Being an artist is a lot like entrepreneurship.
Think about it, you’re independent, you have to create things nobody else is doing or has done in many cases, and you have to figure out a way to bring it to market. You also have to do this all without much way-signs to help. That’s the “figure-it-out” spirit of entrepreneurship. I think it is very important for artists to exercise this mentality at some or any level of these skills. Sure some are better than others but it doesn’t matter. I believe you only have to be as good as not to lose out completely.
I am a huge advocate of art for the sake of art and making work simply to pursue something money cannot buy as an artist. But I also believe if at any level you are going to be partially or fully immersed in the world of “professional” artist, you need to practice some basics of entrepreneurship.
I have heard so much from the outside world “you have to have a business mind to be successful as an artist.” OK, I get it, but really I think a better way to put it is a “figure-it-out” mind. In business, there are in many cases entire areas of study to help guide one or many through the process of bringing raw materials through some process to generate something for an end-user. Commerce itself is incredibly diverse and endlessly deep. But that is for more established product/supply business models. What about the start-up companies, the tech companies, the app developers, the programmers, the ones at the very cutting edge of advancement into the metaphorical jungle, and hacking their way through things and forging paths never done before? That’s what I mean.
How many times have we heard stories of brilliant minds being told “that’ll never work” and then cut to it actually working? It takes vision, practice, focus, ambition, and some off switch to giving up. I believe this is really at the heart of what artists need to be in touch with. It’s hard to do. But essential.
Lesson one: Think like you. Don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing. You just do you. It’s wonderful to gain insight and fellowship from other artists or creative minds but what works for them isn’t always going to work for you. You need to get in touch with the idea you are unique. You have your own biological, emotional, and genetic needs and abilities which means it’s not always a sure bet to emulate or to walk the same path as another artist.
Lesson two: Price sustainably. Your work is worth at the very least what it takes to create it and enough to create again. Even if you haven’t sold yet. I hear too many artists in the mindset of “I have to sell cheap and establish a name for myself before I can charge what I’m worth.” Nope. That’s the fastest way to establish yourself in a business model that bleeds money and ultimately energy. You will, in the long run, pay to make art rather than the other way around. Click here for a link to read more about how to price your work.
Lesson 3: Know what makes you tick, and be prolific. If you know what you like, why you like it, and who you do it for, and why they like it, then you are already on a good path. This allows you to adapt but not deviate from who and what you are. Also, making a lot of work helps you accomplish several things. First, it helps you work out blockages and challenges that can slow the progress towards opportunity. Next, it helps you build essentially a warehouse of ideas, products, or visual supplies. Finally, it helps you be prepared when real inspirational downloads come to you. Artist or not, you all know that great feeling when an awesome idea comes to you. If you have been honing your skills and sharpening your mind for when it comes (because it isn’t always coming but inspiration predictably will come unpredictably) you will be ready to respond.