How to start elevating your career to the next level
An artist manager’s perspective + real tips (without the bullshit)
This article comes as a presentation of my findings while working as an artist manager for emerging artists and also as a reaction to the various unhelpful, unpractical tips around the internet on how to be an artist.
- Be out there – the atelier does not make the artist
I know that the idea of the artist being in the atelier is most of the time an explainable stereotype and even more easy excuse, but well – networking should be one of your primary goals next to making art. The atelier is where you create the work, and the world is where you present it. Don’t wait for an exhibition to show your work and yourself – An exhibition is a small bit of the huge canvas of ways you can present your work to the public. Show the work to people – they don’t have to be of the sector, just create your audience. Share opinions with other artists, writers, enthusiasts. Exchange business cards. Send a follow-up email the day after. Fix your website with the best pictures on the front page. You are the work and you need to be out there. Go to start up meetings and innovation conferences. Think and act out of the box.
- Do RESEARCH
The second most important thing after being PRESENT in openings, shows, parties and festivals is RESEARCH. I don’t know if I can even put enough emphasis on this word which means so many things and should be an integral part of your art career/life. Research on magazines, institutions, galleries, spaces, auction houses, fairs, independent scene; research on grants of the E.U, of independent institutions, of Volkswagen, you need to know what’s out there in order to know what’s out there for YOU. What do other artists do? What does the public like? What do the magazine’s cover? Who is this artist on the front cover of your favorite mag? Find out where they came from, where they exhibited, what they are working with, what their values and ideas are. What are experts saying? All this information will slowly become a big pool of knowledge in your mind and you will feel more oriented and more positioned within the scene.
- Keep notes
When I say, keep notes, I don’t mean traditional notes where you need to browse every single seminar and webinar available and be there with a piece of paper and pencil. Opportunities are all around you and sometimes it is because of bad organisation that people don’t grab them. Keeping notes includes anything you can imagine, in any form you can imagine; taking pictures of a poster on the street, to a note of a number on your phone to business cards to flyers. Learn to see around you and scan the space you are at for possibilities.
- Organise your notes
Making notes of the things you read, hear and find is just one part of the story. Making use and organising all this information is another, even more important part of the process. You can think of it like university notes – you might have it there on paper but if you don’t make use of it, then there is no point. What I am to say with this is pretty simple – you need to find ways to organise yourself and methodize the ways you want to approach the opportunities you want to seize to not miss deadlines or look unreliable. My tip: if you are on the road and don’t have time to take a note, take screenshots and upload them on your Evernote account or Google cloud in different folders. Then, when you are at home, check your cloud and unmount the information on your database. If you are not sure why you are exactly interested in an opportunity, then you can maybe create a folder called ‘to check’ and check it out when you got time.
- Let others evaluate you
What some artists get wrong in being an artist is that it is highly different from any other profession. Although I value art so highly and I do find intriguing points in each person’s work, it’s important that you remain humble and understand that it is important to let other evaluate you and be open to criticism. You need to remember: marketing and self-marketing is not about you, it’s about the audience you are talking to and your future collectors. You can discuss about the importance of the work and what drove you to do it but don’t turn this into a melodrama – remain professional and market your work how it deserves to be marketed but without exaggerating or underestimating your powers.
- Be on Instagram
My mom always says: an image is worth a thousand words! And this is true if you can research wisely! Instagram is a great way to get an immense amount of information in very short time as you can basically figure out what every person or institution, gallery, cultural centre is doing by reading a couple of lines and optionally visiting their website directly. It’s also very interesting because you can easily ‘stalk’ collectors’ interests, trends in the market, other artists’ work etc. Therefore, you have all this amazing pool of information right in your hand! As mentioned before, just be 30 min per day on Instagram and go through profiles that you find interesting, follow people you find interesting and museums you love! You keep on learning from this! But be careful, by no means, start spamming people! This is no way going to bring any results or positive atmosphere in your potential future collaborations. Make sure you also keep your own Instagram account up and running!
- Share content across channels
As much as it is important to create unique, valuable content, another part of the game is where this content goes. You need to make sure your content can be shared across platforms and can be as much visible as possible. Medium is a good way to spread your content. Share the content on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn. See which posts perform better and boost them for some small budget. Try to address your target audience. Share on your website and reshare on social media so that you can drive traffic to the website. Ask your friends to share the content. Tag people and pages on Instagram to repost your work. More visibility equals more chances!
- Be concise
A last and yet important tip I would like to give is this: be concise. Be concise about what you do, who you are, who you are not and what your goals and values are as an artist and person. Next to this, be concise on your method and your approach to your career. Success requires a lot of effort, persistence, and patience (if we rule the factor of luck out). I am not going to assume or pretend it’s easy. But you need to try. And the only way you can have measurable results and a means to evaluate and improve your methods is only if you stick to a strategy for achieving your goals.
So, go for it!