Q&A: How did you make the transition from a salesman to full time artist?
This question came from Alan Sears. This is interesting because Alan and I met while I was working for Genigraphics in New York & New Jersey where I was a top sales person selling computer graphic business presentations. My main clients were pharmaceutical, telecommunications and household product companies. In the late 80s and 90s I felt like I was out of my element being a sales person becuase my BFA degree was in Communication Design from Parsons School of Design. I used my creative abilities to act not only as an account executive but an art director as well. Being able to create on the spot with clients I believe made me a successful salesperson. I continued this path joining AT&T Business as a account exective selling Internet related solutions. AT&T is a great company becuase they invest in their employees to make sure they are well trained in sales techniques, negiotation tactics, and marketing. After a number of years I joined the creative marketing team for AT&T Local where I used not only my creative communication skills but my web based marketing skills to build a successful website to acquire customers for AT&T Local, eventually merging this with ATT.com and helping to create the All Distance Marketing Website Platform. Then the path changed.
In 2004, shortly after the meger of SBC and AT&T, I was let go and had to reinvent myself. During my unemployment time I began painting all the time. This led to meeting a good friend and artist, Jim Frederick. While we painted together we talked about the opportunities to show and sell our art. This led to an opportunity after one artist pulled out at the last minute to have a solo show at the Trinity River Arts Center in Dallas, TX. This was my first show to show my acrylic and oil pastel paintings about twenty-five pieces. During my one month show I was able to sell 15 works. The light bulb went off in my head " You should do more of this"!
In 2006, a got another corporate job in online marketing for an international oil & gas company. I made a conscious decision to not give up my new found creative outlet. I made investment in getting a studio around other artists, and I had the additional funds from a corporate job to assist in that. I used my evenings and weekends to create, meet other artists and participate in as many venues to showcase and sell my work.
Then everything changed.
In 2012, I was let got due to downsizing and on that very day my Dad went into the hospital with trouble breathing. I was able to quickly drop everything to be by his side and help my Mom with caregiving. One month later, my Dad passed away. I will be grateful for the universe giving me these last few weeks to be with him. After returning to my home & studio in Houston, TX, I sat down on the couch and had a big "boo-hoo" and thought to myself "What are you going to do now?" A voice entered my head and said "Go be the artist you have always wanted to be." I can say I was stunned and a little freaked out that I heard a voice but I decided to follow that instinct. I started treating my artmarking as a job. I got everyday and treated it like work. I made a business plan with goals. Updating email lists, creating my own business cards, newsletters, and a schedule for monthly shows. You see being a full time artist does not mean that you are always painting, you have to put time into the other parts of your business that includes marketing, updating your website, finding new opportunities to show your art, and of course taxes. I found myself working 12+ hours each day. There was something more satisfying to know that I was working for my own success.
It has been over three years now and I have learned you never give up, you keep moving forward everyday. In the tough times that any artist will have I go to my mantra "P.A.C.E" which stands for Positive Attitudes Change Everything. This has also grown to be Positive Actions Change Everything and Positive Art Change Everything. I believe that if you think and act positively the right things will happen to be successful.
Just like any successful salesperson, to be a successful artist you also have to be or have a successful salesperson of your art. For some artists that means having a gallery which handles that - but that relationship does not come free you will likely give 50% away of the sales of your art to the gallery for doing that. That is good if that relationship works for you. For me I prefer to get to know my customers and clients and that means I need to develop those collectors and relationships to sell my art.
Some of the tools that I continue to read and reference to better myself as my own art sales representative are as follows:
Alyson Stanfield www.artbizcoach.com - I have taken many of her classes both in person and over the phone., as well as invested in her book. Any time I am stuck I can count on a seminar or reading on her blog or listening to her podcast to get me back on track. Additionally I have gotten to be friends with several artists from all over the world who are in the same boat as me that you can also learn from.
John Ross Palmer www.johnpalmerart.com/escapist/
In 2012, I applied for the chance to be part of John Ross Palmer's Escapist Program. This is a program in which over the course of a year John Ross Palmer, a successful Houston based artist, shares mentoring tips and marketing exercises to show you as an artist how to breakdown the stereotype of being a struggling/starving artist. After one year in the program I was named the 2013 Escapist of the Year by my peers. I recommend this program to any artist wanting to understand how to be a successful artist marketing your own art.
Some books that I have read and used in my development as a small business owner and full-time artist
"I'd Rather Be In The Studio" by Alyson Stanfield
"The Art of Meaningful Living" by Christopher F. Brown, LCSW, MBA and Art by John Palmer
"The Success Principles" by Jack Canfield
"Starting Your Career as an Artist" by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller
"Making it in the Art World" by Brainard Carey
"New Markets for Artists" by Brainard Carey
"The Profitable Artist" by Artspire
"How to Survive & Prosper as an Artist" by Caroll Michels
So far the transition from salesperson to artist has been a journey, a journey of acquiring skills that aid in my success as a business person and as an artist. I am blessed that I can create and sell my art and I recommend that it doesn't matter if you are a full-time artist or an artist that has other means of support focus on the creating a collector base of your art as much as you spend creating it.
Thank you to all the collectors and followers who are engaged in my art career. It is your support that keeps the passion in me to create and move to the next venue. I encourage your questions and will try my best to answer and share my knowledge of being an artist with you in my blog.
Transitioned from salesperson to artist, from boardroom to dining room! Buy art from your local artist.