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Artist’s Online Business Plan

By Jessica Craddock

Feb 16
artists online business plan
  In this epic article:

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*This post may contain an affiliate link, which means I will either make a small amount of money or receive free services if you decide to purchase my recommendation. I only recommend products or services that, at other times, I spread the word about whole-heartedly without compensation. 

why do you want to sell art (its deeper than money)

One of the most powerful ways to create a thriving art business is to KNOW WHY YOU WANT IT. Sure, you want to earn money. But why???

Dig deep to figure out your core reason. It will give you the fuel you need to get through rocky patches, unsureness, and the problems that will inevitably pop up. 

How do you figure out your burning reason?
Ask “why” until the two year old inside you is satisfied with your answer. 

Like this...

Why do I want to sell art? To make money. 

Why? Because I want to relieve some of the bill pressure. 

Why? Because I want to have extra money to travel.

Why? Because I want to see the world.

Why? Because different cultures make me feel alive. 

Why? New art and food and people make me think more creatively. 

So you don’t just want to make money... You want to feel alive by feeding your creativity with culture in countries you’ve never seen.

Are these reasons the same thing? ...yes, sort of. But the motivation goes waaay up when you break your reason down to its core. 

I started The Artist Market Co for many reasons, but one of my biggest motivators for keeping it in tip top shape is that I want my kids to grow up with their mom around.

I don’t want to stick them in daycare five days a week so I can go to a job and come home too tired to give them the attention they crave. Earning money at home guarantees that reality. That’s one of my whys. 

(Not to mention, I truly love the work - if I can even call it that.)

I want to help you make your dreams come true. But they can’t come true if you aren’t 100% sure what they are. We’ll be working on that for the rest of the month - so get ready (and sign up for the emails below if you haven't already!).

See your art dream come to life

How would your life look if you could make a good living selling art?

Last week we talked about WHY you want to sell your art. Not just “to make money”, but the deep down reason you want to make that money in the first place. (Or maybe it has nothing to do with money!)

I received so many good answers!! You said things like: 

  • To be a little independent
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    To show others that when they connect to their creativity, they can change the world
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    To build a cabin in the woods and feel more alive
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    So that I can spend my days creating art at home in my studio rather than working for someone else full-time
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    To create a legacy
  • Because I am ready for an adventure
  • To help others heal and find their own creative dream

Now, here’s the deal. 

Maybe you’ll be able to hold on to that picture of a dream just by saying it out loud. 

But for most of us, to really KNOW something we have to see it. Artists are visually minded. Seeing it helps it become engrained in our minds. 

So here’s what I want you to do. 

Write down your reason(s) on a piece of paper. As you look at it, I want you to create a Pinterest board showcasing what your life would look like if your reason became everyday reality. 

One of my big reasons to earn money is stability, so even if my world gets turned upside down, I can give my two little ones a lovely life with their mother by their side.

My images reflect our idea of a perfect home life for that reason. Here’s a sneak peak:

artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board
artist business vision board

(If you want to see the whole board for inspiration, click: “I want to sell art so I can...)

Now it’s your turn!

If you need a plan for your business, but aren’t sure where to start, you’re in luck! We’re going to make one together, right now.

The last two weeks we covered the vision of the dream life and why you want it. These make your big picture overview that will drive your motivation. Many people would tell you to get really detailed here about how you’re going to get to that big dream, break it down into five years’ worth of steps, and get to work.

I don’t think that works for us creative types.

Here’s why… we have a new idea, we pivot. New idea. Pivot. New, idea, pivot. Being tied down to a long term plan defeats the purpose of having a creative business for us. Yes, we need some structure, but having the next five years of your life mapped out will never do.

Instead, I recommend you know what you want and why you want it first, then make an itty-bitty short term plan. When you’re done with that plan, you make another one. This ties you down just enough to be able to make progress without skipping all over the place.

As long as your big dream vision is still in front of you, you’ll get there no matter what winding path you may take. You’ll enjoy the journey much more, and I believe you’ll get there faster for that reason.

How long do I make my plan?

Break the year down into four pieces, or quarters. (January 1 - March 31, April 1 - June 30, July 1 - Sept 30, Oct 1 - Dec 31)

What if I don’t want to stop when the next quarter rolls around?

Don’t! If it’s working and you’re still enjoying it, carry your plan over into the next quarter of the year.

There are five things you need to include in your artist business plan

If you want to go further and add more, great, but let’s start small.

1. What do you want to sell?

Pick one product or series (retro 8x10s from art school, signed prints of paintings you did inspired by your beach trip, or watercolor portrait commissions) to focus on. Less options = more clarity for you and the customer. Don’t worry, you can change directions next quarter if you like.

2. Why they’ll want to buy it.

Your ego probably says wait... they’ll want to buy it because it’s good art. They might. But there’s just as good a chance they’ll spend their budget on someone else’s equally good art. Without a plan here - you are gambling your art business. Many artists never get anywhere because they leave this part out. This is the stickiest issue so I’ll cover it in more depth next week. Write down your inital reaction for now.

