I am now 9 years into my freelance/contract/entrepreneurial ventures as an artist. It is funny how people strive to just be an entrepreneur. An artist naturally has no one vying for them so they have to push and sell their own art. Naturally, becoming a business person. For me, it has been a whirlwind, so here are some of my experiences and what I want differently for the future.
First things first, doing work for clients has been the main source of my anxiety and stress for the last decade. It is also what has strengthened my resolve and projected my creative abilities farther than I could have doing only the work I wanted to. Usually, you have a deadline as well. If you can’t paint the portrait in time for their grandma’s birthday, you lose the job. If they can tell you lack confidence and may be saying yes for the money, you may lose the job. There are many more layers to the process that have nothing to do with art but are inherently creative.
For example, artists could learn a thing from bankers and lawyers! Know when and how to guide a conversation when they genuinely are interested in art or your art specifically. You don’t have to be a snake oil salesman. I believe, if you really believe that what your are selling is great, you will only feel better about sharing or selling it. The transaction will feel mutual and you won’t feel like you let someone down.
This is hard to stomach but the earlier you put it in your spirit, the more resilient you will be. For every yes, you have to go through fifty nos. People will laugh at your work, laugh at your price, curse at you about your price, haggle with you on your price, flip flop about what they want, etc. But there are 15% of people who know what they want and are prepared to go through many hoops to obtain your work. Respect, appreciate, and serve everyone to the same level. NEVER COMPROMISE THAT! We have all read Yelp reviews. The main thing to learn is that bad clients may also be the loudest!
I love what I do, I love that I can work my 8 hours at any time of the day, (though I work roughly 60 hours a week) and that I can create value from assembling lesser materials. But the work is tiring. The work is hard. I am extremely grateful but I don’t want people to have this misconception. Especially if you are considering chasing down an art career. Many days you don’t want to paint. But it is your job. Be careful of killing your passion by associating bills to it!