I grew up in a house bursting at the seams with art, and most of my younger memories are interwoven with the smell of turpentine for oil painting, or wet clay and the special smell of an art studio when things have been cleaned and put away. Later in college I received my degree in Art History, and in my 20s lived a pretty creative life that included all sides of art making.
One thing that became clear right away is that most artists don't have a business mindset. Even when they do, they're often not thinking of their art as business, because it comes from somewhere else within, much more primal.
Society likes to tell us that good artists are broke, and barely scrape by, but this totally isn't true. After years of living with artists, being an artist, and finally handling art for living and historic artists as a registrar for a popular art gallery, I can say with absolute certainty that artists can thrive when they know how to value and represent their art!
When I went to college I had a friend who was a performance artist--more like Marina Abramovic than Christo. I watched her create a master's thesis, participated in one of her exhibitions, and watched her cultivate sponsorships and grants. She was good at advocating for her work, and speaking with people, so she used this as part of the bedrock for how she crafted her artistic life. It took great courage, as she was working in a field that people still didn't validate as art. Her work was amazing, and she knew it.
Artists can thrive when they know how to value and represent their art!
As a healing practitioner and coach, I've done a lot of business coaching over the years, and my approach isn't conventional; It's for the artists, the healers, the creatives, the passionate world lovers and globetrotters who need any concept of their business to come from a deeply authentic, passionate place within. I'd like to take a moment to share why business coaching is actually really important for artists and why you need it!
You may never hire a business coach, but even understanding the value of a coach will help you self-coach and guide yourself in your career.
What is Business Coaching?
Business coaching can help you grow and develop in your creative industry--especially if you're the person who doesn't really think of what you do as business.
A business coach provides guidance, support, and accountability as you work to achieve your business goals. Art is healing. Although the art industry and the energy healing industry work in totally different ways, I do feel that artists and healers both have a special connection with the subtle energies that define life. As a result of this connection, artists don't often work well with business coaches who promote just ONE strategy. Unlike other genres of business, an artist has to fully love the WAY business is being done in their life, or they won't do it. Not every artist is meant to have art shows in a physical location, or to apply for national awards and funding, or to be on television. As an artist, you need to carve a unique path with your work, and understand the tools to do so.
An artist is a brand. Every artist is different, and whether you want to be able to do your art full time, or whether you see it as a side gig, a business coach can help you refine your understanding of your strengths as that brand, in order to create a lifestyle business that really reflects how YOU want to move in the world.
Just as you need brushes for an oil painting, or clay for a ceramic vessel, there are specific tools that can help you grow your business. A coach can help you understand the medium of business.
Because of my own experiences in the art world, I especially love helping creative people! Do you want your art to be seen by others? What is most important to you about that? Who do you want to reach with your art? Why does it exist in the world? These are great questions for artists to ponder, as the answers can help you start to forge a true stage for your work.
Often artists are great at their art, and healers are fantastic caretakers, but who is going to take care of you? Who supports you, outside of your craft, so that you can be sustainably successful?
The Path of the Artist
When I was fresh out of college, I wanted to live a fully creative life. The question for me was how to do it? I read every book I could find in my local library and bookstore, but there really wasn't much. Joseph Campbell said, "Follow your bliss," but I didn't really get it back then. Sure I could follow my bliss, but would that pay my bills? I tried speaking to other creative people, but all they could tell me was how they did it, not how I could do it.
One family member had developed a name for himself through painting and shows, later settling into a job as an art teacher. Another had taken a commercial painting job and often had a flow of interesting freelance gigs to support a lifetime of creative exploration. I had a friend who paid their bills as a self-employed graphic designer by day, and club bouncer by night.
Every artist or healing type I knew had a path that was so unique, it would have been impossible to follow in their footsteps. What I really needed was someone who had some understanding of the industry I was looking at, and a lot of willingness to understand my unique situation and desires. I needed a business coach, but I didn't even know they existed for creative people.
What A Business Coach Can't Do For You
In those years I actually needed a lot of things, not just business guidance. Thankfully over time, the universe provided beautiful healing lessons and support. Back then I wished I'd had a business coach, but even now I see that creative people don't often understand the boundaries around business coaching. There are some things a business coach CAN'T do for you, and it's good to know that too.
A business coach is not a therapist or counselor. Generally business coaches are pretty hardy and can be a huge emotional support when the topic of business brings up very deep emotions. We've been trained to provide support, and help you overcome challenges and obstacles in your business. However if deeper emotional issues or fears are coming up, it's good to loop in a healing practitioner, a friend, or a therapist, that way you can keep business sessions focused as much as possible on the growing your art career.
Additionally, a business coach is not a financial advisor or accountant. Most coaches have their own areas of strength, so you need to understand their purpose and specialty when hiring them. For example, I can speak reasonably well to the financial dynamics inherent in online retail, wholesaling and monthly operational budgeting, frameworks for outsourcing all of it easily, as well as baseline finances for adult well-being, but I expect clients to hire an accountant, bookkeeper, or other types of specialists who can help them get into the nitty gritty, and reclaim their financial story. I can guide clients in how to find that kind support (or do it for themselves), but I can't do it for them.
