A little over three years ago I took a few online courses to help me make money as an artist. Although I was making art, I wasn’t selling it. In fact, there were very few people who even knew I was an artist. Over the last three years, I have made a lot of progress as an artist for hire. I actually make money with my art and much of it is done online. I have a website with an online store, a place that people can commission me, and a sizable following of both artists and collectors, and income that has been doubling each year. How did I get here?
5 Keys to Grow Your Online Art Business
Here are five of the keys I’ve found to be the most helpful in growing my art business online:
Find your cheerleaders and mentors.
I found that my family is nearly always supportive. That’s important. Another group I’ve found to be key is like-minded artists. I’m talking about a tribe of creative people who are equally as focused on making art that brings them an abundant life. I have artist friends from all over the world that are making money online from their art and we meet every two weeks in a mastermind group. We encourage, challenge, cheer on, and compare notes on what’s working and what isn’t with each other. This has been invaluable and can be vital to the growth of your online art business.
Seek marketing knowledge.
I’ve learned a lot from being a marketer for nearly 20 years, but marketing yourself is different than marketing for someone else. Marketing for yourself includes, but isn’t limited to:
Understanding exactly who your audience is and how to connect with them
Knowing how to build a website that converts (lots of artists build resume websites that don’t convert)
Building a plan to connect with your audience (and sticking with that plan)
Providing great value unique to your audience
Understanding SEO and how to drive the right traffic to your site
Looking at your analytics to see what’s working and what’s not
Manage your time.
Keeping yourself on track with systems that ensure you’re able to balance getting the work done in your business as well as on your business - eg. doing the art and the business stuff. This key requires a lot of discipline. I use timers for myself and plan to work a certain amount of time on certain things. The task tends to fill up the amount of time you’ve allotted for it according to Parkinson’s Law which states that work will fill up the amount of time you’ve given to it. This helps you set more realistic deadlines for yourself and leads to the next point.
Keeping track of the amount of time (and money) it takes to accomplish a project will help you be more efficient and ultimately give you more time and money if you do it right. Business guru Peter Drucker says that whatever you measure gets managed. To me, that means whatever you measure will also improve. I started tracking my time for commissions to see how long it took to create them. It was an eye-opener for me. I was able to see how to communicate the process with my clients and set a realistic and reasonable price to charge and timeline for completion. Measuring also includes keeping your accounting up-to-date so you know if you’re making or losing money at any given time.
Your growth as a business owner is important. Learn at a pace that makes sense for you to implement. I love to learn, but sometimes take on too much to be able to really use that information. If you’re a serial learner like me you have to put the brakes on sometimes so you can take what you’ve learned and apply it, test it, and measure it. If you’re not into learning, push yourself a little and start to branch out. There are loads of places you can learn things about running an online business, or how to use a different technique or medium. Reading and listening to audiobooks are some of my favorite ways to learn. Some of my favorite books on business and art business are:
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown - I’ve read this book four times and it never gets old. If you’re spinning your wheels and spending time on the minutiae of your life, this book will set you straight. I find myself listening to it with a critical eye on how I can get derailed by stuff that just doesn’t matter.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss - I just finished reading this book and it has changed the way I look at the time I spend working. Focusing on the activities that only I can do and outsourcing the rest is the quest I’m now on...not to mention the idea of mini-retirement trips to spark the joy of life and increase the creative output. This book, written in 2007, has a lot of timeless tips for the person who wants more freedom to spend time on what they love...which for me is family, art, and travel.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield - The subtitle on this book says it all: “Break Through Your Creative Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles.” I’ve found myself nodding my head while I read this book because I can identify to so many of the battles he describes. If you’re frustrated with the path your creative life has taken or you’re not even on a path, this book will get you pointed in the right direction.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert - This is a similar book to Pressfield’s book and will get you on the path of your creative life. While I don’t agree with all Gilbert’s assesments of how to get on the path, I do agree that fear is often along for the ride whether we like it or not. I love her analogy of the road trip and fear is in the back seat the whole time. She’s an amazing writer and has a firm grasp on the way creatives think.
If you love books as much as I do, find me on Goodreads and let’s compare books! I’m currently curating all the knowledge I’ve gained and all the things I know about how to run an online art business into useful and actionable tips and instruction for other artists. If you’re interested in getting your hands on that information, sign up for my emails.
Whether you have an online art business or are thinking of starting one, it’s never too early or too late to get started. Look at artists like Monet and Rothko both started in their 40’s. You can do this. I’m cheering for you.
What has been your biggest aha in reading this blog? Have you found another key to helping you with your art business that I haven’t mentioned? Leave your comments below. I’d love to hear from you!