It is a well-known stereotype that artists don’t make a lot of money. Between inconsistent pay and often being underpaid or exploited for their work, artists often suffer from financial strain. However, studies show that artists are typically happier with their jobs. And while money doesn’t always buy happiness, it’s important that artists can pay rent each month and live comfortably. So how can artists stay true to themselves and their passion and afford to do so? The answer is in thinking like a creative entrepreneur.

The definition of creative entrepreneurship is “the practice of setting up a business in one of the creative industries.” Technically, then, every working artist falls under the category of creative entrepreneurs. Especially for freelance artists, the key to a successful art career is to treat it like a businessperson or entrepreneur would treat their career. Just like a traditional entrepreneur, you are trying to sell a good or a service. However, with creative entrepreneurship, they key difference is that what you are selling is intrinsically connected to who you are as a person. Art is deeply personal, and this makes your entrepreneurial journey much different than traditional entrepreneurs.

So if you are an artist, here are three key elements to embrace that will bring more creative entrepreneurship into your artistic career.

Have a Strong Vision

One trait that both artists and entrepreneurs alike share is their vision. Entrepreneurial vision is vital in the success of a business– in order for the business to succeed, the entrepreneur must have some idea of what that success will look like. Similarly, artists possess their own artistic vision. They must have an idea of what their work will look like aesthetically in order to execute it. In the world of a creative entrepreneur, you must bring together your artistic vision and your entrepreneurial vision to bring direction to your career. Ask yourself things like “what kind of art do I want to make for the world?” “How do I want to share my art with others?” “What makes my work unique from others, and how can I highlight this when selling my work?” I recommend writing this all down in a journal, so you can see how everything in your vision relates to each other. What are some common themes in your vision? Who is your target audience? If you can clearly envision a future for your career, it will make it that much easier to attain it.

Take Advantage of the Internet

The internet has been one of the most pivotal technologies introduced to the art world. Now, instead of relying solely on auction houses, galleries, and museums for exposure, artists can use the internet and social media to advertise their work– and it changed the entire course of the art market. The online art market is on the rise, and has reached a 12% increase in sales in the last 12 months— now up to an estimated $4.22 billion. Making use of the online art market is a way to take control of your own art career without relying on third party sellers such as galleries or auction houses. You can also gain a wide following on social media, especially on Instagram, the preferred social media platform for artists. What is most important about using the internet to promote your work is that you have total control over your brand. Check out illustration artists like Robin Eisenberg and Polly Nor who use their Instagram to showcase their unique and eye catching brands.

Network, Network, Network

While the isolated genius has been a stereotype surrounding creatives like J.D. Salinger and Emily Dickinson, in the modern creative world having no connections will get you nowhere. Having good social skills is key in starting a business— the more people like you, the more likely they are to help get your career off the ground. Making meaningful connections with gallerists, other artists, and potential customers will only take your career further. People will be more likely to collaborate with you and buy your work if you leave a good impression. A high level of emotional intelligence is also crucial for artists– both on the business end and creative end of your profession. To get your creative and professional network started, try to attend various art events in your area. Whether it’s a gallery opening or a discussion panel, every connection you make could be your next sale. Also, make sure you brush up on your business etiquette before you head out to your next event!

Viewing your artistic career through the lens of a creative entrepreneur will set you apart from other artists. The future of art is heading in the direction of creative entrepreneurship, and when you embrace that mindset, you are already one step ahead of your artistic counterparts. It doesn’t mean you are giving up the artistic side of yourself for a strictly business side– instead, the flexibility and dynamic approach that comes with being a creative entrepreneur will put you further ahead.

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