Use Facts to Stop Working for Free

By Jessica Craddock

Jul 17
how to stop working for free for artists

Most people waste time on the wrong things. You already know this. Last week you buckled down. You made it a goal to stop wasting time on social media and tv. You even put in a full 40 hour work week. You organized your files, made your website a little prettier and put together some canvases.

These tasks are all well and good and have to get done. When you’re a starving artist with a limited budget you don’t have a choice but to do 'all the things'.

You made an A+ effort - you're just spending all your time working on the wrong to-do list!

Is this task worth your time?

I bet most of the things on your list are ‘administrative’ tasks. These types of tasks make you feel good to check off, but don't help you move the $ needle. Spending all your time on these won’t get you anywhere.

Use this test: If you could pay an assistant to do it - it should be considered low priority.  That doesn't mean you are going to pay someone to do it right now. You probably don't have that type of cash yet. It's still a good test.

Save the administrative tasks for 25% of your time or less. If you find they take up more than that, find ways to streamline or make cuts, or ask yourself if they are absolutely necessary.

Time to start developing a new skill! Learn what WILL make a difference in your business and prioritize those projects - that's when you’ll start to make some real progress.

So what should you be working on?

Making new bodies of work to sell, learning how to talk about your art so  you stand out from the rest of the artists around you, creating marketing around your Ideal Art Buyer… things that will make your business money. 

Use that as a rule of thumb: If it can help you make money, its a worthy use of a chunk of your time.

(If that feels icky to you - like you are not being true to your artistic vision by trying to earn money - that's ok. Maybe your art is meant to stay in the realm of 'do it for yourself'. But if you want to be able to generate a decent income with it, chances are you'll need to learn all you can about marketing your art in smart ways. )

To help you know what those things are, I worked out some formulas to show you with real numbers. 

Use Numbers to Know What to Work on:

There are three things you need to make consistent money from your artist website:

  • Website traffic
  • Email list sign-ups
  • Purchases

Each thing directly influences the others. 

For example: 

  • If you increase your website traffic, your email list sign-ups will go up.
  • If you increase your email list sign-ups, your purchases will go up.

Follow me so far? Great. Let's get started.

Step 1: Plug in Last Month's Numbers

How much money you can make is related to how you spend your time. A good way to illustrate this is by looking at what's working for you right now. 

You'll have to get some numbers from your website for last month. You'll need to know:

  • How many website visitors you had
  • How many people signed up for your email list
  • How many purchases were made
  • What the average sale price was

From there, we can plug in three of those, increase the fourth number, and that will tell you how much working on that thing will increase your income. 

For example: Let's say last month you had 1000 website visitors, 20 email signups, and 1 sale for $150.

  • 20 email signups/1000 website visitors = 2% email conversion rate
  • 1 purchase/20 email signups = 5% sales conversion rate

If the only thing that changes this month is the amount of website traffic you receive, your sales should go up significantly:

If you have 5000 website visitors instead, using your email conversion rate, you'd end up with 100 email subscribers.

  • Using your sales conversion rate from above, you end up with 5 sales from those 5000 visitors.
  • If your sales were all for the same $150, you'd make $750 that month instead of $150.

By only focusing on increasing your website traffic, your income went up $650! Cool, huh?

Step 2: Set your next income goal

If you don't know what your goals are or what you need them to be, it makes them really hard to reach.

I like to keep two goals in mind:

  • How much money I would like to make per year (my end goal)
  • The next income goal I need to reach (my goal for right now)

I recommend working off the second one. 

For example, if you aren't making any money right now, I would set your goal to be something like "make enough money to cover my operating costs". This can be things like the cost of your website and getting a few runs of prints made. This should set the bar low enough that your goal will be attainable more quickly, then you can create a new goal.

Step 3: Use Your Goal to Decide What to Work on

This will give you something concrete and specific to work on. I promise you your goals will feel much more reachable and you'll achieve them 10x faster when you have a focus!

which focus will make you more?
homework for an artist's online art business

Download the Excel worksheet below and plug in last month's numbers. Then you can play with what would happen if you focus on increasing website traffic, email signups, purchases or increase your average sale price. 

Do the work & create your luck,

About the Author

I’m a mentor for intuitive visual artists to sell more work, more consistently, at higher prices — with better work/life balance. Founder @ The Artist Market Co.