Unlocking Your Artistic Entrepreneurial Potential: Exploring Creative Careers in the Art World

Jan 24, 2024

Imagine a world where your artistic talent and business acumen combine to create a sustainable and fulfilling art career. Envision yourself as an entrepreneur in art, navigating the ever-changing art market, and seizing opportunities to showcase your work while growing your business.

This blog post will explore the exciting realm of artist entrepreneurship and provide you with the tools, strategies, and resources needed to unlock your potential and thrive in the art world. We'll also highlight:

  • What an art entrepreneur is, and the characteristics and skills required to succeed as an artist entrepreneur.

  • The role of art and entrepreneurship in the art market.

  • Eight careers perfectly suited for entrepreneurial artists.

  • How to overcome challenges common in art entrepreneurship.

We'll also introduce you to three real-life artists just like you who successfully overcame these challenges to turn their passion for art into the thriving profession they enjoy today.

What is an art entrepreneur?

A portrait of artist entrepreneur Dimitra Milan working on their artistic projects

Artist entrepreneurs merge their artistic talents with business savvy to forge and maintain a fruitful career in the art world. Entrepreneurship for artists requires hard work, courageous risk-taking, and a relentless dedication to creating valuable opportunities for themselves and others.

Arts entrepreneurship allows artists to monetize their creativity, skills, and knowledge. That said, a career in the arts comes with risks, and successful art entrepreneurs are committed to persevering and overcoming those challenges.

Qualities of a Successful Art Entrepreneur

Successful artist entrepreneurs demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Artistry, creativity, and resourcefulness

  • Tenacity and resilience

  • Strong communication skills and networking abilities

  • Critical thinking (or problem-solving) skills

  • Ability to plan and strategize

  • Leadership and teamwork

These qualities help the professional artist navigate the art world and achieve their business goals.

Building strong relationships is particularly important for an artist entrepreneur as it helps them build connections within the industry and manage the commercial aspect of the art world. A valuable effect of these relationships is the sense of community and support they provide.

The advantages of arts entrepreneurship include the ability to generate income (for yourself and others) from creative activities, and the possibility of positively impacting society and even changing the world.

The Role of Arts Entrepreneurs in the Art Market

A group of arts entrepreneurs discussing the art market. Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

Artist entrepreneurs play a crucial role in the art market by creating opportunities, nurturing innovation, and contributing to the economy. With their combined artistic skill and business insight, artist entrepreneurs contribute to the expansion and advancement of the art industry.

Arts entrepreneurship creates opportunities by developing jobs, fostering collaborations between artists and patrons, supporting other businesses, and introducing novel ideas and approaches to the art industry. They contribute to economic growth and provide a platform for other art businesses to prosper.

An artist entrepreneur can also drive innovation and promote progress in the art industry by introducing fresh concepts, approaches, and technologies to the art world.

Strategies for Success in Arts Entrepreneurship

Elli Milan working on her artistic projects and business skills

Achieve success in arts entrepreneurship by implementing marketing and sales strategies, safeguarding intellectual property, and diversifying income sources.

Artist entrepreneurs benefit from skills such as digital marketing, branding, financial management, planning and time management, contract negotiation, project management, and an understanding of legal, intellectual property, and copyright considerations.

Market Your Art

Marketing your art requires establishing a personal brand, utilizing social media platforms, and developing connections within the art community.

An artist’s website should feature high-resolution images and descriptions of their work, an artist statement, and a regularly updated blog or newsletter.

Strategies to maximize the effectiveness of social media include creating content, engaging with followers, and using targeted advertising.

Construct a network in the art world by attending art shows, joining art associations, and connecting with other artists.

Protect Intellectual Property

Intellectual property refers to creations of the mind, such as artistic works, designs, symbols, and images used in commerce. Preserving intellectual property guarantees that artists can manage their creations and their worth. The most effective methods for safeguarding intellectual property include patents, copyrights, and trademarks.

Diversify Income Streams

Artist Elli Milan is a master at diversifying income streams. In addition to selling her art, she co-founded Milan Art Institute, where she teaches and mentors aspiring artists. She's also a blogger, author, podcast host, expert art judge on a reality show, and more. If there's an effective and fulfilling way to combine art and business, Elli will find it!

