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Become a Working Artist

Lesson 9 of 22

Develop Your Business's Personality


Become a Working Artist

Lesson 9 of 22

Develop Your Business's Personality


Lesson Info

Develop Your Business's Personality

Develop your businesses personality I'm excited about this segment because this is an area where you can really make your business come alive we're going to spend the next hours so talking about developing your businesses personality um we're going to use what I call it has been calling the b word branding and branding can often feel like a scary word, especially for artists, right? Because we don't want to be perceived in many cases as being too corporate or being too businesslike. In fact, sometimes we became artist sort of rally against anything that had to do with uniformity or branding in our past and yet, um branding for artists if you want to get your work out there and get your work noticed is really important, but we're not talking about branding in the traditional sense we're not trying to make you into heinz ketchup or vw volkswagen on this is really about coming up with your unique stamp, your voice, your message, your personality and sharing that with the world so all the ...

potential places your art lives on the internet our place is for first impressions and you want to make sure that your first impression is strong and positive and that's part of branding whatever the look and feel of your website, look and feel if your facebook fan page that look and feel of your instagram feed whatever that is for you is going to leave a first impression, so you want to make sure that that's an impression that you're comfortable leaving with people and that ultimately are going to bring people back your audience back to you. Traditionally, we call this branding, but we're not talking about traditional branding here necessarily. The branding I'm going to talk about today are the visual markers for your business and also your businesses messaging so it's both it's, not just your logo and the look and feel of what you do and how you package that altogether. It's also the messages that you give the written messages, how you interact with people and we're gonna talk about all of that. So branding think of it as the personality of your business. If the word branding freaks you out a little bit, just think of it is your personality okay? This isn't about making up fake version of your art. This isn't about packaging yourself in some perfect way and polishing the edges. It really is about telling the story of who you are and actually in the most authentic way possible is the best way through pictures and words. And, you know, brandon isn't also just about what things look like, how many people know the department store nordstrom? What is norse from known for customer service? You buy anything at nordstrom and like their thing is like the customer's always right for whatever reason you can bring it back and that really built their client base when they you know were branding themselves because that's what they became known known for of course you know they have a logo which is recognizable to people who have nordstrom's in their communities and all that but essentially you knew you were shopping at this place where you were going to get good quality stuff and if you didn't like it you could return it or if there was a problem you could return it and you were going to get help shopping and people were going to treat you really well you're gonna encounter nice people so we're gonna talk about in this segment is figuring out what is your message what what do you want people to experience when they visit your website or your fan page or order something from you in your shop or encounter you even in person at an art opening or on the street and they recognize you again not everything has to be polished or perfect that's not what we're talking about part of your brand might be being a real person who makes messes and doesn't get enough sleep at night you know that's okay thie ideas to create an image of who you are um that is um that is authentic to you easy for others to connect to easy to navigate leaves a positive impression with those who interact with you and your presence online. We wantto bring people back. You want to connect people to what you're doing. So remember in segment one, I had a slide that said, who is lisa? And now I'm putting the question back on you. Who are you? And I switched to the other slide the next slide. It had some descriptions of things that I identify with that's part of what what I want you to start thinking about in this segment is, who are you and what makes up all of, um, all of your story, what drives you? What inspires you? Your story contributes to your brand and their different ways to tell your story, and we'll talk about some of those people will connect with you much better if they can understand who you are and your story, you can communicate your story through your art. Of course, we hope that is one way that you could communicate who you are, your photography or designs or your products, whatever it is, you make her do what you choose to write in your bio, how you communicate with people in the cretins you make of your work in your shop, all of those things contribute to your story, so I want you to begin to think about um, all of the things that you write about and post about in relationship to your art or your designs or your products are part of your story. They're part of the message that goes out about you and who you are, even some mundane things, like your returns and exchanges policy on your shop site or things that you tweet out in the morning. What do you want to be known? Fourth, what's your story, but parts of it are unique and really be descriptive about that to just say I am unique or my work is unique isn't enough. So find your story and find a way to tell it and really think about what do I want to be known for? What legacy do I want to leave in this world? Um, this is your opportunity to do that, so the first aspect we're going to talk about is the look and feel of your business. So this is really the visual part that we're gonna talk about next. Your website I often say your website is the most important place on the internet. Your website is the most important place somebody else's website is the most important place to them, but your website is the most important place for you, and I would add to that any other place that people can encounter you online. And when I say website here, I mean your portfolio website or your product website, whatever it is that you make. Or do your main website where you show that images of the range of work you