You may already know that Vicki and I work in tandem in our business and I want to thank her for initiating and partially writing this, more business side, post.
This one is about diversification of income as an artist…. sorta.
Everyone says that you need to “diversify your income stream” to be successful or to make it easier on yourself. What does this even mean? How do I do it? Where do I even start? And is it JUST for the income stream, or does it also help you keep your artistic sight?
As an artist it should be easy right? I am not sure anything is “easy” because we each have completely different products (art) and each of us has different clientele or fan base. I suppose the way I went about this particular aspect of my career was kind of backwards since we didn’t truly think about it while we were doing it. I think we backed into diversifying our income and now it works with the way I work and the way our household works but maybe this will help some other people if you find yourself at odds with the concept.
Years ago, years and years and years ago, lol, when I was starting my art journey there weren’t online courses to help with how to do this. OK, fine, there wasn’t “online” anything! Yes, we are pre-internet people.
So our start was as follows:
I would do art and take it to a convention to sell prints of it. We had 2 options for prints back then. First was making lithographic print runs of 500 or more all at once. These could run upwards of $2000 to print. The issues with these were that there was no guarantee that these pieces would sell well and the initial cost. So sometimes we wouldn’t have the capital to make only lithographs and we would make some simple print runs at Kinko’s. Non archival But we knew nothing back then.
That was one of our income streams, and Vicki took care of a lot of the work that went into that aspect so that I could still produce art. I also started getting contract work. WoTC, TSR, White Wolf and other companies. Some that have long since disappeared… but none of these contracts were enough for us to live on, but together with the convention income it wasn’t bad. To make up and contribute Vicki also worked outside of our business until around 1998. Since then though she has worked solely in our business.
Again, back to diversification.
I worked some contracts, but not enough to cover all our costs of living so I did my own work and we sold it at conventions and eventually renaissance festivals, then solely back to conventions and contracts and cut out the ren fairies as my art shifted to something we determined that wasn’t as marketable to festivals. Since 2009 I have added working in film and television to the contracts (which is extremely fun by the way).
How is this diversifying? It certainly isn’t diversifying in the classical sense but as I stated before, we all don’t go about things in the same straight line. I guess I am not really sure it is the classical way of thinking about income stream diversification but this is the way WE diversified.
My main point this month is this… and I wish more artists would think about this. (If and when you can afford to. I want to say you can’t afford not to but that is not the way others think about it and sometimes you just have to put your head down and work till the bills are paid. Period)
Never, ever, ever stop working on your own artwork or with your own voice.
Yes, certainly there were times when I couldn’t or I should say I shouldn’t have taken the time to do my own work because of *insert* bills/deadlines/other obligations. (note: I did it anyway. *see Vicki’s look from above*)
I meet professionals in the field all the time that are extremely successful at their job, but many of them you have never heard of. I meet people who have worked very hard in the industry, film, television or illustration but once they feel they are done with that, or burned out a bit, they don’t know WHAT to do with themselves, what to do next and the major issue is that they have spent years tailoring their work process to illuminating others products, ideas, concept, etc. without taking the time to develop their own vision beyond technical proficiency. I’ve had long time professional artist friends who talk to me and express a desire to do their *own* work only to fall a bit flat because they end up doing work exactly like their contract work because they hadn’t taken the time to really dig in and find out what their own work really was.
I now work on a few projects a year and always work on my own art. I don’t actively go out and hunt down jobs because I WANT to work on my own art and because we have kept the sale of originals and prints going via our website. (Always a huge thank you to those of you who have a little piece of *me* in their life now, hanging on their wall. You are always appreciated ((Edit: Vicki, this phrase sounds like they have one of my organs stapled to their wall.)) This has worked for us, for some people it wouldn’t, of course, because the income stream isn’t steady monthly but we know how to work with that after 30 years. You REALLY have to understand that when you get the larger amounts of money in from the contracts (or conventions) it has to last through the time you want to paint your mermaid series, or produce your coloring book or do that series of oil paintings.
The main outtake is that I meet so many older artists that have no idea what to do now, but they know they don’t want to work an industry job anymore. They can still do it if they let themselves have the time and space to discover what it is they’re looking for.
So always save a little time for yourself, for your art, for your project so that you can always keep your voice so that later you can sing loudly and say what you would like to say…