Multiple sources of income can provide stability and financial sustainability within an artistic career. An artist entrepreneur may wish to consider a variety of career paths to diversify their income streams. Do this by exploring various art professions.

8 Art Careers for the Artistic Entrepreneur

The studio of an entrepreneurial artist. Photo by Khara Woods on Unsplash

These eight careers offer opportunities to use art to create a sustainable business and a fulfilling career in the art world.

Professional Artists

Artist Dafni Milan

A professional artist is an individual who creates artwork as their primary source of income. The professional art field consists of various specialties, each with its own unique art practice. Popular specialties include:

  • painting

  • sculpting

  • weaving

  • pottery

  • knitting

  • drawing

Art professionals typically generate income by selling their own works of art or through commissioned pieces. However, artists can successfully sustain themselves solely by selling their own works in other ways. Many opt to supplement their income with other related activities.

Art Curators

A spectator viewing an art collection arranged by an art curator. Photo by Pauline Loroy on Unsplash

An art curator’s role involves selecting, arranging, and presenting art to craft significant experiences for spectators. Art curators can work in various settings, including museums, galleries, cultural institutions, and even as independent curators.

Art curators are instrumental in shaping the cultural and educational impact of art on society, helping to tell the story of artists and their works in a meaningful way.

To succeed in this role, it's important to have a thorough understanding of art history and the ability to analyze and interpret various art forms. A master’s degree in art history, history, archaeology, or museum studies is typically required to become an art curator. However, some small museums may offer curator positions to applicants with a bachelor’s degree.

Art Gallery Owners

An art gallery. Photo by Dannie Jing on Unsplash

An art gallery owner plays a crucial role in the art world, serving as a bridge between artists and the public, facilitating the sale of art, and contributing to the cultural enrichment of their communities. The responsibilities of an art gallery owner typically include curating exhibitions, acquiring artwork, sales and client relations, and more. The specific tasks and priorities can vary depending on the gallery's size, focus, and location.

Art Dealers

A painting above a living room couch, sold by an art dealer to a contemporary art gallery for interior design. Photo by Kenny Eliason on Unsplash

An art dealer facilitates the sale and distribution of artwork, acting as an intermediary between artists and buyers. Their job may entail:

  • Collaborating with artists, collectors, galleries, and other sources to acquire artwork

  • Art market research

  • Representing specific artists and helping them build their careers

  • Valuation and pricing

  • Negotiation and sales

  • Coordinating art transportation and installation

Becoming an art dealer requires obtaining a pertinent education, acquiring art knowledge, and choosing a specialty. Generally, having a bachelor’s degree in fine art or art history is advantageous. Sales skills are another valuable asset for this job.

Art dealers can work independently, run their own galleries, or be associated with established galleries or art businesses. Their specific responsibilities may vary depending on their focus and specialization within the art market, such as contemporary art, vintage art, or specific art movements.

Art Licensing

Stationery created using designs produced through art licensing. Photo by Alessandra Espinoza on Unsplash

Art licensing involves granting permission to use artwork on various products, including clothing, home decor, and stationery. The process of art licensing involves locating a suitable company to license your artwork, negotiating a contract, and subsequently receiving royalties for the use of your artwork.

When engaging in art licensing, one may face challenges such as identifying a suitable company, negotiating an agreement, and addressing copyright matters.

The advantages of art licensing include heightened visibility for your artwork, supplementary or passive income, and the capacity to reach a broader audience.

E-Commerce Artists

An e-commerce site for artists—ArtSocial Gallery

An art e-commerce entrepreneur is an individual who specializes in selling art online, leveraging the internet and digital technology to reach a global audience and facilitate the sale of their creations.

This career typically involves:

  • Online sales on platforms like an artist website, social media, or an e-commerce marketplace

  • Digital art, such as illustrations, graphic design, or digital painting

  • Print-on-demand

  • Niche products like T-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and other items featuring their artwork

Selling art online affords entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand their customer base by connecting with art enthusiasts and buyers without the limitations of traditional brick-and-mortar galleries. E-commerce provides a way to decrease operational expenses while maximizing their earnings.