d'oh, um, your website also hasn't about paige lets people know how to contact to you. It might have a list of exhibitions, your cv, etcetera, a list of clients it's, a basic static site that you update periodically, and it should highlight your work and not a lot of bells and whistles. I'm gonna show you some examples of some good websites in a minute, I always say less is more and keep it simple. Typically, a white backgrounds are best type, and images should be readable and not too small portfolio should be well organized if you have more than one port full portfolio. We were talking a little earlier with my guests about organizing, and someone had suggested that if genre or medium doesn't make sense, make categories that do make sense so that it's, easy for people to find your work and often the categories you choose for your work tell a little bit about your story because especially if they're inspired by something beyond medium or you know I have one, I don't know how. If I'm gonna keep this for much longer because I'm always changing things up. But I have one on my website right now. That's called nordic inspired because I'm like, obsessed with all things scandinavian and that's a big part of my story. I went there, I travelled there, I wrote about it ah lot of my work is inspired by scandinavian design and even the landscape. I had entire solo show in two thousand eleven that was all it was before I ever went to scandinavia that was inspired by what I thought it might be like. So again, you get to pick how do you organize your work? And sometimes that can be part of how you tell your story? Ah, great way too, figure out if you've got a good website or not is just to start asking people for feedback it's really important that you are able to find a group of trusted people and those people might be different depending on what you're asking feedback for who will, um and maybe in the case of your website, you want to ask some friends whose aesthetic or design sense you really trust how engaging is this? How readable is this, um, and if you decide you wanna create a new website like let's say you don't have one or you want to update one I I also recommend and I do this every time before I designed a new website I go find web sites that I think are really great and I bookmarked them and I write down everything about those web sites that I think is effective or beautiful or you don't want to copy some buddies htm l that's not what I'm telling you to do but to take those elements and really uh think about what makes them work so that you can apply that kind of principal to your own site and I also recommend hiring a designer if you can afford it um designers are great resource is for artists I think at one point in my book I said something like just because you're a great artist doesn't make you a great designer we do have some graphic designers in the audience and I know there are lots of you listening in I don't I'm not talking about you but graphic design and laying out a website logo design all of that is really something that it's a it's a skill it's a unique skill just like illustration is a skill or painting is a skill and if it's not your skill it's great if you can find someone to help you build your website and all your design elements that are going to go on your website somebody who knows what they're doing has some experience if you can't afford that or you can find somebody to trade with, trade is a great way tio tio build a website um then there are also great places where you can that actually cater to artist places like verb in square space where you can go in and really they have templates that are set up and all you have to do is add the content and the images so there's no reason now a days not to have a great artist website there a lot of resources available you go a lot further with a designer because you can make your sight really unique and interesting looking we'll talk about this a little bit more and when we talk about opening up a shop in all your shop options show some shops like etc for example are very template id everyone's at the shop looks the same right except for the header um if you have a store solution that's built into your website you can make it building into your brand but then the onus is on you to drive the traffic there as he's completely different we'll get into that tomorrow but same idea here you also want to create a logo and again a logo doesn't have to be some highly designed thing just a way that your name or your business name is presented that is consistent across all of the media and potentially design elements if you want your sight to have them they don't it's not necessary if your work can also stand completely on its own all right, you're blawg also super important again you want that if you have a blogged and I'm gonna talk about blogging a a lot in um segment five should also have a look and feel if it's not integrated into your sight it should have a look and feel that's very similar to your site similar design elements um similar typography so that when people go to both places they're starting to understand your brand the look and feel of your business. Other places on the internet you have a facebook fan page twitter and instagram they're places on all of those places to add visual design elements even on twitter instagram is more about sort of what photos you choose to post and we'll we'll talk about all of the social media platforms in segment five and delve into how to use them well and then print materials which as lisa pointed out in segment three are really really still very important so postcards business cards um even print advertising important again have that beyond brand and have a similar look and feel as all the other police is people can find you the way you develop brand recognition in your case personality recognition for your business or business recognition um is by um simultaneously putting yourself in a lot of different places because the more people see you like you maybe like I'm I'm bombarding the internet and the world with all these images but the fact is that most people, if they ever see anything of yours at all are only going to see it in one place and so the more you put your stuff out into the world in a variety of places, the more likely it is they'll see you more than once and that's when people are going to start to remember you and making sure that you have identifiable markers in addition to your artwork or a look and feel that people recognize and remember the more likely people are to remember you and your artwork this is the just a screenshot of my friend claudia is, um portfolio site which serves a lots of different purposes um she's an illustrator in brooklyn