15 Ways to Make Your Art Career More Successful

Steps to Create Art Career Success!

Steps to Create Art Career SuccessCreating a successful art career is as much about running a profitable small business as anything. Consistently doing the right things is how to succeed.

Building a Successful Art Career

There are many, many things that go into building a successful art career. The suggestions here are mostly foundational, which means incorporating them into how you mould your art career will provide ongoing value and benefit to it.

  1. Be a student of the art business. Just as you need to learn new techniques by studying masters, you must also study the business aspects and techniques of successful artists. Study their art careers so you understand how they get work to market. Look at their websites. Read their blog posts. Setup Google alerts to follow developments in their careers. Read everything you can about their careers. You will pick up ideas and pointers you can use in your art career.
  2. Be consistent – how your art appeals, how your brand appears, where you promote your work. You are a brand. Have a logo, graphic elements, color schemes and typography specific to your look. Make your body of work recognizable, so it is obvious you made it.
  3. Be positive. You may suffer setbacks in your art career, or your personal situation may take a turn for the worse. Those are difficult conditions. How you recover from them is determined by your attitude. Even if things are going pretty well, you can slip into negativity. Don’t let negative people in your life. They are energy vampires ready to suck the spirit and enthusiasm from what you are doing in your life and your business. So, even though things are tough, one of the greatest human qualities you have is the ability to choose how you feel and react to tough times. Robert Schuller said, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do!
  4. Grow your list. Your list of postal and email lists are the lifeblood of your business. Other than doing things to sell your art directly or through your channels, such as galleries, third-party online sites, and so forth, your main concern should be growing your list all the time. A responsive email list can steadily raise your career higher and higher.
  5. Communicate effectively. Learn to talk about your art effectively and explain it to others. Eloquently, succinctly answer, “What do you do?” Some call it an elevator speech. You want to explain whom you are, what you do with your art and what value it brings to others.
  6. Learn to ask for the business. Selling skills are essential to art career success. You need to know and practice powerful sales skills. That means knowing when to ask someone to buy. You may not be a natural salesperson, but you can grow into becoming a successful one. It’s your livelihood on the line. Fortunately, there are numerous resources to improve your ability to sell art.
  7. Offer big. Never sell with what is in your wallet. You cannot prejudge the disposable income and a prospect’s willingness to use it to buy your art. Never take an order without suggesting an add-on sale. Start by showing your highest priced work, that makes everything else you have sound affordable.
  8. Get involved in your communities – online and offline. Find where your best prospects are hanging out and hang out there with them. Get to know them first, and then let them know you have art to sell.
  9. Make friends in the media. Journalists and media people need friends, too. As with getting involved in your community, you can work at getting to know those people in the media. Don’t make it about getting publicity, make getting to know them about helping their charities or other things outside of their work where you can bring some help or assistance. When the time is right, do not be shy about pitching a story line. If you have studied what they do, identified the types of stories they produce and how they wish to receive materials, you can deliver an easy way for them to do their job. Wouldn’t you like it if someone knew you and offered occasional help to make what you do a little easier?
  10. Take advantage of free press releases. There are numerous free press release services. Use them regularly to get your name and work in front of potential journalists, or to be picked up and run verbatim in newswire services. A press release offers exceptional SEO for your blog or website, too.
  11. Hire a virtual assistant. You can find a VA to do almost anything. They can do research, contact galleries, do your books, manage your social media, write blog posts, create graphics for your website or blog and even sell your work. It takes time to research and find the best sources, but when you do, you will have developed an invaluable resource.
  12. Use your marketing tools wisely. Get to know what tools are available and how to use them. Stay consistent with what you are using, so you become adept at getting a return on your efforts. For instance, make it a habit to send blog posts on a schedule, same with email blasts, online newsletters, and so on.
  13. Plan your work and your marketing far in advance. Planning keeps you out of managing by chaos and crisis. You never get a break if you work in reactive chaos. The more planning you do, the more time slows down for you. Planning is how you keep the main thing the main thing.
  14. Breakdown your projects into easy-to-achieve incremental steps. The follow up, and companion to planning is project management. When you only have to perform a few small steps that are part of a larger, more complex goal, at any one time, you avoid becoming overwhelmed – and you get more done, too.
  15. Be flexible and be curious. I mentioned above to be consistent. That does not mean never looking at new opportunities. In fact, it is quite the opposite. You must learn to look at new ways that you can use to get your work noticed. It is never too late to get started on Facebook, join Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Twitter. I have said it several times through my Twitter feed that I think 3D printers will revolutionize art. If you are the pioneering soul and have an innovative, curious mind, I believe you could start using this technology to produce art different than anything available anywhere. That is just one example of how being flexible and curious can open new doors for you.
Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

About Barney Davey

I am an art marketing author, consultant, blogger and podcaster. I enjoy helping others understand and reach their potential. Follow me on twitter.com/barneydavey.com and check out my art marketing e-store at barneydavey.com/products


  1. Barney,

    This information is fabulous, realistic and usable. We are currently doing many of the actions listed in the article to build our art business /career. The fabulous thing about the information you provided is that it’s brief, believable and doable. We are grateful to have found you and your guiding hand to help us along the way to sustain the art business that we launched in March 2013, as a result of my being laid off from full time employment. You are the man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Nice work and please get it coming!

    • Hi Steve, Thank you for your kind words. They validate that the work I’m doing makes a difference. All the best for great success with your career! Check out the books on the right hand sidebar for more in-depth information.

  2. Mahesh Anjarlekar says:

    Dear Barney Davey
    Thanks for your apt advice. Its very much precise and deeply observed. I will definatly take as guideline from your input. once again thank you very much.
    Mahesh Anjarlekar

  3. Thank you Barney for another insightful edition!! :) I will pass it on to other artists.

  4. This is really great information; so many of your points are applicable to situations I have been addressing recently. Thanks for giving me some new insight!

  5. Thanks for the info. I am unfamiliar with how to find and hire a virtual assistant. Could you expand on this option? It may just be the ticket for me. I am clueless on social media, I would like to expand into that area as part of my goals for 2014. This is very timely info as I am presently brainstorming for my business plan for next year.

    • Hi Linda, Great question. The all-knowing oracle, aka Google, has better answers than I can provide here in short space. Do a search for this query, “how to find a virtual assistant.” There are numerous very helpful articles with tips and links to follow.

  6. It’s obvious you know your stuff. But you aren’t actually sharing it. It’s like the old saying by Steve Martin, “If you wanna get rich, first, get a million dollars.” You aren’t saying HOW to do any of this.

    • Your tone sounds a tad bitter, like you are owed something, which you are not. Perhaps this is why you are apparently missing all the information I do share with visual artists, the bulk of which is free.

      To start, since 2005, on ArtPrintIssues.com, I have published more than 500 posts edited to help artists succeed at the business of art. Along with Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery, for the past two years, I’ve broadcast free hour-long art business/art marketing monthly podcasts, all aimed to help artists succeed. Additionally, I have four books on how to sell, price and market prints, and how to use guerrilla marketing tactics to build a direct buying collector base. I just finished a paid, affordable $29 two-hour webinar on the guerrilla marketing for artists. (A downloadable version will be available and announced shortly.) I also present live workshops and other webinars on art marketing and the art print market. I offer consulting services for artists who want to drill deep on my knowledge and experience. And, I get all this done while working full-time at a demanding job. I wish you the best and am open to suggestions on how else you think I can help you succeed.


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