3 Major Challenges Emerging Artists Face (And How to Overcome Them)

Eisklettern_kl_engstligenfallYou’ve made a commitment to being an artist. You’re not hiding your creative side anymore, and when people ask what you do, your art is included in the description (if not leading it). Congratulations! As you march towards your goal of becoming a successful artist – whatever that means to you – you’re bound to face these obstacles in one form or other.

  1. The Catch-22 Problem: You can’t get your work shown, produced, or published because you’re not a name brand, but you can’t become a name brand until you get your work shown, produced, or published. This is the familiar lament of emerging artists everywhere.

    What you can do about it: There’s not a silver bullet solution to this problem and it takes time, but there are steps you can take to get your work recognized.  Do the art for art’s sake first. Then figure out what themes run through your work so you can speak intelligently about it. Get comfortable talking about your work. Create a succinct and exciting description of what you are doing (otherwise known as your elevator pitch) that rolls off your tongue and will make others interested in knowing more.  Socialize with other artists and producers in your medium.  Get involved in an organization that supports artists in your field. Become a fixture in the community. Take the initiative to produce your own small shows, productions, or short films, collaborate with friends on projects, make friends with bloggers and other press on the scene.  All this activity contributes to the relationship building that is essential to getting your work noticed and supported.  It will help others get to know you better and in turn they will contribute to a critical mass around you that is necessary for you to breakthrough.

  2. The Cash Problem: You are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials or software you need to buy to support your creative practice. You can’t afford the classes you’d like to take to increase your skill set. The kitchen table or garage isn’t cutting it anymore, and you need a new workspace pronto.

    What you can do about it: Save your money. Being an artist isn’t cheap. You need to invest in yourself before you ask others to do the same. Maybe you cut back on the fancy coffees. Or bring lunch to the office more often. Trim some kind of indulgence and put it in your artist fund. If you have a few shows or publications under your belt, you can begin to apply for grants to support your work. Do a crowd-funding campaign to finance one aspect of a specific project-start small ($5,000 or less) so that you reach your goal.  There are even residencies that provide artists space for their practice. Caution: grant applications can become a job unto themselves! Apprentice with a more established artist for access to advanced machinery. Barter for leftover materials or equipment.  Split the cost of the software with some friends. There are a myriad of ways to get access to what you need.

  3. The Confidence Problem: You are comfortable telling people you’re an artist, but you’re not so comfortable telling them about what type of art you create. You downplay your work by telling people it’s not that interesting or that it’s not groundbreaking and you don’t know why you do it.

    What you can do about it: Bite your tongue. Well, not literally. Every time you get the urge to sweep your creative work under the rug or downplay its significance, say something nice about it instead. If you don’t believe in your work no one else will!  And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Change the subject, or tell the person you’re speaking with that you’re far too superstitious about your art to talk about it.  Regularly take the time to go inward and get in touch with why you do what you do and what is good about it.  The more you say positive things about your creative projects, the better you’ll feel about them and the more confident you’ll become.

Are there any challenges on this list that keep you from growing as an artist? Do you have any creative solutions to these common problems that we didn’t already mention?

No Excuses. Make Your Art A Priority Now.

by Joanne Zippel

You’ve probably heard the story of Hernán Cortés. Even if you don’t recognize the name, you may remember him as the Spanish Conquistador who prevented his crew from turning back from battle by ordering them to destroy their ships. (A lot of people think they burned the boats, but that’s not how they did it.) The point of destroying the boats was so that there was no option but for the men to fight. It’s time for you to burn the boats that are keeping you from doing your artistic work and jumpstart your creative career.

Instead of saying “I don’t have time” or “I’m not connected enough” or “I don’t have the money,” try saying “What can do today to engage with my artistic self?” See how that feels and start to move forward with your project. Your self-limiting beliefs should never stand in the way of you working on your artistic projects. You’re a creative person by nature, and that means you can come up with creative solutions to your problems.

Make your artistic career a high priority in your life. Next time you feel like saying, “I don’t have time to work on my painting,( or novel, screenplay or performing)” say this instead: “I’m not making time for my art because it’s not a priority right now.”

Does that feel good to you? Probably not. But that’s the unfinished part of the sentence whenever you start talking about your perceived obstacles. Isn’t it time to change your narrative? The words you use are a reflection of your thought processes and your belief system and when you hear these words – even though they’re coming from your mouth – they’re a reinforcement of those negative beliefs.

You can create a fulfilling artistic career, if you make it a priority. Feed your passion and choose to live your life as an artist. It’s your choice to make your creative life your core experience. Value your creativity. What you do every day is tied to your priorities. You should take action on your artistic career every day.

If you need a some guidance in making this change, I offer a free, 30-minute Creative Career Action Planning Session where you can learn 3 simple but powerful tips to move your creative career forward!  Schedule your session today!

