Throughout history, artists have struggled to earn a consistent living from their art.
Nothing illustrates this more than a certain phrase dating back to the early 1800’s:
“The Starving Artist”
This phrase is still in wide-spread use today. And while you may have used this phrase to deprecatingly describe yourself, there’s no ignoring that it usually carries a negative connotation.
200 years later, the “starving artist” still struggles to earn a consistent, stable income from their art.
The Starving Artist Problem
Make no mistake about it – earning a consistent living as an artist is truly a dream.
There are not many entrepreneurial professions that allow someone to creatively express their vision and turn it into a sellable product that subsequently touches people’s lives.
That is pretty darn cool.
And so if one is able to earn a living from it, it is undeniably one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling career choices one could make.
But for those who have starved and/or struggled to sustain an income from their art, there is a little bit of a dark side to this career choice.
This cannot be ignored. Some struggling artists suffer from feelings of inadequacy. Some have been ridiculed by or looked down upon by other family members, usually because they have not earned respectable income.
Truth be told, a lot of families, friendships, and relationships have been strained due to the starving artist problem.
Whether any of this hurt is justifiable or not, it is and has been a historical reality in our society.
This starving artist stereotype also has consequences. There is a troubling trend occurring across the United States where art schools are being closed or discontinued. If you agree that art makes a valuable contribution and is a positive force in this world, this trend is deeply concerning.
It makes one wonder where society will be in 20 years if there are fewer artists to inspire us and less art to enjoy.
This problem worried and fascinated us, so we went to work studying it.
We started by talking to a few artists. And then a few photographers.
And then a few more.
We ended up interviewing more than 20,000 artists and photographers. Even today, we continue to talk to over 500 new artists every single week.
What We Have Found
The results from all of this investigation has been profound.
We believe that we have discovered the main issue that is driving the starving artist problem.
The main issue is this:
When it comes to executing their businesses on a monthly basis, artists have been, and still are, operating all alone on an island.
By this we mean that they are almost completely unaware of what successful artists have done and are doing right now to create success. Likewise, they are almost completely unaware of what has, and is causing others to fail.
As a result, it is commonplace to speak to an artist today who is executing on marketing strategies or a business plan that already caused another artist to fail 5 years ago.
It is also common to find those who have belief systems about what it will take for them to be successful based entirely on strategies that have already been proven to fail by others.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part about this conundrum is that most artists aren’t even aware of the path they are on.
As a result of this, artists, as a collective group, are not making progress. It’s almost as if they are going in circles, repeating their failures. Under these circumstances, it is easy to see why no dent has been made into the starving artist problem.
We believe that we live in a unique moment in history when, for the first time, there is an opportunity to solve the starving artist problem within the art industry.
We believe this is now possible due to specific technological advancements, which primarily include the internet and eCommerce.
For example, these advancements give every individual artist, for the first time in history, the ability to market and sell their art directly to any customer in any geographic location.
No longer are they completely reliant upon art galleries, art publishers, and the local art fairs and shows that they are able to attend.
While all of these avenues have provided short-term shots in the arm, none of them have done anything to create a consistent, long-term income stream for artists.
These advancements, in particular the internet, allows artists to seamlessly communicate, collaborate, and make progress through the sharing of common success stories and failures.
At the same time, the internet also gives educators a publishing platform whereby artists can be educated and coached as a group en masse. Artists can learn the best practices, stay connected to what business and marketing strategies are actually working, and put them into practice. Never before was this collaboration possible.
Our bold mission is to solve the starving artist problem in this art industry.
Before we proceed, we should first make it clear that solving the starving artist problem does not mean that we will make every artist wildly successful now and forever. Just like every business in every industry, there are small business owners who struggle and go out of business every year.
Even when the “starving artist” problem is solved, the art industry will be no different. Many artists will still fail. However, the difference will be that they will fail at no greater a rate when compared to other industries.
Solving the artist problem instead means stripping the “starving” out of the “starving artist” stereotype, therefore removing all the negativity and stigma that go with it.
When the starving artist problem is solved, being an artist will be viewed as a mainstream, respectable career choice in terms of financial earning potential.
It will have parity with other entrepreneurial alternatives, particularly in regards to dignity and respect. More people will make more and more money from their art. Schools will keep teaching art rather than diminishing it or outright canceling it from their programs.
It is our mission to make this happen.
We will do this by leveraging the aforementioned technological advents of both the internet and eCommerce to create a “Success Ecosystem” that is designed to maximize the success potential of every artist.
It will prevent artists from repeating failures, and instead will get them to start repeating successes.
By maximizing the success potential of every artist, we will position them to earn the maximum amount of dollars from their art.
The Three Pillars
To accomplish all of this, we must build a foundation for success consisting of three main pillars: Software, Education, and Coaching.
The Software Pillar
The Software pillar encompasses two aspects.
First, we will equip artists with a best-in-class art website with all the specific features and the experience required to sell art online at scale.
