This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. Luann also writes a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explores the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
There are a lot of people out there—most of them on the internet—who have great advice for you. Or so they say. They promise to grow your income tenfold in six months. Or they can tell you how to attract an audience of thousands, ten thousands, in a few weeks. Sometimes the price is paltry. But sometimes it requires hundreds or even thousands of dollars from you.
I’ve been giving—and getting--a lot of advice in my lifetime. I’ve had some great experiences and some awful ones. And in the process, I’ve heard a lot of stories about really, really bad advice.
So I thought I’d give a little advice today about getting advice.
1) First, there is no one-size-fits-all piece of advice.
Not only are we different people with different needs, different processes, different goals and different ideas of success, we may also be at different points of the art-making/art-business cycle.
If you are at a point on the cycle where you are still exploring your style and developing a body of work, you may need different advice than an established artist who is looking to expand into national and international markets. An artist just starting to get serious about getting their work recognized may have different needs than an artist who’s in transition, who’s starting a new body of work or who’s dealing with new restrictions on their time, physical health or emotional well-being.
2) The person who asks you NOTHING about your work, your goals, your needs, will probably not give you advice worth listening to.
There are many people in the industry that can tell you how to make it—in their industry. Gallery owners know what work they can sell, what prices sell the best, and what kind of artist they prefer to deal with. That doesn’t necessarily mean their advice will benefit YOU. I remember one gallery owner telling me I should create handmade, one-of-a-kind work in her favorite colors that would retail for under $50. Great advice, IF I wanted to do that.
3) Good advice isn’t necessarily expensive. Expensive advice isn’t necessary good advice.
In the world of fine craft, there are industry “experts” who routinely charge $150 for an hour of consulting. Many of them are not artists themselves, or haven’t made a livelihood selling their own work for years. They may know how the industry works, but they don’t know how YOU work. I have yet to hear from someone who felt like they got their money’s worth. I hired one of these experts once. Despite the information he demanded from me ahead of time, it was clear he hadn’t even looked at my website, my work, what approaches I’d already tried or read any of my questions. He laid out one path for marketing and selling my work—which either duplicated my own efforts or didn’t fit with my goals. I did not receive one new idea or insight.
I wondered what I’d done wrong—til a friend called me a few months later. She’d done the same thing (with a different industry “expert”) and received the same substandard approach. In fact, the “expert” ate her lunch (a very loud, chewing, slurpy lunch) during the entire phone conversation. Not so “professional”.
Even worse, some of these experts are shadow artists themselves—the bad kind. A friend recently told me she’d paid for such a consult, and ended up feeling terrible about her work—discouraged, dismayed and confused.
If this has ever happened to you, I can offer you one small comfort: Sometimes there actually is a small piece of worthwhile advice in there. I was told not to dilute my message on my website. I’d listed the dozens of achievements that, although worthy of mention, were not of core value to my higher art. I removed them.
Another even tinier comfort: Since that fiasco, I’ve never again been tempted by expensive advice. At least, not unless they’ve been vetted and recommended by someone I trust.
Next time: More advice about getting advice!