Artists – Avoid Mistakes that Set you Back

I know that you get a lot of solicitations from many different places that make promises for overnight success. How do you tell the real ones apart from the come-on’s? How do you know what’s good for you and what is just a distraction and an expense?

Take a step back for a moment. As an artist you make art and you are also an entrepreneur. Your business should be established on a grounding of basic business processes to get your art out in the world and show it regularly to your audience. You first want to have a plan and a structure with making strategies and processes that will lead to achieve the success you want. If you don’t have this, start at the beginning and get yourself set up with some basic guidelines. If you need help, work with a mentor or coach who will help you put systems into place that will set you up for success. Sometimes you have to slow down first, and then you can speed up.

With a foundation, as you build your art career, you will avoid mistakes and pitfalls that waste valuable time. If you who are working alone, you have many different things pulling at you. You also need to make good decisions and put your efforts in the right direction. I want to share a true story that hopefully will help you make the right choices.

It was just after Thanksgiving and I got an urgent call from an artist I’ll call Emily. She had just submitted her work to be in a booth at a new Art Fair in Miami during Art Fair Week. It was her dream to have her work be there during Art Fair Week. She had a friend whose art had been shown there two years ago. It was seen by a curator who invited her to be in a show in Europe as a result. That show led to all sorts of good things. Emily was sure this would be her big opportunity. She wanted to know my opinion. She had to decide by tomorrow to send off her painting in time.

The problem was, Emily didn’t know the people who were tending the booth, she didn’t know anything about the art fair (she heard it was a good location), she didn’t know what the art fair looked like, and the people didn’t know her or her work. The chance of it being successful for her were very slim. I felt she was going about this all backwards and that she should slow down. I told her to hold off. There were too many issues that interfered with the likelihood of a successful outcome. And, there was a high price tag. She would be paying for the venue and the cost of shipping.

Emily decided to do it anyway. She asked if I could check it out when I was there for the art fairs, and I agreed to if I had the time.

While in Miami, I visited the venue, and it was a disaster. When I finally found Emily’s work, it was on the floor, leaning against the wall, and had no light on it. Art was jam-packed all over the walls, and no one there knew anything about her work. It was a bad situation all around. I was able to get the painting hung on the wall, though the only available space was beneath the window. There was still no lighting available and it was beginning to get dark. It would have some light on it during the daytime.

I called Emily and reported the situation to her and sent photos. She called the manager of the space and insisted that her art be pulled and her money be refunded. Fortunately, she got her money and her art back in due time. Emily was stressed and anxious the whole time. She learned a big lesson.

Emily and I began a mentoring relationship. She learned to correct the faulty thinking that led her to make the poor decision for her art that set her back for months. We worked together to make a plan for her art with strategies that would work for her. The strategies direct her to have shows with reputable venues and develop relationships with people she knows and can trust to follow through on it. She has gotten new shows and tripled her income from sales.

I give Emily credit for reaching out to me for help. It felt to her like a desperate last hope, but it was actually a show of strength. She owned up to her mistakes, and worked toward putting together a sustainable future for art career. With that, she leaves the past struggles behind. And that’s not all. She’s learned to put her money in the right place by first investing in herself with a mentor.

We all have hopes and dreams, and sometimes we jump ahead with our “pie in the sky” ideas. Slowing it down and taking things step by step is a more sure way to reach the success we want. It is the same with art as in any other business. Success builds over time and is assured when a plan is created and a strategy is chosen and followed.


Gwenda Joyce is a Career Success Mentor who helps artists and entrepreneurs move to the next level in their art careers.  For more information and a free strategy session, Click Here.


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