TRANSCRIPT Ep 278: Going All In on Your Art Career

THE INSPIRATION PLACE PODCAST

[00:00:00] Miriam Schulman: A lot of people just fail ahead of time just by not doing it. They’re thinking about what they want to do. They’re talking about what they want to do. But they’re not actually taking action. 

[00:00:12] Announcer: It’s the Inspiration Place Podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to The Inspiration Place podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist, where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art.

[00:00:30] And now, your host, Miriam Schulman. 

[00:00:34] Miriam Schulman: Well, hey there artpreneur. It’s Miriam Schulman. You’re curator of inspiration and welcome to The Inspiration Place. This is episode number 278, and I feel a little bit of a rant coming on. 

[00:00:49] So just so you know what’s going on with me, I’m recording this in July. So yeah, I sometimes record things up to three months in advance. Crazy, isn’t it? And today is a really hot day in New York. It’s like 90 degrees, but there’s no smog. It’s perfect. I love this weather. I just, like, hang out in my tank tops and my shorts and I go for walks in Riverside Park. I look at the flowers. 

[00:01:17] Today’s a quiet day, my husband’s at work, my daughter’s at the school. And her cat, which used to be our family cat, but we gave it to her when we moved to New York City. So my daughter and the cat are visiting. So today it’s just me and Ebony hanging out in the studio and I thought what a great time to record a podcast for you, my friend. 

[00:01:41] So today is all about how to make more money as an artist. And here is what I think is the bad news for a lot of people. Making money is less about doing what you love to do the most and more about doing what your collectors, your patrons, or your clients love. 

[00:02:16] So I actually don’t agree with that maxim, do what you love and the money will follow. That’s why I talk about in the book, this is why nobody wants to buy your hand painted rock, or your doily, perhaps. Yes, doing what you love is important, and I’m not saying not to be an artist. I’m not saying that at all. But if you look back over time, the artists who have made it in the world were the ones who were also doing what people wanted. I’m not talking about people pleasing. I’m not talking about. Subverting your style. Let’s look at my favorite example is, Michelangelo. Michelangelo was a sculptor. He wanted to be a sculptor, but the Pope said, would you please paint the Sistine Chapel for me? Now, he did dig in his heels and says, you know, I’m not really a painter, I’m a sculptor. But there was a lot of money in it. And he also made sculptures that maybe were not his first choice of what he wanted to do. He made tombstones, yeah, funeral plots. I don’t know if that was his first choice, but the Medici’s wanted him to do it, and the Pope wanted him to do it. So, he did it. 

[00:03:27] So doing what you love is important. But you should know that to make money, you have to do what other people love. And again, you’ve heard me say embrace your inner weirdo, so that’s all very important. This is not a contradiction to that. I’m going to tell you some ways that I see artists in my community who I coach sabotage themselves, and I’ve heard this so many times, it’s not even one specific example. 

[00:03:56] I had, there was one example, and then I think three times in the same week, there were two dudes and one gal, all said the same thing to me. I told them, listen, with your art you would make a lot more money if you painted larger. And this is what I heard. But I like to paint small paintings. I was like, Hey, I get it. You know what? You can do small paintings as studies. You can do small paintings for fun. But if you want to make a lot of money, I would stop doing things that are small. Or stop complaining that your business is too small. 

[00:04:33] Now this was something that I learned a long time ago when I was working for Salomon Brothers, which is the Wall Street firm that I worked for in the 90s. And I really struggled the first year I was there because I waited for people to tell me what they needed, for my bosses to tell me what they wanted. And you may be wondering, wait a minute, Miriam, I thought you said to do what people wanted. But here’s the big difference. So I waited for them to tell me. I was waiting for the boss to tell me and the second year I was there I spent a lot more time talking to the traders who I worked for. 

[00:05:14] So I worked in what was no, they called it research. It was really more like an IT department. We wrote computer codes that, and for me personally, I made graphical user interfaces that help the traders interact with the very complex computer models that price the fixed income derivatives and securities that they were trading.

