Thursday, May 28, 2015

Everyone has an answer, but is the answer right for you?

Me and Hubs 5/21/15


Since graduation (last Thursday--unbelievable!), I've been thinking more about what artists need to market themselves successfully. Over the past 7 days, I've received three separate emails, tweets, and Facebook updates from art marketers who specialize in selling their services. I won't pay for someone's advice, no matter how many testimonials they have from their successful clients or what their reputation is. Why? Because that looks like snake oil to me. We all have a hard time figuring out how to live as an artist and everyone is going to go about it differently. There is no magic bullet and as an artist, you don't have the extra money to give to someone who is trying to do THE SAME THING.

So why do I care? Because in all of the 14 years I spent in the professional artist community here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of NC, I never met an artist who was 1) lazy or 2) dumb. Contrast that with the 10 years I spent in a corporate job where I met both types of people frequently. I totally respect the effort and talent of my friends and associates, and it is my most sincere hope that you all make a living doing the work that means so much to you.

Now that I know what I want to do, the question that I have been struggling with is "How?" I wanted to pick through this in a linear, point-by-point way, but I don't think that is possible. What I'm going to do is to take different topics, business models and marketing ideas (putting that master's degree to use!), sift through them and offer ways for artists to use them. And I will strive to make sure that the resources are free or low cost. I would be so happy if any and all who take the time to follow along would leave comments and start open conversations about your own experiences. I think we all have something to offer.

For this post, I'm going to share a blog post that I read just the other day. It's a perspective from Melissa Bergstom and her experiences as a theater professional who also has a "day" job (Creative Contingencies: Making Peace with my Day Job(s)). This should be VERY familiar to us all. When I was first getting started, a seasoned artist told me that there is no one way to make money with your work--it's a combination of efforts and everyone finds what works for them. So I did commissions, tried a co-op, got a grant, applied for public art projects, taught, did shows, worked with galleries and shops, had work published in multiple publications, was on several television programs, and I still had the "day" job. I found myself getting older and more tired, hitting my head against a ceiling that I just couldn't break though. Every success held the promise of "making it," but didn't quite deliver.

That's when I went back to school, but I know not everyone can or even should go back to school. I plan to continue to create art--it's part of who I am. Taking the stress of having to make the art pay the bills will be a relief, though.

One resource I want to make sure everyone knows about and uses is the NC Arts Council's Artists Opportunities webpage. It lists sources for writers, visual artists, musicians, theater/actors, multimedia artists and crafts. It is updated regularly and you can sign up for email updates--and it's free.

I'm turning the conversation to you now. How do you feel about managing your career and the realities of making money? What works? What doesn't?

May all of your scores run true!
-paula

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