Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Linda Dubin Garfield

The Artist as Small Business Owner
by Linda Dubin Garfield, 1 Sep 2008

Linda Dubin Garfield, president of smart business consulting, helps artists reach their goals and their audience. She coaches creatives into business success using the skills honed throughout her lifes work both professionally and as a volunteer in the non-profit world. She is also the founder of ARTsisters, a group of professional female artists who reach out to each other and the community through their art. She is an award-winning professional printmaker and mixed media artist. Linda can be reached at [email protected] or through her website at: www.smartbusinessconsulting.org


When I retired in 2002 from the Philadelphia School System after 38 years as a guidance counselor, I decided to pursue my avocation full-time. By 2004, I had changed from a hobbyist into a professional artist. In 2005, I realized the need for peer support and community so I started a support group for female artists, ARTsisters, where we could help each other meet our goals. We arranged for shows, had critiques of our work, and met monthly to discuss art issues. Through my activities, I was surrounded by other artists who wanted to have shows, sell their work, be on the Internet but, either due to lack of time, interest or ability in those areas, never got around to doing what had to be done to make it happen.

In 2007, I started smart business consulting for creatives to get the help they needed to reach their goals and their audience. Although, I have worked with singers, writers and others who have sought my assistance, I primarily work with visual artists at various stages of their careers, helping them move forward to the next level. As co-founder and long-standing president of a non-profit that raised money or disadvantaged children in Israel, I was used to creating events, getting the work out, and branding the organization. Even though, I am relatively new to the field, my counseling and education background are so ingrained in my being that I am a sharer and educator in the art field- not in how to make the art, but how to sell yourself and your art. I also build community and feel that through others, the individual shares and benefits from the group energy as well as helps others.

One of the important aspects of being a successful professional artist is to see yourself as the owner of a small business. Since most artists are not making enough money to hire a staff, they essentially do all the functions themselves- product production, presentation, marketing, public relations, and sales. This kind of thinking leads to successful strategies and implementations for success. Most artists prefer the product production function and avoid the rest. This results in a huge inventory of work in your house or overpriced gifts to family and friends. Otherwise, it is essential to have a business plan and to spend part of each week doing what has to be done to get your work seen by the public.

smart business consulting

Each topic is comprehensive and complex. I will touch briefly on a few topics.

PRESENTATION

This is a very important aspect of getting people to see and know your work. You will show it to people, have it available at shows, take it to galleries, etc. It is an introduction to your work and you want it to be top quality.

Portfolio Package
Having top quality images of your work is most important. Having a professional photographer shoot your images with proper lighting will enhance how they look in your portfolio or when you send in jpegs. to apply for shows. I cannot stress this important step enough.

Include an artist statement and biography that explains your work.

Include an artist resume that lists relevant information to what you are doing now. Do not include other information.

Business Cards
Get the best cards your budget allows. They should look professional on quality paper. Have a look that you use on your website as well. Maybe a sample of your work could be included. If people like it, they will be more likely to go see more of your work on your website. Be sure to give them out (always have some with you) and ask others for their cards (see Public Relations).

Web Presence
Your Website

Use your name in your domain name so people will remember your name.

Get the best website designer you can afford. Your website should be on your cards, in the signature of your email, on your stationery. You want people to come visit your site and see your work. Send out periodic emails inviting people to see your work on the site. No one is interested in seeing a site that has not been changed in 3 years. Old news is stale. Keep the site up-to-date, adding, editing, and subtracting during the year to keep it fresh and inviting.

Group Website
Join other artists on a group website so people who are searching for artists can find you. An excellent resource in the Philadelphia area is www.inliquid.com.

MARKETING

This is another important aspect of being a successful artist. Marketing is an ongoing process of planning and executing the marketing mix (Product, Price, Place, Promotion often referred to as the 4 Ps) for your works of art. Marketing includes advertising, distribution and selling.

Name Recognition/Branding
You are trying to brand yourself so apply for shows, sign your work, and refer to yourself consistently. Not Andy one time and Andrew the other.

Increase Visibility
Initially, you will be looking for non-traditional venues to show your work- restaurants, cafes, offices- anywhere with good walls and access to an audience. You want to build your resume, get people to see your work and get your name in the public eye.

You want to apply to juried shows to build your resume and to get name recognition. As you get more experience, you pick and choose the shows you apply to. Criteria vary, as artists get know. Some artists will not apply to juried shows that have an entrance fee; some will only show in invitational shows. As your career progresses, you will alter your venue possibilities.

You want to keep informed about what it happening in the Philadelphia art scene. www.inliquid.com, www.artcalendar.com, Philadelphia Weekly, City Paper as well as the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Bulletin have art listings. There are several art blogs and online venues such as www.phillylist.com that review and discuss current cultural happenings. Keeping up with what is happening (and letting them know what is happening with you through a News Release) keeps you informed and up-to-date on the art scene.

Identify and Reach Your Audience You want to find the art appreciators and buyers who would like your work. You are keeping a running email and mailing list with all contacts you have made throughout the year. Any other artists you meet, people at shows of similar work, buyers, etc build your contact list. Sending postcards for your art events, holiday greetings with a link to your new and current website, seasonal updates are all ways to connect with your potential audience. Joining art groups such as Philagrafika, The Print Club, The Philadelphia Watercolor Society, and The Delaware Valley Art League, Da Vinci Art Alliance gives you access to other populations who enjoy and buy art.

PUBLIC RELATIONS

This aspect of marketing is huge and very important and encompasses some of what was already discussed. How you interact with the public and get the word out about you and your work is so important to your career.

Public Contact
Just making the art is not enough. You have to get people to see it and to buy it. Using newsletters and mailings are ways to keep people up-to-date about your work and where they can see it. You must have growing contact lists which is why you collect cards from other people you meet to add their information to your contact lists. Most people agree to be on an artists list. Press releases get information out into the public eye as well. Develop your press release list. Send out e-blasts to let people know about your events and what is happening with your art.

Event Planning
Having a special event around an art show or project is a great way to get publicity and have people see your work. A special art opening, a workshop or presentation, a themed party- any way to get buzz about you and your work helps you to get the public to learn more about you and to see your work. Sending out invitations, e-vites and news releases will help create the buzz and get your work shown.

These are a few of the jobs you have to do as a professional artist and small business owner to get your product- your art- out into the marketplace. Between 10 and 20% of your time should be devoted to the business side of art. The topics covered are the tip of a huge iceberg of the business side of art. Successful strategies in marketing and public relations have helped artists reach their audiences and their artistic goals.

Some free information packets are available on these and related topics through my website- www.smartbusinessconsulting.org.

Print Article Brought to you by: Linda Dubin Garfield | President of smart business consulting

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