Before You Burn the Whole Place Down

Take a breath

You walk into your studio like you do every day. It’s your sanctuary. Your happy place. Where you feel connected with who you are and who you’re supposed to be.

But today is different, the usual joy you feel is mixed with dread because even though you’ve been working at this art business thing for years you haven’t sold a painting for a long time. You haven’t sold enough art to call it a business in even longer.

Your walls are filled with your art, you’ve got art in every free corner, and you ask yourself why can’t you sell them?

You’ve entered every paid for competition you can find and had no response. No wins. No traction. No nothing.

Yes they happily take your money but this shit ain’t working.

Your paintings are adorning the walls of your local pay-to-play gallery. The gallery curator promised you all sorts of rewards when you were thinking about signing up. When you call them to see how it’s going they give excuses of “the art market is super slow at the moment.”

When you talk to your artist friends, they say the same thing and laugh about being real artists because you’re all starving. Ha fucking ha.

But, the thing is, you’ve already maxed your credit cards your spouse is losing patience with your art thing. Your family is pressuring you to go out and get a real job, as if making art isn’t a real job.

Maybe they’re right.

So… you feel like a failure. You feel like taking a match to the whole thing because this is what your life has come to.

You’ve wasted your entire fucking life chasing a dream that is elusive. You don’t know of any artist who is doing well online or offline. It’s time to call it a day. A year. A failed fucking path.

Take a breath.

Take another one.

Art is personal so any kind of failure hits hard. Art as a business requires a lot of moving parts and knowledge and maybe you’re missing a few pieces. Hell, if you’re making good art and it’s not selling, that’s entirely fixable!

You don’t need to burn down your life, dreams and career, you just need to make some changes.

First off, mindset. Art matters. It’s not frivolous or a waste of time and energy. It’s the thread that ties humanity together. When you see the importance of your work, you will go from playing at being an artist to owning your power as an artist.

Secondly take a critical look at your art. Not a negative look, but a critical one. Make sure you’re only sharing and selling your best pieces. Make sure you have a cohesive body of work. Anything that doesn’t fit in, or isn’t your best, should be set aside for now.

Take a look at your audience. Do you have a big enough following on social media? Are they your ideal collectors or are they artists? While it’s nice to connect with other artists (yay! Friends!) odds are they aren’t going to be buying your art.

Take a look at your pricing. Is it consistent? Does it make sense? Are you too high or too low? People don’t buy art based on low prices and you are not Walmart, trying to give people the best deal. Leave that thing to the cheap-o chain stores. You are a skilled professional selling unique, high quality pieces.

Take a look at your posting. Are you showing up on your business social media frequently enough? Are you posting your own work or is your feed cluttered with useless inspirational posts and shared memes? Have you even posted art for sale? You must tell people your work is available for purchase and then tell them how to buy it!

Finally do you even have methods in place to allow people to buy? Do you have Stripe or PayPal set up and ready to go? Do you have a website? Do you know how to pack and ship art?

When you treat your art business like a business, and then take a look at the pieces of your business that are not working well, you can figure out what needs fixing. Sometimes you need to call in an expert. Sometimes you just need training to learn the things you’re missing.

This was written by Leigh Shenton and Paula Mould, business and mindset mentors for Leigh & Paula. They help heart-led artists build sexy AF businesses, make more sales, get more commissions and publish books.

Paula Mould

Paula Mould

Paula Mould is a fine artist, published author and business coach for Leigh & Paula.

She also swears, mostly on purpose.

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