Being an artist in today’s world is not easy. It can be hard to provide for yourself and your family if you are not well known and selling a lot of work. While many might offer you the advice of “getting a real job”, you know that to be happy you need to follow your passion. When it comes to finding success in the art world, there are many pros and cons to hiring an art manager or agent to help you along the way. Below are some of those reasons.
1. Marketing- Not all artists are experts in the area of marketing and promotion, whether it’s maintaining a website and business cards, creating and putting out ads for their shows, or sending out promotional contacts to galleries. An agent can handle these things (either personally or through outsourcing) for artists who just want to focus on their work.
2. Connections– Most art agents are very well connected to the world of art in all facets. Generally, they’ll be able to help with things like preparing press releases and sending them to any relevant media contacts. They are also able to help you find galleries or other venues to display your work. In addition, they can be responsible for making sure that your work is being handled properly and that all of your work is being displayed correctly for better chances of being sold.
3. Organization– A good art agent can bring order to a budding art career and keep track of important career factors liker finance and archives. From keeping track of dates and copyrighting work to keeping an up-to-date former and potential client list of those who shop at galleries or buy art online to keeping an updated biography and resume of the artist, they can do it all. An agent can also help to manage purchases and make sure commissions and fees are paid out properly. They are the business side of you, in charge of making sure that you have every opportunity possible to sell your work and become more recognized.
4. Increased Profits- The above listed perks can lead to the ultimate perk which is increased profits from art sales. A proper agent/artist relationship would involve increased profits from the agents help and the agent being paid an agreed upon percentage out of those increased profits for their salary.
Decided on a Rep? How to Choose the Right One
When choosing an agent or a gallery to represent you, make sure to do your research- check backgrounds and references. Find out about their other clients and their success rate. Do they have experience representing others in your creative market? You could choose a locally based agent or perhaps, could go with one from a larger city depending on your goals as an artist and the clientele you are already attracting. Your agent should be easily accessible at all times and there should a verbal and written contract addressing issues of responsibility, payment, and exclusivity. An artist should not neccessarily have to pay their representation in advance. Communication is key for a successful agent/artist relationship.
1. Communication Breakdowns– One of the biggest problems that many people face when hiring agents for any business is that there are always disagreements. The artist will generally see things going one way, while the agent will want to lead things the other way. Even though an agent can be very good for the career of an artist, disagreements can cause more harm than good. If both parties do not have the same agenda in mind, the artist may never find success. If you do hire an agent, make sure they share your vision of success and have a clear picture of your goals.
2. Cost– Hiring an art agent is not free. They need to get paid as well. Unfortunately, the reason why many artists are considering hiring an agent in the first place is because they are not having much success. So, no matter what fees that an agent is charging, it is generally more than the artist can afford. Also, you might be paying fees to the agent even if they are not successful in marketing your work. If you find someone new to the business, it might be possible to work out an arrangement (they just get a percentage of your sales, or a trading of services, etc.).
3.Less Control– By hiring representation, an artist does give up a certain degree of control over their career. Certain decisions that were once left up to the artist become management’s responsibility such as where their art is shown, who purchases it, and how it is marketed.
Tips on How to Go it Alone
Deciding to forgo representation and foster your own art career can be rewarding in it’s own right. Create defined long-term and short-term goals and a mission statement and put them up in plain sight some where in your studio The amount of work you put into your own marketing, networking, organization, and business affairs will directly reflect in your success. You may discover new avenues of creativity in this process, which in turn can be lucrative. For example, by creating my own flyers, business cards, and website I learned a great deal about graphic design and other digital media. Also, I would recommend building healthy relationships with the clients who purchase your work and venues that show it because they can become sources of steady income over time.
Use your creativity to sell yourself and organize your affairs and don’t be afraid to utilize technology. Retain and file documentation of all your work, sales, exhibits, and appointments. Branch out, submit to shows and galleries in other cities, and take advantage of a variety of ways to share your work and promote your art career. The web, the streets, retail businesses, annual arts festivals, and publications are just a few unconventional avenues that could bring great exposure and revenue.
The choice to hire an art agent or not will basically come down to the artist themselves. They might want to focus on just their work and let the agent do all of the business aspects. However, many artists might find that if they just put a little effort into it, they could easily manage their own careers in the same way that the agent can. An artist’s best marketer is themselves. Because they know their work the best, they will have the ability to market it just as well or better than most agents or managers can.
Author Molly Pearce is also a free-lance artist based out of Atlanta. She is a contributor at artismo.com, a website dedicated to the sale of fine framed fine art prints and photography that is delivered to you doorstep. It’s a unique resource for those looking to buy art online for their home or office. Artismo utilizes high quality wood moulding and framing materials to ensure that the unique quality of each artwork is outshone only by the handiwork used to frame it.
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