Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Business Savvy for Artists

We artists thrive in a fantasy world. We live inside our heads. Our minds are filled with visions of dichroic butterflies, iridized unicorns and molten adventures. In contrast, the rest of the world’s great minds are firmly anchored in reality. Their perceived value of success is driven by meeting the requirements of functionality, time clocks, budgets and deadlines.

Yes, we create art. We want unrestricted freedom to go where inspiration leads. But if you hope to sell your art to a mass market, you’ll have to meet the bean counters’ expectations for professional trade practices. To do that, you must learn to treat your passion like a business. 

You ask, is it possible? Can abstract creatives, like myself, tame our wandering minds and think practically, even linearly?

The answer is, yes you can. Here’s how.  


Really listen to your buyer, client or whoever wants to purchase your work. Think of them as creative partners. I know this challenges your sense of artsy superiority and bruises your steadfast ego. But, an impulsive stretch in inspiration enhances design development and takes creativity to new heights. Trust me, your artwork will be better for it. Take your buyer’s ideas, add your own flare, and you’ll exceed everyone’s expectations. 

Show and tell. 

Offer to draw a scale rendering of the proposed artwork. It doesn’t have to be a museum quality painting. A simple pencil drawing will do. This ensures a clear meeting of the minds. It’s far easier, and less costly to make changes on paper than it is in glass. 

Get the price right. 

Pricing can be tricky. Especially with the rapid changes in the availability of glass and other materials. I factor enough into a bid to buy twice as much glass as needed to build the project in case there’s breakage. I then calculate the time needed to build the art and double it to figure my labor costs. Then I add a little padding for any unforeseen expenses. These different sums are then added to give me a sale price for the artwork.    

Provide a simple but clear contract. It should include the date, the names of all parties, the sale price of the art, the cost of installation or shipping if applicable, the payment terms, and anticipated completion date. I add a few extra weeks to my expected completion date. This is a buffer in case there are unexpected delays. You can always deliver early. But delivering late, without a reasonable explanation is unprofessional. 
Once we agree on the design concept and the color rendering is approved, I collect a 50% deposit. The balance, installation (or shipping, if applicable) and tax are collected on completion of the job. I also include provisions for unexpected problems such as availability of material, or equipment malfunction in my contracts. In other words, what will happen if the glass you need is back ordered, or your kiln breaks mid-firing? My contracts state that I’ll notify the buyer of any issues as soon as possible and supply them with a new estimated delivery date. 

Stay in touch. 

Send progress reports and share process pictures of the art as its being fabricated. Let the buyer know how the project is progressing. Even with the aid of a drawing, non-artists have trouble visualizing the finished art. It doesn’t help that glass looks flat and lifeless in color renderings. Fortunately, the actual finished artwork sells itself because it looks richer and livelier in person.

Another reason to supply process pictures is so the customer can redirect you if the art is unexpectedly not what they envisioned. It’s important to catch any hiccups in the client’s conceptual expectations early. 

It’s inconvenient to stop the work flow once you’ve started. And the last thing you want to do is invite novice opinions or make changes mid-stream. Often, all the client needs is a visual confirmation that work is progressing as planned. Or it’s a matter of explaining that slight variations are to be expected in hand-made, custom art. The extra effort of following up is not lost though. It builds confidence in buyers and greatly increases the number of satisfied clients.  

Over my 30-year career as a commission artist, this single courtesy has saved me from having to do total re-builds, at my expense, on several large commissions. 

Deliver only your best work. 

You’d be surprised by the number of not so perfect pieces in my studio. Sometimes, due to no fault of my own the glass doesn’t turn out as intended. Don’t risk that embarrassing moment on delivery when the client points out the imperfection and loses trust in you. It’s better to call and explain the delivery will be delayed. Say you’re not satisfied with the quality of the artwork and you’ll only deliver your best work. Clients understand that custom made, one-of-a-kind pieces take time and precision. In this situation, they truly appreciate your honesty, integrity, and attention to detail. 

Be respectful of set deadlines.  

This is not the time to flip out and pull the eccentric artist card. Don’t take a job if you can’t fulfill it in the set time-frame. Outline how long it’ll take to complete a job and then follow through. When estimating the time, be sure to include time for ordering and shipping materials, as well as considering other unrelated business obligations that’ll require your attention.       

Most artists find fulfillment in selling their art. But it takes more than talent, skill, and beautifully crafted artwork to be monetarily successful. It requires strengthening and building strong business practices. Just like you developed your design side, develop your professional side. The great part is, a practical business plan is easy to put into practice. It increases efficiency, which gives you more time and opportunity to be creative.  

You got this!


Follow my blog for more tips and tricks! 

Let’s get together and fuse glass!
Upcoming Classes and Webinars

Glass Craft and Bead Expo 2018
April 4 – 8, 2018
Las Vegas, NV

It’s time to get excited about the Glass Craft and Bead Expo, coming up in April. I’m offering four favorites and one new class titled, Fire and Ice. Seats are going fast so make your plans now to join me for a week of friendship, fusing and fun.

FR-18 - Breaking Through – Making Exhibition Quality Artwork
SA-22 - Fire & Ice, Hot Techniques for Cool Projects
SU-01 - Fusing Art Design!

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new glass fans. I hope to see you in class. 

Upscale Fusing Webinar
April 24, 2018

Incorporating pattern and texture to elevate and refine your fusing style are the focus of this in-depth webinar. Join me and learn how to tastefully blend various cutting-edge techniques to add dimension and volume to your work. With the pro's secrets revealed, you'll be on the fast-track to developing winning combinations that’ll get your work noticed!

Inspiration! Confidence! Knowledge!
Advanced Glass Fusing 4-Day, Hands-on Workshop
May 8-11, 2018
Join me for this impactful workshop held in my private studio.
Wesley Chapel, Florida, 4-Day, Hands-on, Class size is limited.

Exceed your expectations! In this intense, 4-day workshop you’ll utilize the many advanced techniques today’s successful glass artists are using to elevate their work from craft to fine art. This all new program is ideal for ambitious glass fusers ready to go bigger and explore more in-depth kiln forming techniques.

Something new! Check out my new writer’s blog.
Writer – Instructor – Artist

Relationships fascinate me, and so I have a new blog dedicated to the weird and wonderful ways we interact with each other.

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