Second, we will equip artists with best-in-class art marketing tools to build an audience, stay connected with that audience, and maximize their sales from that audience over time. Some of these marketing tools are integrated into the website functionality, and some are independent of it.
The site building tools and marketing advice are second to none.
In over 35 years I have never sold art through a gallery. My work goes for mid 5 figures and I get to keep it all. Art Storefronts IMO is an amazing resource. The site building tools and marketing advice are second to none. No way an individual could come close to building their site with such depth and power. No way.
While equipping artists with best-in-class software is fantastic for progress, it must be said that software alone will not solve the starving artist problem.
Not one company, one institution, or even one entire government can dump a piece of software on a struggling community and expect that it will single-handedly bring them out of poverty.
This has never happened and it never will – beware of those who tell you otherwise.
No, it is not the technology alone that makes the difference, but the education that makes proper use of the technology possible.
Giving a struggling community 10 pallets of sophisticated computers is one thing, but giving them those computers and the training on how to successfully utilize them is another entirely.
The real way to lift up a struggling community is through knowledge.
We all know “knowledge is power.” Knowledge is gained through education.
The Education Pillar
This pillar equips artists with knowledge of the tactics successful artists of today have used, and are using, to create their success. Likewise, it equips artists with tactics to avoid because they have already been proven to lead to failure.
It is the latest and greatest art business and art marketing strategies, and a step-by-step guide to complete them.
We execute on the education pillar with resources such as our in-depth blog articles, video tutorials, and the Art Marketing Podcast.
Collectively, this knowledge empowers artists to follow a guided path.
Their site is crammed full of useful articles and resources. They make it simple.
I love being able to directly contact ASF when I need assistance, and their site is crammed full of useful (and insightful) articles and resources. I am just beginning my journey with this company, and already my mind is at peace with how they run things. So much of the thankless work is delegated where it needs to go, and I no longer feel like I need a secondary degree in learning SEO. They make it simple. Thanks ASF: I look forward to my new business endeavors!
So, who does the guiding?
The Coaching Pillar
Coaching is the human element.
Education doesn’t succeed by only providing resources such as books or videos. It is the reason that educational institutions have real teachers.
Teachers are the required human element that supports the education. Teachers lead and guide the students, they set the agenda and provide focus. Teachers also provide a key resource in that they can answer questions.
When they see a student going down the wrong path, or focusing on the wrong thing, they can help them course-correct.
Therefore, the final pillar of Art Storefronts is coaching our customers on how to use our ever-evolving website software and marketing tools to their absolute maximum effect.
I have finally found the platform and support I’ve been looking for.
Having used various other website platforms for selling art and creating portfolios for my artwork, the Art Storefronts concept, platform, support and all encompassing approach to helping artists succeed is beyond expectations. The difficulty of creating and focusing a marketing strategy that works and a website that actually sells is made so much easier with the support of the wonderful staff here. This support includes personal email support, forums, very detailed instructions and articles, tutorial videos, copy writing reviews and much, much more. I have finally found the platform and support I’ve been looking for. Thank you to the whole staff!
This includes both proper initial setup and ongoing usage, especially as we continue to add new features and tools.
We execute on the coaching pillar through resources like Office Hours – a live art marketing webinar series exclusively for ASF customers, hosted by our marketing experts.
Or the ASF Forum, a private discussion board where our customers can share their knowledge with each other and get direct feedback from the art marketing gurus we have invited to take part in the forum.
We have already proven that these three pillars can and do create repeatable success with a highly diverse range of artists on our platform. As more and more artists join our Success Ecosystem, we are continually improving it and refining it to create more widespread success.
Competition and the Success Problem
With a simple Google search, or even after listening to the radio or watching television, you may have noticed that there are dozens of companies who are actively trying to sell you a website right now.
If you have even the slightest idea that you want to start a business or start a new website, they try to make it as easy as possible to launch a website, because once you do, you are highly likely to pay their ongoing monthly fee whether you are successful or not.
What these companies don’t publicize is how sparse, and practically nonexistent, the success rates are of people using their websites.
Try asking them for success data and they likely won’t be able to give you much.
The overwhelming lack of success is not at all surprising, because it is a natural byproduct of the old model of delivering software which was largely popularized by the Microsoft Office products.
It goes like this: Microsoft sells you their software, and the software operates as promised, but whether you succeed or fail while using their software is not their problem.
This model works alright if your software is used for word processing, or spread sheet management.
But it is a significantly different situation if your software is meant to be a lifeline and a home base to a business.
When your word processing software fails, it means you become a little less efficient. When your marketing and sales software fails, it means a significant portion of your business is failing too.
In the art industry, lack of success with websites is a very serious problem.
This is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of websites that have been launched by artists & photographers with virtually no success to speak of.
The problem is so severe, we have found that it is almost impossible to find an artist or photographer actually making sales through their website.
For the rare few who are actually making sales, it is not consistent, and their conversion rates are shockingly low.
We discovered this through our conversations with tens of thousands of artists and photographers, but all you have to do is ask a couple artists friends of yours to hear the same thing.
