art business practices for professional artists
In the beginning of my art career, I was just a plain artist. I was a person who could draw and I tried to draw everything I could imagine and people would ask me to draw stuff for them. Sometimes those people would pay me for the art.
In the early days I carried my art in a backpack, pencils, paper, markers, pens and a Walkman. Yup, A Cassette Tape Player with Headphones. This was a long time ago.
I carried my art with me wherever I went because I wanted the ability to draw anytime. And that’s how people got to know me, the artist who carried a heavy backpack with art stuff. I’ve been a bragger all my life so naturally I like to brag about my art. I would pull out my art book and a binder with lots of loose pages of art. Some pages were pencil drawings and other drawings were in marker. I would let people thumb thru my stack of art. Then someone would suggest I draw something for them and I would agree to do it, no questions asked.
And then the hassle begins. I would draw the requested artwork and go find the person who asked me for it. That’s when the song and dance would begin. The person would ask for an edit or two, I would ask for some money and we would go back and forth on how much the drawing was worth and how much more editing I would need to do on the art.
The hassle was my fault but I didn’t know better. I didn’t know that some people like to talk about what they want, but are not prepared to pay. I didn’t know that even if people would pay, they didn’t want to pay the price I was asking. I didn’t know that the presentation of my work gave people the impression that I was just drawing for fun and not for profit. I didn’t know that I was holding myself back by not discussing a price and a deposit with people before I started drawing.
Those were some of the lessons early in my career. Today I understand the importance of Presentation, Negotiation and Sales. As an artist who earns a living with my Art, getting paid for my work is VERY IMPORTANT!
But I didn’t know. Now I know.
In my day-to-day art business as a Mentor, Professional Artist and Potential Client (because I do hire other professional artists and designers when my workload is heavy) I come across artists of all levels.
Every now and then a person who claims to be a professional hands me a business card and their card is not professional looking. Every now and then young artists want me to hire them to help me in my business, so I ask to see their portfolio but they give excuses on why they don’t have one to show me. Or that artist hands me a stack of old drawings they drew back in high school.
A potential client will judge the artist not just by their portfolio, but also by the presentation of their portfolio.
There are a couple of types of portfolios and whichever type you wish to show potential clients, the basics of Presentation remain the same. I will share some insight into what makes your portfolio presentable and Professional Presentation
Purpose of Portfolio
When setting up your portfolio, consider who is going to see your portfolio and what you want that person to think about you and your art.
A portfolio’s content should be different if its used for a job interview, school application, art grant or gallery representation.
I have a different portfolio for different situations. I have a portfolio for my Fine Art that I use when I’m painting live at an event. I have a web design portfolio when I’m at a meeting with a potential web design client. I also have a children friendly portfolio when I presenting and speaking in schools, libraries and community events.
Questions to ask yourself: What does the viewer need to see? What is the purpose of your portfolio?
Show off Skills and Range
The best projects show off the best of your skills and the type of work you can produce. Shine. Show off your freshest art.
Focus on showing off your finished work. It’s important to show quality, consistency and commitment in your portfolio. No half done art.
Its ok if the portfolio is filled with sketches, if that’s your area of expertise or the area you want to break into.
Digital or Physical Portfolio
CD, Website, Portfolio Book or Mobile Device. This separates the pros from the amateurs. If you need to leave a copy of your portfolio then a printed copy is good to bring. CD portfolios are rarely used and only when requested are they needed. I apply to lots of art exhibits and calls for art, sometimes they ask that you send them a Disc.
A website or Blog. This is the easiest, painless method to build a portfolio at a low cost. DeviantArt.com, Society6.com, RedBubble.com, even Facebook allows you to set up a business/fan page for your art. A lot of online resources for artsts are free. Find the site that fits your style of art.
I’ve had an iPad, an Android Tablet and now a Windows Tablet. I do not leave the house without one or the other. Guess whats in each one of those devices, you guessed right! My portfolio. I have not changed, I still brag about my skills and I am prepared to take on a job at a moments notice. That’s the business!
It is important to present a professional, clean, and easy to understand portfolio. The method of presentation has to show that you care about your art, you care about your career and that you are doing all you can to impress others.
I hope this little bit gives you some inspiration to start preparing your portfolio in a professional manner. The hardest sell an artist has to make with a potential client is Value. If you presentation is unorganized, uninspiring and confusing, then you cant sell your client on the Value of your work.
Learn your prices, have a smile on your face, learn to write proposals, contracts, estimates. These are part of your business. A Professional Portfolio opens the door; the prepared art professional closes the deal.
Additional Portfolio Resources and Advice
Do you have an art business subject you would like DTM to discuss? Please send in your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and stay tuned for your subject to be discussed in this column, podcast or video interview with a professional artist.
Till the next drawing!
Daniel Flores - Curator/Mentor
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