Someone in an art group I'm in asked for some advice on being an artist. There was an outpouring of support and what he took away from it was basically he would have to work "like an unpaid SLAVE". He was rather unhappy about this concept. My response? Yes. Yes you do. At first.
You have to wear MANY hats as an artist, and more so as one who wants to go in business for yourself, and you change those hats several times a day...sometimes in an hour. You work longer days then you ever thought you would, putting in 12-16 hrs doing everything from marketing, networking, website work, blogging, book work, bills, taxes, research, product creation, attending art shows and sometimes even artwork. I have missed dinners with friends, weddings, holidays, birthdays, and any other kind of social event you can think of. I have lost friends over my business because they didn't understand the amount of work it takes. I have driven 12 hrs to get to a show after only 4 hrs of sleep, because the printer broke down the night before. I have filled taxes almost a year late because I simply forgot about them, and once or twice because I needed the money so badly. I have lived on ramen to pay for the next show, and even driven to a show hoping to at least make gas money to get home. I have sat at a painting for 8 hours straight, and that was after I finished my day job. These are the things it takes to go into business for yourself.
At first its slow. You don't know any thing about ANY of this stuff. Dont know how to build a website, or design business cards, or market yourself. The first few shows I did I never said a word, didn't have business cards, and my setup was just about non existent. It was a 10ftx10ft at a renaissance fair. I had a tent and 9 hanging panels with one piece of artwork per panel. I was too shy and quiet to talk to people, even if they walked into my booth and liked my artwork. My website was HORRIBLE, with no rhyme or reason and bad quality photos (granted, 10 years ago was nothing like what it is now as far as online and digital stuff goes) When I finally did get business cards, they were hand cut...badly, and I used so much black ink that they stuck together. My prints were shrink wrapped and mounted on foam core that was never cut straight and many times I didn't have bags for people to leave my booth with.
And the artwork? It was ok...but that's it. There were seeds of what I would eventually do (and hope to do more of and better), but on a technical scale, I really had no clue what I was doing. I was one of the best artists out of "all my friends", and was supported 100% by many of them, but when I compared myself to where I wanted to go, and who I wanted to be like it wasn't pretty. Unfortunatly at the time I was young and petty and could'nt see that (It would take another 10 years for me to realize that I needed to work harder on my art technique, but that is another blog). I worked in markers and tried to market it as fine art, but the marker fades over the course of days if not kept out of the light, so many paintings are unsellable today. Luckily, I didn't sell too many originals (sorry to those who own originals, if you need something touched up, let me know!).
Over the past 10+ years I have worked my tail off. Practicing, studying, working, pushing. I don't take much time for myself, because I'm not THERE yet. I spend hours researching marketing. I sit thought numerous webinars on how to use facebook, pintierest, and website design. I have spent thousands of dollars on art books, and rejected hundreds of paintings. I have sketchbooks filled to the brim of artwork that will never see the light of day. I have left a trail miles long of business cards and fliers for my work, each evolving a little bit with new technology and new designs. There were days (weeks) when I wanted to stop. Just go back to being a Hobby artist. And there is nothing wrong with hobby artists AT ALL, its just not what I want in my life. More failures then I know what to do with. More money wasted on silly projects and products that tanked then I'd ever like to admit too. All for the next step forward. That hope that someone new will see and buy my artwork.
I worked SO hard for my first show (and every moment since). Pouring EVERYTHING I had. Money wise, work wise, and emotionally wise. I didn't even break even, but it was the best $350 that I ever brought in, and I was hooked. Now Im doing fairly well. I have a LONG way to go, and still have the day job, but every day is closer to my goal. To work as a PAID slave. There is nothing else I would rather do!