and as so one of the things that well okay, let me let me ask you this if you had never seen claudia's work before and you saw the screen shot for the first time what would you say claudia does? What are some of the things claudia does licensing? Okay, she might do licensing what else illustration she's she's okay she's probably an illustrator what else? A food illustration. She does food illustration what else she's probably okay she might be an author because you see a book there what else? She's some type of business she's selling things selling things what else does she dio lettering she's a hand lederer I'm sorry that's when I was looking for everything on here except this type right here is hand lettered in her hand okay, so think about just from the screen shot we named how many things like seven things we already know about claudia just from looking at her home page and yet is it clean? Is it cohesive looking? I mean, I wish I could scroll down um there's design elements do they relate teo her artwork but do they compete? No she's having a sale that's great. We know she has a shop so again um also she is an author and an illustrator and has her own products. But the great thing about claudia site is that I wanted to show you is how sort of aesthetically cohesive it is and yet it really highlights her personality or they're her style in a really great way here's another page from her sight this is I think when you go to portfolio down the left hand side she's got her portfolio organized in categories like advertising branding, custom designs, products and packaging editorial and immediately there's a picture of what looks like a tea towel with some coffee drawings on it um oh and she's got a peer you already know this is something she created for creating barrel here's another page I do believe this is on the shop page on dh if you click on any of these things they take you and she actually has an integrated shop on her site so we'll talk about shop options in segment six but she also has an etsy shop so some artists give people multiple opportunities to buy and whatever way their customer might be comfortable so again we get we've got product shots here you can see the range of stuff she does she does do a lot of food although there's some buildings and other things. So as you dive into her sight, you can really see this is a screen shot from my friend samantha han, who is a fashion illustrator so you can see style totally different than claudius site very different again clean background. Um so what do we know about samantha just by looking at this front page screen shot I already gave away that she's a fashion illustrator so I would hope somebody would say it looks like she's a fashion illustrator and how would you know that? Yeah, they're models they look like they're running there walking down a runway so it's also important that the first thing people see on your website is something that is very representative of the majority of what you do or what you want to be known for or what you want to sell people on um what what else do we know about samantha she's an author? She has a book says my book and therefore places where people can go and buy it samantha actually doesn't currently have an etsy shop or a shop she just prefers people to other places where they can buy our stuff she just had her sir second kid and she probably you know can't can't deal with managing a shop right now if she's ever had one it's also okay not to have a shop if you're not interested in selling your work online um so I also want to point out that samantha, while she does do hand lettering I know this for a fact she's chosen tohave her logo which literally is just like a very simple type face um in black and gray and it works right it really all of this stuff makes her work stand out this is like uh if I clicked on watercolor and ink over here on the left this is what I see you probably khun gather that if you clicked on any of those thumbnails which are actually pretty big thumbnails which I like um you could go further in and see that work and read more about it and get it even better picture for the for her style what? We know that she uses what in her water medium it's pretty obvious watercolor and ink. She does do some pattern design and hand lettered stuff and food and you can also see that but her main thing is fashion illustration. This is her blogged again a little bit maur design focused but you can tell it's still on brand with what she does like it's still, um in her hand and in her style and a lot of the same stuff that you saw on her website is repeated here. This is the website for melissa. I weigh and she is primarily a children's book illustrator what else do we know about her? She does hand lettering that's pretty clear. Um, I gave away that she was a children's illustrator. What do we know from looking at the links at the top there too. She is an author. She's got some books or she's a nilla straighter, which we'll get to in a second of other people's books. She also has a log, fun, right, blake and also the white background. The very simple logo um, really makes her work stand out um and also there's some intriguing things up top visits g I wonder what that isthe fun? What is that so it's great if you want to add some surprises for people on your web site this is from her portfolio page or her books page I should say so these are books that not all of them she wrote but that she illustrated to screenshot again you get a sense for what she does and that she really specializes in something and for some artist this is really important okay, uh her business card which also has her phone number on it but it took a photo shop because I didn't want us to be necessarily broadcasting her her phone number all over actually think she's tuning into the class hi, melissa um, so again, you can see all of this on brand with all the stuff there's a really beautiful package that's happening here. All right, so that's, you know what overview of look and feel any any questions coming in chris or questions from the audience around? Yeah, I have a question here that comes from simplicity in the chat room and they say if I work in different areas of our for instance, jewelry design, furniture, paintings, could I have a separate website for each of these or can I have them all on one page? I think I'm gonna I'm gonna say a lot of what police is all I'm saying in segment three in it that depends I personally think that if things are if if you do lots of different things and you are interested in branding them together with a similar look and feel um and that your worlds overlap in some interesting ways that it's actually good to have them on one site but if you're