[00:05:38] So, in my second year I spent a lot more time on the trading floor talking to the traders, the people who are actually using my products, to find out what they wanted. And when I, kind of, cut out that middleman, my, my boss who oversaw our department, when I cut him out and went directly to them I got ideas on how I can improve what I was doing to make what they were doing easier, to make it what they were doing better. So I spent time solving problems that they were having, modifying my software to make it better for them. 

[00:06:20] Now, it’s no different for you as an artist. When you go to art fairs, those are the types of conversations, you’re still having the same conversations. You’re having your art in front of other people and they will start to tell you things like, do you have this larger?

[00:06:37] Now one of the artists I spoke to who I said, Hey, why aren’t you painting bigger? He actually said to me, yeah, you know, people say to me I wish it was bigger. I was like, because even though a smaller painting is less money, people don’t know what to do with it. Where they’re willing to invest more money, and a lot more money, in something that’s going to make a huge impact in their home. Whether it’s in their dining room, really make the whole dining room stand out or going to go over their sofa, or it’s going to be a focal point in their bedroom or in their office. These focal points in their rooms, it’s worth a lot more to them than something that’s a little moment that’s tucked away. 

[00:07:18] And that’s why I’m always telling artists, listen, those times that you’re spending in the art shows, even if you’re not making the money immediately during that art show that you think you should be making, you’re going to make more money in the long run.

[00:07:37] Now, I did talk about this a little bit in, how long ago was it? And you may have missed it. Oh, yeah, it was back in August. Create More Collectors, Not Content. I actually only recorded it a week ago. But for you, it was back in August. And I know we’re in October now. So I was talking about how artists who spend eight hours Talking to different collectors are going to make more money than the same artists who are spending eight hours creating TikToks, Reels, Carousel Posts, Insta Stories, now we have Threads, Snapchats, I don’t know, YouTube videos.

[00:08:18] So it was the same, it’s the same sort of thing on Wall Street. I could have waited for my boss to tell me what to do and I was keeping very busy. It’s not like I wasn’t working. It’s not like I was sitting around waiting for people to tell me what to do and not working. I was working. I was just doing what he told me what my boss told me not finding out for myself what the traders wanted. Because when you work with even if you’re not an entrepreneur when you work, your boss is your client. So I had the boss and I had the boss’s boss, right? So my boss’s bosses, the traders, they were like my clients. And so even though I skipped making a salary, those were the people I had to please. How did I please them? Not by just waiting for the boss to tell me what he thought I needed, but by talking to them and solving problems maybe they didn’t even know, yeah, because they don’t know how the software can be changed to make things easier for them. But I could look at them and see what they were doing. 

[00:09:15] Now again, when you go and you’re in person. This is when you find out when people say to you, I love that – I’m making this up, I love that, I’m not totally making this up, I’m kind of like drawing from past experience – but they’ll say to me, I love that butterfly, but my daughter’s favorite color is purple and she does not like orange. Now you’re not going to know that just online. You may think you’re going to find that out, you don’t. Now, once you’re engaged with somebody, you can say to, hey Julie, I would love to do a purple butterfly commission for you. Would you like that for your daughter? And do you see how that’s going to lead more to a sale? Or it may not lead to a sale, but at least I know, you know what? Little girls tend to like purple and pink more than they like orange and blue, perhaps. I’m not saying that that’s the generalization. I’m saying this is something that you could learn by being in front of other people. So you really have to learn what people really want and why. And then do that. 

[00:10:19] So let’s revisit how artists sabotage themselves. So I already talked about artists who only want to paint small. And I have a lot of examples of that. I also have an example of an artist from Texas who I met recently because he signed up for one of my one on one sessions. Which you can find out about if you go to schulmanart.com/biz, biz as in the letter B, the letter I, the letter Z, B as in boy, I as in ice cream, Z as in zebra, schulmanart.com/biz. You’ll, you can read about my incubator program, my accelerator program, but there’s also a place there to sign up for a one on one with me. I actually better make sure that’s still there. So anyway, I also send it out to my email list two or three times a year. I put a call out if you want to do a one on one with me. You can, you can do that. 

