Artists of all stripes have managed to make a living off of their art; whether working in congress with professional management or on their own, there have always been professional artists earning a living in some form. The one thing that successful artists have in common is a general sense of business in order to stay working on art full-time. This requires industriousness and research on the part of the artist themselves but is essential to succeed in today’s economy.
The Perils of Artmaking Without Business Skills
Artmaking requires a great deal of skill, hand-eye coordination, and talent, but not everyone values it as the trade that it can be. There are a number of stories and websites dedicated to stories of people expecting to either underpay or even refuse to pay artists for their work. Outside of vigilantly avoiding this scenario, the need to be able to work with a business plan, understand self-employment tax laws, and understand fair market pricing (if applicable) is crucial to any artist’s financial success.
Being business-savvy as an artist pays off; that’s the difference between the contract that Bob Kane drew up with DC Comics giving him an income for life when he co-created Batman, and Jerry Siegel, who created Superman, and sold him off to the same company – for the modern day equivalent of just over $2,300.
Art as a Business
Whether working as a painter looking to sell in galleries or freelancing as a graphic designer for companies, using your art as a primary source of income means treating it as a business, even when you don’t like to think of it that way. Every sale, every contract, helps pay for room, board, workspace, materials, and travel. If you do graphic art or design, there are a number of professional organizations, such as the Graphic Artist Guild and the AIGA with business publications to help you out both when you start and as you succeed. There are even specialized degrees that teach these skills to artists.
The art of selling yourself, along with your work, is nothing new; everyone from Picasso to Orson Welles to Janelle Monae has their own personal brand, audience, and recognition. One of the most interesting and most positive developments in marketing for artists of the last 10 years is the proliferation of various social media platforms, and the wide use of these platforms allows for an easy, low-cost start to your personal marketing push. A number of books and free material on media strategy are available online to help you on your way.
It takes a lot of courage, education and hard work to start a new business, let alone a creative endeavor. Educating yourself and responsibly planning as a proper business will carry any hopeful artist further towards their goals.
Here’s another article you might like: 3 Aspects of Your Business You Can’t Afford to Mess Up