When I was starting out in the art world, I didn’t know how to turn my creation to cash. I went to exhibitions, artist meetups, and art markets, hoping to see what other artists are already doing, learn about what works and what doesn’t work, and apply their successful experience to myself. During this process, I met a lot of interesting people. Seems like most artists are following a similar path. They spend a lot of time creating a masterpiece and then wait for someone who will pay a lot of money to buy it, and then repeat. I couldn’t articulate what’s wrong with that at that time, but the marketing side of my brain already told me that wasn’t something I should do.
You don’t starve yourself for days and then eat a big meal, why would you do that to your career?
You don’t starve yourself for days and then eat a big meal. It is a terrible way to live. But many artists are doing exactly that for the career, and that is a mistake for beginners. Producing and selling masterpieces are great, if you are already famous and you know there will be people who will just buy whatever you create. When you are hunting with bare hands, you don’t go for the elephant. Instead, you go for the smaller animals or the low hanging fruits to secure your food source before you aim for something bigger, and bigger, and bigger. One day you will catch the elephant. I am not suggesting artists shouldn’t set big goals. It is important to have big goals, but it is more important to develop a plan that will get you to your goal, step by step.
So what does all this have to do with cash flow?
You need to be creative to become an artist, and you need cash flow management skills to become a successful one.
A = How long you can go without income
B = How long it takes to sell your artwork
If A < B, you are in trouble.
My best seller is the Okinawa typographic map print, and it is going for $10 – $18 USD a copy depends on the store. Store managers and customers have been telling me that the price is way too low and suggest I should at least go for $25. The price hasn’t been changed since its initial release, and when I go to the market, I am the busiest guy in the block. I will be collecting $10 every two to five minutes throughout the entire event, because $10 is a great deal and an easy decision, not to mention my profit margin is north of 90%. One bill for a great product. Customers are happy, and I am happy too. The artist next to me sells $300 masterpieces. A lot of people walk by, some stop, a few ask questions, hardly a transaction. If he sells one, the profit he makes is the same as me selling for 3 hours straight, but I’d rather be getting small wins every two to five minute than waiting for that big win which may or may not come that day. The same financial outcome, completely different level of stress. That is cash flow management.
Cash flow at the beginning of your creative career
If you are starting out, like me, with little to zero capital, how do you get the ball rolling? Have a credit card? Great! Credit cards are great tools. You can spend the money to get supply and on marketing. As long as you can pay back the money within 45 days, you are safe. Many people are afraid of using credit card to fund their business. For obvious reasons.
What if I can’t pay back the money on time?
What if I ruin my credit?
90% of the things we worry about actually won’t happen.
I forget who said it, but I can relate to that in my experience. I am a big fan of Napoleon Hill’s 1930s classic THINK AND GROW RICH. To achieve success, we need to control negative self-talks and redirect all that energy to solve our current situation.
Current situation: Need capital to start my art business.
Opportunity: Credit card is available.
Condition: Don’t miss a credit card payment.
Next target: How can I pay for what I need to start my art business using a credit card without missing a due date?
Once you hit the target, find your next problem and repeat the same process.
Cash flow management will always get in your way if you don’t pay attention to it. Cash flow management is not fun for most artists. Unfortunately, if you don’t become good at it, it will push you to compromise either your income or the quality of your artwork. Cash flow problems will always be there throughout your creative career, pay attention, and learn to be good at managing it. Most importantly, don’t ignore it.
I will drill deeper on this topic later on. Today I just bring cash flow management to your attention.
Thought? Leave a comment.