Keeping Your Art Career Real!

Many artists – writers included – spend most of their time in the right side of the brain, pursuing the creative end. After all, this is the soul of the project, yes? To create a work of joy and abstract thought to entertain and enlighten. Putting down word after word or slapping paint on a canvas or strumming the chords of guitar – this is the meat and the reason for being!

Yet so many of us struggle to deal with the practicality of the art world, that is, the business side. Too many of us struggle with our arts as a hobby, although entertaining it as a small business – yet, do the majority of us treat our art as a small business? Do we roll up our sleeves and consider our dry expense ledgers, our correspondences, our marketing?

Here are some tips on keeping the practical side of the artful pursuit pragmatic and an anchor for business too:

• Keep an expense ledger. This of course does not need to be a complex General Ledger that an accountant or steely-eyed CPA would use; instead keep a monthly track of what you spend for materials, conferences (travel expenses and tickets), books and periodicals, computer hardware/software, Internet subscriptions, and office supplies.

• Keep all receipts. You might actually make some money at tax time, so be prepared to deal with the IRS.

• Creative Leads. Salespeople keep notebooks for their leads! Buy a small hand-held tablet and a pen (yes, you remember what those are, right?) and keep them with you when you get a fresh idea to scribble down. If it’s easier to type something out on a smartphone or laptop, or any handheld device, so be it. I find it easier just to keep a small notebook with me everywhere I go.

• Use Effective Time Management. Too many artists wait for serendipity to strike – in the afternoon, the morning, 3am,whatever – but if you train yourself to actually set aside time like you would with any daily task or job, you will find that inspiration is ready to go to work when you do. I treat my writing like a dayjob; I spend 4-6 hours/day with lunches and breaks. If you are obligated to others, LAY DOWN THE LAW-let them know your boundaries, and don’t be afraid to let them fend for themselves during these periods when you are at work!

• Treat the Buying Public and/or Publishing World as Clients. Get out of the mindset that these people have magic wands that will somehow grant you your fondest wishes. Instead, see them as clients, people to sell your work to. Research them and your market by studying demographics and understand your competition.

• Be Versatile. Be prepared to be talented in many forms of your art. Painters, checkout sculpting; novelists, try screenwriting; rock guitarists, see if you can turn out a jazz tune or two.

• Vary Your Tastes. Yes, don’t pigeonhole your tastes either. A rolling stone gathers no moss, but it does gain a high polish! Enjoy many aspects and venues of art. Love art for art!

• Learn Standard Business Practices! This doesn’t mean you need to get an MBA, but it does help to understand many aspects of running a business. So, try to learn languages, accounting, sales/marketing, and all aspects of the industry you are creating your work for.

A little bit of grounded practicality can make your art business solid, and you won’t need to rely on outside vendors to take care of your business needs either!


About mciddangelo

"I write because I believe in literature; I believe that the art of words is louder than sound, more colorful than paintings. My novels are written not because of the pursuit of money or even success, but in the FAITH that they exalt our experiences; that not only do they give us enjoyment to read them, but they are meant to open worlds that a reader may not ever imagine." M Cid D'Angelo is published in Aiofe's Kiss, Calliope, Eureka Literary Magazine, Third Wednesday, Midway Journal, and many others. He is the author of Dead Reckoning (J Ellington Ashton Press, 2015), available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.
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