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Are you a selfish artist?

…and if you’re not yet – you should be. No, seriously. I encourage you.

Be a selfish artist, pleeease.
 
If you want to have a viable art biz, you’re going to have to stick to your studio hours and defend those hours against all manner of incursions.
 

Defend.

 

©Lezley Davidson, 2 of Swords

I can get a general idea of how much time an artist is devoting to their practice, by how much work is being produced. 
 
If you’re actually pulling off 30 hours a week in the studio (and that’s part-time, you probably have another job too) – likely you’re creating 2 + pieces a week… maybe more. That’s 4-ish a month… 48 NEW pieces a year. 
 
(I know there are a lot of variables – I’m just generalising.)
 
That is very respectable for a part time artist. That’s a solo show. That’s a new body of work – that’s the beginnings of a sustainable art biz. 
 
 
There are artists I’ve met, that believe some sort of magical marketing will create a successful art business out of their hobby of 6 new pieces a year.

Unless you’re Jeff Koons, that’s not enough. You need to be always creating – to evolve your art and skill, create an inventory and a body of work.
  
I’ve heard many a client suddenly begin to squirm when I ask how many hours a week they’re devoting to their practice.
 
The ability to consistently create quality work – quickly, is an asset to the bottom line of any art biz.
 
 

I can see you squirm.

 
I have smart, talented, connected artists who are trying to sneak it by me that they’re not putting in even remotely close to 30 hours a week.
 
Not even on a great week.
 
I don’t think some of them were getting in 30 hours a month.
  
…and when I pressed to find out why – why are they not committing to their studio hours – I found out… it’s because they feel guilty.
 
Huh.
 

GUILT.

Is this familiar?
  
Natalie* (a whimsical children’s illustrator, *names changed to protect the guilty), explained it to me like this;
 
“I love painting – but I’m not making much money at it right now. I have a job and a house and a boyfriend and a kid and dishes and laundry and they all need attention and care and

©2012 Scales by Lezley Davidson

most of the time I just can’t justify NOT doing any of those other things to spend time doing something that feels like a joy – but isn’t contributing to the bottom line.”
 
Sure. Of course… that seems to make sense. That’s the responsible thing to do…

…but then, look at what that choice actually is: 
 
 
I choose my life as it is right now. I choose to do the things that will keep it exactly the same as it is right now. I choose to not change my life as it is, right now. 
  
You can’t create anything new or different without doing anything new or different. 
 
There’s a Narcotics Anonymous quote that says (paraphrasing): “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”

So if you want your life to go on exactly as it is, right now. Keep doing what you’re doing and that’ll be what you get. 

No joke – this path is hard. (But the rewards are great.)
 
 

There’s no secret button

I understand how hard it is – you’re working a paying job to support yourself, keeping a house together, raising a child, nurturing a relationship and working a second job that you’re not getting paid much for (or at all), because you’re just getting it off the ground. 
 
Yeah. That’s tough… it is.

And unfortunately, that’s just the way it is. 
 
You’re not doing it wrong if that’s the way it is for you right now. 
 
That’s just the way it is in the beginning… and for a long part of the way through.
  
You need to decide whether you can stick it out like this for 5 years or more. 
 
You need to decide whether you can carve space for your new art business to live in and defend that space from all other intrusions. 
 
You need to decide whether you can be selfish about your art business. 
  
  

YOU NEED TO BE SELFISH ABOUT YOUR ART BUSINESS.

  
 
Let’s put a spin on this so maybe it’s easier to swallow. 
 
Your art business is not a hobby.
 
It may have started out as one (or not) – but it’s not that now and you’re serious about creating a viable business. You have a plan (or are getting one), you’re creating a body of work and marketing and networking and researching show and juried exhibition opportunities, and finding publishers and scouting licensing possibilities, you’re growing your mailing list… things are moving. Slowly.
 
That’s how businesses start. 

New businesses start with no clients and no money. 
 
Most new businesses budget the first 3 – 5 years operating costs without income because a business doesn’t make any profit in it’s first 3 years.
  
Stop feeling guilty about the time you put into your business. 
  
If your partner decided that they wanted to start their own accounting small business (or some other relevant “professional” product or service), would you expect them to feel guilty when they work on the business after their day job and on weekends? 
 
Would you agree that they should put off growing their client base or working on a marketing plan and instead clean the garage and vacuum the family room? 
 
So, why are you making those choices for yourself?
  

There can be balance.

 
There needs to be balance in your life, of course – and if you want to bring in the creation of an art business, then maybe some of the household chores can be put off or delegated. Maybe cut down on the in-law drop-ins or movie nights. 

Something will have to be sacrificed to make room and time for you to grow your art business. 
 
Your studio practice needs to be a priority and treated as a priority. 
 
You need to establish studio time as inviolate and not allow interruptions (unless emergencies). You will train the people in your life how to treat your art business. Train them to treat it as respected and valuable.
 
 
I understand the biggest guilty area is when parents feel like they’re sacrificing time with their kids to build their business.
 
I don’t have kids… so I don’t have a parent perspective. I trust that you will make decisions that are the right ones for your family. 
 
Everything that you do teaches your child about what it’s like to be an adult. Continually sacrificing your own desires to attend to the needs of others is a lesson that you will teach them. 
 
Investing in yourself and what’s necessary to bring your life in line with your highest ideals of what it could be is another lesson you teach your child. 
 
Sacrifice for loved ones is a beautiful lesson – so is learning that their dreams are valuable and worthy of pursuit. 
 
 
If you want to create an art biz, I encourage you to be selfish. 
 
 
Or as my mom says, “You’re not selfish, you’re independent.” 

Go. Be independent. It will transform your life. 
 
 

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