[00:11:15] So this Texas artist I met with, he’s not in a gallery, he’s only been painting for a few years. He did have a degree, but that was like 20 some, 30 years ago. And he had put that all aside in the past couple of years. He’s been painting and it’s not his full time job. He has other businesses. He also has a wife who’s ailing, who has to take care of. So he has a lot to do, yet, yet, he shared with me that in the first six months of 2023, he made over $100,000. And how did he do that? He sold two sizes of paintings and two sizes only, four feet by four feet. In other words, 48 inches by 48 inches, which I know I have a lot of international people who think in terms of meters, that’s about a meter and a half by a meter and a half. And his other painting he sold was about four feet by six feet. Now when he first started out, he asked $4,000 and 5,000. So that was a couple years ago he asked for that. Now he’s asking $8,000 and $9,000, and our conversation was whether or not he could go up to $10,000. So that’s what we were talking about. And he was smart enough to know, not only, he only paints those two sizes, he doesn’t paint anything smaller. He recognizes there isn’t money in the smaller stuff. And he avoids venues that are about the small, cheap things and only goes to venues where he can command those high prices. And again, like I said, he’s a self representing artist, not in a gallery. 

[00:12:45] Okay, so how else do artists sabotage themselves? I see a lot of artists do that. It’s not just the hand painted rock, but it’s also the hand painted t-shirts. And I do have some artists in my community, very talented. They paint really beautiful things. But really they could be making a lot more money if they just put their artwork on a canvas. And that’s the truth. 

[00:13:10] So what I want you to be obsessed with is not your art in the way that you want to do it, but your art in the way your collector wants to consume it. And I want you to be more obsessed and interested in that. 

[00:13:32] I heard recently on a podcast, a thought leader say, or ask, what do you think the best character trait is to have in order to make more money? So I’m just going to pause here. I’m going to let you think about that for a moment before I answer it. So you can get in your own idea. What do you think is the most important character trait to have? Do you think it’s resilience, motivation, inspiration, dedication, discipline, work ethic? Just think about it. 

[00:14:07] Alright, so what this thought leader had said, and actually I’ll give her credit, it was Brooke Castillo. What she had said was, or what she thought, it’s creativity. Creativity. If you are creative, you can make more money. Now, I know what you might be thinking, Hey, Miriam, I’m very creative and I’m not making money. But listen to me. We’re talking about not creative in terms of your artwork, necessarily, but creative in terms of solving problems, figuring out how to pivot, changing. Just like I did when I was working on Wall Street, how it wasn’t about how good I was at writing the code, it wasn’t how good I was at following the instructions of my boss, it was doing market research, going out and talking to the traders and finding out what do they want, and now, What can I do with that information?

[00:15:02] When I was focused solely on painting portraits, I was obsessed with my collectors. I was obsessed. What was it that they most wanted from me? And that’s what I learned to deliver. Why were they buying portraits? What was it? And there were several things. I can give some of it away from me, but you know, the truth is, is you have to figure out what it is for you and your artwork.

[00:15:31] So now I want to just change gears a little bit. I want to talk about some other ways That people sabotage themselves. So the first thing that I pointed out is we’re going to just give, like, a complete bullet point over everything we talked about so far, and that is you’re too focused on what you want, and you’re not enough focused on what your collectors want from you. And I worded that very specifically, what they want from you. So that doesn’t mean that you have to start painting lighthouses and boats because you think that’s what they want, and you don’t paint that, you paint nudes. That’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is what do they want from you? See? That’s the difference. 

[00:16:16] Okay. So that’s the first bullet point of how to make money as an artist. Get obsessed with what your collector, your client, your patron wants. 

[00:16:26] All right, now we’re going to talk about the second way, major way, that I see artists sabotaging themselves. And that is failing ahead of time. 

[00:16:40] Now, it is totally okay to fail. This is something that we are not taught properly in school. We are taught that we need to strive to get an A, we don’t want to fail, everything has to be good, we have to be good girls, good boys, get an A+. 