interested in branding them differently and you really wantto they have different names I mean, there are people out there entrepreneurs who have more than one small creative business right? And they are branded differently. They have different logos, they have different names, and in that case, you know, you might have reference to them on each of the sites you might have reference to the other ones, but it might be a good idea for them to have separate websites otherwise it gets confusing, but these are all of the things that you do as part of your art practice and you have one logo and you have a way to and they all of those things while they might be jeweler, some might be jewelry and some might be leather goods and some might be paintings that they all have a similar you similar imagery or have a similar look and feel then I think it's absolutely great to put them together and show people the range of what you can do I mean, I'm a good example of that, my website has you know every you know a category for my abstract paintings um category for my nordic inspired work a category for hand lettering a category for um you know, some editorial work that I've done and I'm always sort of changing up my categories to reflect what I'm currently working on or want to get work in because ultimately what goes in your website is what you're going to get hired to do or asked to make for a show if you don't want to get hired to do an illustration job a certain area don't put I work in that area in your website if you have older work in your fine art portfolio but it's not the work you're doing anymore make sure you leave it out of your portfolio you want include work that's relevant now because ultimately you're going to get asked to do the kind of work that you're not, you know not necessarily. I asked all the time people find old work of mine like I used to do a lot of pet portrait and I still get emails about pet fortress even though I completely taken them off and there's a question on my f a q about pet fortress uh because people see stuff they stumble on stuff on the internet they're like I want I want can you paint a porter my dog and I don't do them anymore because I don't have time um, so I make sure they're not in my portfolio, so again, it depends. Branding is a great way or sort of design elements logo creating a really consistent look and feel, again with the help of a designer, if you can can can afford it or figure out a way to do trade with someone is a great way to sort of package all the disparate things you do that don't necessarily feel like they go together to package them in a way that makes them feel like they go together. How many of you, at least in the studio audience, do you have more than one style or do more than one thing? Okay, again, there are ways to sort of make those and that's very common. The reason that most of you raised your hand is because most artists are highly creative people that try lots of different things and are changing things up, trying new medium, and I think it's fine to try toe put all of those things on the same fight site, but it's important tio create a site or a place for those things that make sense to other people, so people don't come and aren't confused, and one way to do that is through organizing in a way that makes sense another way to do it is, um, by using very consistent design elements and you know, in your written communication about your work being really clear about what is what way had a couple more questions come in. If you yeah, take some more. Could you talk a bit about naming your business? Is it better to use your name or to make up a name? How does this play out when you are further down the road with things like licensing and searching on the web? And my personal opinion is that your own name is always the best if you want to be known as an artist whether it's a fine artist or an illustrator um, there are illustrators who work in collaboration with their partners, there's like some husband, wife teams and sister teams, and in that case, it might make sense. Uh, if you're working with another person and all of your work is collaborative, those cases are rare. That's a case where and another name or whatever might or a play on your last name might work better. But I think if you have a line of products, that is an extension of your brand as an artist and you wanna have that not have your name on it, I think that's fine, but in your identity as an artist and in your portfolio site it's, I think it's really important to use your own name because it may you know, it's it's funny, because so so you think about rifle paper, people know that brand she's a and a rifle bond is that a phenomenal illustrator who both licenses her work and also has her own line of stationery and now wallpaper and all kinds of things? She's really, her work is really blowing up over the last few years, and rifle paper is her paper company. But as an artist, she is known as an a rifle bond and that's, you know, I feel like it's. She may have started off just having rifle paper, but at some point she became this person behind all of this stuff and people it's important for people to know who you are and what your name is. Great actually ties into the other question from sl tucker, do you think it's important to have a yourname dot com website is our is it ok to use something else like cargo collective? For instance? I know a lot of other people use be hands for their portfolios. Any insight on that? I think the extent to which you can get your own portfolio site. Um, even if you can't, if even if your own name is already taken, that's the best I mean, it's fine to also have your portfolio on some of those other sites because that's a great way for people to find you, but having her own portfolio site that's sort of unattached teo, anything else shows that you are a professional artist who was interested in and has their own website and it's interested in showing their work. And so a lot of times, people have trouble because, you know, let's say your name is anna smith. You know, it is most likely than anna smith dot com is taken and anna smith thought net and anna smith, art dot com so sometimes you have to get creative in finding a girl that's not already taken for your name. Um that's also why we could talk about this more in segment five but it's also important to be an early adopter so things like twitter and instagram even if they don't end up taking off like sign up for them because you can get your name you right away. Um, I think it is important to have to the extent you can have your own website and your own name, I think, sends the message that you are, if not established on the road to being an established artist.

