Success in the Art Business with the 80/20 Rule

by John R. Math on September 8, 2010

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The 80/20 Rule is an old mathematical formula created by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto.  At the time, Pareto stated this rule was based on the principal that 20% of the population owned 80% of the wealth.  In later years this rule has been used in many different ways and you have probably heard a few of them too, such as: 20% of the salespeople produce 80% of a company’s sales.  Or 20% of the employees produce 80% of the companies’ profits. Another is that 20% of the population pays 80% of the countries’ income taxes!  My rule is that an artists should be spending 20% of their time creating art and 80% of their time marketing and administering to their art business in order to be a successful artist.

Today, for most artists it is the other way around.  Unfortunately most artists will spend 80% of their time creating art and only 20% of their time administering, marketing and promoting their art.   How can any artist expect to be successful if no one knows about or is exposed to their art?  It is a dilemma that all artists must face, in that they are doing what they love, which is producing art.  Rather than being in the business of selling art.

Andy Warhol was a prolific and successful American artist.  He was also a master marketer, promoter and art business person. We can all learn and follow his art business operating philosophy.  There are two Andy Warhol quotes that puts the whole Art vs. Business dilemma into perspective; “Business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist” and his other quote is “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”.  Now, I think we should take these quotes seriously, as it was recently documented that in 2009 a Warhol painting of his, the “Eight Elvises” sold for 100 Million!  Warhol knew what he was doing as an artist, a marketer and as a businessperson!

As an artist are you spending a majority of your time marketing and promoting your art work?  Have you identified who your target market is and analyzed how to reach them successfully?  Do you have a website that displays and showcases your art correctly?  Do you have a Blog or online newsletter that helps to drive traffic to your website?  Are you taking advantage of and using Social Media to make contacts, promote your art and help to build your brand?  Do you have an ongoing email marketing campaign that exposes your work to the decision makers in your target audience?  Are you using PR sites to promote your events, shows and sales? Have you availed yourself of promoting your work on Document sites, Bookmarking sites, Blog sites and on YouTube?  Artists can give art demonstrations and talks on YouTube and in Webinars.  Are you prepared to market your work on Smart Phones and on iPads?  None of this technology is expensive and most of it is free.  It is only the artist’s time and their creativity that is involved to take advantage of these different media to promote their art work.

All of these terms, technologies and media may seem daunting and overwhelming to you, but you can turn those negative thoughts around to “wow, look at all of the possibilities that I have to promote, market and sell my art!” and “What a wonderful and exciting time to be an artist, I can’t wait to get going!.”  But you cannot hope to be a successful artist if you are only spending 20% or less, of your time promoting your art.  Whatever amount of time you are spending on marketing today and if you were able to double your time and effort (and stick with it), you would see more traffic, more inquiries, be in more shows and eventually make more sales!

You will not be very successful in reaching your target audience and selling more art if 20% of your time is spent marketing your art.  Try doubling your time to 40%, then to 60% of your time and if you can get to where you are spending 80% of your time promoting and selling your art, you will become a successful artist.

Yes, all of this does take time, hard work and persistence.  Do you want to be a successful artist?  Then try spending 80% of your time marketing and branding your art and spend 20% of your time creating your art.  In time, I believe that you will see good results and become a successful artist.

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