When you begin your journey as an artist it's a whirlwind experience! Not only is it easy to get caught up in all of these new experiences and wether you have the prior knowledge of running a business or not, you are bound to make mistakes. That's just how things work - which is great because if you can learn from them the first time then you can really help your brand and lead yourself in the right direction!
I wanted to share with you some of the lessons I have learnt as an artist over these past few years so you don't make the same mistakes that I have - and trust me I've made a lot of mistakes, but I certainly haven't let them hinder me from continuing to pursue my passion.
Always Get A Signed Contract
This is something I had to learn the hard way, it was not only really discouraging but also really foolish of me. My mentor would always tell me, "Don't start work until you have a signed contract and a deposit", such a fool I was starting this monster project that really eventuated into nothing. Honestly, I knew this person was going to screw me over, they had one of those attitudes/look/vibe in the initial face to face meeting.
So this lesson is: DON'T START WORK UNTIL YOU HAVE A CONTRACT AND A DEPOSIT!!!
I don't think I can stress this enough, there is no point in wasting your time or energy on a project that is just going to get crushed because they don't want to pay you for your efforts. Having something that legally binds the two of you is great, that means security for you both!
Don't Sell Yourself Short
So there will come a time where you will have to price the value of your work, wether it be an online store, at a market stall, an exhibition or for a project. It can be hard at first to know what price to put on something, so I say start higher than you think and see if you can negotiate from there with the client.
If a friend asks you to do work for them, you can of course give them a discount but don't ever think you have to do this! This is your work, it's your livelihood (well for some people)! You want to value your time and energy as efficiently as you needing to pay the bills. If you can cover your monthly expenses with two or three commissions a month and some side sales, perfect!
In saying that, don't go too ridiculously high because then people just won't want to work with you. Find a cool and even middle ground to start with and if there is an opportunity for negotiations to happen, go for it!
Now, I will say this... I do some work for free, gasp, I know!! But that's only because I know I want to take the opportunity and I think it could be a fun thing to do in the meantime. Plus, it builds rapport with the client and my portfolio. So if I believe in a small company just starting up and they are going to be using me all the time, I make it known that at some stage in the future I will expect to be paid! If they decide to cut me loose once push comes to shove and continue to use artists for free, good on them. I love a boss bitch, but I still own the rights to the artwork and I can sell it as something else in the future!
Haters Gonna Hate
This is something I haven't had a lot to deal with directly or online, but I have heard what people in my friendship groups have said about me becoming an artist. To be honest, I don't really care what other people have to say and neither should you!
I've only ever had one full on crying fit over a comment someone said. I'll give you some context... so I was at a gathering and I met this guy, I asked what he did for a living and he said he was photographer. I was like, "That's so cool! I'm an artist myself actually" and I told him I did collage art, his response "That's not f****** art, that's a cop out!" and let's just say some other things were said but I can't completely remember what. Anyway, to say I was stunned by what he said is an understatement. I left the balcony where we were all drinking and hid in my friends room to cry in frustration (to be fair, I was a little drunk). My friend came in and told me to not worry about what he had to say, that most negative people are just jealous and insecure about themselves. Let's be honest.... It's very true! We all know the bullies from school who had problems of their own and were just projecting to feel better.
So, don't worry about the haters because they are always going to be there but just know that deep down inside they wish they were you!
Sometimes Things Don't Work Out
If you haven't learnt this by your mid-twenties as a life lesson, then boy-oh-boy you have some serious growing up to do! Honestly, this just comes with life and everything you do in the world... wether it's catching the bus, dating your college boyfriend or planning an exhibition. Sometimes sh** just doesn't go to plan and usually it's for a very good reason!
Don't be all caught up in it when this happens in your career as an artist though. It's super easy to do that, trust me. Just remember that you have a lot more time to do what you think needs to be done and it will work out with persistence.
Take Every Opportunity
(Even When You Don't Know What You're Doing)
Sometimes you might have a client come to you with something you haven't done before, which is fantastic and also very stressful at the same time. I have taken on work before where I have never done it and felt way over my head but have said yes because I wan't to take on the opportunity.
My best advice to you here is - give them and the opportunity a chance! You may find that you learnt a lot about yourself as an artist and where you can take your art form.
Don't Put Pressure On Yourself
(Or Your Career)
I feel like this is obvious, but often missed - if you feel like you are taking on too much or putting too much pressure on yourself to get a lot of things done then take a step back. Simple! This is usually caused because as an artist you might feel like you need to please other people by getting a whole bunch of work done for no reason other then to please them and that's really not healthy! You should be trying to please yourself and reach your own goals.
On the other hand, if you aren't getting a lot of work and things aren't going as planned then don't worry! Take this time to work on yourself as an artist and a human-being. Things will come eventually!