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Studio Rules


Years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that her family, who are all artists, have family studio rules. I thought this was a good idea to implement for myself and I’m sharing in case you find them helpful as well.

Here are my basic rules. Let me know what additional rules you may have below.

1. No work is started without a signed contract. Even if they are a friend, and I know them well.

2. 50% deposit is required at beginning of work, even if they are a friend and I know them. (Yes even good friends can be flakey.)

3. Contract states exactly what is expected for the piece, and any big changes create a change order (and additional money).

4. Anyone who wastes my time with phantom shows/events that fall through at the last minute does not get a second chance.

5. All work left anywhere has at minimum a consignment sheet, with agreed to price, inventory number if applicable, and sales fees stated, signed by the owner before the artwork is left.

6. Collect sales tax on all in-state purchases. Because not collecting tax equates to giving someone an additional 9% discount, as I then have to pay the sales tax myself. (Some artists simply factor this into their pricing. I however find it a little messy to try and back out the tax after a sale, and prefer to simply add that onto the sale at the end.)

I have found that besides saving me a lot of headaches and frustration, having studio rules is an easy way to make things less personal. By that I mean, if you tell someone No, they can get upset. But when you let them No, you have a set of basic business rules, that apply to all clients, there is less chance for a client or potential client to take this personally.

What are some of your studio rules? I’d love to hear from you below. Thanks!


The Value Of A Signed Contract For Artists

A few days ago my manager went to pick up art from a hotel who had called to say that after a few months, nothing had sold. When he went to pick up the art, he discovered that 1/4 of my work had actually sold. Which, given the limited amount of time my work had been hanging in the hotel during the off season, was in line with other spaces my work was selling at in the same area.

The hotel manager tried to argue with my manager and insisted that all that work had been stolen. And was trying to not pay for any of it. Even though the art was in a restricted area that was not easily accessible to non employees. If I had not made sure to give my manager the paperwork from when he dropped the work off, that clearly stated the name of the hotel, the manager’s signature, and a detailed list of the work and the commission I would not have gotten paid.

My advice to everyone is, next time before you drop off work anywhere, make sure you have in writing a detailed list of what you are dropping off, how much it costs and what you expect to get back. This takes maybe 1/2 an hour of time, but is so worth the extra effort should something go wrong. I also generally have a legal contract associated with my work. But for smaller, non original limited edition work I sometimes decide to not scare people off with a legal contract as well. (Which is a risk I weigh individually.)

Because I’m not an attorney, I ordered a legal documents book for artists I found at my local book store called The Visual Artist’s Business and Legal Guide by Gregory T. Victroff. I have since easily modified my documents based on that book. And I will say that in the ten years or so that I have been leaving art somewhere, this is the first time I have had an issue. But I was very glad I had developed this practice when my manager returned with both my art and a check for the sold work. If you don’t have a local art store that caries these types of legal books, you can also order one from Amazon. Here’s a link for the book I use and a few others.

How about you? Have you even been really glad you had a contract?

For more about showing art see An Art Show Is Never just About the Show


Before Setting Goals, Acknowledge Accomplishments

The beginning of the year is always a great time to take stock of the past year and come up with some new goals, or re-emphasis of existing goals. Sometimes this process can feel like a pointless endeavor, because we can become some hung up on feeling that not all goals were accomplished, so why bother.

I have definitely felt this way from time to time. So I wanted to share a technique introduced to me by Jayne Johnson ( in her goal’s
workshop. But which many other leaders and teachers espouse and practice as well.

This is a simple technique. But let me say that the first time I did it, and then read my list allowed to someone else, I cried. I cried because for me, I never really stopped and celebrated the wins along the way. And I was overwhelmed by just how much I had accomplished in the previous year, which up until that point I had not given myself credit for.

This year I did this process with my boyfriend – and we both found it to be very freeing. As we began to feel less beat up about not accomplishing everything that was on our list – and realized we had accomplished quite a bit together and separately to be proud of. And afterward, we were both much more willing and receptive to reviewing and modifying upcoming goals for the year, with a renewed sense of ability to achieve.

So here it is:
Take a few pieces of paper and give yourself 5 minutes to write down everything you have accomplished in the past 12 months. Then, when you are done, share that list with a friend – read it out loud to them. If you don’t feel comfortable with this last step, then read it to yourself out loud in the mirror. But if at all possible, find a supportive friend and do this process together.

Sometimes when we get so focused on what we still have to accomplish, we can get hung up on the NOT. This processes helps us remember and recognize what has been accomplished, thereby renewing faith in the ability to accomplish more.

Let me know what you think. Do you do this or a similar practice every year? If you are doing it for the first time, what did you discover?


Why Do Statistics On Your Art?

Michael J Fox quote “Do the next right thing, as opposed to doing the next thing right.”  When we track what we are doing, what results we are getting, we can get better and better at tracking what is working and what is not.  For example, this past year I added up where the money from sales came from.  It turns out very little of it came from traditional routes such as gallery and art fair sales.  Instead, more than half of my income came from online sales. This doesn’t mean I’ve completely ditched the idea of doing shows, but it does mean I’m making sure most of my activities this year are online based rather than show based.