Art Consultant

An art collection acquired by an art consultant. Photo by Zalfa Imani on Unsplash

An art consultant offers professional counsel and direction to clients who purchase, display, or manage art collections. Art consultants act as intermediaries between clients and the art world, helping them navigate the art market's complex and often subjective aspects.

Key responsibilities and services provided by art consultants include:

  • Art selection, sourcing, and acquisition

  • Art appraisal and valuation

  • Art conservation and restoration

  • Art insurance and estate planning

Art consultants typically have a deep knowledge of art history, art market dynamics, and an extensive network of contacts in the art world. They work closely with clients to understand their objectives and preferences and provide personalized advice and solutions to meet their art-related needs. Art consultants can cater to individual art enthusiasts, corporate clients, interior designers, and institutions, making their services invaluable for those navigating the art market.

Art Teachers and Mentors

Art mentor John Milan teaching a budding artist

An art teacher or mentor guides and instructs others in creating, appreciating, and understanding art.

An art educator may:

  • Teach for both local schools and digital education platforms

  • Develop and share their own training material, including books, blogs, vlogs, and online courses

  • Dedicate themselves to helping others discover their potential and excel in their endeavors

An art teacher typically educates groups of students, while an art mentor provides their mentees individualized guidance and personal support. Both art teachers and mentors nurture creativity and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of art.

These careers offer opportunities to combine creativity and business acumen to create a sustainable and fulfilling career in the art world.

Resources for Aspiring Artist Entrepreneurs

A person researching art business online. Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Artists aspiring to become entrepreneurs can access various resources that provide valuable information on the business side, including practices, tips, and advice to aid in developing their careers.

Educational Programs

Educational programs for artists include courses, workshops, and other learning opportunities. However, few art education programs include instruction on how to become a professional artist. The Mastery Program is unique in this aspect. With instructors who are "obsessed with making a living with art," this one-year program equips artists for arts entrepreneurship, including the necessary skills and knowledge to thrive in the art world by selling their art.

Online Platforms

DeviantArt, Canva, and the Milan Art Community are examples of online platforms that can aid aspiring artist entrepreneurs in showcasing their work, connecting with other artists, and expanding their reach.

Online Courses and Workshops

Milan Art Institute provides a variety of online courses and workshops to support aspiring artist entrepreneurs, including the Mastery Program, which provides business resources, tips, and advice to assist artists in developing their careers. Online courses and workshops cover various topics related to arts entrepreneurship.

A popular free online workshop from ArtSocial is How to Create Art That Sells with Elli Milan.

Books and Podcasts for Artistic Entrepreneurs

A book by Elli Milan telling the story of her own arts entrepreneurship

Books and podcasts for artistic entrepreneurs provide insight into topics such as creative business strategies, marketing, and intellectual property protection. Top recommended resources for artistic entrepreneurs include Unemployable by Elli Milan and The Light Movement podcast.

Five more essential books for artists include:

  • War of Art by Steven Pressfield

  • Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield

  • Mastery by Robert Greene

  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Dr. Betty Edwards

  • Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

For books about business and leadership to impact and motivate entrepreneurial artists, check out:

  • The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwarts, Ph.D.

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey

  • 101 Wisdom Keys by Mike Murdock

  • Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

Art Associations and Networking Events

Numerous art associations and networking events (in-person and online) are available for art entrepreneurs to connect with and gain insight from experienced professionals. The Milan Art Institute hosts regular art shows and networking events. One such event—Milan Art Experience—allows artists and Mastery Program graduates the opportunity to be in an art show, connect with other artists, and build community.

Overcoming Challenges in Arts Entrepreneurship

An artist balancing artistic integrity with commercial viability

As with any entrepreneurship, arts entrepreneurship comes with challenges. An artist-entrepreneur may face rejection and criticism, struggle with the financial side of their art business, or battle to maintain artistic integrity while considering commercial viability. Challenges like these can be overcome through perseverance, hard work, and strategy.

Navigating the Financial Aspect of an Art Business

Naturally, artists enjoy the creative production side of their business, but the financial aspect is unavoidable. For an artist entrepreneur to succeed, money management is paramount.

Entrepreneurs must develop a business plan, including a budget, financial projections, and consistent pricing strategies when starting an art business.

