I went to a liberal arts college that offered a very advanced level of training in the fine arts. My painting professor was incredibly talented, and certainly still reigns as a huge influence on my art to this day. It’s been 2 years since I made the jump into a legitimate art business, and it’s been a bumpy learning curve to say the least. Although many of the technical skills of art were covered in my core classes, there were still quite a few things that were lacking in my college studies to prepare me for a career in painting. I do not blame my instructors- they were doing the best they could to teach their specialties to a room full of hopeful students. And, as we all are well aware: there are too few hours in a day. But, my hope is that this information may help someone else to be better prepared for the jump into a full time career in the arts.
Here is my take on the 7 things I wish I had known when I was graduating art school:
Ok, that took WAY too long to type but you get the idea: BUSINESS!!!!
It’s funny that in art school the main focus is on the technical usage of new supplies, the studying of art history and the making of new work, while there is little to no emphasis on the fact that, once you graduate, you are going to be running a business. I can’t help but think that the lack of teaching in this category is what steers promising artists away from pursuing their dreams. I mean, who wants to graduate from an art curriculum, with all of that hope, just to get busy learning about taxes and inventory right away?
But, seriously, here is the real list of the ten things I wish I had known more about before graduation:
- business basics – taxes, inventory, profit margins- all of the boring stuff.
- social media
- SEO (search engine optimization) and website design
- building a “brand”
- time management
Business basics: you are going to need a great CPA. Before selling your art, make sure that you are set up legally in your city & state. It is NOT a wise business decision to try to go “under the radar”. I’ve read many horror stories on this- just trust me on this one.
Marketing: In order to market yourself, you have to know who would be buying what you are painting. How old are they? Are they male or female? What kind of home may they live in? Do they like coffee or chai tea or both? (seriously, you do need to dream up your target market- and, be specific!)
Social media: no one will find you. You must be willing to be seen on a variety of platforms other than your own website…which leads me to my next point:
SEO: before registering my business I had never even heard the term “Search Engine Optimization”. And, to be honest, it’s still an enigma to me. In basic English, SEO is a methodology of strategies, tactics and technique used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking in search results pages of Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines. My introduction to SEO was thru my etsy shop. Where I had to try to think of specific keywords that my potential customers would type into etsy to find exactly what I was selling. I’m still working on this, and probably always will be. ha!
Photography: If the bulk of your sales will be happening online, then it is CRITICAL that your photography is color accurate and shows size/scale. Think of it this way- when you go into a shop and see a cute shirt- you pick it up, feel the fabric, hold it up to yourself, etc. Obviously, online you cannot do this, so you have to give your customer the most information possible to make their purchase.
Building a brand: This is a big one. If you are selling art, is it peaceful? Is it abstract? What types of emotions do you want to evoke? Whatever the answer is, that SAME emotion should be mirrored in your logo, images, your bio, etc. If you are an illustrator of silly images and people follow your work to get a good laugh, it probably wouldn’t be best to have serious political banter on your Instagram feed, right? I mean, if I want to laugh I don’t want to be thinking of politics- agree?
Time Management: Oh, man. What a doozie this is. Good thing juggling class schedules and assignments has already helped you a bit here because, you’re going to need it. For me, I try to think of tasks that can be done simultaneously. For instance, one of my goals is to better my Pinterest knowledge. So, when I am painting, I am also listening to podcasts that talk specifically about this topic. Or, if I know that I will need to wait for paint to dry on a commission, I intentionally begin painting 2 pieces at the same time- that way, when one is drying, I can pick the other up and stay in my painting mood.
Ok, folks. That wraps it up. If you are an aspiring artist I hope this helps you know where to focus your energies- but, please do reach out if you have a specific question. If you are already in business, I would love to hear your thoughts. What are doing now that you wish you would’ve known back then?
Have a great week chasing your dreams, everyone!
Want to see some of my work or get in touch? see my website here: www.rachelalvarezart.com