A business coach is not an art agent. They don't represent you directly in the art world. For example, if you have a business model you love--say you already have your art in a few galleries and your dream is to start cultivating world recognition, a business coach can help you on creating your overall plan. We can co-create a big vision and break down steps and strategy. Then you might want an art agent to help you make the actual introductions in your art world, get you into specific galleries or shows, and build your direct career collateral. Not everyone needs an art agent, but they are great when you need to connect with people and resouces in the industry, or across industries. And, some artists who have clear business vision may only need an art agent. Most artists I know don't use an agent or agency at all, but some have created entire lifestyles because of having an excellent agent.
I've had business coaches off and on throughout my life, and while some have very rigid strategies, a business coach can not run your business for you. No matter how gifted your coach is, it's so, SO important to remember that your business is your own.
The best coaches will encourage your mindset and confidence in your own abilities so that you can feel really empowered making strategic decisions you can't wait to live with. They help give you a big picture so you can boldly in your daily life.
Why Do You Need A Creative Business Coach?
Let's break it down. Some common reasons to seek out the support of a business coach include:
1. Developing a vision for your business.
A business coach can you clarify your goals and create a vision for your business. Do you want to mass produce art? Get into Target? Become a commercial artist? Sell through online websites? Have traditional shows and sell your work directly or through galleries?
There are so many pathways for getting your work seen, and as technology continues to develop, people are making new artistic career choices that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Art schools don't always frame the experience of strategic long term business growth for creatives.
Sometimes you're on the path but you don't even realize it. Even a session with a good coach can help you get clarity on a working business plan, identify future clients or patrons, and create marketing and sales strategies that feel like a natural extension of who you already.
I have used my life experiences, healing gifts, and connections to help healing practitioners identify what's holding them back, and to help artists understand the options available in their industry. Don't stay stuck!
2. Improving productivity.
A business coach can help you look at your time differently so that you don't burn out doing all of the things you don't want to do. I've met many artists who didn't develop a sustainable business model simply because they thought it would mean too much work doing non-art things.
The world is full of resources for you to craft an abundant lifestyle that agrees with you. A business coach can help you see and understand your time and energy in ways you've never considered.
3. Financial Mindset.
A coach can help you heal your money mindset, so that you learn to feel emotionally safe asking for what you need financially as an artist and creative. There's a version of your future in which you can simply do what you love, and make a healthy compensation in return.
Working with a business coach is incredibly valuable and can save you years in your career process. A coach can help you identify who else can support your work, whether that's an art agent, bookkeeper, assistant, canvas stretcher, energy healer, the right online app, or total digital automation. A business coach does a lot of the research and exploring, so that you don't waste your time, and can stay focused on your life.
How to Prepare for Work With A Business Coach
Check out a business coach by having a conversation with them or purchasing a single session. All coaches are super different. Make sure you feel comfortable speaking with the person you're thinking of working with. Share how you truly feel about things, not just what you think they expect you to say. The authenticity of your conversation is important for your overall success.
Most business coaches will want to see examples of your work, or have an idea of what you do and how much money you are making. Understanding your income flow and lifestyle helps them to gather resources on your behalf and find direction. If you're not sure of those numbers, take an evening before your session to do a little research in your bank account. Look at how much you are generally making, what you usually do to generate it, who/where that income is from, and notice patterns in your lifestyle connected to your work and income.
It's amazing how different the real numbers are, as opposed to what people generally believe about their income. I've seen the process of simply looking at bank statements and calendars be life changing for some clients.
If you have a business plan or idea, be prepared to chat about it, and share whatever materials you have. This will help you and your coach to understand your business and where you want to go.
Sometimes I get calls from gifted people who really want to take things to the next level, but they're scared inside, so they will find a reason to shoot down every possible solution. Together we work on letting go of those fears, or of the control. Be open and receptive to business feedback, and be willing to consider new ideas and approaches to growing your business. New ideas don't mean that you've failed or that you've done something wrong. They are merely stepping stones to get you to the next step.
Leave time after your coaching session to reflect on the conversation and decide on how you want to implement changes.
Set A Strong Intention For Your Creative Success
When I coach with people in business, we set goals together, create an action plan, track progress, and clear resistance wherever it is coming up. I use all of the tools at my disposal to help clients attain success, whether we're together for a multi-session package, or even just one VIP session.
If you're a healer or artist, I highly recommend budgeting time and resources for even one good session with a business coach. Choose someone who seems to understand your industry in general, and enjoy the process!
DAILEY LITTLE is a highly skilled life & business coach who specializes in helping new and established businesses reach their full potential.
With a unique blend of energy healing and marketing strategy, she guides her clients through the foundational phases of business for financial stability and growth. She is particularly passionate about helping creatives and healers clarify their dreams and bring them to fruition.