to #1, successful artists don’t just act like they’re already successful, they also start with the biggest things they can and trickle down from there.
Once you’ve got your website and originals up for sale, there’s not much reason to stress about prints or even selling those originals.
The first thing to focus on is getting the big money-makers bringing in that big money before they worry about the little sales. Think about setting up wholesale, licensing, corporate sales, etc before you worry about whether people are buying your prints or greeting cards.
5 GET ‘EM TALKING
Successful artists get the media and influencers talking about them, even if they’re not doing anything that feels worthy of mentioning.
There’s always something you can say about life as an artist that will interest your target market. Just because you think you’re boring, doesn’t mean that you are.
Boring is in the eye of the beholder.
And most non-artist eyes?
They think artists are absolutely anything but boring.
6 UNDERSTAND WHY
Successful artists know why they make their art and why they started a business with it.
Motivations vary from artist to artist, but if you don’t have one or can’t remind yourself what it is, you won’t have the stamina to weather the troubles of starting a business.
There’s a lot of rejection, tedious tasks, difficult tasks, and confusion. You need to be able to return to a strong foundation in your mind. A reason for doing what you’re doing and sticking with it.
I’ve seen a number of artists quit when it got hard because they really didn’t want the business in the first place. They just wanted to paint because painting is fun. And I’ve seen the occasional artist stop creating because they felt so disenchanted by the experience of trying to sell their art that it quite literally took the joy out of art making.
I don’t want that fate for you and I bet you don’t want it for yourself either!
7 STAY POSITIVE & PERSIST
Successful artists almost always respond to the difficult tasks and the chores of everyday art business with a positive attitude and they just keep at it.
They might admit to not preferring something, but they approach it with a relaxed attitude. The task is part of what will get them to the “why” from #6, so it’s not all bad because it’s leading them where they want to go. Like stepping through a big puddle blocking your way to the candy store.
I like candy!
Artists who put off the stuff they don’t want to do for too long, or come at it with a negative mindset, tend to do a bad job with those tasks, thus sabotaging their own success.
Stick to these 7 principles and embody them as much as possible, and you will be a huge success that other artists look up to too!