Monday, September 6, 2010
It's Not Easy Being an Artist
Being an artist is not an easy career. It was hard enough for the likes of those, like dear Vincent, who didn't have to contend with all the technologially savvy folks in the world today. And when you add the idea of online stores, along with craft shows perhaps and local marketing... well, being an artist becomes a lot more challenging, and yes, sometimes difficult. Let's think through what is involved in this particular profession.
1. The actual creativity side... Sure, this is what everyone thinks of when you tell them you are "an artist." People have a rose-colored vision of somebody who works in a pleasant, sun-lit space playing around with pretty colors and paints and metals and beads or any such medium, listening to music and always smiling. That creative aspect is the reason we become artists: the pull, the absolute desire to create; the need to express what is inside our soul, heart, and mind; the need for our hands to make something beautiful or maybe not so beautiful, depending on what the story is; the unexplainable draw to get out to the studio alone and let those feelings fly. It is the "fun" side of being an artist, but it is a definite need and it can also be quite frustrating at times.
2. The marketing side... Okay, so you've created your art. How do you price it? How do you sell it? Two tricky dilemmas that each artist must work out on his or her own terms. Pricing is not easy, especially when you are fairly new to the game. And after you've priced, now what to do with your art? You can sell locally, wholesale or on commission. But first you must get out there and beat the pavement looking for the shops or galleries where you work will fit in. You can join an artist community or organization... highly recommended... so that you can learn of opportunities and you can do joint shows. You can build a website to showcase your work, adding Buy It Now opportunities for viewers if you desire. You can join any number of online communities already set up to help you sell your art... Ebay, Artfire, Etsy, etc. Some artists also market their work through other online social media... Twitter, Facebook, or oh so many more. Just remember that for each way an artist chooses to market, there is much, much time involved.
3. The maintenance side... Once you have decided how to go about marketing and selling your work, there's the business aspect of keeping up with those retail stores who are selling your work or of maintaining your online shops, websites, blogs and social media. This is no small task. What does this involve? For retail stores and galleries, it means inventories and checking in every so often, either through phone calls or visits, changing out items seasonally or even more often than that. For blogs and social media, it means posting at regular intervals so that your work is out there and so that your followers will continue to see you in some form or fashion. Posts can be simple (a photograph or two of new work) or more time-consuming (detailed processes or collections). For online stores and shops, a little more is involved. Because people can't actually hold your art in their hand or view it up close and personally, you have to provide would-be buyers with a good look on their computer screen. This entails....
---- Photography... and it better be good. Your product will not sell if your photos are blurry, badly lit, congested with other objects. So you can spend hours, and I mean hours, taking the photos, cropping the photos, adjusting lighting and color, and then uploading the photos to your site.
---- Product description... a tricky and time-consuming aspect. You must create wording that will sell your product. How much do you say? Good question. People need to understand what your art is, why you created it, how it can and should become a part of their life or home. You have to say enough about it, but not too much, and you need to write it using language that is creative, like your art, but also clear and easy to read.
---- Titles... these are also important, and not just in paintings or collages but also for jewelry and other types of art. Titles get people's attention. They can be sweet, bold, unusual, earthy, shocking. And in online shops, they are also used, along with tags, in web searches to help people find your work.
---- Tags... words or phrases that describe your art, whether through color, design, style, materials, emotions, or any number of things. These are used in online searches and in website searches. Create tags well, and your work is found. And yes, this can be another time-consuming area.
4. The packaging side... Once you've sold something online, you must wrap it up for shipping out. You must have supplies on hand to do so: business cards, hang tags, bubble wrap, tissue paper, string, ribbons, gift boxes, shipping envelopes or boxes... it all depends on what you are selling. If I have sold a piece of jewelry, I take extra time to make the packaging quite attractive and even color-coordinated. And I take even more time to decorate the backside of the mailing envelope with my catchphrase "Make a Joyful Noise" complete with birds and music notes. Why? Because I think it's important to make the buyer feel special and to be glad that he or she purchased from me. It's fun to receive a pretty package in the mail and to open up layers of ribbons and tissue paper and organza bags to finally retrieve the piece that was purchased. I have received packages that are nothing special... protectively wrapped, of course, but nothing pretty, nothing fancy. And I have received packages, such as the one pictured here from Etsian GlazedOver, that are so lovingly wrapped with beautiful cards and fun ribbons or personalized in some way. Which do you think is more fun to open?
5. The shipping side... Now that your package has been wrapped in whatever way you choose, it must be shipped. For some, that means the shipping service will come to your home or studio and pick up your package for you. For others, like me, I must make the trek to the Post Office to ship out my package. This can be easy, or it can be difficult, oftentimes depending on the season of the year (gift-giving holidays... eegads!) and sometimes depending on the moods of the postal employees. But whichever, it adds an additional time and cost to the ordeal of selling online.
6. And then there's what I call research... An artist should keep up with what is going on in the world of art and the world of retail. Depending on what you create, you must keep in mind the seasons, the colors of the seasons, what other artists are doing, what is selling. You should acquaint yourself with those whose online shops do quite a bit of business. Follow blogs of artists whose work you admire. An artist can find inspiration in many ways, and seeing what is out there and what is new can sometimes inspire. But if you stumble about blindly, not keeping up with other artists and not finding support in a community, you may be doomed from the start.
So there is the profession of an artist in a nutshell. I know there is much I have left out and much other artists would add. But here you see it isn't easy; it is time-consuming, it can be costly in more ways that simply buying the materials needed for the creativity aspect, and it can be quite frustrating. Why, then, do some folks practically give away their art? More on that in the next post.