The “Okay, I think I’m ready To Be A Professional Artist,” Checklist

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 8.33.59 PM“To see far, is one thing…going there is another.” Constantin  Brancusi

Artists who regularly visit this website have acquired a lot of information on how to conduct their business practices. It’s not easy trying to keep track of all the activities necessary to become a working professional artist particularly since most artists are just not suited for the day-to-day practical aspects of running a business.

Making art and making an art career are two different things. A lot of artists are already pressed for time, trying to fit their art making into daily lives that already juggle family, work and other commitments. But, each artist needs to understand that when looking at the whole picture of being an artist as a career, the actual art making is only one piece of a very complicated picture. Artists need to be willing to commit at least 30 minutes a day to their career development. If you can’t manage 30 minutes a day, make it 30 minutes a week, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are consistent and diligent about devoting this time, without exceptions, to the business of art. Just as financial managers have recognized that the slow steady saver, who puts away $5 per week since birth, is much better off than the 50 year old who starts saving $1000 per month. Your career assets will experience a better growth opportunity if you start early and remain constant.

If you need some ideas about how to spend your 30 minutes, try using this checklist as your guide.

  • You have applied for a Business Tax Registration certificate and Sales Tax permit that allows you to purchase supplies wholesale and charge sales tax.
  • You have purchased your domain name (register.com) and established an internet presence. (either your own site or an artists’ co-op site)
  • You have either hired a photographer, or assembled the photographic equipment necessary to properly document your work.
  • You have documented your work with properly labeled slides and organized them in digital files.
  • You have done the necessary research to come up with a target list of places (galleries, museums, consultants) that may be receptive to your work.
  • You have subscribed to relevant art publications such as, ArtCalendar, Artweek, ArtNews, Art in America, etc. and whatever other publications will keep you posted on the activities of the contemporary art world in your community and elsewhere.
  • You have made a commitment to yourself to devote at least x number of hours per week to the business aspects of your career…sending out slides, visiting galleries, making follow up phone calls, researching opportunities, talking to other artists.
  • You have read your local art reviews and visited those exhibitions
  • You have organized files for yourself to keep track of in coming and out going correspondence, emails, phone calls, and contacts. (A contact management program, such as ACT, can be invaluable.)
  • You send out at least one package per week that will familiarize a gallery, private art consultant, curator or collector with your work.
  • You agree to spend at least 1 hour per month online checking for new websites, e-commerce sites or art sites that may be of value.
  • You email your website link to at least 3 people per month
  • You have started to assemble a personal mailing list of friends, target galleries and potential collectors that may be interested in your work for use when you send out exhibition announcements.
  • You have had simple business cards printed with your name, address, phone number and email address, to distribute to anyone potentially interested in your work.
  • You have created an updated bio that outlines all your previous exhibitions, education, collectors, and awards.
  • You have written an artists’ statement, not for distribution, but rather to help you talk intelligently about your work, should someone ask.
  • You have created a simple consignment receipt and bill of sale for future use.
  • You have determined pricing parameters for your work.
  • You have prepared a referral list of resources for future use: framers, photographers, packers and shippers, printers, etc.
  • You have come to terms with the possibility of rejection and feel confident you can handle it.

Remember, this checklist is just a beginning. You will need to personalize it and adapt it to your specific needs. But, if you commit yourself to devoting time to all the activities listed above, you will have accepted the responsibility of seeing yourself as a working professional artist. Over time, the results you see WILL give you the exposure you want and your work deserves.

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2 Responses to “The “Okay, I think I’m ready To Be A Professional Artist,” Checklist”

  1. Susan Richardson said:

    Oct 03, 10 at 11:25 am

    Thank you. This is exactly what I needed. I was happy to see I’ve done about 1/3 of the actions listed, but it also made me realize that in order to exhibit more, I still have a lot of leg work to do. It’s great to have a plan of action. I, too, will pin this where I can see it everyday — and take some action.

  2. Peggy Fox said:

    Oct 06, 10 at 10:16 am

    Good advice. I’ll take it.