Arts & Entertainment  March 2, 2018

How artists can stop suffering, start selling

FORT COLLINS — Artists don’t need to suffer for their art. They just need a good business plan.

At a Fort Collins Startup Week panel, artist Amelia Caruso laid out a road map of how to turn an art practice into an art business.

  • Determine what kind of artist you are. Caruso said it’s important to make a decision, before even forming the business, of whether you’ll be an artist full-time or part-time, and to start calling yourself “an artist,” instead of diminishing what you do by saying “oh, I paint some.”
  • Set your long-term goals. There’s nothing wrong with goals being financial when it comes to art, Caruso said. “Making a living as an artist isn’t a specific-enough goal,” she said. “It’s overarching, but it’s not what’s going to pay the rent next month. So what does making a living as an artist mean to you? Does it mean to own your own house, to raise a family on the money you make as an artist? Do you want to be wealthy? That’s a valid goal. Don’t think because you’re an artist you need to live painfully. Whatever your goal is, write it down.”
  • Don’t produce work to sell. A huge mistake commercial artists make is they’ll start making things because they think people will buy it, not because it’s what they want to be making. “It’s a nasty hellhole you will never come back from,” Caruso said. “You will get completely depressed doing all that work for something you think will sell and it might not. And it won’t sell because it’s not you, it’s not what you should be doing.”
  • Find your people and find out what they want. To save time and potentially years of work without selling, Caruso suggests surveying your market on what they would like to see from you. Ask what products they want beyond your original artwork, such as art prints, T-shirts or even home goods. And ask other questions to help you determine their demographics: age, gender, interests, disposable income. “I spent a year of my time trying to get my art on skis and skateboards because I thought it would look great. And I still do. But I found that my real clients are 35- to 60-year-old women who don’t skateboard.” Going from thinking the world can be your clients to determine a specific group can help in starting to build your business. Eventually you can sell to the entire world, but first you need money to do that.
  • Price well. When it comes to pricing, Caruso says take emotion completely out of the picture. Don’t price an item high because you love it. “That disrespects your clients,” Caruso said. “If you love it so much, then don’t sell it. You can show it still, but mark it not for sale. Don’t set a different price because of your emotional response to it. You’re a business.” Instead, Caruso recommends straightforward bookkeeping. Calculate all your expenses. Then, create a pricing formula, such as calculating an hourly wage you think you should be earning multiplied by the number of hours spent working on a piece, with that added to double the cost of materials. Other formulas can be as simple as the height plus the width of a piece, multiplied by a multiplier of so much money per linear inch. Caruso recommends reverse engineering the multiplier from what peers you respect are pricing their pieces at. Whatever formula works for you, be consistent with it and always make sure costs are covered. “It’s important because say you don’t know what your canvas costs, or what your framing costs. And say someone comes and offers you $200 for a painting and you want it sold. If your canvas and materials cost $50, and your framing costs $200, then you just paid someone to take your painting away. Think about that. You have paid another human being money, even if it’s not cash in hand it’s money, that was spent a long time ago; you have paid for something you created to be put in their house.”
  • If you have a gallery partner, treat them as such. Caruso said it’s critical to never undercut your gallery by pricing items you have in your inventory less than what the gallery prices them. If a gallery takes 50 percent of the sale, raise prices to make the margins you need. Galleries market for you and bring more clients for you, and if they’re undercut they will stop showing you and tell their friends to not show you as well. So price accordingly so both you and your gallery are happy. And if you happen to sell an item from your studio and it’s priced at the gallery price, that means all the more profit for you.
  • Connect with people. Caruso said this can be one of the hardest parts of the job, and a grind, but build up an email list steadily. That can mean doing gimmicks like an author doing a book giveaway drawing in exchange for emails. Become friends with your buyers, who want to see you succeed. And participate in events, like summer art markets, where there is a community of artists.
  • Know your brand. “Part of knowing who you are as a business is your brand,” Caruso said. “If everything you do has a certain look, that’s your brand. And sell products that reflect your brand. I don’t do acrylic block paintings or metal prints because that doesn’t fit your brand. No matter what it is you sell, it should reflect back on what people think of you. Determine what your brand is, because every decision you make reflects back on you.”

 

FORT COLLINS — Artists don’t need to suffer for their art. They just need a good business plan.

At a Fort Collins Startup Week panel, artist Amelia Caruso laid out a road map of how to turn an art practice into an art business.

  • Determine what kind of artist you are. Caruso said it’s important to make a decision, before even forming the business, of whether you’ll be an artist full-time or part-time, and to start calling yourself “an artist,” instead of diminishing what you do by saying “oh, I paint some.”…

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