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How Do Artists Build Their Art Business With No Money

How An Artist Starts From Nothing

Many artists are starting out trying to make it quite young today.  So how does an artist build an art business from nothing with no money?

In the end it does not matter if you are young, old, underprivileged, or have all the privileges of life, we all start somewhere.

I will break down the fundamentals showing you how to start as an artist who has nothing.

The Local Art Market Is Where Artists Thrive

Forget being noticed or landing an art gallery.  Get on your feet and get out there.  Know how to use good public relations and develop this skill early.

The best part about this tactic for an artist is that it costs nothing.  The end goal is for people to simply see your work.


In doing this you need to develop some thick skin, but listen to people.  If by chance your art is not good enough then improve.

Locally owned stores will be your best friend.  If they display your work, have a copy of your art portfolio at the location so people can see you.

Make sure they can access your contact information.  Be accessible as an artist, not elitist.

Coffee shops, restaurants, book stores, home decor shops, are just a few kinds of places where an artist can fit in with ease.  Leverage these to your advantage.

When you approach the owner or manager be real.  Be simple.  Be honest.  Be yourself, and it will get you further than pretending to be something your not.

How To Start Creating Income As An Artist

If you land a few locations in town to show your art remain in contact with the people there.  Be of help to them in small ways and maintain that relationship.

What you are looking for are referrals.  No one may buy your art initially.  Nevertheless you can provide services for people.

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When the public sees what you can offer there may be a way to do murals, create art on store windows, or graphic design for their ads.  Think out of the box.

Typically income is generated by solving problems that people have.  An artist is all about making things look better and hopefully making someone say wow.

Create ways to be useful to the contacts you have, their vendors, or other associates.  This is getting your name in front of people and generating income.

The more problems you can solve for others the better off you will be as an artist.  You are not known well enough yet to worry about “your” artwork selling just yet.  That will come in time.

Stay In The Grind As An Artist

The reasons why most artists fail can be many, yet ultimately quitting comes from giving up on themselves.  Too few realize just how difficult an art business can be and take this blow personally.

It has a lot less to do with the specific artist and far more to do with how difficult the world is.  Stay in the grind, continue your education with online art courses and push forward.

If your feet are not on the pavement making friends, building reputation, solving problems, and giving real depth to relationships, then you are going nowhere.

What about your social media account?  People pay more attention to a fast food menu than they do your social timeline.  Stay in the real world grind for now.

Online avenues you own will come later. Leveraging third party art websites can give an advantage to starting your online recognition. Just be sure to build a strategy in order do this.

How Artists Build Their Art Business Through Collaboration And Cooperatives

If you see other artists as competition then you are in trouble.  You need to understand that no one has ever gotten anywhere meaningful alone.

Independent artists can compete with big corporate entities, but they need to work together individually.  How does this play out in the real world?

It is easier to convince a shop owner to host a gallery event at their business if multiple artists are involved.  You gain their promotion capacity including your collaborative efforts.

It is also easier to network into new locations by association with other artists due to their personal network.  We work together in order to gain volume of exposure not fight over individual clients.

Larger commercial projects can be taken on like murals when working together rather than alone.  Efficiency of time matters just as the quality of the art and its location in a city.

Elements such as these are very basic business principles that artists should know and use.  It is far more difficult to tackle the world by yourself when you could be more efficient as a team of artists.

When Will You Sell Your Art?

First know the best places to sell your art.  You will discover that locally it is the same locations you began early on just getting your name out there.

When local people begin to recognize you for what you do something odd happens.  You may have sold a few pieces here and there up to this point, but by knowing who you are they will want your artwork.

At some point in this process name recognition will begin to kick in.  The personality and character you have displayed will matter.  They will now appreciate your work rather than thinking it’s just pretty.

Selling your art becomes a natural evolution of marketing who you are rather than what you do.  This is actually true in how it applies to any business strategy.

What Is The Next Step Artists Building Their Art Business?

If you have come this far in your progress you can really consider having a real online art marketing strategy.  Do you need an online art gallery?  Yes!

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What platform should artists use online?  Choosing your art platform is very critical and it needs to be way beyond social media.

Do artists need social media?  Yes and no.  We need it as a tool, not as our main thrust of our marketing campaign.  There are dangers in social media to avoid and is often best used as a communication tool.

Few artists ever succeed at being strictly online.  Typically, an online art business for the artist is an extension of their real world platform.

It becomes like a virtual office as so to speak as well as a gallery where clients can purchase at any time.  Reaching the masses via search is a whole other strategy entirely.

How Long Should It Take For Artists To Generate Revenue?

If you are using your local market properly with your feet on the ground you should generate revenue fairly early.  That is if you are out there every single day.

Revenue does not mean making money.  Revenue at the very least means covering the core overhead and creating momentum.

You will reinvest a lot if not all of the revenue back into what you are doing early on.

What Artists Often Fail To Understand Within The Art Business

It can take several years for you to really get your feet under you.  An art business is not built quickly and you will face a lot of headwind.

Get used to the word no, you will hear it a lot.  Most importantly do not take failure personally as it is merely a single event in time.

When you start from nothing you have little value to add to someone’s life.  It is square one, a starting point.  Getting off that block is the most difficult challenge.

Building momentum into your art business is the next most difficult step.  What is momentum?  It is consistency of clients or commissions for your artistic skills.

These two steps alone can take a couple of years to build.  This is why the artistic life is not for everyone and marketing as an independent artist will never be easy.

Should You Use Art Galleries To Build Your Art Business?

If you can use a physical art gallery to build your business then yes, absolutely do so.  That is, as long as you do not have to surrender too many rights.

Pay attention to the rules of the gallery and contracts.  There are some situations that one should avoid especially if you are seeking to be independent.

Egalleries are another beast entirely.  I have mixed views of this concept depending upon the kind of gallery it is.

To give two examples, a vetted institutional egallery would fall under the same criteria for a physical gallery.  What are their rules for matters such as an art return policy?

The more general forum style egallery, or an etsy style gallery, I would personally not be involved in them.  I prefer that my work never be associated with “fast food” style mentality.

These are merely my opinions and what you decide to do based upon your life and situation can be completely different.  There are strategies for these places that can be used to your benefit.

How Does This Process Help Artists Start Their Art Business?

It is likely that you will be starting with next to nothing.  You will have little to no money to invest and also likely lack in tools to achieve where you wish to go.

Getting your name out to people who are succeeding at their endeavors like shops in town is critical.  They can sympathize with where you presently are.

Generating revenue by doing other things in art for people by solving their problems is by necessity.  First it creates income, secondly it develops reputation, your skills, and range of art.

You become a better artist by the process itself.  You also become better at representing yourself, your art, and your art business.

When revenue is generated you no longer have nothing.  The artist begins to reinvest into themselves to reach the next step.  Momentum is built.

At this point you are running your business but ultimately the process is only as good as your character.  If you lack in character, then this first must be solved.