Class Description

"This is an incredibly helpful class for anyone who feels intimidated by all the "giants" in the land of art, and wonders if it's really worth keeping trying to make money from their talent. Lisa breaks everything down into manageable steps, while not dumbing things down. Her manner is very approachable, so that you can imagine yourself doing what she does. Her generous spirit means too that she is sharing really useful stuff - not just some fluff, and keeping all the good ideas for herself!"
 - Janet and Craig Mathewson (CreativeLive Students)

An enthusiastic audience that appreciates your art is waiting for you. Join Lisa Congdon, illustrator, artist, and author of Art, Inc. for Become a Working Artist and learn everything you need to know to make a living as a fine or commercial artist.

In this class, you will find out exactly what it takes to break into the art world and reach new, diverse audiences. Lisa will show you how to:

  • Identify the characteristics that make your style unique
  • Map out the vision and goals that will drive your artistic career 
  • Navigate the fine art market and break in to it
  • Land and negotiate art licensing deals
  • Develop effective techniques for promoting your work
Every artist faces rejection and setbacks on the road to finding an appreciative and paying audience. Become a Working Artist will teach you how to navigate the inevitable disappointments and push through to build a vibrant, rewarding career in art.

Making money as an artist doesn’t have to be far-fetched dream, Lisa Congdon will show you how to make it a reality.  



I was very happy and inspired to be able to attend to this class! It helped me so much to understand which are my goals as an artist and what I need to make to make them happen. Lisa is amazing and I cannot be happier to have been part of this, thank you so much!! I am now more than inspired to create beautiful things and make the tasks I need to make to become the professional artist I aim to be. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful generosity and Creative Live for hosting and creating such a wonderful event!


This course was fantastic! The format was great and Lisa was extremely helpful, knowledgable, and engaging. I was so inspired and loved that she gave very real information and great advice. I came away with a great new plan for my business and a renewed excitement for growth. I would highly recommend this class!

Simply Stated Architecture, PC

Professionally, I am an architect, but I also dabble in some watercolors as well as wood and metal work. When I started my own architectural office, I found good resources for business information were scarce. Most of what I found applied to retail or service businesses that really did not apply to a creative professional. One of the best resources I have found has been my local art guild - The Yellow Breeches Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I found that the painters, jewelers, potters, fiber artists, and other artists faced much more similar issues to what I was dealing with than the contractors, store owners, financial planners, insurance salesmen, and other business people that I was finding in business groups and classes. Lisa Congdon's class is the first CreativeLive course that I've taken. I had signed up for the CL email recently and Lisa's class just caught my eye. I'm glad that I took the time to sit through the sessions. A few of the segments - such as that on illustration and licensing or fine art - really did not have any practical application to my own situation. But there were items of value in pretty much all of the segments that I could take away to adapt in my own business. For someone just starting off in a creative profession, I'd highly recommend Lisa's course as a roadmap of items to keep in mind and plan for in their business. But by no means should you consider this to be a "beginner only" course. I started my business four years ago and I really wish that I had found something like this course in those first months or first year. But even after four years, I found great value in this course. The information on setting goals, actionable tasks, and the final segment on managing your success were extremely valuable and gave me many items to work into my own business in the coming weeks and months.