Believe me or not, I’ve tried them all. I was working my butt off and nothing seemed to be working. In this brutal way, I found out what are the 10 most common mistakes artists make, so that you can avoid them.

1. Not knowing who their client is

This is an absolute #1 among the mistakes artists make. Most artists just say: “I want to sell my art”, but when you ask “To whom?” they don’t know the answer. If you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody! You have to be more specific! This way the clients will feel a deeper connection with you and will be more willing to buy from you. Not sure how to solve this one? Read How to find your target audience?

2. Not knowing anything about business

If you want to sell, you have to learn how to do it and these are the principles of business. You have to know how to organize your finances, taxes, and contracts, and how to use marketing to get new clients. Without it? You’ll forever remain just an amateur wishing to be able to sell her work. Here’s Why your art is your business

3. Obsessive: “I’m not good enough”

This is such a common one! I meet so many artists who keep saying it! And you know what? In 99.9% of cases, it’s not true. Bah, even more: it’s usually just the favorite excuse not to move out of your comfort zone! Unless you are a complete beginner, you most likely are good enough. Maybe you’re not a master already, but years will pass before you’ll be on the absolute top of the game and it’s normal! But people want to buy from you RIGHT NOW! For them, you are already a master.

If you start building your career when you’re an absolute pro, for years nobody will know about you, because you need time to get recognition and gain momentum. You should start right away! Build your business and skills together, so that when you’re a master in what you do, you’re business will be at its top too.

4. Obsessive procrastination

“I’ll do it when I have more time”. Does it sound familiar? Well, let me tell you a secret: YOU’LL NEVER HAVE MORE TIME! And the best time to start was yesterday. The next best one is now. I know what you’re trying to achieve is overwhelming and scary. I’ve been there. But putting it away in time will only make it scarier and even more overwhelming! Most actions that you need to take are massive and huge, and you have no idea how to bite that cake, am I right? Here’s what you should do:

  • Create a to-do list
  • Divide each action into small, easily doable steps. Instead of writing: “create the website”, you should write: “write the about me section”, “create the about me section” etc. or “research web designers”, “contact 3-5 designers”, “choose the designer”, etc. It may seem ridiculous, but when you divide things into such small steps, it’s more probable that you’ll ever do them. In the end, seeing “research web designers” on your list seems much less scary than “get the website done”, right?
  • Create a calendar and decide when each of the things should be done. As life is full of surprises, I like to leave myself some space for all the other things that I have to do. So, I give myself a deadline for each of the bigger projects. Continuing the example from above, let’s say you want your website to be done within a month (remember to keep the deadlines short, but reasonable). Then, decide what should be done each week in order to achieve that. Every Sunday I look at my list of things that should be accomplished by the end of next week and knowing my other obligations for that week, I schedule when to take each of the small actions. Et voila! It’s not scary anymore!

5. Not having a portfolio

“What is your biggest struggle?” “I’d like to sell more art” ”Great! Where can I see your works? Do you have a website?” “Well, no”.

Sounds ridiculous? You’d be surprised in how many cases it’s true. Some artists at least have their social media profile – it’s not the best solution, but better than none. (Why is it not enough? I explain it thoroughly in my book Fast-Track Artist). You must have some kind of portfolio. At least a pdf that you can send, even if any kind of an online gallery will work better. If you want people to buy from you, they need to know you exist and they have to be able to see what you do. Nobody likes to buy a pig in a poke.

6. Thinking the website is enough

Those artists who have a website, often make another mistake: they think once they have a website it’s all done and a flow of customers will magically come their way. Well, I wish it would be so, but it’s not. Even if you have a website (that is a must, it’s like your business card), most likely nobody will see it, unless you do the work. It’s sad, but it’s true. I want to help you avoid disappointments. Your website doesn’t have to be fancy, nor expensive, or anything like it – especially at the beginning. A simple one is enough. No fanciness will bring clients your way just like that.

You have to promote and talk about your art. You’re going to use your website as a business card when somebody wants to know more about what you do. But you’re the one who has to start the conversation. The Internet is very competitive and the problem of everybody is traffic = how to get more people to visit your website. Nothing happens automatically unless you create a good system (but this is a more advanced level). Keeping it all in mind: create your website, but instead of putting too much effort and money into it, make it more simple and spend the rest on promoting it.

7. Not showing clearly how to buy from you

For you it’s obvious that people can buy from you, but try looking at your website/social media profile, etc. from the point of view of a potential customer. Would you know how to buy anything? And even: what you can buy? People may assume you’re an artist who doesn’t take commissions or is so busy that works only with special clients. For you, it may seem crazy, but looking from the point of view of your customers it’s not crazy at all. You have to be very clear in order to make it work. Give clear instructions about what you offer and what to do in order to get it. Don’t assume a simple: “Contact me” will be enough. Describe the process and then write: “Contact me to start” or “Send me the details of what you need to get the price”. Be very specific! 

8. Spending on ads without knowing how to use them

This is another myth: just buy ads and all your problems will be solved. It doesn’t work like this. Especially on Facebook, nowadays there are so many ads to compete with, you have to have some knowledge about marketing and ads to make them work. Even in that case, it’s a trial and error process, so you need to invest some money into it before you start seeing results. Unfortunately, most people just lose money on ads. What is even worse, many of the so-called “specialists” only use the Fb targeting tools and are no better specialists than you and me, so be careful when you hire someone.

9. Believing you just need one influential person to see your art and it’ll magically change your life

Again, it doesn’t work like this. Success doesn’t come overnight. Even if reading some stories it may sound like this, it’s never true. Every success is based on years of hard work, often seemingly invisible. What is more, counting on this one person, an art critique, magazine editor, movie star, etc. is a really poor tactic for success. You have no control over it and, well, it may never happen. Also, one of my favorite quotes is “Luck favors the prepared mind”. Maybe you’ll be lucky and you’ll get noticed, but you still have to do the work to become visible enough to have a chance for that. So just stop counting on your fortune and start counting on your own work. Trust me, it’s much more reliable and predictable.

10. Spamming on social media

Posts like: “Buy my art”, “Available for commissions” and “My other artwork available for sale” simply don’t work. Do you ever click anything like it? Be honest! Of course, not! Every day, we are bombarded with hundreds of ads and sale offers, so we ignore them and pay attention only to things that really matter to us. You can use Instagram to grow your creative business, but you have to give something to people instead of just asking for something from them.

Any other mistakes artists make?

Any other mistakes you’ve made that others can avoid? Let us know in the comments! Let’s help each other grow at the top speed!