For most people in the creative industries, business doesn’t come naturally. Their passion lies in their artwork, whether it is a beautiful painting, a stunning sculpture or a piece of decorative jewelry. That said, for artists to make it in today’s competitive environment, they must be able to create and run a successful business. No one knows this better than my latest interview guest, Crista Cloutier. Crista is an artist herself, but she has also founded The Working Artist, a place “where art gets down to business,” with lessons on business skills and how to create a thriving business for your artwork.
As Crista mentions in our interview, “You are really responsible for your own business because as an artist, you are an entrepreneur. So artists just need to start stepping up and taking on that responsibility.” The Working Artist offers free resources and paid workshops to help artists at any level in their career move forward. In our interview, she shared some of her top business and marketing tips for the creative industries.
Can Art and Business Work Together?
One of the biggest problems Crista sees is that many artists dislike business and marketing, seeing them as alternative worlds. Crista thinks differently. “As far as disliking business and marketing, yeah, I hear that all the time, and it’s sad because there are so many opportunities to be really creative with how you approach business and marketing. You can totally alter it to who you are and what your strengths are.”
Crista urges artists to see the similarities between art and business (especially marketing) and to let their love of art guide their business and marketing messages.
To learn more about how you can make art and business work together and become a successful artist, listen to the full interview below.
Crista’s SMART + HUSTLE Message to Artists
When we got down to business tips for the creative industries, Crista focused her advice on two key aspects of running a good creative business.
Crista says artists must focus on taking a SMART approach to building their business. This means that they have to figure out where they want to go and to form a strategic plan to get there. For example, ask yourself:
- What kind of lifestyle do you want to lead?
- What kind of audience makes sense for the kind of work that you do?
- What kind of conversations do you like to have, and what kind of people do you like to be around?
- What are your strengths?
- Where do you want to go?
Crista points out that not everyone’s work is cut out for the museum and gallery model. By answering the above questions, you can create your own path whether it is art fairs, open studio events, local galleries, online galleries, or something else. Be smart and strategic with your planning to determine the type of business that is right for you.
The second key element is HUSTLE. There is a reason why her program is called The Working Artist! Crista says that if you want to succeed, you’ll have to work really hard for it. That means funneling your energy into two directions. From an art standpoint, you have to put the work into your art, develop consistency and constantly improve your craft. From a business standpoint, you have to put the work into building your business, building your audience, and taking control of your marketing and branding.
Marketing and Branding for Artists
As Crista mentions in the interview, branding for an artist is all about authenticity. It’s about taking what inspires and motivates your artwork and communicating it to your audience. If you build your business around your artistic passions, branding will come naturally, and people will be drawn to your work.
One marketing tip Crista shares is that all artists must learn how to talk about their work. “I hear a lot of artists say, “My work should speak for itself; I don’t want to talk about my work,” Christa says. “Well, you know what? Your work doesn’t speak; your work is paint on canvas, or whatever. You have to learn how to speak about your work. You have to connect the viewer to your work.” Learning to talk about your work is where a lot of your marketing and social media will come in. It will help you form genuine connections and conversations with your followers.
Regarding Facebook marketing, Crista urges artists to try to build a following using their personal page, not a business page. Technically, Facebook can shut down your page if they find you’re doing business on your personal page, but artists can use Facebook more as a tool to build an audience than a tool for sales. Try to spark conversation around the broader topics that are related to your artwork. For example, if your work is based on art history, get the conversation going on that topic, then when you have a piece to share, you can connect it to the broader topic. “Your work is part of a bigger conversation, and then you’re teaching people how to look at your work, and then you try to sell them something,” says Crista.
On The Working Artist, Crista inspires artists to embrace business as an element that can blend naturally with their artwork. Combining business knowledge and skills with your unique take on art is a winning formula for those who want to make it in the creative industries.