Sometimes the business of business gets in the way of understanding where art can viably fit on the commercial map. Some think that business is too hard focused and factual, while art is whimsical and self-indulgent. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – and if art is where your heart is, you are not ‘wasting your time’ nor putting yourself out of alignment for gainful employment. The opportunities in the business world and for business itself within the arena of art, are simply as many as you can imagine.
The interesting thing about art is that apart from an array of jobs you can apply for within the context of art, you also have opportunities to start your own business. So, if you are studying an art course or art-related degree, you are probably putting yourself on a satisfying and fruitful career track.
Art as a business
If you’re an artist – no matter the medium – from painting to ceramics to jewellery to sculpture, you will need to approach your art products in much the same way you would if you were trying to sell any other product in a purposeful business-minded way.
Define your product: When you do this, you will also be defining your brand signature. Will you do seascapes? Will you paint vintage cars? How will you define your individual content, subject, form, signature? Once you have developed a style, you can then present it seamlessly to your audience. By defining your brand or style, you are also determining your audience.
Know your market: Who likes your stuff is important. And you knowing who they are, is vital. When are they willing to buy? And where? How often. What price are they prepared to pay? Every customer may have a different perspective, and different habits. Know who they are, and where they are happiest when looking at art. Learn to communicate with them.
Develop a simple business plan: What do you expect to earn from your work over the next 12 months? What is your plan when income shrinks? How much work do you need to produce to earn what you need? What is your plan when dealing with media, curators, collectors, and competitor artists? Answer all these questions when you set up your business plan. Regularly review this plan – at least once a year.
Price your work properly: The main purpose of selling in any business is to make a profit. Make sure you incorporate all costs in the production of your painting or artwork, but also remember what is appropriate and what price people are unlikely to pay. Get real about the value of your work. Did you know you could price your work on a price-per-square inch basis, as well as various other ways of evaluating that are common in the art world. Pricing is often as artful a process as the work itself.
Get your work to market: Here you will need a strategy. Are you going to use a website exclusively or follow the gallery and exhibition route? Always keep in touch with your audience – whether via a website blog or new pictures weekly, or through social media and meeting prospective buyers at exhibitions. Find all resources that will help you promote your work – such as getting your art to interior decorators and designers. The most important thing is to get your art in front of eyes.
Keeping records: Yes, the boring business part that most artists like to skip – but it’s vital if you want to seriously make your art a thriving business. You need to know what is selling and what isn’t, and whether the route you’re taking is working. And you can only know that by counting the pennies. This, of course, is the area that most artists will want to find help with – but only as you grow, then you can employ a person or agency to handle this side of your business.
Working in the world of art
Even if you aren’t prepared to undertake the pure creative side of art, there are all sorts of careers that an art background can drive.
Art restoration: Over the years the hues in paintings start to fade due to humidity and pollution in the environment. If you are able to repair delicately and finely, especially older artworks, you would have a job for life for sure.
Art valuation: Artworks, just like real jewellery, may appreciate in value over time. A professional values art in monetary terms, and assists collectors to maintain their portfolios. Buying and selling art: You can become the curator of a gallery – or find yourself in the business of buying and selling. Knowing the market intimately is prime.
Art commissioning: A bespoke piece is personal and aesthetically pleasing. The artist creates something for you from scratch rather than buying off the shelf. You will work for designers and decorators to find original pieces – or have them especially made up for your clients, whatever their needs. A trained artist’s eye would be most valuable in this industry.
Art insurance: When an art investor or collector buys an expensive piece of art, or a gallery may need to ship a valuable item, the piece in question has to be insured depending on the evaluation. There are banks and institutions that specialise in this field which is a niche area within art.
Art as a gift business: A gift business focusing on beautiful artworks – from small to large, and that are suitable for weddings, and personalised gifts, is an enchanting business to be in. Surrounded by art and stunning items, and buying superb pieces for your shop, is a very satisfying career for an artist. Paintings, sculptures or a portrait, make great gifts for weddings, house warming parties, and milestone events.
As an artist, you should never stop creating opportunities – it’s the single most important thing you can do, other than create the work itself. In this way, whether you are producing art or operating in a related business, you will always be telling someone about your product. Make that as powerful as the creative process, along with the design and clever functionality that you love.