Maria Brophy

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business of art / Philosophy

Do you have what it takes to be a Full Time Artist?

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Drew Brophy studio painting room May 2016 photo by Nathan OnsurezDrew Brophy painting in his room photo by Nathan Osurez

 

Believe in your dreams.  They were given to you for a reason.”  Katrina Mayer

 

I used to think that anyone with a little bit of talent could make it as a full time artist.  But now, after working directly with over 1,000 artists since 2009, I realize that I was truly naive.

Not everyone should quit their day job and work full time as an artist.

The business of art is probably the most challenging business you could ever choose to go into.   It’s not for someone who isn’t willing to learn a lot of new strategies.  It is not for the rigid.  You will get swallowed up by the world and end up bitter if you won’t take control of your art business and your feelings.

When you decide to work full time as an artist, what you are doing is starting a business.  Running a business requires that you acquire business skills and that you keep the cash flowing in.

Unlike other businesses, the art business does not have a specific road map to follow.  I wish it did, because I would do everything on that map!

It became very clear to me, the difference between the art business and other businesses, when my sister Christine opened a clothing consignment store.  She had no experience owning a store.  She was a stay-at-home mom for most of her life.  But one day, at forty five, she decided to start a business that she knew nothing about.

She bought a book online that taught her how to run a successful consignment store.  As long as she followed the instructions in the book, she couldn’t fail.  She followed the instructions and has been very successful.  So much so that she opened a second location two years after opening the first store.

The art business, on the other hand, has no such guide book.  Sure, we have many books on the market for artists, but not one gives you a specific road map on how to run your art business so that you earn a profit and can live off of it.  I’ve read dozens of books on the art business and have yet to find one that gives you real strategies for making money.

Most art business books teach how to get grants, how to apply to residencies and how to collect email addresses and get into galleries.  While all of this is good stuff, you can’t support a family from it.  There has to be a consistent cash flow and profit coming in for a viable business to remain healthy.

For the past fifteen years I’ve studied and experimented with many different ways to sell art.  You could say I’ve been obsessed over it.  And for good reason; my husband Drew’s art is what fully supports our family.

I study what the successful artists and small businesses are doing, I analyze it and then test it.  Sometimes things work, and sometimes they don’t.

Years ago I met a young artist on the beach in South Carolina.  She was waiting tables for money at the time.  She told me she planned to be a full-time artist.  I asked her why she was waiting tables instead of living her dream.  She didn’t know how to answer that, but it got her to thinking about what choices she wanted to make.

A month later the young artist made a powerful decision and quit her job, applied for a small business loan, and started her art business.  Committed, but a little nervous, she called to ask me if she made the right decision.  Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I encouraged her to continue on her path of being 100% committed to her plan.

She learned all she could about business while painting beautiful landscapes of Charleston.  She became active in the community and formed relationships with collectors.  Her work became popular in her area.  She made decisions that allowed her to price her art on the high end.  Five years later and this young woman is earning a good living creating art.

I hear many success stories from artists just like this one.  But I also hear a lot of sad stories, from those who don’t make it and give up, feeling defeated, broke and bitter.

Why is it that some can make it while others struggle?  I have come to understand that there is a certain mindset that is required to thrive.   Some are born with this mindset and the rest of us have to work to develop it.

If you are reading this and you are dreaming of becoming a full time artist, I hope this article helps you to decide if you want to develop this mindset.

Below I’ve listed the mindset and qualities that successful, full time artists share:

  • Have a long term vision of what they want out of work and life
  • Are 100% committed to bringing that vision to life
  • Work on their art every day
  • Are flexible and willing to learn new business strategies
  • Charge properly for their work so they make a profit
  • Invest in coaches, attorneys, trade shows and courses so that they continually up-level their business

Below I’ve listed the mindsets and qualities of an artist who may not be ready to enter the world of full time art:

  • Is not clear on what they want out of life or out of their art business
  • Is not willing to make a commitment to the business
  • Is not willing to be flexible or try new things
  • Is not willing to learn how to price art properly or doesn’t care about money
  • Has too many responsibilities (i.e. caring for children or sick family member or anything that takes you away from the business for large chunks of time)
  • Has no interest in learning the business end of the art business

If your desire to work full time as an artist is very strong, but you are lacking some of the qualities and mindsets that you need, please know that you can learn anything if you are willing. 

If you love creating art but don’t want to be a business owner, then make the choice to only focus on the joy of it and let the business end of things go completely.  Stop worrying about it and enjoy your art stress-free.

There is no right or wrong way to be an artist; if you are creating as a hobby or part time, your decision does not take away from the importance or validity of your art.  If anything, it will probably make it more enjoyable as you will never have to worry about business.

Whatever you decide is totally okay.  Just be sure it’s a conscious decision that you make.

Please, share in the comments, your questions or thoughts on this.

With Love,

Maria xxoo

 

PS:  I am almost finished writing my next book titled STRATEGIES FOR THE FULL TIME ARTIST.  In this book I share strategies that actually will help you earn a living with your art!  If you want to be on my pre-launch list, please sign up here:  http://eepurl.com/b2IHHT

 

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19 Comments Do you have what it takes to be a Full Time Artist?

