7 Tips for Starving Artists

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Art and eating aren’t mutually exclusive.

The starving . The old image of someone giving up everything just to do what they love. But does it really have to be that way? Honestly, I don’t think anyone needs to “starve” to do what they love. That’s why I’ve put together a list of 7 tips to help avoid starving while following their passion. Now, these tips aren’t going to make you rich overnight, but they are solid tips that will help you to grow not only as an artist but as a business person as well. Because at the end of the day, it’s not just paint and ink that you’re selling. So, that being said, I present 7 Tips for Starving Artists (or just artist trying to make a profit). Don’t quit your day job just yet, but stick to it and you just might be able to.

Be Unique

Unique art photo

Photo by infomatique

Look I’m not here to say that artists are a dime a dozen, but there are a lot of talented people out there struggling not to be starving artists just like you. So, how do you compete with everyone else? It’s simple, be a little weird. Embrace what makes you, you. Don’t try to copy what you think is popular (that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create pieces based on popular culture), but don’t feel like you have to make your style other’s who are successful. Having a unique style or making fun and weird just means that people will stop when they do see your work in the ocean of art out there. Not everyone is going to want to buy your art, but you should want everyone to stop for a moment and take it in before they move along. Personality in your work can be as important as talent. After all, the greatest artists aren’t just known for their technical work, but also for their personality that shines through. So, embrace yours.

Change Your Mindset

artist photo

That brings us to this next important point, if you want to avoid being a starving artist than you’re going to need to change your mindset. It’s easy to feel like you’re spinning your wheels or being defensive with negative feedback, but that is something that every entrepreneur experiences from time to time. On a daily basis, you have to make sure that you actively reassure yourself and remind yourself why you want to be an artist. Let’s face it, if it was easy then everyone would be doing it. Luckily, it’s been proven that people who meditate and use visualization on a daily basis tend to be more motivated and focused on their goals. As silly as it might sound to some people, there are dozens of athletes and therapists that will attest to these methods. So, give it a shot for a week or two and see how visualizing what you want and reassuring yourself helps you as an artist.

Commit To Being an Artist

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury to just drop everything and become an artist. However, everyone has the ability to commit to what they want and work towards it. If you can’t quit your day job, then you need to commit to making sure you take the time to work on your art as much as possible. It’s up to you to be consistent because that’s going to be the biggest key to your success. There’s a fine line to it though because you don’t want to burn yourself out. So, if you’re just getting started to be sure to pick a schedule you can handle and stick to it. If you can only really put together one or two pieces a week, then make sure you commit to that. More importantly, commit to selling yourself on social media. You need to make sure you update your followers and share with them. People love to watch other people create art, so let them see your work in progress or stream part of your process. It’s a long term invested that will pay off.

Network Network Network

meet people photo

I’m sure every artist out there knows this one, but it’s shocking how little of it I actually see. I know that creative types have a hard time selling themselves, after all the old saying goes, “art is never completed simply abandoned.” It can be difficult to present yourself as a fellow professional sometimes, but networking isn’t just about finding people to buy your art. It’s about getting to know your fellow starving artists and connecting not just with them, but with their audience as well. One of the best ways I’ve seen artists do this in the past is with art trades or offering to do prints/ variant covers for Kickstarters. While it might not get you paid upfront, it is a tremendous long term investment. It helps to get your name and work in front of their fans, shows that you can adapt your style but still keep your voice, and build strong working relationships. Plus it gives you content to share with your fans. Get to know artists and writers and build mutually beneficial relationships. That alone should be a major part of your efforts to avoid being a starving artist.

Treat yourself like a Business

I’m not going to sell out, but I am going to tell you that you are a business. You’re selling yourself and your art. So how does an artist treat themselves like a business? Well, how would a small business get customers? At the very least you need to market yourself, and that means getting your work in front of as many eyes as you can. Take advantage of and art sites to share your work. If you can afford it, setting up your own website would be a tremendous asset. As much as creating art is the major part of avoiding being a starving artist, creating art won’t mean a thing if it’s never seen. Even more importantly, seeing won’t do you any good if you have no way to sell it. So, while it might sound basic, it’s important to come up with a business plan that includes a way to turn your art into profit.

Use Everything at Your Disposal

The internet has made it incredibly easy for artists to get their work out there and even sell it these days. Here are just a few sites that can help you to turn your hard work into profit.

  • Instagram– This is probably an artist’s best friend. It’s the premier social media site to share exactly what you make, images. Using the right hashtags and consistent updates can build an audience of fans that will lead to potential sales.
  • Etsy– A lot of artists use Etsy to sell prints of their work. It’s not the only site that allows you to do this, but it does offer a lot of control. The only thing is that you’re responsible for fulfilling orders, so be sure to put aside time to do that and update what you offer.
  • eBay– While Etsy might let you sell prints, Ebay is a great way for you to sell original pieces. There’s something about owning an original piece that drives fans wild, so let them bid over it. Especially if there isn’t any sentimental attachment.
  • Redbubble– Redbubble is a great site that helps to protect artists work from piracy. It tries to limit the sellers to just the owners of the art and helps you to produce a number of different objects with your art on it (shirts, mugs, etc)

Of courses, these are only a few of the great sites for starving artists. There are dozens more, but that’s a list for another day…

Be Creative in More than Just Your Art

It takes a lot of creativity to be an artist, and just as much to be a successful business person. So, from time to time it’s going to take you using both sides of your brain to be a success. Make your work as diverse as possible. Sell sketchbooks, create stickers from popular prints, hold contests to build your mailing lists for future sales, make your prints numbered to add additional value, make videos of your sketching a favorite character and sell the sketch or give it away. There are tons of ways for you to do little things to get your work out there and make it more valuable. More importantly, these ways will also make you seem more valuable as an artist. I’m not suggesting that you overburden yourself by trying to do all of these things at once, but if you space it out there are a lot of opportunities for you to not only keep producing work but creating marketing and sales potential with minimal additional work. So, once a week sit down and see if you can’t come up with a creative way to get yourself out there!

This might not be the end all list of ways to avoid being a starving artist, but these ideas are great ways for you to get started in the right direction. Of courses, there are dozens of other ways to make money as an artist, but I hope these help. If you’ve got other tips or tricks for artists out there, be sure to comment below!