Agents: Partners or Saviors?

closeup of handshakeAs a creative coach, there’s one question that early-career clients never fail to ask: “Don’t I need an agent or manager to succeed?” I know why they ask. The agent is seen as the Holy Grail for an artist … the White Knight, who has come along to do all the heavy lifting in the artist’s career.   But it’s simply not true. (Artists who have had agents in the past can surely agree).

I always tell my clients that while an agent or a manager may be useful in the long run, most are inundated with requests, have limited time and are very selective about who they take on. Most agents will only create a true partnership with motivated and resourceful clients who actively promote their own work and bring strategic relationships to the party.

It’s a hard pill to swallow. Being an artist isn’t easy, and most artists don’t want to be involved in the business end of things because that takes away from the creative end, which is where they shine.

I explain to my clients that there are three steps to finding and working with an agent.

1. Be The Best Artist You Can Be: There’s that old saying that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.  The same is true for agents.  When the artist is ready, the agent will appear.  Always try to improve your art.  Take classes.  Read technical books.  If you’re a theater or film artist, go see shows and movies to be aware of what’s happening in the industry.  If you’re a novelist or poet, go to readings.  If you’re a painter or sculptor, go to openings.  Join a community of your peers.  Learn from and share with your community.  People like to work with people they know — in person or by reputation — and agents are people too!

2. Know Why You Are An Artist: All the hob-knobbing and skill building in the world won’t help you land an agent, if you don’t have a purpose to your art. Each of your creations, performances, or publications should reflect who you are as an artist.  What is your voice?  If you don’t have a strong voice, you won’t be able to get an agent … and you’re not ready to have one. Keep your eyes on your work, instead of looking over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing.  Create work that is authentically your aesthetic.  Don’t try to chase the marketplace.  Innovate instead!

3. Recognize Your Agent as Your Partner, Not Your Savior: When you do land an agent, don’t hand over the health and wealth of your creative career to your agent! Work together with your agent to make a plan to advance your career. Agents are great negotiators,  are wonderful advocates for your work, and are great for helping you get past the gatekeepers. But your agent isn’t alone in the struggle. You can’t depend on anyone to make your career for you.

It’s the Wild Wild West for 21st century artists.  There are loads of opportunities out there even if you don’t have an agent.  Start a new project and produce something.  Get out there and connect with movers and shakers in your industry.    Now is the time to be the entrepreneur of your creative career!


Are You a Zombie Artist?

Zombie Uncle SamHappy Independence Day! Our Founding Fathers were action takers who were passionate about their ideas, and after a long struggle, they were rewarded with freedom from British rule. Imagine if the Founding Fathers had been zombies though. Not much would have been accomplished. Why? Because although zombies have an actionable goal of eating brains, they don’t strategize beyond that. In fact, they create more competition every time they take a bite of a living person. What is the zombie sustainability plan for when they run out of humans? They just don’t have one.

As an artist, you can choose to be an independent thinker who makes plans and takes action, or you can be a zombie who moves from project to project without any strategy or forethought.

Here are three tips to avoid being the latter:

  1. Think about sustainability. When your current project is finished, will you have depleted all your resources, strained your relationships, and exhausted your physical and emotional self? If yes, you aren’t behaving in a way that will sustain your career as an artist. The Founding Fathers didn’t say to themselves, “Hey! America! That’ll last for a couple of years!” And you shouldn’t think that way either. You’re an artist for life, not just one project.
  2. Think about your purpose. Your purpose as a creator may not be as lofty as founding a new nation, but it is what drives you. And if you’re like most artists, your purpose serves your community somehow. If you only think about eating brains, that’s not giving back to the world. What do you want to do artistically? Who do you want to affect and how do you want to affect them?
  3. Think about where you’re going. In the movie World War Z, the zombies are attracted to loud noises and immediately shuffle off towards every ping and clang they hear. If you’re as easily distracted, then you’ve got to learn to focus and stay the course. No one is going to shape your career as an artist for you. You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself.

Celebrate your freedom from the mindlessness of being a zombie.  Take this holiday as an opportunity to declare your own independence from whatever is holding you back from being the artist you dream of being.  Create.  Create.  Create!

Our Newest Workshop Off to a Great Start!

joannespeaking  Our newest NYWIFT (New York Women in Film and Television) workshop started up last Tuesday and is really inspiring! I’m thrilled about the group, made up of smart, creative, motivated women and ONE man! It’s a diverse group of writers, actors, musicians, digital media makers and filmmakers who are working in a variety of genres. They’re all excited about taking their projects to the next level.

Do you feel fear or lack of clarity is holding you back? Would you like to work in an area where you can truly excel and express yourself? These are some of the issues we address in the workshop and in the past there have been some amazing results – people who are doing what they always wanted to do and getting paid for it! (Be sure to check out the testimonials on this website).

We will be starting up a new artist career support workshop in the near future for New Jersey residents, and another New York group as well. If you are interested, drop me a line at: joanne@zipcreative.net.

Complimentary 30-minute consultations are also available for individual coaching.

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