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Your Business Plan - Where Are You Right Now?

by M. Theresa Brown on 5/14/2010 3:03:36 PM

This post is by guest author, M. Theresa Brown. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

"If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."

Good advice for the artist whose career has been going nowhere yet he continues to pursue the same path!  But what of the artist whose career has been doing well and now has fallen

There is no doubt that these are frustrating times. But it is not just the "economy." The times are also changing. And the combination of a number of individual factors have meshed to create a time of seeming instability, anxiety and negativity. It's a good time to remember that you cannot always change what is happening around you, but you can change how you react to it!

I chatted with an artist the other day who was driving across his state and stopping at every gallery and framing shop to show his prints. His prints were amazing. Many were created in pre-giclee days when Serigraphs were the premier print. Hand pulled in 18 different colors, they were a labor of love, concentration, skill and dedication! He had also adapted and offered giclees as well.  His business flourished for several decades.  He shipped out 50-75 serigraph orders a week, wholesaling them at $150-$200 each, to retail outlets across the country who in turn sold them for $600-$1,000. But slowly, the market began to dry up. It was not the economy. It was the times.

The past 10 years have seen industries change dramatically.  How many new artists today have learned and embraced the methods to create serigraphs (or etchings)? How many small print stores are still on your block? How about Photography stores? How many sign painters who still hand letter?  And to further many cars still have stick shifts in them?  How many people can drive to a destination without GPS? How many people need to get home to make a phone call? Are there even any pay phones left?

So the point is that everything changes whether we wish it or not, and as an artist, you have to be aware of these changes. You need to have or develop the attitude and perseverance to be able to adapt and adjust to these changing times. You have choices. You can change your techniques and/or your marketing plan. Adjusting can be as simple as developing new techniques within your art field.  But for the career traditionalists with years of expertise, it really means changing the way you market your craft and not changing how you create it.

And that is why you need to know where you are in your business plan! There is no doubt that January is considered the month for premium motivation but for those new to this information, anytime is a good time!

March is a big month because you are nearing the end of 25% of the year!  That's food for thought isn't it?  Now if you are on target with your plan, then the next three months should be mapped out. Because if you have developed your plan, you have, to date, been far more successful than the artist who has not!  One big reason is because the artist with no plan is
lacking the direction, thus the necessary perseverance that self representation requires. It is too easy to try something once or twice and then give up. But if your plan requires you to stick with it for a month or three months then you have a better chance of seeing positive results!  And for the artists who have perfected their craft, your concentration and time should be on the new marketing aspect of your business plan if your sales have dropped.

And what about the artist whom I was chatting with?  He was a delight to talk with.  He was handling the changes as a professional should. There was no gloom, doom or despair in his
conversation. He was a positive artist who was matter of fact about the changes that time had brought to his art form. He knew that his old way of doing business had stopped working. Many of his retail outlets had or were closing.  He smiled and told me that yes, it was hard work. He had stopped at malls and stores which had framing shops and galleries closing right and left.  But, undaunted, he was persevering. And he was finding success by following his 2010 plan of leaving the studio and going door to door to the venues to whom he used to sell online and via catalogs and was discovering new ones. In doing so, he was exposing a whole new generation of art collectors to the techniques and beauty of an art form most knew nothing about.  In his case he was astute enough to know that in order to move with the times, he needed to change the way he marketed his art.

A lesson for us all and an attitude for success. That artist will be fine!

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Related Posts:

Artists' Business Plans

The Most Powerful Tool for Marketing Your Art (and one secret weapon)

Evaluating New Opportunities

Setting Goals to Be Successful

20% Dream and Scheme, 80% DO

Topics: art marketing | sell art 

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helen horn musser
Pursueing my art is always a perogative with me. Marketing can be turned over to someone else. That's where I am right now

Joanne Benson
Hi Theresa, Lots of good advice here! We certainly do need to adapt to the times. Unfortunately many of us get into a rut and then wonder why we are thanks for the kick in the proverbial ars...

Donald Smith

Thank you for asking a very important question, “Is how I”m marketing my art working?” and the follow up, “If not, it”s time to change.”

Like a papua in a cocoon, I”m struggling to emerge. I”ve found a restaurant that likes my art enough to hang it on their walls. I”ve sold 1 painting in the last 6 months there. While it”s flattering to have my paintings in a public place, it isn”t generating sales. My first thought is, “What”s wrong with my art?” I know I need to keep working on improving, but assuming I”ve reached a better than average skill level, then maybe the problem isn”t my art but how I”m marketing it.

What do you suggest for artists who are trying to emerge? Contacting galleries, entering contests, going to street fairs, or trying all of the above? Maybe you”ve got a suggestion I”ve not listed, if so I would love to hear about it.

Thank you!