3. One marketing tool to focus on

Do you need to get more peeps to your website? Focus on one specific part of a social media platform, like Instagram Stories or setting up Tailwind pin looping. Do you need to make more sales? Start writing emails to your list, even if it’s just your mom. (Then ask her to forward it.) You won’t want to drop your other marketing completely, but it should be bare-bones. Spend 80% of your marketing time on your focus, then 20% on maintaining the rest.

4. How much money do you want to make?

If you’ve never sold online, start small. If you have, add 15% to your average month. You’re always welcome to blow your goals out of the water, but having small goals will help you believe they are possible. This pushes your brain to find innovative solutions to make them a reality as opposed to just giving up when you start slow or feel discouraged.

5. How many do you need to sell to reach your goal?

Compare the price of what you are selling with how much money you want to make. You may need to adjust your goal or raise your prices based on this number.

That doesn’t sound too intimidating, right?! You’ve got this.

4 reasons people will decide to buy your art

In real life, the artists who aren’t scared to talk to people, who accept the invitation when a local news show wants to interview them, who make it a point to make get to know gallery owners and collectors... those are the artists who are famous in your community... the ones who are “making it”.

Some people turn to online sales to get away from all that. But that’s why they don’t make it online either. You can’t build a website, hide behind the pretty pictures and wait for the sales to roll in.

When people find you, you’ve got to be ready for them. You need to practice talking about your art… and yourself. Practice having conversations. Practice connecting with people.

If talking about yourself makes your skin crawl, take heart in the fact that online you don’t have to do it face-to-face in real time. But you do have to do it.

Why? There’s millions of artists who want to sell their art.

Your skill will be part of what attracts people to your art, but there’s so many who are talented. Skill isn’t enough to sell consistently. There are hundreds of artists I would like to purchase from - but there isn’t room in either my wallet or on my walls - so you’ve gotta stand out.

Easier said than done, right? Not if you’ve studied what makes people want to buy from you. (Or if you learn from someone who has!)

Here’s the top four reasons I’ve learned that people buy art:

1. Because they like you. 

They see something in you that makes them want to be your friend. That connection won’t happen if you always stay surface level (you like cats and tea). Have opinions (they don’t have to be hot button issues like politics or religion). Talk about what you believe in (is family more important than anything OR do you not want a family because self-identity is more important to you?). You’ll alienate some, but the people who stay will feel that much more attracted to you.

Imagine this... You’re on a date. Would you be more likely to go on a second if a) they talked openly, or b) if they stayed away from any conversation of substance for fear of having different opinions? You’d probably choose the first even if you didn’t agree with them - the second would be a yawn fest.

2. Your art reminds them of something they value. 

You can connect your art to their personal values through, again, talking about it. Why you made it. What it represents. Its message.

Even if you think your art isn’t “about anything”, there are thoughts going through your head all the time on repeat. That goes for when you are making art too. In my opinion, even your subconcious thoughts can and should be applied to your art’s message. 

Sometimes you don’t have the slightest clue where to start talking about your art. If that’s the case, spend some time learning about your own values and this method will start to click for you. For example, the ones that stand out for myself right now are “inspiration”, “efficiency” and “harmony”. If I was creating an abstract painting with no real mindful direction, I might do some journaling around those words and see how they might’ve influenced my painting on a deeper level. 

If you’re up for some self-expansion, try using Caroline Kelso Zook’s “Your Brightest Life Journal”.

3. Your art makes them feel an emotion they want to feel more often. 

Done right, this technique can be powerful. Help them connect your art to an emotion by talking about the feelings you associate with your art. If you are using this one without any success, try describing the feeling instead of naming it.

For example, instead of saying, “These flowers will make you feel happy everyday”, say “These crimson tulips remind us it’s finally the season to spread out your picnic blanket and daydream on your lunch hour.”

4. And lastly, you make art specifically for them. 

If you’ve studied marketing at all, you’ve heard of a niche. A niche is simply a small, targeted group of people - like bird watchers or skateboarders.

To use this one, you would focus your art or commission services specifically to them. For skateboarders, this might look like putting quotes from famous skateboarders on your art or doing commissioned art on skateboards.

Each of these methods require being able to convey a clear, compelling message.

You probably won’t get it right the first time, or even the second, but if you practice, you will get it.

homework for an artist's online art business

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About the Author

Jessica Craddock is a consultant for artist entrepreneurs who have started building their following online but haven’t figured who would buy their art. They’re tired of being all over the place and don’t know what to say or how to say it. She teaches them to work smarter and be “authentically them” so they can sell more through their website & spend their days creating beautiful things.

  • Anton says:

    Art (displayed) is a visual legacy that the viewer enjoys viewing and sharing with others. A love of color, composition, subject, texture, and message are creative impulses recorded for the present and future.
    Stories, passions, images allow the viewer to connect long after.

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