Top 10 Working Artist Tips

1. Control Your Destiny With Your Number One Tool: Your Calendar
The most productive people on earth are obsessive about their calendars. They not only use them for appointments and events, but also to create blocks of studio time, planning time, or time to work on projects (which gives you the power to say “no” when those all other obligations seem to pop up). Make a habit of reviewing your calendar once a week and once a month to prioritize your own time first, before anyone else tries to claim it.

2. Keep Accurate Records Of Your Work
Use a Google Sheet, online database, or other tool to track your inventory, where your work was shown/performed, price, what sold (and what didn’t), etc. This is tedious work, but if you stay on top of it, it shouldn’t be overly burdensome. Imagine how much you would pay someone else to do this for you; that’s the value of what you’re doing for yourself.

3. Keep Separate Records of Your Art-Related Income and Expenses

4. Build Your Own Grants & Opportunities Calendar
Since you’re making that terrific calendar above, you can make a commitment to apply for grants, residencies, awards, or other opportunities as well. Be sure to add both the application deadline itself AND a deadline reminder six weeks and two weeks out for yourself, so you have time to get materials together. MAPS has a calendar you can start with, and be sure to

5. Keep your Website and Materials Up To Date
Set a date to refresh your Artist Statement, C.V., Work Sample portfolios, headshot, bio, project descriptions, and any other standard promotional or submission materials at least once a year. If you don’t have a website, use one of the many easy-to-use template sites (like WordPress or Squarespace) to create one, or hire a freelancer to create one for you. It’s easy to let a year go by without looking at your own website (after all, YOU know your own work); and suddenly it’s out of date.

6. Get Business Cards
Seriously, you guys, you can order 100 custom business cards for under $10 from sites like Vistaprint or Moo.com. There’s no excuse for you NOT to have a business card with your name, artist website, and email in your pocket the next time you happen to meet someone who is interested in your work.

7. Build Your Network
You know those people who seem to have all the luck? Here’s a secret: they put themselves in situations where luck can find them. And most of the time, that’s going to be outside your studio or home. You must attend gallery openings, shows, performances, etc., in your area—ideally, ones where you could see your own work being shown in the near future. If you don’t know who the gallerist or curator is, ask around, and then quickly introduce yourself. If this it is the first time you are speaking, keep it short: introduce yourself, offer a compliment about the exhibition or show, and ask if you could reach out for a longer conversation or studio visit invitation sometime, say thank you, and walk away. Follow up with a phone call or email the next week. If you’re starting from scratch, no opportunity should be too small for you to get your work seen and start building your network.

8. @MyNameHereArtist
Corporate CEOs don’t mix their personal social media with their company’s accounts, and neither should you. Create and maintain a unique presence for your artist self on at least Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, keeping the usernames as simple and as similar as possible. (There are of course many other platforms, but consider how much time you want to spend updating each one.)

If you’re on social media, you’re probably already following artists you like—but it’s easy to let months go by without a post. Set a calendar reminder for yourself once a week or every two weeks to post, share, or tweet something about your activity. If you don’t have anything, think about sharing something that inspires you with a sentence or two about why it’s meaningful.

9. Get Involved With an Organization You Care About

10. Don’t Do It Alone