Name an artist you personally know, who is legitimately 'making it' by creating and profiting from their art, AND their process is creating a sustainable path to success for them. I'll wait...
I have this dream of creating a paradigm shift for product designers and I've met my artistic match in Crystal Ploszay, owner and concrete magician at Badass Floorscapes. She is working on something so exciting, when she isn't creating concrete masterpieces, she is helping artists shift from starving to thriving, badass, sustainable magicians of their mastery.
Let's Get Real About The Issues
Technology has changed the way we value art because the non-artist can create so much with so many simple, user-friendly tools that are right at their fingertips. This idea of the starving artist is real because of this change in value. But there's another reason artists are mainly starving rather than thriving.
In her 10+years in construction, Crystal has learned some very valuable lessons about why art has to be practical and sustainable. Crystal used this knowledge in the industry to bring her art to concrete and epoxy. Her vision is to bring artists into the creation field with practical applications of their artistry. The reason this is so relevant is that artists aren't always business savvy, and their commitment to creating art can impede on their success along with their communication and client management skills.
How To Avoid Client Disasters
There are red flags every artist should be looking out for when they make initial contact with a client. First and foremost, being able to spot these red flags is monumental in creating a sustainable business. You have to be able to navigate the business landscape and learn to avoid disaster. For artists especially, this can be difficult, because the emotional investment in can hinder your ability to create if you get burned more than once.
- Instant request for a discount. If a client cannot see the value in what you offer, no matter what end result you produce, they probably won't be thrilled. This is actually a good indicator that your work is not a good fit for this person. Take the hint, save yourself the headache, move on.
- A bad feeling in your 'gut'. Questioning your instincts never ends well.
- Unrealistic expectations. The best way to manage expectations is to pre-qualify clients. In-depth conversations letting them know what to expect, up front, are key. Have a list of key questions you can ask them, like, "have you ever seen my work?" or "do you understand the process?" Do not be a 'yes' (wo)man. Be real. Let them know that art is organic and happens naturally, prepare them for that excitement, so they can appreciate the unique value you are bringing to them.
There Has To Be A Process & Connection
One of the most important things, once you've prequalified your potential client, is connecting with them. In your mind, you might already be so excited that you're already designing in your mind... but on the outside, that looks like distraction or a lack of interest. So here's Crystal's process for connecting:
- Eye contact. The absolute best way to connect with a client is by being real, letting them know you are up front, and by looking them in the eye. Make eye contact as you firm up details, letting them know you are present.
- Constant communication. I communicate with my clients no less than twice a week. Crystal does it every day on a project. First to make the initial contact to set the tone for the day or week and to let them know they have my full attention. Then at the end of the day or week to communicate the progress or discuss issues.
- Know yourself. If you find yourself distracted during a conversation (common for the artist-type), bring it back with a statement. For Crystal, she says, "I'm so excited about this project, let me bring it back down for a minute."
- Exhibit confidence. If you have to fake it, because your nerves are getting the best of you, sit up straight and settle your hands. These body language cues will show your client that you are prepared.
- Don't ask questions or for opinions once you begin. Once the initial consultation has happened, Crystal doesn't ask any more questions unless she absolutely has to. This way you don't ever give the impression that you are unsure or weren't listening in that initial meeting. She wants them to know that she did her homework in that first meeting and is making it happen.
- Follow-up. Crystal always go back the day after the project is done. Keep the excitement going, show them your commitment. This follow-up is setting you up for success for referrals and future business.
Seek Balance in Business + Art
Just because you're an artist, does not mean you aren't also an entrepreneur. For your art to be sustainable you have to acquire both. On the entrepreneurial side, you have to be able to manage client expectations, interact with them in a healthy and honest way, and successfully set the tone for the process and end product. If you do these things well, you will create the space you need to thrive as an artist, which ultimately creates the foundation for your work to be sustainable and profitable - breaking that starving artist cycle once and for all.