Seven Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist

Emerging Artists
By Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich
Seven Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist Seven Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist

For those just starting out on their journey as an artist, the road ahead is filled with potential pitfalls and rookie mistakes that can hold you back. Avoiding these common traps is crucial for emerging artists looking to turn their passion into a sustainable career path. From failing to treat your art like a business to neglecting your online presence, even seemingly small missteps can hinder your ability to get noticed and build a following. By being aware of these seven frequently made blunders, you can save yourself a lot of hassle and put yourself in a better position for long-term creative and commercial success.  

Mistake 1: Not Treating Your Art as a Business

While making great art is obviously the core goal, too many emerging artists neglect the entrepreneurial side that's required to market and sell their work effectively. You have to approach your artistic pursuits with the same dedicated professionalism as any other business owner. This means setting up the proper legal business entity, tracking income/expenses meticulously for taxes, obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, purchasing insurance to protect yourself, constantly promoting your brand across multiple channels, and networking tirelessly to cultivate a client base. Underestimating these fundamentals is a sure-fire way to struggle.

Mistake 2: Poor Marketing & Lack of Self-Promotion  

Speaking of marketing, far too many talented artists make the flawed assumption that their work will just "speak for itself" and somehow get magically discovered. In our hyper-saturated attention economy, you absolutely must become a proactive marketer and relentless self-promoter across every available platform. Having an online portfolio website and active social media presence is the bare minimum. You need to continually update your sites, generate new content (photos, blog posts, videos, podcasts, etc.), engage your audience, utilize SEO tactics, advertise intelligently, send newsletters, etc. If you just sit back, your art will likely never find its intended audience.

Mistake 3: Pricing Your Art Incorrectly

One of the toughest skills for any new artist to master is pricing their work at the appropriate market value. Price too high and you'll alienate potential buyers; too low and you'll get lowballed while undermining your own credibility. Thoroughly research what comparable emerging artists in your medium are charging based on factors like size, materials, labor hours, and demand. Be familiar with standard pricing formulas and leverage tools like art price calculators. You can always negotiate a bit, but having a solid rationale for your set prices is essential.

Mistake 4: Poor Record Keeping & Inventory Management

Meticulously documenting your artwork catalog and tracking the provenance/ownership history of each piece is a habit you must cement from day one. Maintaining updated inventory records with details like title, medium, dimensions, creation date, materials, photo references, etc. ensures you stay organized as your portfolio grows. Likewise, recording which works get sold along with transaction paperwork creates a verifiable trail that enhances your professional reputation and the art's future value on the secondary market. Neglecting this process leads to sloppy record-keeping and lost opportunities down the line.

Mistake 5: Failing to Leverage Your Network & Build Relationships

The art world runs on connections and collaborative partnerships. Yet many emerging artists stay isolated working alone and neglect to build the robust professional networks that are so crucial for career advancement these days. Developing relationships with experienced mentors, dealers, curators, collectors, journalists, suppliers and other artists creates a supportive ecosystem that opens doors. Be proactive about attending art openings, community events, trade shows and conferences.  Don't be afraid to seek out guidance and opportunities. Supporting others is equally key since you never know where your big break may come from.

Mistake 6: Lacking Commitment to Continued Education & Skill Development

The learning process for an artist is truly lifelong. Yet some emerging creatives develop a misguided sense of complacency early on, failing to continuously challenge themselves to grow their skills and expand their creative boundaries. Make it a priority to keep studying artistic fundamentals, experimenting with new techniques and materials, taking workshops from masters in your field, and pushing yourself outside of your established comfort zone. An ongoing commitment to developing your craft will keep your creative energy fresh and work engaging for a keen audience.  

Mistake 7: Not Having Enough Patience & Grit 

Let's be real – pursuing any artistic passion as a sustainable career path requires an incredibly thick skin and an unshakable reserve of perseverance. The harsh reality is that most emerging artists encounter innumerable rejection letters, scathing critiques, funding roadblocks, unsupportive friends/family, and soul-crushing bouts of self-doubt along the way. Only those with the ability to charge forward through the darkness while maintaining belief in their talents will eventually break through. Having a "plan b" is pragmatic, but a lack of steadfast long-term persistence and unyielding commitment dooms many promising artists before they ever get started.


Q: How can I promote my art online as a new artist?

A: Build a professional website portfolio and be very active on relevant social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, etc. Share new work frequently, utilize hashtags, engage your audience, guest post on blogs, appear on podcasts, and consider paid advertising boosts.

Q: What's the best way for me to price my artwork?

A: Research what other emerging artists are charging based on factors like size, materials, labor hours, demand. Get familiar with standard pricing formulas/calculators. Don't undervalue yourself but don't overprice. Be willing to negotiate at times.

Q: How important are art records and documentation?  

A: Extremely important. You should exhaustively catalog new pieces with details like title, medium, size, year, materials, plus photograph documentation. Track provenance and sales history. Keeps you organized and enhances future value.

Q: As a new artist, how can I expand my network?  

A: Attend as many local art events/openings as possible. Join arts associations and community groups. Seek out mentorship from more experienced artists. Collaborate with others. Don't stay isolated working alone.

Q: At what point should I look into business licenses, insurance, tax setup as an artist?

A: As soon as you plan to start selling your art and treating it as a legitimate business. Do the proper paperwork upfront to avoid potential issues down the line. Consult professional advisors.

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Seven Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist Seven Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist

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