“Starving Artist” is a State of Mind

The way you think can hold your business back. Do you have a mindset that is ruining your sales?




Artists often have fears that they just can’t make it in business, and many times they are right. But gaining traction and building your small business is largely about attitude and using smart strategies to distinguish your work and know where you’re going.

What leads to a “starving artist” mindset? 

Fear that you have to compete on price. Why do people buy art? It’s not actually about price but finding the right audience instead. People who are highly interested in what you make will find a way to purchase, even if it seems unaffordable to them at first. They may “bite the bullet” and buy it anyway. Or, they may choose a smaller and less expensive piece from your collection, or a reproduction instead of an original.

Artists can get into trouble with pricing when they make highly derivative or “trendy” work that is similar to what many others are offering. And when they compete on price with people who don’t understand business and aren’t including labor or profit in their price, it becomes a race to the bottom.

When you create a well-made body of work in a signature style that is distinctly your own, you can set yourself apart from the rest of what’s out there. Add value to your work by communicating with the right message and presentation.

Use strategies like spreading your pricepoints to allow collector buy-in, and regular follow-ups to stay in touch with existing customers to drive repeat sales and referrals. Research the market and know where you need to show up to connect with the correct customers. Exhibiting in person or selling online in venues where the wrong crowd is shopping can give you the impression that it’s your pricing that’s at fault.

Believing there aren’t enough customers to go around. Yes, we’ve gone through a huge economic crash in the past few years, and yes, it’s affected everyone. But – the market is now global, which means that selling work online puts you in front of potential collectors that never existed for you in the past. There are plenty of customers, and lots of money to go around. Finding out how to really connect with the customers who will want your work is key to getting traction and growing your business. Make the sale, then – rinse and repeat!

Thinking that “artists are always the losers” and that greedy retailers, copyright infringers and even other artists will steal their ideas or undercut their prices. Although it is true that opportunists abound in this world, a fearful state of mind won’t grow business or sales. Protect yourself by registering copyrights, using low-res images and watermarks online, and move forward. In this era of rapid change, staying current on problems and possibilities will help you navigate and take advantage of opportunities that help you come out a winner, not a loser.

It takes lots of hard work, persistence and confidence to build a small business of any type. Anyone with a mindset that says they will be “starving” will probably see their fears come true. But examples of successful entrepreneurs abound.

Find your place in the market, and go forth confidently. As you experience failures, learn, adjust and get back to work. It’s a process and an adventure to own your own creative business, and one that can be successful if you cultivate a state of mind that embraces abundance.


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