Tag Archive - The business of art

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!


Art, Paintball & Widgets

Not sure how exactly I came to have this epiphany while playing paintball but – I realized that selling art is simply another type of business. It’s not different than dry cleaning, selling advertising services or Belgian chocolate.  It’s 90% business and 10% art. I think because I saw so many successful couples tag team the art business, I always figured it was 50% art and 50% business.  But it’s not.

This realization started to creep up on me over the previous few weeks.  First there was a post by an artist who’s wife manages his career stating that it was 90% business and 10% art.  I was really surprised by this – given his full time crack marketing and sales team/ aka his wife.  And while I did agree with that – and think “oh good, I have been feeling bad that I’m not at my easel 50% of the time, maybe I’m on par with everyone else.”  I didn’t really get the deeper meaning of this.

I could basically be selling widgets.  Yes, high end, niche widgets, but widgets just the same.  This fact didn’t fully sink in until ANOTHER artist said he was spending 90% of his time at his desk and only 10% of his time out in the field behind his camera.  I was like – “yeah, I spend my entire day doing business.  It’s like I’m back in the corporate world, doing what I did then, only now I work for myself.” And he agreed.

So there I was, two years into being an artist full time and I finally got it.  I am selling widgets.  Art is a just another business.  I know that takes some of the fun out of it.  But it also all of a sudden makes it fit nicely into everyone’s business processes and models.  Where before I had been going along with the “conventional” artist wisdom that says art is not a square peg in a square hole.  Well, I hate to break it to you, but it is.  We are not the exception.  And this is a GOOD thing. It means life is much easier for us when we look at selling art from this viewpoint.

Yes it’s still precious.  Yes, unlike a traditional widget, it’s personal.  And yes, it costs more than a paperclip widget. But probably costs less than a real expensive watch widget.  So when we start to think about it in sheer business/ product terms – Wow – possibility opens up like never before. And all of a sudden the hard become simple.

What do you think?