Being a starving artist sounds delightfully romantic, I know, but if you’ve ever actually been there you know that cold clenching feeling that makes you wonder if you shouldn’t have listened to your parents and studied engineering. Fortunately that doesn’t have to be the solution. If you aren’t making any money as an artist then you can usually solve it by addressing the following common problems.
You Aren’t Selling Yourself
Artists are often artists because they don’t want to talk to other people. Unfortunately, that’s simply not how it works. A freelance artist is a small business, and that means marketing. Putting your art on ebay or Etsy isn’t going to generate a lot of interest compared to real, hands on marketing. Go to local events to display your work, talk to small business owners (bar and restaurant owners specifically) and get them to post your work on their walls. If there are no events in your area, you can start your own (gasp!). It’s actually not as crazy as it sounds, simply round up a few other artists in your area, research cheap (or free) possible venues. Any place with a dance floor has enough room to work with, and business owners will be happy to accommodate you if you can convince them that you can bring in business.
Your Art Isn’t Original Enough
If you find you’re already doing all of the marketing that you could be it’s time to turn around and look at your work. Are you being original? Can a potential customer go elsewhere and find something in the same style, with similar content? What’s your own response to it? Does it make you sad, amused, or terrified? If you don’t have much of a response to your own work, then the odds are good that no one else does either. You have a chance to say something in a way that no one has ever said it before, it’s a shame to waste that chance.
If you used to do fairly well, but just can’t get past a creative block that has you doing essentially the same thing over and over again, resulting in a boring, one sided portfolio, you can check out another post that I wrote on dealing with that issue
Your Prices Are Wrong
What if you’re working all the time, and your art is selling, but you’re barely making ends meet? Clients are constantly hounding you and reminding you that they can find someone else to do the same work more cheaply, or try to get you to rework or modify work repeatedly. This one is as simple as it sounds. Raise your prices, perhaps even double them. Your work costs whatever you charge, period. If you don’t think it’s worth more, go back and read the earlier paragraph. You don’t want people buying your work just because it’s the cheapest around; you want them to buy it because they love your work. People being bullied and cowed into working for criminally low prices are the biggest reason that new artists so often find themselves in huge financial trouble, and the answer is simply to unapologetically charge what you’re worth.
Edward Stuart is an art and decoration enthusiast as well as an online publisher for Canvas Art. He frequently blogs on the topics of art, art history, design, and home decor.
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