A full-time art career, one that has you earning money from the sale of the art, is pretty easy. Make some art, find some people to buy it and viola, you have an art career. Easy.
Theoretically, this is how it works. In reality it is something a bit more involved.
The way I see it there are a few key steps.
1. Developing a consistent body of work does not mean you have to restrict your subject matter. You might be interested in landscapes and still lifes. That is totally okay. Simply present each genre as a group rather than a smattering of each. Think about collections. Group pieces by size, medium, subject matter, price, however you like. What is more important is to be dedication to actually do the work. If you are not willing to put in the time at the easel to allow your creative skills to develop then perhaps you want to keep it as a hobby. No judgement. Simply a truth. If you want to have a business from your art, you are going to have to treat it like a business, which means putting in the hours.
2. Your mental attitude towards yourself and your art contributes so much to the success you are likely to realize. Doubt is going to come up, fear is going to come up, that is normal. The questions is are you willing to believe something more productive? I like to suggest that you start collecting evidence of what you have accomplished. How many completed pieces do you have? How many pieces have you sold? This evidence becomes the antidote for the doubt. For example, if I am struggling with a piece and my doubt voice says "You can't do this." Then I'm able to look at all the other paintings that I have completed and change my doubt into "Yes, I can. Just look at all these that I have already completed." Ultimately our doubt is showing us that we are scared. We don't want to fail and we don't want to be ridiculed or criticized. Collecting evidence helps us change our own mind about what is possible.
3. A professional website is so much easier now days that it has ever been. If you are not techy, find someone to help you. If you can figure out how to upload an image from your computer and write some descriptions then take a look at Weebly (my #1 choice), Square, Squarespace (different than square) as a website platform. They are robust. In the case of Weebly there is a storefront built in so you can create items and connect to those items in your website. When someone clicks on an image of your art on your website, and that image is connected to your store, they will be taken right to the sales page where the purchase can actually happen. Very cool. Your website is your showroom. Clients interested in purchase art are going to search for your website. Which brings up another topic, wherever possible use your name for your domain name versus some unrelated name. Use www.janedoeart.com versus www.artbyjanedoe.com, or www.paintingsbyjamesdoes.com You make it difficult for people to find you when you put words before your actual name.
4. The most important thing you can do is start collecting email addresses from people who are interested in seeing your art. It's never too early to start this. Social media is great, but they are platforms that you do not own. They can disappear, they can change their rules, they can ban your site. If you are only growing your following on social media you leave yourself vulnerable. Your email list is something that is yours. You are in control of what you send out, when you send it out, and who you show it to. Very important. Now keep in mind email open rates vary, but you can reasonably expect 25-45% of the people on your email list will actually open your email. With Social media you have no idea how many of your 2000 followers are actually seeing what you post. The other piece of this is use an email provider that is designed just to send emails. Some websites have email services built in, but email sending is not their sole focus so the deliverability of those emails can be very low. A specific email service is much more reliable at actually getting your emails through the spam filters of your clients email hosts.
5. Have a way to collect money for the sales of your artwork. Now many people collect e-transfers when they make a sale. It certainly works. The drawback is that #1 clients have to be familiar with online banking, which a lot of people are not. #2 clients have to know how to set up a recipient in their e-transfer account. #3 setting all this up takes them away from the joy of purchasing and into the online maze that may have them decide it's not worth it. Instead, I recommend using Square. They have online credit card processing services at 2.9% + .30 cents per transaction, which is the industry standard. They also have a piece of hardware that allows you to use a tap device if you are making sales in person. (Cost= $50? This is a one time fee to purchase the device) This tap device processes credit and debit transaction. Debit transaction carry a little larger fee and take longer to process. However the ease that your clients can make a purchase is fantastic with this service. (Note: I avoid Paypal at all cost. It can be difficult to get your money from them, they hold funds for 5-7 business days, and there are hidden fees if you are processing US credit cards in Canada.)
6. Having a systematic way of showing people what you are doing and what is available is important. Figure out what feels good for you. I have no problem doing videos, so I'm choosing platforms that allow me to load videos and share content with my audience. I was considering using Pinterest as a platform recently and my gut feeling is that it's not a good fit for how I work. I prefer videos to curated still photo creation. The important part is to be consistent. How often do you want to post? What feels good for you?
7. What I find essential for the long term vision of my business is having goals that keep pulling me forward. This is a great way to avoid the immediate disappointments that may come up. If a promotion doesn't go exactly as you planned it can be easy to get discouraged and stop. With a goal in place you have something pulling you forward to complete. In my case, I have my work outlined for the next six months. I have paintings planned and my timing all figured out. Will I reach all these goals, no. It doesn't matter. I have a road map of what I intent to complete. This timing also helps me plan when a commission comes in. I can see what shows I'm committed to, or what I'm really set on completing, and easily slot in the commission once a juggle a few non-essential commitments later in the year. The other advantage to planning ahead is you can be thinking about and composing the emails that you want to share when it is time to start promoting your next series of paintings.
I hope this has been a help. Let me know if you have any questions by messaging me below.
If you'd like to speak personally to me about your art business, you can schedule a call here. I'd be happy to chat with you about what your goals are and what challenges you are having.