“A plan is nothing. Planning is everything.”
- Dwight Eisenhower
“Basically you could say that artists I have known who have had rewarding and successful careers are those who have been able to make very clear choices about their priorities and expectations. Once these priorities were selected, they wasted no emotion on the other things they gave up. I want to make it clear that when I refer to a successful artist I do not necessarily mean financially successful. To me a successful artist is one who continues to make art, and is not more than 50 percent bitter about the rest of life.” - Bruce Beasley
About Goal Setting
Whether you are planning ahead in order to make money or to have the career you want, setting realistic goals can get you organized, motivated, and on track. Writing down your short- and long-term goals makes your aspirations more concrete. A flexible plan of action can also help you deal with the challenges of the present and visualize what you want in the future. The use of the term “flexible” is important since circumstances change so fast, both for artists and the way the world works.
Goal setting keeps you motivated because when you accomplish a goal, even if it’s starting your mailing list with just one contact, you can see progress and improvement. It’s a good reminder about what priorities you have chosen, and gives you a good way to check back and see how you are doing. The key to setting goals is to be realistic, flexible, and diligent. It’s helpful to remember that you won’t get everything done in a day, a month, or maybe even a year. Planning does not have to be overwhelming. Start small and work up to the big stuff. Get organized first, and things will fall into place more easily.
Plan ahead. If you keep accurate records of your work, and have a list of all your past exhibitions, artist statements, résumés, and an inventory of where your work is and who has purchased it, when you have that retrospective or mid-career survey, you will know what you have made, when you made it and what you were thinking about while you were making it. The curators tasked with organizing and writing about your work will be thrilled because they will be more knowledgeable about your ideas, and finding old work from collectors will be so much easier. Your estate will be much easier to manage, and less work will be lost if you keep track of your exhibitions, sales, and other placements along the way.
A great idea for keeping yourself on track and managing your goals effectively is to schedule a short business meeting with yourself once a week. Use this time to reflect on what you accomplished during the last week and what needs to get done this week, and then adjust your goals accordingly.
Remember, the reason this module is part of GETTING Your Sh*t Together, is because you never really GET Your Sh*t Together because an art practice is never really finished. You always have to keep updating your mailing list, archiving your work, applying for exhibitions, and revisiting your goals. Therefore, keep in mind that planning is a fluid process. Plans are made, and plans are changed. An effective plan is adaptable, shifting according to your good or bad fortune. So you didn’t secure a solo show at The Guggenheim by your 30th birthday. No problem, just shift that goal to a few years in the future and be happy you’ve set up your website. The trick is to always keep working toward goals and to keep the larger picture in mind. An art practice goes through hills and valleys over the course of an artist’s lifetime, so be prepared for a wonderful and challenging ride.
See goal setting forms below.
You can also get our popular book for artists, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist, which includes all of this information and more here.
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Goal Setting Forms
Download our goal setting forms below. These forms will help you get started to getting your sh*t together.