  1. Laurie

    Hi Maria 🙂
    A great article! Well laid out & very helpful for those trying to decide re being in a full time art business. Thank you :).

    Reply
  2. Lori Woodward

    Thanks Maria, I shared this on Facebook. It’s a really important post because it is reality, and we artists need to know what it will take to make a living as an artist.

    For me, I’ve decided, after 25 years of being a business that it’s time for me to continue my art more for joy than for income. I don’t need the money, so the way I see it.. let those who do need to pay the bills – run their business well.

    It’s harder than it used to be for me to make a living with art. I’m older now, so I’ll just continue to sell work from my website and offer some online art instruction. I’m content with that. If I net $10K, I’ll be happy as a part-timer.

    Reply
    1. Maria

      Thanks for sharing, Lori. Wow, it must feel really good to make this shift in your life, letting go of the business and just focusing on the enjoyment of making art!

      Reply
  3. Lisa

    Timing could not be any better for this article Maria as I am getting ready to make a long anticipated change to full time artist. I’ve been growing my business over the past 5 years, working nights and weekends, but as you know, without a full time commitment, it can’t possibly continue to grow and become more profitable. I’ll admit, it’s a bit unnerving thinking about leaving the security of the corporate 9-5 but I realized, that I do have what it takes to work full time as an artist.

    Reply
  4. Lorenzo

    So thoughtfully written Maria! I love this write up. It really helps in deciphering the willingness to become a full time artist or to find a way to be content with the reality of what really works best for ourselves, an honest and fair assessment. We get out of it what we put in.

    Reply
  5. David

    Great article, Maria! Running the business side of an art business is a full-time job and can certainly take time away from creating; that kind of around-the-clock work is not for everyone. And you have to be brutally honest with yourself; if your art isn’t resinating with people and the sales aren’t flowing, you have to move on. You can want it to work more than anything, but you just can’t force people to buy your stuff.

    Reply
  6. Bob Ragland

    I do my own business. I stay in touch with my art people all year. I do it by USPS mail. I send career news and updates. It works. I can make money off the “kitchen table”.
    I run the Non- Starving Artist Program in Denver. I am an art career coach on BUSINESS tactics. The stuff not taught in art schools.
    I post doable business tips on facebook.

    Reply
  7. Kristen

    Wow! Maria, you hit the nail on the head! The mindset and qualities you listed for success, or not, and the way you wrote about the topic was beautifully done.

    Reply
  8. Pompe

    Hi Maria
    What a great piece about being an artist! I made the decision decades ago to do my art for the joy of it and make a living as a therapist and life coach. My father was an artist and a successful business man who did the same. He collected the Depression era art of his friends and used his wealth to build a museum, OMAA, to house it all on the coast of Maine. I always enjoy your practical and thoughtful perspective. Thanks!

    Reply
  9. Tammy Stewart

    Maria, what a thought provoking article! Excellent summarization of the necessary qualities of a successful business minded artist. I needed to take a step back and reevaluate my decisions since fully committing to shaping the next chapter of my life. I’m full in …and this article couldn’t have come at a better time.

    Your knowledge, generosity and commitment to helping others has been a blessing in my life as I’m sure it has for many others. I appreciate you more than you know… and since I’ve haven’t stated so before… Thank you. Thank you so very much!!

    Reply
  10. Kellie Chasse

    Wonderful post Maria! With the incredible support of my family, I made the decision back in 2007 to become a full time artist.

    I have to say that I am very blessed to have a wonderful husband, that runs his own marketing company, he has taught me so much.

    Art sales have progressed so much in this new digital world. I now teach art courses online using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as my launch pad.

    You must gave a vision to succeed.

    Reply
  11. Emily Riggan

    Hi Maria! I am writing this on behalf of my husband, who is a full time artist. It has been a struggle, as I am working full time and have the steady income in addition to trying to run the business side of his art career. There have been a lot of ups and downs. Even with contracts and keeping to our end of the bargain, we still run into people who try to get more out of the deal and try not to pay in the end. We don’t have a lawyer on retainer for every bad deal. Unfortunately, he missed your presentation at Surf Expo in Orlando many years ago (2010) to maybe glean some insight. I know he regrets it because he is very proud of the fact that he met Drew and Drew admired his artwork and Drew is very successful at what he does with his art. Anyway, this has not deterred us in the decision we made many years ago for him to sell his art/skills. Thanks for this article, it has reinforced our decision.

    Reply
  12. Brenda G Trapani

    Does your husband do the business end of the deal, or is that your job? Can an artist do the painting- showing up, behaving, performing and delivering top notch work, keep deadlines and adhere and uphold contract etc., but find someone else to do billing, pricing, and accounting, marketing? A doctor doesn’t do everything in his office even though he is in charge and oversees it all.

    Reply
  13. Nicole

    This article is right on time. My heart is beating harder just reading it. Your message truly resonates with me. Thank you for your wisdom and encouragement which in my opinion is what us creatives need more of.

    Reply

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