If I didn’t have statistics and monthly and yearly analysis – I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint what the next “right thing” for me is.  Instead I would be spending time, money and resources on doing things that aren’t garnering a good ROI (return on investment) for me – but doing them spectacularly well.  For example, for me, given the very niche nature of my art, most art fairs are not a good fit. There are some that are, but if I’m at the wrong show for my art, even if I have the best tent, the best location, the best spread of products – it doesn’t matter if this isn’t where I’m target market shops.

So I try to make it easier on myself.  I figure out where the majority of my sales, leads, and activity comes from.  And I focus on those.  This is the only way I can tell what the “next right” thing for me will be.

What type of statistics do you find most helpful?

For more about keep statistics, see Keeping Track of the Wrong Statistic



The Vanity Activity:

Last Blog I talked about statistics. And I mentioned something I tend to think of as a “vanity stat.” For example, I worked X number of hours this week. The only reason I even knew that, and still if I’m honest sometimes track it mentally in my head – is I’m trying to justify to someone else that I am “busy” and “productive.” Where in reality – any moron with half a brain should be able to tell that you do not get shown in New York City, Palm Springs, San Diego, Orange County, have a handful or correlating Website, Facebook, Twitter and Etsy shops, accompanying blogs etc. by sitting at home eating bon bons.

But sometimes, we get sucked into Vanity Activities as well. My favorite example of this so far, has been my ego’s insistence that I am “in” a gallery. Last year I was in a co-op gallery. When that co-op was in Laguna Beach, it was actually profitable for me. But when it moved 30 minutes down the coast, to another beach city, with a different type of clientele, and it suddenly wasn’t profitable. It took me WAAAAAAAAY too long to let that one go. I was very stuck on the idea of being able to say I was a “gallery artist.”

The funniest thing was, that when I stopped worrying about that two things happened. As I was getting ready to pull my art from the gallery – I ended up in a much better location for me 1/2 a block down the street that did not cost me any monthly maintenance. AND I was asked to be in two other galleries.

For another common business pitfall, see Keeping Track of the Wrong Statistic


Keeping Track Of The Wrong Statistics For Your Art Business:

Years ago I went to a Blair Singer Sales & Leadership Conference. What I learned there, I actually now use on a daily basis, but there was one thing I got really wrong.  Blair is all about statistic – tracking what you do, so that you can adjust course, and also just keep track of progress.  Well, for years I tracked hours worked. How many hours I worked on marketing. How many hours I spent prepping for a show.  How many hours I spent painting.

While knowing how many hours it takes to paint a painting, or prepare for a show is important for work planning purposing, using hours worked as a key statistic isn’t actually helpful.  All it does is give you something to tell people who think that since you work from home, or since you are an artist you don’t really “work.”  So you can say “hey, I worked 60 hours last week on art!” In a sense, this is a “Vanity Stat” – a statistic that is created so one’s ego can give a “correct” answer.  And not a stat that is actually helpful to one’s business.  And is, in essence, a complete waste of time to be tracking.

Every year, I keep statistics, and at least once a year I reevaluate what I am tracking and decide if it is worth continuing to track, or if there is something else, more tangible/ actionable, or just plan more relevant to my business that I could be tracking instead.

Sometimes, it’s helpful to not just evaluate once a year.  For example, at the beginning of the year I got involved with the Link Love movement.  For me, I was spending hours and hours a week doing Link Love, and while I did meet some really nice people, I did not get a single sale out of it.  I did however, meet some people who ended up doing some work for me (SEO and Graphic Design) so for them, doing something like Link Love really worked – because just about everyone in the group was in need of what they were selling.  Therefore, I’m not dissing Link Love – I’m just saying that because I was keeping track of my effort, and the results (which were no sales, although people did start reading my blog) I decided after a few months to completely remove myself from the Link Love lists so that I would not participate actively or otherwise. And if I had’t been keeping track of results, this might have been going on all year before I realized this wasn’t where I wanted to be placing my energy.

Peter Drucker (a business genius) said “What’s measured improves.”

Here’s a few things that might be helpful to you to track for this coming year.  But again, if they aren’t impactfull to you, or they don’t help you adjust and expand/grow your business, try some new ones.  Or better yet, suggest a few below.

  • Sales – how many and where they are coming from
  • Number of people in email list, and how often they are corresponded with and results of each campaign
  • Number of people who received hard copy mail/ promotional material (and results)
  • On Etsy I actually track which day of the week sales have occurred, as well as promotional things I do on Etsy (like treasuries, re-listing and advertising) to see if there is also a correlation to sales for a particular action.  For example, while I do find relisting helpful in getting people’s attention and being added to their favorites I realized that when I paid to be in the Etsy Showcases it was more effective from a sales perspective.
  • Number of locations that showcase my art and the sales/ leads results

What are some of your favorite statistics to track for your art/ business?  How has this helped you move forward with your goals?

For more about keeping statistics see Why Do Statistics On Your Art?