Balancing Artistic Integrity and Commercial Viability

Arts entrepreneurs can leverage various strategies to reconcile artistic integrity and commercial viability. Gaining knowledge of the market and awareness of current trends can be beneficial to create work that resonates with their target audience or ideal collector.

Artists must focus on creating high-quality work that reflects their artistic vision. This will create a unique and distinctive style that will stand out from the rest.

Dealing with Rejection and Criticism

Dealing with rejection and criticism can be challenging, but staying resilient and focused on your goals is essential. Strategies for managing rejection and criticism may include engaging in self-care, practicing positive self-talk, and seeking support from loved ones.

Success Stories of Real Artists Who Became Entrepreneurs

Here are a few artists who successfully overcame challenges and turned a passion for art into a profession. Their stories showcase the resilience, creativity, and determination required to thrive in the art world.

Tanya Aubut

Tanya Aubut overcame challenges to become a successful art entrepreneur

Before Tanya Aubut became a full-time mixed media artist and art mentor, she worked 40 hours a week at a grocery store. "I knew I could do more," she remembers. With the support of her boyfriend and the security of her savings account, she joined the Mastery Program and quit her job to pursue her art career.

"The money really stressed me at first," Tanya admits. When her sales declined, she panicked and thought she had to find a new job immediately. "I was really caught up in the fear of not having enough money to eat or buy new art supplies." After a candid conversation with her boyfriend, she realized her fears were unfounded because she was already living her dream, spending her days creating art.

With renewed determination, Tanya vigilantly ignored negativity and invested time listening to uplifting podcasts for entrepreneurs to keep herself inspired and encouraged through the struggles and phases of success.

Tanya advises artists interested in entrepreneurship: "Art is not something that will make you successful overnight. You need to show up, do the work, and put your heart into it—every day. If somebody says 'no', then try again. Don't quit! It's not a race; it's your unique journey, and there's no rush. You don't have to do it exactly like everybody else. Just be yourself, be true and generous, and you'll achieve success!"

Rita Vicari

Professional artist Rita Vicari

Rita Vicari is a professional art mentor and mixed media artist specializing in vibrant female portraits, animals, and nature. She began her career as an artist in a foreign country where she didn't speak the language. "I felt very isolated and had few opportunities to connect with anybody," Rita recalls. Social media saved the day, enabling Rita to engage with people worldwide.

After moving to a different foreign country, Rita immersed herself in the local art scene, broadening her art skills, and participating in local art shows, fairs, and festivals. Her involvement cultivated the community she craved and led to collectors for her art and invites for other projects.

"Perseverance is the only way to succeed," insists Rita. "I was often discouraged, but I kept working, finding new ways to grow, and creating opportunities. An artist must learn to promote themselves, and that starts with believing in yourself and your art—it's the only way to thrive in this work. And enjoy the journey, because a career in art doesn't have a final destination. You evolve, and your art evolves; if you lose the joy of the artistic adventure, you'll burn out and quit. So stop along the climb up the mountain and enjoy the view!"

Heylie Morris

Heylie Morris, artist and gallery owner

After selling her art through a growing social media network, Heylie Morris landed a large licensing opportunity with a worldwide company and opened her own gallery before completing her portfolio through the Milan Art Institute.

Today, Heylie is embraced by her community, but she faced a lot of rejection before reaching this point in her career. "I knew that persistence is key, and as I continued to paint, I discovered that you must try many avenues to find the ones that will work for you," she says.

Heylie recommends doing your research to find successful artists and learn from what they're doing. What makes them successful, and what can you incorporate into your own practice?

"Trust yourself and the work you're producing," Heylie encourages. "Don't sit still. Keep evolving and challenging yourself. Be open to new ideas and working with other people you can trust." Through actively listening to critical and honest feedback about her work, Heylie learned to create collections that companies want. This opened doors for her to expand her art business and fostered relationships with others who cheer her on.

Successful Arts Entrepreneurship

Arts entrepreneurship presents a unique opportunity to combine your artistic passion with business so you can make a living by creating art. The key to unlocking your artistic entrepreneurial potential lies within you.

Are you inspired? Tap into your artistic potential and achieve enduring success as an entrepreneur in the art world. Follow the path taken by successful professional artists like Tanya Aubut, Rita Vicari, and Heylie Morris. Launch your art career today with the Mastery Program.

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