(part 3) 10 Ways to Play Full Out at Being a Professional Artist

Play Full Out - Professional Artist - Part 3This article is a series of 4. Hope you’ll catch the first two installments.
Series 1 | Series 2

What’s your level of play? Play you say.

Well yes. Art is work, but it’s play too. It’s time that we are expressing our soul’s work. Yet it’s business. It’s sales. It’s being the CEO of your own company….and it’s fun!

I’ve rounded up a bird’s eye view of what it looks like to play fully as a professional artist in 10 key ways. It’s a journey and it’s not a get rich scheme, but I’m here to support you in your dream. Because the world needs great art, great work, and beautiful things!

10 Ways to Play Full Out at Being a Professional Artist

Part 3 in a Series of 4

Series 1 and Series 2

Many of us walk that line between being a hobbyist (nothing wrong with this by the way) and doing it professionally. What’s the difference? What would it take you to have you play a bigger game.

Owning it! Living it! Taking Action!

It doesn’t have to be a big scary ordeal to own your own business. I’ve done 4 businesses in 17 years that have all been successful. I’m not unusual. You can do it too.

It takes an understanding of how to set up a foundation that can support your dream, putting in place the knowledge and help to do the things that aren’t your strengths, and implementation of strategies and tactics to establish your identity, experience, brand, and art in a way that garners a profit (unless you are a non-profit organization – your profit benefits a charity).

5) Know Your Ideal Client

Who is your ideal client? It’s not every woman between the ages of 20 and 65 or frankly, that can fog a mirror.

Anthropologie carries jewelry but they would not define their ideal customers this way. Neither would Claires or Black & White Market.

Your ideal client is also not every woman who wears jewelry or every house that has room for a vase or painting.

Knowing who your ideal client or P.A.L. is essential to engaging their interest, showing them the gap that they “need” your product or service, granting their permission to sell to you by gaining their know, trust and like factor and then closing the sale to provide the transformation promised (you’ll make them beautiful, fashionable and feeling great).

So who is that? He or she is:

  • P.erfect fit for your work and seeks out your product and services proactively
  • A.mazing to work with, easy, and meets you in a place of partnership.
  • L.oyal collector or buyer that loves to be your connector, sneezer, salesman, maven or early adopter, spreading the news about you and your work to everyone they know.

How will you find out who they are? Research, observation, study and testing. There is an entire process you can take to discover where they shop, what they prefer, how much they will spend,etc. It’s market research.

Small businesses are no different than large businesses. As a small business, you can’t just create a product, slap a price on it that you pull out of the air (guessing on all the details included in pricing) based on what you think it’s worth. You don’t then want to put it up for sale and hope someone buys it. This is the fastest way to have a closet full of finished product and an empty bank account.

The more precisely you can identify your P.A.L or ideal client the sooner you can strategize about the price, the place to sell, the strategy and tactics for marketing.

6) Set a Price That is Brand Ideal

I’m always a little shocked when I see prices for art. I’m always wondering how in the heck they came up with that number. Did they just pick it out of a hat and hope that it sells?

How many artists can tell me what their profit is in each piece? Did they even include a profit? 

I can’t tell you how many articles I have read in national magazines and on blogs that give one formula (which I don’t recommend):

time + materials = cost x 2 = wholesale price x 2 = retail price

Where is the overhead?

Where is the profit? Yes, you need to have profit in your business!

Well you might say that by doubling the (T+M) portion or “cost” accounts for my profit and my overhead. Really? How do you know this? Do you know what your overhead actually is and what profit you need to be able to grow your business?

Or do you wing it hoping that at the end of the month or end of the year that you made money. Or year after year are you either in the red or breaking even?

The other slippery slope with pricing is that it doesn’t take into account pricing your ideal client. You may end up asking yourself when you are done pricing, what will the market bear.

If you are too high for your ideal client you may want to find a way to use less expensive materials, buy tools that allow you to work faster (labor is our biggest cost), or find some way to be more productive (sub out portions of the work that don’t require your higher labor costs).

Lastly, just remember that pricing is part psychological. If you say the price is $50 for a pair of earrings, yet similar earrings (materials, design, and technique) are $150 then what kind of message are you sending clients? What kind of clients will you attract? Are they ideal?

I would really love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment and let’s connect!

Join me August 7th for part 4 of this series!

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2 Responses to (part 3) 10 Ways to Play Full Out at Being a Professional Artist

  1. Tonya,

    You are so right. I am a CPA as well as a jewelry designer, and I am frequently stunned when I see the price on some of my friends' jewelry. Yes, you need to consider the market, but what is the point of making a sale if you aren't making any money? Sometimes they are even losing money – and I don't need to be a CPA to see that!

  2. Tonya, as always, you are so right. There is a fine line between too cheap and too expensive. I designed and fabricated a beautiful fine silver/precious stone necklace, put a price on it, and proceeded to try to sell it at art shows. People admired it, but did not purchase it. After a couple of shows a fellow artist told me the price was too low. So I doubled the price and sold it that day. Wow, what an eye opener for me. I guess I had been selling myself short for too long.

    Another part of pricing is replacement costs. How much will it cost you to purchase materials to make the piece again?

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