Diane Tasselmyer

I am a "List Maker".

It is the only way I can exist and get things accomplished.

Naturally my "business plan" is another list that is constantly evolving. And that is it's is elastic yet resilient. And it works for me.

Marian Fortunati
You are right, of course, Theresa, but it IS hard to know in which direction to plan your voyage (or business as it were).
I just read that the DROID phone has just outsold the i-phone. That is a surprise as I thought Apple had just about locked up that technology... The people at Google (who created the Droid software) who are about to take over the world seem to have THEIR business plan in order! (Read "Googled" by Ken Auletta... talk about a changing world!!)

While we all need to keep our goals in sight and keep up with the changing markets, our most important goal should be to keep making and improving on the art we love to make!!

Michael Cardosa

Excellent article.

This also reminds me of Einstein's famous quote, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Seems to me that most of the artists I have met have come to their art later in life and do not have a business background to fall back on. Since they're not sure how to run a successful business, making changes to accommodate changing times is completely foreign to them. I find this mostly with artists that sell their work in the $1,000 to $5,000 range. Things that worked before and don't really work now have them perplexed and since they have no other frame of reference they don't know where to turn to change things or even that they should. They sit and blame the economy.

Not everyone will be a marketing success because the work represented has to measure up to the marketing. However, I truly believe that outstanding work that doesn't sell is the victim of bad marketing or no marketing.


Michael Cardosa
Write another comment . . .

Michael Cardosa
Oops sorry everyone, I guess somehow a double comment went out. I apologize.


helen horn musser
Michael, Have you started celebrating the weekend early? Cheers!

Theresa Good advice. A visitor in
my gallery today was lamenting that the
receptions she held in her pr business was
not drawing crowds any more. I asked her
if she had changed the format, and she had
not. I told her that one must continually
change because the world changes, the consumer
changes, etc. You are right on!

max Hulse

helen horn musser
In my zone it's time. Cheers

Suzanne Roberts
Theresa, Your article is great....forward thinking. If you don't keep up with the times they will pass you by! Marketing your art is an art in itself however with your suggestions it is doable.
Thanks for the good advice.

Judy Mudd
Nice reminder that we need to remain flexible in our thinking and try new approaches as we progress in our careers. Never get too comfortable because change is on the way!

victor schiro
Very good article Theresa,
It is always great to read insightful encouragements for artists to tackle what is for many of us the uncomfortable task of marketing.
I know that a big part my finally getting a useful understanding of how to target my work was to know where I fit in this vast universe of art.
This of course requires that artist are honest with themselves about where their work fits into the venue in which they have chosen.
If one is trying to make it as a modern painter, then that world of contemporary art needs a special reality check as to how one's art lives within that market.
And those of us who are doing representational, traditional painting need to make honest assessments about our work in that market. And while virtually all art clubs and competitions suffer ostensibly from cronyism,;competitions are still one of the best ways for artist to get an idea as to the level of their work. With this knowledge, I believe comes a better understanding of where ones market is, and then how to attack it.

Sharon Weaver
Changing with the times is imperative but knowing which new trend is the right trend is tricky. If only I had a crystal ball.

Daniel Fishback
Thanks for the inspiring article. It reminds me of how much better things can be if we don't dwell on the negatives we face with the economy but instead focus on the many possibilities we have for furthering our art careers. Your article also made me realize that I really need to create a business plan and to get more organized if I'm going to maximize my possibilities.

Kind regards,
Daniel Fishback

Marsha Hamby Savage
Thanks for a wonderful and thought provoking article. Figuring out a new way to market, something different, something inovative, is exactly what we need to do.

You have made me think! Always a good thing. Thank you.

Something does not seem right with this article. Did anyone take the time to calculate the earnings of this artist for "several decades"? At $150 x 60 prints a week, even on the low end, that's $9000 per week, or $36,000 per month, or $430,000 per year, for several decades. Why would there be any gloom, doom or despair for things changing? If anyone earned that much money for several decades why would there be any complaining at all? In fact, why would someone who has earned over $400,000 per year for 20 or 30 years (several decades) be driving around in desperation trying to get galleries to sell prints? This makes no sense to me.

sometimes all we need is a different perspective

M Theresa Brown
Thanks for the nice comments everyone! We have a lot more info on our other site, Selling our art to pay our bills is what we do and have done for twenty years. No one ever said self employment and self marketing in any business was easy. Success comes not from talent, but from hard work. It's not just the art profession that has had to adapt to rapid changes in technology! But you CAN do this if being in control of your art future is something you want to accomplish. One new goal at a time. But have a plan. If you would like, you can participate (all free) in our yahoo forum-there are artists from all over the US-art marketing only :-)
We all welcome any artist who wants to brainstorm!-Theresa


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