I have been working as a full time professional artist for about five years now. When i started out, i didn't really make a conscious decision to suddenly "become and artist" it kind of just happened organically, which i find is a pretty common story. However, when i look back I know i did have a fairly romantic notion in my head of how life would be as an artist. I thought that spending all my time just paining and creating was going to be easy and stress free. However, here are three things that i was not aware of before i began.
1. You will be a one man band.
Unless you happen to have a tower of money in your backyard, if you are wanting to make an income from your art then you need to realise that you will spend at least 50% of your day doing everything except actually creating. Running a business as an artist means 50% creating 50% EVERYTHING else. This box labeled " everything" contains advertising, marketing, photography, website building, listing items for sale, admin work, accounting, emailing, negotiation, packaging, posting, planing, communicating, ordering...etc etc etc. Sometimes you will spend a lot of time doing all these things and not actually be making any money from it. Unlike most jobs where you get paid for all this work...as an artist you just have to do it in the hope that eventually it will result in some income. When you do finally get around to creating you art, you are still going to be very much alone in your own little world. You have to learn to be self sufficient and to be able to make decisions on your own about which direction your art needs to go in. I do a lot of talking to myself.
Us artists are an insecure bunch. Because you tend to spend so much time on your own doing your own thing, when it comes to sharing that thing with the world there is a lot of self doubt that comes out with it. Running any kind of creative business that relies on you making something individual and unique and then selling it is like riding a rollercoaster. Will people like this? Will someone like it enough to buy it? Will i be able to make more? What if none buys it? What should i make next? Is that person selling more than me? Maybe i should do what they are doing?
Unfortunately i don't think this whole insecurity thing is ever going to go away. I feel just as nauseous releasing a new paining for sale onto my website now as i did 5 years go.
Income is also an insecurity. It is sporadic and irregular. There is no way to predict or plan for how much you may or may not sell from one month to the next. You just have to keep plugging away in the hope that something you make will resonate with someone else out there in the world and they will buy it so you can keep making new things. Although i would consider myself to be quite established now and i can to a certain degree predict roughly how much i will earn each month (based on previous months and upcoming jobs) it is still and always will be a struggle.
3. You can not switch off. Ever.
Now, I know you don't necessarily need to be running a business to have this problem. Generally, being a creative person means that you are always coming up with new ideas and plaining your next move. However when you are relying on it for your livelyhood it can become almost impossible to take any actual down time. My mind is constantly spilling over with ideas that i just don't have enough time in the day for. So i have had to become quite good at being ruthless when choosing what i dedicate my time to and what needs to be put on the wait list.
All artists struggle with the fact that there is simply not enough time in our lives to do all the things we want to do. And when you are running a business there is even less time. I need to be very specific and strategic when it comes to what i create. Which means that i spend quite a bit if time staring off into the distance with a glazed expression, while my brain is trying to process and prioritise all of the things. There is also a fair amount of risk involved in any new project that you start. Will it be profitable? Will my collectors like it? Is it going to take too long? Is it going to cost too much?
A big part of being a full time artist is being disciplined enough to shut off a lot of the extra noise in your head. The little voice that is convincing you that learning how to screen print is a great idea even though you don't own any equipment or knowledge and it would take up way too much time to learn. Or the other voice telling you that you need to apply for a grant to create a sculpture in the middle of town even though your not a sculptor. Ot that time your brain thought it would be a good idea to maybe cut out 100 squares of paper and draw a different kind of beetle on each one.
If i followed every single tangent that my brain took me on i would never actually get anything done. You need to learn to focus your energy onto one thing and just keep doing that one thing...but that doesn't stop the new ideas from flowing every day.
There is so much more involved in making an income from your art which is why i have compiled all my thoughts and experiences into my ebook, Painting Money. Painting Money takes you through all the steps that you need to take in order to set yourself up to sucseed as a professional artist. One of the topics i talk about is mindset and how to get your head into the right place. If you would like to read more, you can purchase my ebook via the website here.