The 80/20 Rule is an old mathematical formula created by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. At the time, Pareto stated this rule was based on the principal that 20% of the population owned 80% of the wealth. In later years this rule has been used in many different ways and you have probably heard a few of them too, such as: 20% of the salespeople produce 80% of a company’s sales. Or 20% of the employees produce 80% of the companies’ profits. Another is that 20% of the population pays 80% of the countries’ income taxes!
My rule is that artists should be spending 20% of their time creating and 80% of their time marketing and administering to their art business in order to be a successful artist.
Today, for most artists it is the other way around. Unfortunately most artists will spend 80% of their time creating and only 20% of their time administering, marketing and promoting. How can any artist expect to be successful with their art business if no one knows about or is exposed to their work? It is a dilemma that all artists must face, in that they are doing what they love, which is producing, rather than being in the business of selling art.
Andy Warhol was a prolific and successful American artist. He was also a master marketer, promoter and art business person. We can all learn and follow his art business operating philosophy. There are two Andy Warhol quotes that puts the whole Art vs. Business dilemma into perspective:
“Business art is the step that comes after Art. I started as a commercial artist, and I want to finish as a business artist”
His other quote is:
“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”.
Now, I think we should take these quotes seriously, as it was recently documented that in 2009 a Warhol painting of his, the “Eight Elvises” sold for 100 Million! Warhol knew what he was doing as an artist, a marketer and as an art business person!
As an artist are you spending a majority of your time marketing and promoting your work? Have you identified who your target market is and analyzed how to reach them successfully? Do you have a website that displays and showcases your art correctly? Do you have a Blog or online newsletter that helps to drive traffic to your website? Are you taking advantage of and using Social Media to make contacts, promote your art and help to build your brand? Do you have an ongoing email marketing campaign that exposes your work to the decision makers in your target audience? Are you using PR sites to promote your events, shows and sales? Have you availed yourself of promoting your work on Document sites, Bookmarking sites, Blog sites and on YouTube? Artists can give demonstrations and talks on YouTube and in Webinars. Are you prepared to market your work on Smart Phones and on iPads? None of this technology is expensive and most of it is free. It is only the artist’s time and their creativity that is involved to take advantage of these different media to promote their work.
All of these terms, technologies and media may seem daunting and overwhelming to you, but you can turn those negative thoughts around to “wow, look at all of the possibilities that I have to promote, market and sell my work!” and “What a wonderful and exciting time to be an artist, I can’t wait to get going!.” But you cannot hope to be a successful artist if you are only spending 20% or less, of your time promoting your art. Whatever amount of time you are spending on marketing today and if you were able to double your time and effort (and stick with it), you would see more traffic, more inquiries, be in more shows and eventually make more sales!
You will not be very successful in reaching your target audience and selling more art if only 20% of your time is spent marketing. Try doubling your time to 40%, then to 60% of your time and if you can get to where you are spending 80% of your time promoting and selling your work, you will become a successful artist.
Yes, all of this does take time, hard work and persistence. Do you want to be a successful artist? Then try spending 80% of your time marketing and branding your art and spend 20% of your time creating. In time, I believe that you will see good results and become a successful artist.
About the Guest Author
John R. Math is a successful art photographer based in Florida. Mr. Math began his professional art photography career in 2006 and since that time he has had more than 85 exhibitions, sold his art through art galleries and to private collectors and now markets most of his artworks to the corporate art & hospitality markets. You can learn more about John and his art marketing program at Art Marketing Strategies and Light Space & Time Gallery.
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Just to clarify one point, in Pareto's 80/20 rule, the 80% and the 20% aren't set at those values because they add up to 100% – they are percentages of different things (one is a percentage of wealth, the other is a percentage of people). It could as easily be Pareto's 80/10 rule (80% of the country's wealth is owned by 10% of the people) and still be valid. It's actually unfortunate that the percentages Pareto calculated coincidentally add up to 100, because it tends to cause this misunderstanding.
That aside, I think your argument still stands, although I might be tempted to say that you can probably look at a 60% marketing/40% creating ratio if you take advantage of some of the ways the internet provides to automate & integrate.
I think it is a valid point that you will need to spend more effort on marketing than on painting. I find the networking and marketing aspects of my workmisunderstanding exhausting, so I spent the last 6 months in 90% production mode. I completed over 100 studiesand have a decent product to market. My marketing is focused like a laser. I am seeing results. I needed to develop a product to market before I could start marketing. If you find yourself all over the place in your marketing, maybe your time might be better spent in production. Also if you can be objective you will learn a lot about your art and your relationship to it.
Comment posted on Facebook by Steve Corriveau
80% of biz and income come from the 20% that have already been a customer..court them with extra care,make them feel special and appreciated and your income will flow!
I am a great believer in the 80/20 rule – I see it work in so many aspects of life. This is such an interesting topic for artists though. I have to say that I am a fence sitter on the idea of 80% marketing to be a successful artist.
On the one hand, I am constantly recommending to artists that if they want to be commercially successful they need to act like a business and do all the things a successful business does. On that side of the fence I completely believe the 80% marketing.
On the other hand though there is another segment of artists. Those who, while wishing to make a living from their art, are driven by a deeper calling which is to explore the worlds of the psyche and spirit and to bring it back for the rest of us to experience. To me, this is a lifetime of service which may or may not be rewarded financially. And I think the focus here is much more on exploring and creating than on marketing.
When I look at for example any of the amazing portraits by El Greco – artworks that look deeply into the soul of each subject – I truly doubt that this was achieved with 20% focus on creating.
I am not meaning to promote the tortured artist myth here at all, but success in art can mean many things. To me John's 80% marketing rule is a truism for commercial success, but depending on how much time you need to spend on your art you might need to get some help from family, art coaches, and possibly a virtual assistant to get an overall 80/20 mix.
Thanks for the thought-provoking article John 🙂
I've often wondered what a viable proportion of time spent on making versus marketing might be but I find it difficult to imagine that if I spent only 20% of my time on actually making art (a) I would have enough work for it to be actually worth marketing and (b) I would see much progress in my work in terms of skill. Just a thought!