140 – Art Business Goal Planning

art business goal planning

Art Business Goal Planning – What, When and How

In my last post I talked about your Art Business Annual Review, now it is time for art business goal planning! It’s an ideal time at this time of year. It is often quiet and a good time to reflect on the last 12 months. Having reflected it is now time to do the next step – some planning! It is time to learn from what you found in your review and make some plans for the new year to make some things happen differently so that next year improves on this year.

It is possible to write a book about this whole process but that isn’t what I want to do here. I simply want to cover a handful of simple principles. During the process I will focus on some areas that I see come up again and again that can make big differences. I want to walk through how you identify your goals. Then I want to break them down into smaller steps and then into action points. I hope you will be able to see a process that will help with your art business goal planning to set and achieve your own goals.

art business planning board

What Are Your Art Business Goals?

So the first thing to do having looked at what happened last year is to list a handful of top level goals that you want to achieve this coming year or perhaps within the next few years. Some might refer to these as ‘strategic goals’. At this point it is important to just do some brainstorming. List as many as you can think of but concentrate on sizeable pieces of work not small items as we are going to break them down further in a moment.

Typical examples of top level goals that you might have are ‘sell more work‘, ‘make more money‘, ‘launch a new product range‘ and so on. Some of the goals might include implementing ongoing improvements, others might involve a fixed start and finish. Some might take weeks and some might take months or even several years. The important thing at this stage is to list them so that you can focus on what you want to achieve and what is the most important to you.

art business make it happen

It is unlikely that you will be able to achieve all your goals this year but write them down anyway so that you can work out what you want to work on this year and what you might like to carry over to next.

How Can You Break Your Goals Down Into Manageable Steps?

The next step is to break your goals down into manageable steps. By creating steps the goals will become much more manageable. You will be able to see a list of steps needed to achieve the goal. It will give you direction and a sense of progress. Hopefully it will help you to keep on track so that you do not lose sight of your goal.

It is likely that you will find some commonality in some of the steps that you create. For example, if your goal is to ‘make more money’ then there might be several steps in there including ‘sell more products’, ‘attract more customers’, ‘add more products into your product range’ and so on. If your goal is to ‘attract more customers’ one way to do that is by ‘adding more products into your product range’ along with many other things.

How Can You Break Your Steps Down Into Manageable Actions?

It is impossible just to create your goals and then set off thinking you will achieve them. Most will seem huge and overwhelming until you break them down into smaller manageable chunks. You will also have large goals and smaller goals and even very simple tasks. They all warrant different amounts of time and different approaches.

Use A Desk Planner

business goal desk planner

One of the best ways to organise your time and break things down is to use a desk planner. Many are available and several are specifically designed for artists and makers which will give you extra help in your particular field. Whether you buy one or create your own most follow some very simple principles that I have listed below. If you didn’t read my post this time last year 92 – Art Business Time Management you might also find that useful and I detail a few example planners you can purchase.

90 Day Big Goals

Many planners will consider 90 days a good time to action some of your larger goals. Some even refer to these as ‘juicy goals’. These are goals that require a lot of work. You can achieve a lot in 90 days or 3 months so break the year down into 4 quarters and set a large goal for each quarter. Remember how busy the last quarter will be with Christmas so be realistic about which quarter you choose for which goals. If you have more than 4 large goals for the year you might need to prioritorise them and put some back to the following year. Write them down though so that you see them again next year and by next year they might actually be smaller and you might have already achieved some of the steps necessary this year.

30 Day Smaller Goals

Some goals will be much smaller. They will not have as many steps and can be achieved much quicker. Think about achieving 2 or even 3 of these per month. Which months are most suitable? If you are designing a new products such as a calendar for sale at Christmas, for example, plan to do this early and have it ready in August ready for early trade orders and well ready for early October direct customer orders.

3 To Do Tasks Per Day

Maybe you already have a ‘to do’ list? A common mistake with to do lists, however, is that you constantly add to your to do list from one day to the next and the items on it grow at a faster rate than you can clear them off. This can be very demoralising indeed and without prioritorising properly you will end up doing some of the less important tasks at the expense of the most important.

art business to do list

Many people believe that you should set yourself no more than 3 tasks on your todo list each day. This avoids overwhelm and means that your action items are achievable. You will find many desk planners with 3 action item layouts so consider breaking up your items so that you can achieve 3 in a day around the usual routine admin type items such as checking email, checking social, packing orders etc that clutter your day already.

As you start each new quarter you see your big goals. Break these down into smaller steps and spread the action points across the quarter with no more than 3 manageable tasks per day. As you start each new month do the same with the monthly goal. Don’t fill all 3 tasks in a day immediately. Add one to one day, then one to the next and one to another. Leave plenty of spare capacity. Things will always crop up at the last minute and things will overrun so leave space.

An Example

As an example your top level goal in your art business goal planning might be to ‘introduce a new product range‘. Typically 90 days is a good time to implement a larger project like this so you might choose the best quarter in the year to do this. Obviously the last quarter is a bad idea as you will be busy servicing Christmas orders and often the first quarter is a good time as it is typically a quieter period but choose whenever works for you.

You might decide that 6 is a good number to have in your range and might decide that you are going to spread this work so that you do one action point per day. This means working Monday to Friday it will take you just over a week to choose your subject and compose all 6 products in the range then you might set yourself a goal of creating 1 of the products each week actioning each of the 4 steps Monday to Thursday leaving a day spare for any overrun.

So now you might break it down into steps such as ‘do some market research to identify a product range‘, ‘design products for the new range‘, ‘produce the new products‘, ‘load the products into your online shops‘, ‘market the new products‘.