[00:16:58] So there’s different ways that you can fail at any of these things. One of the number one ways that I see people failing is they just think about it. And they’ll say things like, I’ve been trying to do this for years, or I’ve wanted to do this for years, but I don’t have the time, or I don’t know how, or whatever it is. And they think about it, but they never actually do it. So they’re failing in advance, like I said, because they’re spending more time thinking about it or talking about it then they’re actually doing it. 

[00:17:37] Okay. The second way, which is kind of related, is that they let their doubt creep in. And we’ve talked about this in the past, how whenever you’re going to do a new adventure, whether it’s become an artist, sell art, go scuba diving, whatever it is. Your brain’s going to come up with all kinds of reasons why this is a terrible idea. And these are not excuses, I’ve told you that. I don’t think you’re making excuses. You have doubts because that is your brain’s natural survival mechanism. 

[00:18:11] All right, so we’re going to have to take a break, and when we return, I’ll continue sharing different ways that you can fail. But first, these words. 

[00:18:23] Ad Announcer: We’ve got one entrepreneur review here from Planet. “Miriam lays out an extremely useful on how to make a living doing what you love. I’m halfway through the book and am excited to incorporate her ideas into my creative endeavors. I always read books like this twice. First as a complete read through from cover to cover, and second, with a highlighter for all the useful information tidbits. After that, it is kept in my library as a reference for future use. I have a feeling I will be highlighting a lot.” 

[00:18:57] And if that’s not enough, here’s what Jordan Archer has to say. “This book has given me so much insight and has fueled me with a fire to get started. I cannot wait to start implementing these steps and learning as I go. I am so thankful that she wrote this, and it’s definitely what I’ve been looking for all this time.”

[00:19:18] Order Artpreneur today, get yours at artpreneurbook.com. And now let’s carry on with the show. 

[00:19:27] Miriam Schulman: All right. Welcome back. So before the break, we were talking about the different ways that you can fail. And a lot of people just fail ahead of time just by not doing it. They’re thinking about what they want to do. They’re talking about what they want to do, but they’re not actually taking action. And a lot of it is because you are just letting doubt about why this won’t work for you, why this isn’t a good time, all the different reasons. 

[00:19:55] Now, the second way that we just started talking about before our break was that you have these doubts and maybe you take some action, but weak action. And then you create evidence to prove your doubt true so that you can say, see, I told you so. I told you this wouldn’t work. But you’re not really taking consistent action on a regular basis. It’s almost as bad as version number one where you don’t do anything, it’s kind of like you, kind of, do it, but then you’re, like, the minute something goes wrong, it’s like, oh, it’s a sign. You see, I told you it wouldn’t work.

[00:20:39] Okay, the third way is also, so these are kind of overlapping, but you, you try, but you get very weak results. And the reason why you get weak results is because you’re very weak in the attempt. You kind of do it, but not really… kind of doing it. So, you have a weak result because you have a weak attempt.

[00:21:01] And if we circle back to some of the things earlier, a lot of the reasons why there’s artists who don’t want to paint bigger, once I start pushing them about why, it’s because for some of them, I’m not going to say it’s for everyone, but for some of them, when I push them it’s because. It would take that much more effort to create the larger work, and therefore they see it as a bigger failure when it doesn’t sell. So when they make a small painting, and it’s a small attempt to sell something small, then they’re disappointed. So they’ve convinced themselves that, no, it’s an artistic reason, I like to paint small. When really, they’re just trying to keep their efforts small. 

[00:21:47] Okay, so now we’re gonna go to the next way failure happens. So the next way failure could happen is you bring your heart and soul to attempt 100%, but you only do it once. So this is similar to artists who, Well, I tried that, you know, you tried to apply to a gallery. And I say, well, how many did you do apply to? And maybe it’s one or maybe it’s two. No, that didn’t work for me. So if you quit at this point, you missed the whole point of it, because you’re only going to get stronger after trying over and over again. 

[00:22:29] So let’s talk about the last way, the worthy way to fail. And that’s what I’m suggesting you do. You put your heart and soul into your attempts every single time. And you’re okay with it not working out. 

