I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “starving artist”. It comes from the centuries of history where famous artists where dying anonymously and in poverty, struggling financially their whole lives. Even nowadays, parents teach their kids that being an artist is risky and they will end up starving. That’s why so many people never even try to pursue an artistic or creative career. Let me tell you a secret: being an artist doesn’t have to be risky at all! Why? And how NOT to be a starving artist?

Why there are so many starving artists?

The answer is quite simple: most artists want to sell their art but have no idea how to do it. They only want to do the creative part and skip all the business side. “I’m not a businessman” – they say. “I just want to sell my art”.

Sounds familiar?

The thing is, if you want to sell your art and make a living from it, you have to build a business. Another way, you’re just a hobbyist who sometimes, accidentally, sells their art. You have to learn at least the principles, to build a strong foundation for your business and a sustainable source of income. To find out more about this subject check Why your art is your business?

Now, how not to be a starving artist?

1. Change the way you think

Your mindset is a huge part of your success. You cannot just sit and wait for opportunities to come your way. You have to actively search for them! Even if you have no idea what to do, do the first thing that comes to your mind, something that your intuition suggests. Even, if it sounds silly!

When I was just starting out, I was in a foreign country, barely speaking the language, in a small city where I didn’t know anybody. My only idea was: “Let’s try Instagram”. It really seemed silly to me, but I didn’t have any other idea, so I invested my time into Instagram: I bought a course, I was studying, posting, etc. After a month I got a message on IG: ‘Hi! Next week I’m coming to Milan Fashion Week. Would you like to join me and take pictures of me, of the shows, enter the backstage of the shows, etc?”. Yes, yes, YES! This opportunity would have never come my way if I wouldn’t have taken action first. Now it’s your turn.

Read more on: The most important step to take to build the art business

2. Build financial security

“Being an artist is risky” – I can’t even count the times when I’ve heard this sentence. IT’S NOT RISKY IF YOU BUILD A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR YOUR BUSINESS! Of course, if you rely only on one source of income, especially if these are in-person services, any unexpected event, like an accident or illness, will cause a huge problem.

That’s why you have to use everything that you have, to create as many sources of income as possible, especially online. This way, if one fails, there are others to sustain your business.

Read more on: The secret weapon for your financial security

3. Learn how to sell

“I’m not a salesman! I’m an artist!” If that’s what you think, you can immediately give up. It’s not about being the awful salesperson we all think about, the one that forces you to buy something you don’t need and squeezes the last cent from you.

No, I’m talking about learning how to present your products and services in the way that people can see value in them and buy them. No forcing or manipulating!

I know this may be a problem for many, for me it’s the most challenging part of all business, but we have to learn it in order to work full-time as freelance artists. If nobody buys from us, we don’t earn money! So we have to learn to sell!

Here’s How to sell without being salesy?

4. Know your audience

“If you’re talking to everybody, you’re talking to nobody”. If you want to sell to the whole world, nobody will really feel the connection with you, as you’ll be too scared to say anything personal or more specific, not to offend anybody.

That’s not how it works!

Of course, I don’t mean you have to offend anybody. But let’s say you’re selling graffiti artworks and you want to sell them to everyone. You could create some fun slogans to make teenagers and young people buy from you, but at the same time, you might be scared of what your older clients might think of that.

Can you see how limiting that is?

If you’d decide to sell only to the young audience instead, you know exactly how to talk to them, your language is more direct and thus they feel more connected with you and are more eager to buy from you. Of course, if an older person wants to buy from you too, that’s great. But you’re not limiting yourself just to make everybody happy. That’s impossible.

Make sure to read: How to find your target audience?

5. Build a killer website

To buy from you, people have to be able to find you and see your works. As obvious as it sounds, too many artists still don’t have any online presence. Don’t be one of them! If you can’t afford a website, at least create a social media profile or a gallery of your works on one of the providers of the free websites (you can try Wix, for example).

However, just having a website is not enough: there are some elements you should include to maximize your chances for success. Here’s What a successful art website looks like?

Now’s your turn: what do you think? Do you agree with me about why there are so many starving artists? Would you like to add something? Share your opinion in the comments! And make sure to share this post with other artists who may desperately need it.