Many artists have difficulty thinking of their art as a business. They may feel that to do so cheapens the process and compromises the integrity of their art. Maybe it does. I’m not going to try and convince anyone otherwise. I will only point out that the goal of supporting yourself as a working artist, writer, painter or poet, requires a compromise of some sort. Refusing to treat your work as a legitimate business could be a mental hurdle that is preventing you from getting your work seen, your manuscript read or your music heard by a larger audience.
It’s Your Choice Not to Make
Treating your art as a business, doesn’t mean you need to be obsessed with money. You no doubt have a different goal beyond simply making bank. Most artists want their work to reach a larger audience. Painters want their paintings seen. Poets want their poems read, songwriters want their songs heard, but the act of selling their work seems beneath them. If you truly aren’t concerned with money or recognition, and want to make art solely for yourself, then you have no worries. Of course, you will have no cause to complain about a lack of success. It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to have it to both ways.
Change Your Thinking and Your Methods
If this is something you’ve been thinking about, read my five tips below on how to treat your art like a business. These tips are not to be taken as a how-to per se. They are merely a few things I’ve learned from my writing as well as my work recording, releasing, and marketing myself and bands I’ve been involved with. Remember, success is how you define it. Set modest goals and you won’t be disappointed.
1. Get a Game Plan
Now that I’ve told you that you should be treating your art/music/writing like a business, how do you do it? First, you need to put a plan into place. Grab a pen and paper or your laptop and start brainstorming: What are your goals? How you are going to achieve them? What are your assets and liabilities? Don’t be modest at this point. Don’t be afraid to reach high. The time to determine what is practical and what is pie in the sky will come later.
Here are five things you should be asking yourself:
- Do I have enough output to make a living even if sales were to come?
- Can people find my work online?
- Do I have a professionally-written press kit?
- Do I have enough money to live on while I work towards my goals?
2. Identify Your Strengths & Weaknesses
What do you do best? Are you a strong writer, but weak with numbers? Do you have graphic arts skills? Are you a good photographer in addition to being a good wordsmith? Are you a good salesperson, or are you so horribly introverted that you can’t face the very public you hope to entice with your work? Don’t worry if you don’t posses all of the skills you need to promote yourself. You can always ask friends for help or barter for the services you’ll need. In addition to being a talented artist, almost everybody is good at something else that can help move the whole thing forward. Find out what that thing is and use it to your advantage.
3. Establish an Internet Presence
You need to exist online. Fans of your work—potential buyers—present and future, need to be able to find you. You want them sharing links and doing some of your promotion for you (for free). You should be using at least three of the following (all three would be even better):
4. Press Kit
I have written a lot about the value of having good press materials. They are great tools and necessary to help you get press coverage and reviews. Having a press kit and a collection of your best past reviews are invaluable when contacting websites and print publications about featuring you or your work. Many writers at these outlets are strapped for time and the more work you can do for them, as far as bio information and links, the more likely they’ll be to write about you.
5. Get some capital
Like any business venture, you will need to invest money up front. I’m not talking about thousands of dollars either. I’m not even talking about hundreds. Many things you can get for free like a newsletter template (Mail Chimp) or an online press kit (Reverberation). Musicians can take advantage of sites such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp to promote their music. The resources are out there. Find them and use them, but be prepared to spend a little money to make money. Invest in some business cards or flyers and posters to promote a show or new music release.
Now Go Do It!
I’m not suggesting that my advice is the only way to be commercially successful with your art. After all, I am not a big rock star or best selling novelist, or a world-renowned cartoonist. Nor were these things ever my aspiration. My goal as a musician was to make records and that I accomplished a dozen times over. As for writing, I have supported myself doing it and I don’t really consider it work. I also wanted to run my own record label, publish my own zine and comics, and book my own tours, and I’ve done all that too. This goes back to learning to define your goals. Surround yourself with people who have similar ambitions, get a plan together and put it into action. Don’t put it off any longer.
Let me know how it goes.