Creative and Business: You Have To Do Both To Succeed As An Artist

Photo by Lydz Leow

There’s this romanticized image of how an “artist” lives: they’re unbound by the financial requirements of society, separated from capitalism, and free from concerns about money so they can focus on creating. They sit for hours, they ponder ideas, and they chase whims. Only when business affairs are left behind is a true artist able to create.

That image of the “artist” is bullshit.

Artists don’t exist in some picture-perfect vacuum with endless free time, top-of-the-line equipment, and immediate industry connections. You exist in reality. And in reality, you need both creativity and business skills to be successful as an artist.

An artist without both fails.

An artist without a business mindset won’t have money to rent that studio, or budget time to grow an Instagram account that shows their style and interact with other artists. And an artist without creativity won’t find inspiration in the world around them and produce art that people want.

When you’re first building your brand and reputation, you’ll have to put in more effort and hours into the business side of your artistic pursuits than you might expect. While it’s important to not burn yourself out, in order to open doors in the future, you’ll need to burn some midnight oil. It might involve late nights, early mornings, and sacrificing time with friends and family to start to build your career.

At the same time, you also need to carve out time to focus on exploring and growing your creativity. When business begins to pick up, you’ll find yourself having client calls, responding to emails and DMs and traveling for projects. Many people will be pulling you in many different directions, so it’s important to carve out time for yourself and your creative process. The more self-knowledge about what you need in place to channel your creativity.

For some artists, it means scheduling time each day for creativity and administrative activities separately. Other artists blend the two and have the ability to respond to emails in between snapping photos. There’s no right or wrong way to jump between the creative and administrative tasks of your day, there’s only your way. And the sooner you can learn what you need and want, the sooner you can start to structure your days, deals, and projects to support that.

On top of this, many artists might have an unrelated job to their passion. This can offer opportunities and challenges to your success as an artist – it can distract, but it can also support and inspire. Whether it’s an unrelated job or the administrative side of your creative enterprise, know that business activities aren’t counter to your life as an artist, they are part of it.

Business is art.

“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art,” said Andy Warhol. “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Your business, how you manage and carry yourself as a businessperson, is the foundation on which you build a playground to create your art. You have to invest time and energy into growing your art as a business, just as you’ve spent time learning your artistic craft. Educate yourself about the business realities of the path you’ve pursued. Don’t see the business tasks of your art as distractions or contrary to your practice. Rather, the mechanical actions – buying a domain name, sending invoices, finding new clients – they are all part of creating art in this world.

Art is a business.

There are many challenges to becoming a successful artist, one of which is finding the balance between creativity and business. Since these activities use different parts of your brain, don’t be discouraged if it’s difficult to jump back and forth. For a month, monitor how you spend your time into productive hours and administrative hours. Do so without judgment. At the end of the month, see what your overall split is and analyze how long you need to get into a creative groove and knock out administrative tasks. Do you prefer to start the day with one or the other? Start with the week with one or the other?

By embracing both sides of your artistic journey, you’ll be able to find balance and grow as an artist both creatively and financially.