This widespread lack of success with websites is not just a problem; it is an industry-wide epidemic.
Solving the Success Problem
The main differentiator of Art Storefronts is that customer success comes first in everything we do.
We feel that if a website does not produce customer success, then it is failing at doing what is supposed to do, and it needs to be modified until it does.
In order to do this, a company must work very closely with customers who are using the software and work to achieve real, documentable success together.
Once a success has been found and proven, the company must modify its software so that everyone using it can benefit. This might mean adding a new feature or modifying one that already exists. It might mean changing the steps of the customer checkout flow. Whatever that is needed gets prioritized and implemented.
This top-down, customer success-first approach to software development is one that results in a product that delivers maximum value to the customer at all times, and is completely in tune with the realities of the marketplace. It is not a piece of software designed by the whims of executives or developers.
Once you understand the benefits of customer success-first software development philosophy, it is easy to see how the old software model is flawed, particularly in regards to website software, and especially in regards to website software for artists.
It is also easy to see how problematic it is if you are relying on this type of software to drive sales of your business.
Art Storefronts doesn’t just apply the customer-success based approach to software development, we apply it to the other two pillars of our Success Ecosystem, too – Education and Coaching. That means our Success Plan is not a static resource, but a living one – continually updated with new strategies and tactics based on what is really working right now for real artists.
When it comes to Coaching, we put customers-first with our private coaching forum, whose very existence embodies our commitment to customer success.
Who We Serve
You are a potential fit for Art Storefronts if:
- You are a new artist starting out, a part-timer with a day job, or an already successful full-time artist
- You have the motivation and desire to maximize the amount of income you earn from your art
- You have struggled to make sales with your current website
- You see the short and long-term value of joining our Success Ecosystem
- You are coachable, meaning you are willing to follow and implement our guidance
- You are a positive person and will be a positive addition to our forum community
You are ready to see a demonstration and join Art Storefronts when:
- You have taken the time to fully research our credibility in this industry
- You understand that what we sell is a Success Ecosystem that is designed to maximize the success potential of every artist, and that we are NOT selling a silver bullet that will make every single person rich
- You can afford at least a one-time $500 upfront membership fee, plus $29/month ongoing
You are not a fit for Art Storefronts if:
- You believe this is a get-rich-quick opportunity
- You believe that a feature like the wall preview tool will solve all your sales problems (sorry, it won’t)
- You have everything figured out already and don’t care to learn anything
- You have difficulty following directions and implementing guidance
- You believe anyone else, other than you, is responsible for the success or failure of your art business
We cannot guarantee that every customer will be an overwhelming success on our platform. To do so would be both impossible and disingenuous.
This is because every artist is uniquely their own person with their own artistic imagery which can vary greatly in terms of its marketability.
Furthermore, every artist has their own ability to follow guidance and be coachable, not to mention their own motivation to learn and desire to succeed.
They also all have their own definition of what “success” is, which may be based on reality or something completely unrealistic (like selling a million dollars online in their first year!).
We refer to these as “external factors,” because they are not aspects that we can control here at Art Storefronts. Nonetheless, these external factors will account for at least half of an artist’s overall success potential.
The only aspects we can control are the “internal factors.” This means we can try to provide the best Success Ecosystem that we possibly can to help artists maximize the sales of their art. We can provide the best art-selling website software, the best art marketing education, and the best coaching venue that we can. This is our promise.
While we are on this topic, it is worth noting that we have artists with highly marketable art who have struggled to achieve success due to their inability to follow our guides, or their resistance to receiving advice from our experts, or due to other psychological factors that have nothing to do with the quality of their art.
It is quite common to find that these folks were unsuccessful before joining Art Storefronts and they were unsuccessful after.
At the same time, we have artists with far less “marketable” art who achieve higher levels of success than they ever did before. Many never sold anything online, or very little, until they joined our platform. Many of these artists actually outsell others who have been in the art industry longer and whose art would be considered by many to be far more marketable.
We see this happen almost every day. In fact, we tend to see that jaded artists who have been around for a long time tend to be the least likely to be successful at selling art online.
The Fruits of Our Labors: A Success Ecosystem
Part of the wave
You have an amazing product. This is the new paradigm, of that I am sure. Great to be part of the wave.
On the whole, we are proud to have created what we call a success ecosystem.
With the right balance of powerful, art-selling eCommerce software, in-depth marketing education, and supportive coaching, artists on our platform are executing on marketing decisions with confidence, making contacts with their contemporaries in the industry, and reaching new levels of creative and financial success.
If you feel you’re at the right point in your career to benefit from this success ecosystem (we recommend having sold 10+ pieces of your art in the past), we’d love for you to reach out and take a closer look at what we offer.
Here is how it works – by requesting a demo, you will be able to schedule a 10-minute call at your convenience with one of our friendly product experts.
During that call, we’ll find out more about you and your work, and if Art Storefronts is not a good fit for you, we’ll tell you.
Together, let’s remove “starving artist” from the lexicon.