Most of my artist friends, regardless of what medium they work with, are independent, self-employed, non-represented (by agent, dealer, gallery owner, or publisher) business people. I am no exception. I work in my own studio space(s) and as the Sole Proprietor of my business. As a result of this independence, artists often have to wear many hats. Sometimes artists are wearing all the hats, and there are lots of them. Lets toss some hats around: these may include being the designer, creator, marketer, IT geek, accountant, business manager, clerk, shipping/receiving department, purchaser, secretary, and others specific to a particular artist’s process. It’s a lot of hats!

It’s really too many hats to wear if an artist is also hoping to stay creative and importantly, prolific! Some of these hats can be put onto the heads of others (outsourced). I work with an accountant, sometimes a professional lab, get help with computer issues, but mostly, I both try to wear, and prefer to wear, as many hats as I can balance on my head.

There is one area especially where I feel artists need to rely more on one another, marketing. My approach to marketing has always been to put myself in front of the art collector as much as possible and make the experience as pleasant and interesting as I can. What’s more, I like that personal interaction.

I’m of the belief that many art collectors also prefer the personal interaction with artists. For them, acquiring work directly from the artist is part of the experience and fun of being a collector. I can’t see ever relinquishing that responsibility to an agent or art dealer; being an artist under those conditions would be less enjoyable for me. I do however think that there is another kind of representation from which artists can gain. More and more I am finding artists wanting to collaborate on their marketing, and as a result fostering their individual efforts. I think that this strategy is good for the artists involved, and creates a “world” that their collectors find more engaging.

Article I wrote about an artist friend for Professional Artist magazine (2013).




2 thoughts on “The Independent Artist

  1. Very timely Paul, especially given our meeting yesterday. I simply cannot do it all myself, I learned the hard way that doing it all on my own can be dangerous and a way to set yourself up for failure or burnout instead of success.

    Collaborating with other professional, serious artists is vital for my business as well as my sanity, and who I collaborate with is even more important as well as bringing in an outside consultant as we did yesterday. Priceless . . .

    I’d like to pass along a few things that work for me, that may benefit you or others reading this article.

    First: outsource “weaknesses” and those things that just take too much time. For me this includes: social media/marketing, editing text, website updates, graphic design, photographing my work as well as quarterly and annual accounting. Can I do these things? Yes, but others do them much better, and in turn I have more time to paint and actually sell my work. It may seem “backwards” to spend money on these things, but it actually frees up an incredible amount of time for sales AND those things are done much better than I could do on my own.

    Second: “chunking” my time. I allocate mornings for painting, and it’s rate that I schedule meetings, phone calls, or any other type of hard business actives during that time. Those are things I do in the afternoon or early evening. I can’t outsource things that need my personal attention (e.g., replying to emails, etc.), so I dedicate a certain portion of my day for that.

    Third: A “triage” system: like all self employed people, my “do list” is formidable. In the morning I rate the most important activities that need to be accomplished that day based on deadlines, and yes, what will bring in income.

    Fourth: I think this is one of the most important things: avoiding the “Negative Nellies”. It’s hard being a self employed artist and clearly is not for everyone. Spending time with those who just complain: lack of sales, the market, not enough time, didn’t get into a show, creative blocks, the list goes on. Stop it, and take that time to actually do something productive.

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