What do you do when you’ve reached the peak of the mountain that you set out to climb?
When I started The Abundant Artist in 2009, I had no idea what it would become. It was just a blog. When it started to turn into a business where I was helping my artist friends make money, I set a goal to quit my job. That happened in 2013. Since then I’ve hit a number of personal and professional goals.
Last year was a year of tremendous growth for TAA. I published a book, How to Sell Your Art Online, we held our first conference (which we’ve since transitioned into regional workshops), and had hundreds of artists come through our online courses.
We also did some stuff that didn’t work too well. We tried to start a marketing agency for artists, which did not take off. The conference lost a bunch of money, mostly due to my own mistakes and not listening to our readers and students.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last year thinking about this question: how can The Abundant Artist achieve 10 times as much impact, while I exert the same amount of effort? After all, I can only do so much.
We don’t have the answer yet. Some of our experiments have been to test some of the answers to those questions. We’re still looking for that home run. I’ll be forthcoming and say that there have been times when I’ve been a little bit frustrated by that. Our mission is to help 1,000 artists quit their day job – and so far we’re just at a few dozen. We need to get the ball rolling!
Part of the answer is building a team. We have a small team so far. Me, my wife, and our Communications Specialist. Of course, in order to build a larger team, you need the revenue to pay those people.
At the beginning of this year, I started exploring some alternative ideas. Some of those ideas were simple ideas like reviving TAA’s podcast, writing more content, or spending a ton more money on ads. But these are incremental improvements. To reach the kind of impact that we want to have, we would need to enroll five times as many artists as we currently have into courses. That would lower the quality of the course experience, or we would have to hire a bunch of teachers to help with the courses. So, a possibility, but not terribly attractive and probably won’t move the needle in the way that we want.
What if we radically altered TAA’s business model in some way?
One example of that is starting a professional artist association. This organization could provide training, networking, lobbying and advocacy, and perhaps even access to group health care coverage. Its a unique need and for some weird reason, doesn’t exist in the USA while it does in several France, UK, Canada, and Australia.
This is getting closer. We’re exploring this idea to see if we can bring in a team to make it happen, and find out if there are enough artists who would be willing to contribute to an association to make it worthwhile.
Another idea: leverage technology. According to my software engineer friends, building a recommendation engine for visual art isn’t an insurmountable technology problem. In fact, there’s a company that already does it, but they’ve intentionally limited the use of their technology to only represent the artists who are currently represented by the big blue chip art galleries. So there’s an opportunity to build a recommendation engine. I’ve talked to a couple of engineers about it and we might even have some investors interested.
In order to make some of these bigger ideas happen, I’m acknowledging that the limitations of my available time core skill set. In making that acknowledgement, I’ve realized that one of the big things we need to do this year is find a partner to help out. I’ve written up a long description that I’ve shared with a handful of my close friends.
So, to answer my own question about mountaintops, the answer for me is: look around for the next mountain to climb. I’m glad you’re on this journey me, and I hope you’ll continue to feel like you’re part of something special as we move forward.
And if you know someone who is looking for their own next mountain to climb, send them my way.