5 Skills for Successful Artists...

The lives of artists are extraordinary, full of unexpected and unpredictable twists and turns. Being an artist is not for everyone, but if we decide we're going to go for it, it's important to make time for things like self-care and maintaining our creative inspiration. The same active attitude can be applied to everything we do. There are valuable skills we can learn that can propel us forward, like branding our art in a way that we love, teaching beginners so we can become masters, and collaborating with fellow artists on projects that can open our work to a wider audience. Here are 5 more tools to keep in your toolbox: 

1) Be as good as your word

  • Artists often encounter a cultural stigma that says we're "flaky", "spacey", "difficult" and just plain unreliable. In order to be taken seriously, and have our work taken seriously, we must be as good as our word. Never make a promise you can't keep! Before saying yes to anything, check your calendar and make the necessary calculations of time and resources. This goes for both social and work invitations. Always be on time! Being late says you do not value other people's time, not the message you want to convey to your clients and community. If, despite good planning, you are (for example) stymied by terrible traffic on your way to meet someone, text or call immediately to let them know you are running late. Once you arrive at your destination, apologize sincerely, and be extra present and accountable during your meeting. Develop a reputation for being as good as your word, and guard it with your life.

3) Keep a diverse contact list

  • Are all your friends artists? You might be living in a limiting bubble. Reach out to people in other fields and socialize with them. Many people in other professions view artists as living examples of passion and creative drive. These people often have the means to pay market value for your art. They can also give you a boost in the form of connections to people higher up in the art world, access to exclusive art events, or even just a good dinner when you're low and broke. When you receive an invitation from someone, show up on time (see #1 above) and be present, solicitous, and polite. Don't talk about yourself the whole time! Take an interest in what they do and do your best to follow along, even if it's way out of your knowledge base. Buy a box of thank you cards and send one after your meeting. Your path to success is very compelling, and some of these people may play a part in it, so check-in regularly with your contact list, and update them about your work, but don't be pushy (see #3 below). Maintain these connections and treat them with care.

3) Know how to talk about your work

  • Look, we get it: you're very compelled by your art. Your current project is obsessing you and taking up all your time. We want to hear about it, just not ALL about it. Understand that no one on earth is going to care about your art as much as you do. Regaling us with every minute detail is unnecessary, and often downright unbearable. A good rule is to assume that no one has more than 20 seconds of sincere interest to give you. This is why an elevator pitch matters so much: you can make maximum impact with minimal use of other people's time. Don't worry to much about the "pitch" part; you don't have to view each person you meet as a potential client that might want to buy your art (although experimenting with this paradigm can be instructive). Just find a concise and potent way to describe your work and your plans for it. Write down 5 different sentences that describe it, and cut and paste them into one powerful statement. Practice on a trusted friend until it feels normal to say it aloud. If you make your pitch and someone responds with, "tell me more!", or, "interesting!" then you can proceed cautiously. If you're met with a polite smile and/or change of subject, take a hint and follow along, or move on to another person who might be more amenable to your pitch. Just remember the cardinal rule of Show Biz: always leave them wanting more.

4) Cultivate a special social skill or hobby

  • You're not just the art you make! You're a highly creative person of unique vision, with a strong work ethic behind everything you do. Can you think of something in addition to your art that you can contribute to your community? Some kinds of hobbies and skills are highly desirable, and can grease social wheels and make you more likely to be included in community events [AUTHOR'S NOTE: I make pies. Mic drop.] Photographers are always welcome at art events and social gatherings, and so are musicians, but the rest of us need to dig deeper to find ways to contribute. Are you good with styling your own outfits? Help a harried hostess put her look together before a dinner party. Can you clean and de-clutter in a flash? Assist a local garage sale or block party. Do you enjoy arranging and decorating? Make yourself available to others at holidays to help with household cheer. Or just put on your work clothes and help a friend move house. You'll be the guest of honor at the housewarming party, where you can try out your elevator pitch from #3 above.

5) Visualize your success

  • What will success look like to you? What will your average day be like? How much time will you spend on work, and how much on play? Who will be your competitors? Will you travel for/with your art? Where will you go? Who will be with you? What new avenues of creativity will you explore? Visualize these things in as much detail as you can. This is not to say that you MUST manifest your success in these particular ways, just that you care enough and believe enough in yourself to dream big and work toward your goals accordingly. Let these images inform the choices that you make going forward, and prioritize the ones that matter most to you. It can also be helpful to ask yourself how you will FEEL when you are successful: for example, will you be invigorated, charging forward with new energy, or will you be relaxed at last, taking each new challenge in stride? This is something you can and should work on right now, in this moment. If you need an energy boost, work on your nutrition and sleep patterns. If you're constantly tense, look for new ways to de-stress and chillax. Grounding yourself in the here and now, and visualizing your success as an extension of it, will go a long way. Meditate on your success every day. Let yourself feel into the future, and come back to this moment refreshed and ready to work.