Guide Explains How to Build and Manage Your Art Career

In “The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love,” author Jackie Battenfield draws on her own years of experience as a former gallery director and
self-supporting artist to explain how to:

  • develop and promote your portfolio.
  • broaden your funding sources through grants, awards, artist residencies, fiscal agents, and individual contributors.
  • explore exhibition, commission, and sales opportunities beyond commercial galleries.
Reflecting how many artists think, the guide covers many of the day-to-day issues of running any self-directed business such as planning, budgeting, managing finances, marketing, and pricing your work. For example, Battenfield advises against setting prices under pressure. As she puts it, “The worst time to figure out a price is when you are taken by a surprise offer to buy a piece.” She suggests making a complete inventory of all your works with prices attached to each piece.

In the guide, she explains in great detail how to write an artist’s statement, document work samples, and build relationships with the individuals and organizations that can further your career.

In the beginning of your art career, you will probably need a part-time or full-time “day job” to earn money for your studio work. Battenfield suggests looking for low-stress jobs that won’t drain you of the creative energy you need for your art.

How Planning Can Help

Throughout the book, Battenfield emphasizes the value of planning.  She points out that if you don’t set short- and long-term goals, you won’t be able to create, evaluate, and pursue the opportunities that can help make your dreams become reality.  Here are a few tips:

Survey the current art landscape. Instead of imagining an amorphous group of collectors, artists, or the general public, reflect on who would be most interested in the content of your work. What spaces feel like a natural fit? Although the art world is no longer held captive by a few dealers, critics, curators, or patrons, not all new venues and opportunities will be suited to your work or long-term professional goals.

Develop a work structure, business systems, and support networks that allow you maintain a healthy attitude, stay engaged, and search for new solutions. While the art world continues to shift in unexpected ways, you will need to continue to believe in yourself, ask questions, and get feedback and help as often as you need it.

Write your own obituary. How do you want to be remembered? What will you have accomplished? What will family members, friends, and colleagues say about you? This exercise can help ensure that you aren’t pursuing goals contrary to your core values and beliefs.

Promoting Yourself

What makes The Artist’s Guide so appealing is Battenfield’s empathy with artists who feel uncomfortable promoting themselves.  She acknowledges her own shyness and writes that “Promoting yourself requires coming face to face with your own self-esteem and issues of entitlement. It can quickly stir up feelings of inadequacy about your work and yourself as an artist.”

She says there are ways to promote your work that will allow you to maintain your personal integrity and enable your own networking style to emerge. “Promoting yourself doesn’t mean that you are impolite, disrespectful of others, or inappropriately aggressive,” writes Battenfield. “It can be as simple as saying a few words about the show to a curator at an opening, then following up with card inviting the curator to one of your own shows.”  Here are a few other tips from The Artist’s Guide:

Be yourself. People appreciate honesty and sincerity. Phoniness is easy to detect.

Turn your shyness into an asset. Be an attentive listener and ask questions.

Take a few actions every day to cultivate relationships with people you can help promote your work. Taking purposeful action can help you maintain the healthy attitude you will need to manage some of the issues that arise every day.

You can’t predict when the art community will turn their attention to you, Battenfield points out, “Art history is full of artists whose work was ignored and then embraced at different stages of their lives.” The strength to persevere can be developed by actively pursuing your goals and maintaining an resilient attitude.

The advice in The Artist’s Guide rings true, because Battenfield admits she made nearly every mistake discussed in the book: “I had fuzzy work samples and incoherent artist statements that still make me flush beet-red when I see them. I’ve bungled relationships and pulled them back together by the skin of my teeth.” She suggests using The Artist’s Guide as a template for creating a process that works for you.

Although a lot of the book focuses on different types of art organizations and funding sources, Battenfield’s day-to-day business advice is relevant to photographers and other freelance professionals who would like to have less stress in their lives and more time to focus on their craft.

Words of Wisdom

“It’s tough to be an artist in our culture,” writes Battenfield. While funds and opportunities are limited, your desires are limitless. Pushing yourself to the limits of your technical abilities can be challenging enough. Adding business responsibilities can feel overwhelming.

Making time to replenish your well of creativity is essential, she says. Constantly pushing yourself too hard won’t allow you to do your best work. Battenfield writes that “Any systems you can build to protect that fragile connection to your creativity is paramount to sustaining your artistic life.” In describing her approach to writing the guide, she explains “Every chapter in the book is about nurturing and protecting your creative energies so can make the best art possible.”

Jackie Battenfield has supported herself from art sales for over twenty years. She teaches career development programs for visual artists at the Creative Capital Foundation, and Columbia University. She also speaks at art workshops and events nationwide. Visit her website: to see if she will be speaking at event in your area. You can preview and purchase the 378-page softcover book on or the Barnes
& Noble website.


Book Website: The Artist’s Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love

Facebook Page: The Artist’s Guide

About Jackie Battenfield

Amazon: The Artist’s Guide

Barnes & Noble:  The Artist’s Guide