Ever since I was a wee little artist I read all the “agony auntie” columns in newspapers and fashion magazines. I was fascinated by Dear Abby, Ann Landers and the ones in Seventeen magazine (should I break up with Brad before the prom or after???) got me through junior high and high school. And if I had an alternative career, this would be it!
And just so you know, I’ve written these first questions myself, based on common questions and concerns I hear from my coaching clients, but if you have a question, feel free to shoot me an email here.
Dear Auntie Ronnie,
I’ve been trying to make a living as an artist for a while now and I can’t seem to get any traction—heck, I can’t even get anyone to answer to my emails! What am I doing wrong and is there any chance I can “make it”?
Talented and Ignored
Dear T and I,
Hey, I hear ya, sister! First, I can’t tell you whether you can “make it” because
- I haven’t seen your work
- It’s hard to tell sometimes whether the market will respond to a look before it’s out in the market, but that doesn’t help you one bit now does it?
- I don’t know everything. (what?)
But here’s what I can tell you. This all takes time, even in the best of scenarios. Timing of decision making and production cycles are not in your control so you might be contacting the right kind of people but at the wrong time. Hey, that happens.
But I would ask you to be honest with yourself. Are you spending enough time in the efforts needed to get your work in front of the people you want to work with? Meaning; have you identified the categories and sharpened your view on where your work would be most successful? Or are you sending your work only to people that everyone else seems to be sending to or in a random (meaning non-strategic) manner? And are you clear in your messaging of who you are, what you do and why their customer might respond to your work?
Building a client base (either with licensing or any business model you are working in) takes time—like a lot of time. Of course, things can happen faster when you have a body of work that clearly resonates with your market (plus a few lucky breaks) but in general be prepared, for a it can be a longish slog.
I would suggest you put yourself on a schedule of sorts. Add “getting in front of people” at the top of your to-do list, not at the end. Make a commitment to a certain amount of emails per week which includes following up with previous contacts (as they say in sales training “the fortune is in the follow-up”). Looking at the longer view, take advantage of any opportunity to meet with potential clients in person whether that is through workshops, conferences, shows (if that seems right for you), and other networking scenarios.
Consider this kind of a plan. I like to look at my year by quarters. I ask myself, “what do I want to accomplish next quarter”? A quarter is 12 weeks. How many contacts could you make per week x 12? That can be a lot of you do it consistently! At the end of those 12 weeks, you should evaluate the results. What worked and what didn’t? Plan for the next 12 weeks and repeat. By looking at your year in 4 chunks, you can evaluate what happened. And if it’s “not much” then you either need to change your approach, the market you are targeting or maybe even the work you are offering.
But here’s the thing. Maybe your efforts will not work. Bummer, I know. You must get your work in front of people to know if they want it or not. That’s the only way to know. And the answer could be, “thanks, but no”. Then what will you do?
And only you can decide how much time you will spend on building this business before you decide to either pivot your attention to another market or method or go in a complete other direction using other brilliant talents in your bag of tricks. I do not subscribe to the “if you dream it you can do it” philosophy. I’m more in the “if you dream it, you can see if it will work and then you have to figure out something else if it doesn’t” camp which admittedly is not very Pinterest friendly.
But I know how that feels and sometimes it’s not us at all. But by being honest with ourselves and how we are really spending our time, sticking to a plan or strategy long enough to see results and then evaluating those results, we can see a clearer path for say, the next upcoming quarter.
And I wish you all the best!