As an established Christian artist, I'm often asked how do you take a hobby and turn it into a viable business; either part time or full time. Or to take it a step further, how do you take something you love to do, have God bless it and turn it into a source of income, allowing you the time, the freedom and the income you need to start focusing on what God has called you to do?
Over the years, I've learned that most artists are moved and motivated simply by the opportunity to create art. And the simple fact is, if you're making enough money through creating and selling your art, then you have more time to create. That's pretty awesome! When that is coupled with seeing your art being used by God to transform the lives of others, your joy and fulfillment cup in life really starts to overflow.
While this is fun to think about, the real challenge for most Christian artists is figuring out how they get there; how they take that hobby, and go pro. I've touched on the concept of "Building the Bridge" in previous posts, but today we're going to map out exactly what that journey can look like for you.
Make Great (and Unique) Art
The foundation of this bridge is simply making great art. You have to develop your skill, your unique voice, and an aesthetic that is desirable in the marketplace. Otherwise, you’ve got nothing to share with the world. It's also essential to continue producing great work regularly for your style and your voice to develop. Without that, most artists find themselves stuck without a unique, recognizable voice or enough work to start really selling.
Now, I know it's easy to become discouraged at this stage. It takes time for your unique voice to develop. It's going to take dedication, determination, and countless hours in the studio to develop your unique artistic voice, one that will set you apart in the marketplace. That’s normal and a glorious part of our journey both spiritually and artistically. No amount of marketing and business skill can make up for the lack of the time you spend creating. Remember, the same God that blessed you with talent and desire is the same God that will sustain and inspire you as you continue building your skill throughout your journey.
Put Yourself Out There
Proverb 16:9 says, "Man plans his way, but the Lord orders his steps."
Your next step is to make your plan and get yourself out there into the marketplace. The most effective way I've found to establish long term success in marketing my art is what I like to call my Parthenon Marketing Plan.
Think about the Parthenon, that ancient multi-pillared structure in Athens, Greece. Built thousands of years ago, the structure of the building is still largely intact due to the multiple pillars that were built to support the structure. Picture that building in your mind as we switch gears and focus on marketing your art.
Instead of putting all of your "marketing eggs" in one basket, or on one "marketing pillar," begin diversifying your marketing efforts across a variety of different sales and marketing channels. Don’t just rely on art shows and craft fairs to sell your work, branch out and establish an online presence, too. Instead of just paying for Facebook ads, why not reach out to your local media outlets and let them know you're available for interviews and public interest stories! The possibilities are endless.
The point is to build your marketing "house" by using a multi-pillared approach that employs a variety of different marketing tactics, all working simultaneously. That way, if one strategy fails, falls short, or, as we've seen with the Covid-19 Pandemic, is shut down, you still have a way to connect with clients, sell your art and pandemic-proof your business.
Find YOUR Place….Are You Going to be Evian or Tap Water?
So let's recap. First, you have to create great art while developing your unique artistic voice and style. Then you must begin reaching out and connecting with people so that they know you exist in the marketplace. Finally, it's also essential to know where to position yourself IN the market.
Let's use water as an example. Now, there's tap water that basically costs you nothing and then there are bottles of water out there that can cost upwards of $100 (check out https://svalbardi.com/). How do they charge that much for water? It's all with how it's positioned in the marketplace. They've marketed it in such a way that makes it unique, special, and exclusive enough to offer a client the experience they're seeking.
It’s the same way with art. Take my work, for example. I don't just create functional baskets you can find at any store. I create woven sculpture. I don't sell at common community craft shows. I've positioned myself in the marketplace in a way that highlights the value of my work as fine art. When my clients meet me, see my art, and get to know me, they begin to feel that one of my sculpted pieces just might be worthy of a place of honor in their home and the high prices my work commands.
Do you have to be the best artist in the world to accomplish this? Absolutely not, but you do need to create something that is perceived as special, unique, and valuable. This approach continues to build on itself. Once you cultivate and build a reputation for being exclusive, unique, and desirable, you'll begin to find and attract your special niche of clients.
By positioning myself as an artist, instead of “some guy who makes baskets” or “crafty”, I've been able to create a unique brand that is both high end and exclusive. And that's how you start to command the prices and respect in the art world.
Where is God in all of this?
My friend, He's in your studio and the work you create. He’s in your inspiration, and He’s definitely in the relationships you develop along the way. The Holy Spirit will guide you every step of the way both in your creative process and into those special relationships He has for you. Learn to invest in those key relationships the Lord points out to you and intentionally cultivate those relationships over time. It will pay off, I promise.
Remember, the Lord is ready to walk with you in every artistic, business, and life decision you face. The same God who filled you with creativity and inspiration desires to guide you moment by moment as you step out in faith and use the gifts He's given you in the marketplace. And as you are faithful on your journey, the Lord will begin to open up doors for you to do the thing that's in your heart.
I hope this has been a big encouragement to you. If this article has been a blessing to you, take a moment to share it with a friend.
Thanks for reading!
Matt Tommey is an artist, author and mentor who is passionate about empowering artists to thrive spiritually, artistically and in business.