[00:22:46] One of the ways I tell my clients to do this is to get a hundred no’s. And by that, I don’t mean you ask a hundred people and all a hundred people say no. What I’m saying is a hundred times you put yourself in the position where somebody’s going to say yes or no to you. Asking and not following up doesn’t count. No answer is not a no. No answer is just no answer. You have to keep following up until they say yes or until they say no. And you need to be willing to do that at least a hundred times. 

[00:23:20] So each time you’re learning, you’re learning every single time. And it’s not that you try once with all your heart and your soul and then the next time you sort of try. No. Every single time. You go all in, you go all in. Because if you don’t, if you go only half heartedly or you only try it once and then you say, this isn’t working, this isn’t for me, I know this was too good to be true, I’m not good enough or some version of I’m not good enough. But you have to believe 100 percent and keep going for it. And as a result you will learn, you will get stronger. 

[00:24:08] And every time something doesn’t work, not that the whole thing didn’t work. You need to get curious what exactly didn’t work? And then use your creative mind because you’re all creative, use your creative mind to problem solve, to figure out how can you fix it now.

[00:24:29] Okay, the last thing that I want to say to you about all this, a lot of people who want to become artists, they’re used to working for their people where it’s basically dollars for hours or time for money. And so when they create something, they want money right away. They want it immediately. And that’s what makes this failure process so difficult for them is because they’re trying, they’re trying, they’re trying. And every time they try, they want to get paid. So what I want to share with you is not to be in such a hurry because people who want to have success fast. are more likely to give up when it doesn’t happen right away. 

[00:25:18] So, this is like one of, actually this has been true of a few of my clients, so in the spring cohort for the accelerator there were several clients who did promotions in July and the promotions didn’t quite go as well as they wanted them to. But here’s the thing, it was July. So I told them, you can’t make it mean anything that you sent out X number of emails and during this time period, you didn’t get sales from these, or you didn’t get the sales you wanted if they got results, but it wasn’t what they expected. You didn’t get the results you wanted during this time period. It doesn’t mean it didn’t work. It just means these people didn’t buy now from these emails. But that doesn’t mean that those people, it didn’t start registering with them that, oh, I really want this sometime. They just don’t have a reason right now to shop. And July is a tough time to shop. That’s actually why Amazon runs its Prime Day in the middle of July, because they’re trying to get sales when there’s usually no sales. So July is a tough time and you have to compare this July to last July. What did you do last July? Did you have lots of sales last July? Well, if you did and there’s gold, keep digging. But if you didn’t and you don’t have sales now, you can’t say, well, I raised my prices and that’s why I’m not getting sales now. It’s because you’re comparing, you have to compare July to July. 

[00:26:54] So that’s why I just, let me just reiterate this. Don’t be in such a hurry. You have to allow the process to take time and be willing to try different things. Be creative. See what didn’t work. What’s, what can you change to make your next attempt different, better than it did before? And then go in a hundred percent with all of your heart and soul each and every single. 

[00:27:26] All right, my friend. So we covered a lot today. We talked about that you need to get obsessed with your customer, with your client, with your collector, with your art patrons. You really have to know what it is that they want. You can’t be so obsessed with what you want if you’re doing this for money, if you’re not doing this for fun, but you really want to make a thriving business out of it. And that’s not being less of an artist. Like I said, look at Michelangelo. He painted whatever the Pope wanted him to, or he sculpted what the Medici’s wanted him to. He didn’t say I’m going to just do whatever I feel like it and then look for people to pay me for it. No, he didn’t do that. He did what his patrons wanted him to do. 

[00:28:13] And then the other thing we talked about is being willing for things to not work out. The main difference between artists who are successful and artists who are not successful is successful people, successful artists are willing to do things that unsuccessful people aren’t.

[00:28:37] All right, my friend, I hope you got tremendous value from today. And if you like the show, why don’t you take some time to rate and review it over on iTunes or Spotify or wherever you’re listening to this show. Make sure you’re following it or subscribed in your podcast app so you don’t miss a single episode.

[00:28:56] Okay. So I’ll see you the same place, same time next week. Until then, stay inspired. 

[00:29:04] Announcer: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at facebook.com/schulmanart on Instagram at Schulman Art. And of course on schulmanart.com.          

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