Something happened last week that I was a little surprised about. I spoke to two separate artists that were really struggling to get their art businesses off of the ground.
One artist was struggling because he has a very demanding day job and can’t seem to find the time to work on his art business.
The other artist is struggling because even though she has a large amount of time freedom, she can only seem to spend time painting, not working on the business.
Both of these artists were struggling to spend more than 4 – 8 hours per week on the business side of their art career.
That’s an unbelievably difficult situation.
Just like you need time to make your art, you need time to make your business.
When I was building up The Abundant Artist, I had a day job. When I knew that I wanted to leave that day job, I cut my day job hours down to 40 hours per week, and set a schedule for myself.
I got up at 6 AM every day and did some writing for about 90 minutes before showering and getting ready for work.
Every Tuesday night, I would work from 6 PM – midnight, and on Saturdays I would work from 7:30 – 10:30. That’s 13.5 hours per week, and it still took me 2 years to grow the business to the point where I replaced my income. Toward the end of my time at my day job, my hours were more like 40 at the day job, and 30 on this business.
It was hard, and it was painful, but it worked, and now I have freedom.
I’ve written before about how to build a side business while working a day job, so I’m not going to cover that today.
The 50/50 Rule
Earlier in the year, when we interviewed Matt Leblanc, we talked about the 50/50 rule: 50% of your art business time should be spent on marketing & growing the business, and the other 50% on making your art.
Obviously, if you’re working a day job, then that’s 50/50 on the time you actually have for the business.
We’ve got a number of free resources for artists and even a free email course (over on the right hand side there) that will help you get your fledgling art business off of the ground. Here’s what happens at the beginning:
Dedicating some time for your art business is essential. Obviously it’s not always going to be a full 50/50. Sometimes you have to get some paintings done for a show, and sometimes you’ve got a ton of inventory and you need to make some sales.
This is a great post! I had not thought of making a definite schedule, or counting hours. I will do it! Thanks for your inspiration! I had simply put a monthly quota of 1) paintings 2) Instagram / Facebook / twitter posts 3) attending local art shows / workshops/ artist associations meetings. Not good enough! Thanks for pushing me to try harder! My biggest hurdle right now is my website – word press leaning curve is steep!
Cory Huff says
Great Laura – don’t forget marketing outreach as well. Getting attention of local media and blogs can be a powerful way of growing your audience!
Stan Bowman says
Cory, in the past I have heard it said that an artist needs to spend 60% or more of their time in marketing and promotion. I also think I read that the well known artist Ad Reinhardt regularly spent 80% of his time at marketing and promotion. So getting artists willing to spend at least 50% would be a major breakthrough. I find that many artists balk at this and many would rather try for getting into a gallery so the gallery can do it for them. But then we all know how easy it is to get into a gallery.
Cory Huff says
I think my coaching customers would die if I told them 80% was the rule. I don’t think that’s always the case, but it does certainly fit that 80% would get you there faster!
Stan Bowman says
I will bet if an artist were willing to spend 80% for a year they might see some really amazing results. Then they could ramp down a bit after that. Biggest problem I see is artists making a half hearted attempt at marketing and then when little happens they just sort of back off and give up.
Hi Cory – I was wondering who the ideal client looks like for your new course. You know, for me to be able to aim for this goal so that I might be ready to take a course like this from you in a year or so. An artist should be making X dollars per month selling art to best fit, for example.
Cory Huff says
Hi Amy, I’m still fine tuning, but essentially, it’s artists who already have a website and an email list (or are willing to start one right away), who have at least a few blog posts under their belt, and want to launch their online world in a big way.
Ideally, these artists would have already had a number of sales, even if it’s just offline, and are making a small part time income from their art.
If you’re already full time with your art and are just trying to figure out the online portion, this would be ideal as well.
I’ve spent much of the past four months working with the 50/50 rule. And maybe leaning further into marketing than that…
I can say two things:
1) It works, and brings surprises with it.
2) My inner artist is tired and feels neglected.
I don’t know what I’m going to do to make 2015 feel like a better balance for myself. I’m working on that now. I think it’s a matter of priorities. …which remain unclear for me! ha!
I’m with you Mandy, it’s so hard to balance both sides of it. When I spend too much time working on the computer, I feel like I am sapped of artistic creativity.
Thanks Cory, I read this article a week ago and decided to do a time audit. Turns out I’m spending 35% of my time on creating, 45% on marketing, 10% on education (content marketing course) and 10% “admin” (which is mostly a combination of daydreaming/brainstorming promotional ideas, and working on my website). It’s only been a couple of weeks but I’m already starting to see results on my facebook page.
I’m also starting to see what you mean about marketing being a creative process – several times during my time audit, I really wasn’t sure whether to write up my tasks as marketing or creative. It probably helps that I’m specialising in digital art; using the same devices and programs that I use for my art to create my marketing materials.
Linda Ursin says
I seem to be spending 80 percent (or more of my time on marketing efforts and less on creating new art. With the lack of sales, I wish I could get someone else to do the marketing and get it right
Aisling Meehan says
I’ve mostly been marketing as I go, posting when I’m inspired to. I have a timesheet app that I’m going to go ahead and use to see how I’m REALLY spending my time.
@CoryHuff, you cut your dayjob hours DOWN to *40 hours?* it must’ve been incredibly demanding, since 40 hours is the usual persons regular full time workweek. Just how many hours were you originally working??
jacqueline May says
I really could emphathise with this topic this is where I am now. I am FT self employed but my art work is calling me. I discovered about under a year I am also an Artist. I am paint in evening and weekends. I run my immigration Consultancy business in the day. Go art college on Saturday. Now in the process of reading all the amazing stuff on this website to begin establisging my business properly online.