How To Break This Down

Now just taking a single one of those steps such as ‘produce the new products‘ you might break that down into the following action points if you were creating a range of new small acrylic paintings for example

  • choose subject and compose product 1
  • now choose subject and compose product 2
  • next choose subject and compose product 3
  • then choose subject and compose product 4
  • followed by choose subject and compose product 5
  • finally choose subject and compose product 6
  • do a preliminary drawing product 1
  • produce a coloured background product 1
  • apply colours product 1
  • add details product 1
  • do a preliminary drawing product 2
  • produce a coloured background product 2
  • apply colours product 2
  • etc

You might look at this goal and think it is a monthly goal if your product development is quick and condense this. If your work is large scale or time consuming, however, you might make it a 90 day goal and you might split it down so that you have a goal of producing 2 of the 6 products each month for 3 months.

Why It Matters In Art Business Goal Planning

In the example above the object is that you can set a realistic goal of anything from 7 weeks to 3 months, for example, to implement the production step in this goal but it will not totally consume you while it is being done. Using a similar planning process you will be able to identify what is required to keep your business moving forward. You will be able to set actionable steps for multiple goals and you will be able to keep them all progressing simultaneously without feeling overwhelmed and without taking your eye off any or having any stall on you.

What Kind Of Goals To I Frequently See?

There are many goals that I typically see in art business goal planning. Often these top level goals will apply to any small business as well many of the steps and action points to achieve the goals. Here are some examples to give you a few ideas but whilst every business will share some commonality they are also unique and will have many unique goals too

  • Sell More Work
  • Make More Money
  • Expand My Product Range
  • See More Trade Sales
  • Grow My Customer Base
  • Increase My Capacity
  • Increase My Prestige
  • Reduce My Admin
  • Hire Help

Sell More Work

Ok so everyone wants to sell more work right? Well not always. Be careful with this one. Selling more work is good in one way as it means more money coming in, however, it is not the best goal for everyone. With selling more work comes more production, more costs and more administration. Make sure that you can realistically sell more. If you are an artist and sell large giclee prints, for example, it might be easy to order more. A potter creating original work, though, might be working at capacity and a better goal might be to ‘make more money without selling more work’ or they might need to hire help to increase capacity first.

If we break this goal ‘to sell more work’ down into actionable steps these might include the following

  • expand product range
  • find more customers
  • find more trade
  • turn more trade into repeat customers
  • turn more direct customers into repeat customers
  • seize more selling opportunities
  • do more shows
  • get more product exposure

Make More Money

Making more money is a common goal in art business goal planning for many but not everybody. Think carefully about this one too. Sometimes you can ‘have more money’ without ‘making more money’. Consider all the ways that you can make more money

  • sell more work
  • make more money from sales by increasing prices
  • bundle products to increase transaction amounts
  • add minimum order incentives
  • reduce cost of sales
  • expand into trade
  • start doing workshops
  • create limited edition giclee prints from original art work
  • open up new income streams

Yes you can sell more work but with that comes capacity issues, an increase in time, administration, costs etc. Think about other ways too – will your products be able to absorb price increases? When did you last test the market for that? When did you last research competitors prices? Can you reduce costs? Can you order in larger volumes, switch suppliers etc? Are you doing trade yet – is that something you want to pursue? Are you considering workshops, online courses etc?

Expand Your Product Range

It makes sense that the more products you have the more choice you give your customers but when selling online every product is a way into your shop that will bring customers in. Expanding your product range could be a means to achieve another goal such as ‘sell more work’ or it could be a goal in itself. If you design your shop well so that every product has its own page, uses good SEO (search engine optimisation) and your keywords are well chosen and spread well across your products rather than simple repeated this will bring more customers which in turn should lead to more sales.

When expanding product ranges, however, ensure that a high product standard is maintained. For every 12 new products consider removing perhaps your 3 worst performing products. This will keep standards high and continue to increase the number of entry points to your shop and therefore increase traffic. Be sure, however, that your worst performing products don’t just need a quick price or SEO tweak before you remove them. Make sure it is because they are not as well received by customers.

Your products should also be at the core of your art business goal planning. They are why people come. It is all very well tweaking websites, mailing lists and social media for example around them but keeping your products fresh and appealing is essential and should not be overlooked.

Free Up More Time

Are you finding your business overwhelming? Do you feel exhausted? Are you working flat out but don’t feel you are sufficiently rewarded? What products are consuming your time? Are these the products that are generating good profits or are there other products that are easier to produce that you could divert your energy towards to free up more time without reducing your income

  • focus on more profitable products
  • back off time consuming less profitable products
  • add new products similar to more profitable easy to produce products
  • remove time consuming less profitable products from your store

Reduce Expenses

Do you know how much every product costs you? Do you have a good grip on costs and expenses? Are you really making the profit you want to on a product, are you just breaking even or are you close to making a loss on it? Make sure you know all your costs before you set your prices. Reducing costs can sometimes just be as important as increasing sales in your art business goal planning. Increase your prices if necessary or if your product cannot hold a high price and your cannot reduce costs, consider discontinuing it.

  • order in larger quantities
  • negotiate better rates with suppliers
  • source new suppliers
  • manufacture products more efficiently
  • package and ship products more cost effectively

Grow Website Sales

There are a number of ways to increase your website sales. Focus on each one. Monitor it. Look for improvement. Look at past performance to work out where to focus your efforts. Are you simply not bringing enough people to the website? If so focus on that. If, however, they are coming in large numbers but just not buying from you, focus on increasing those conversions instead. Work out what it is that you are missing? Is it your price? Photos? Copy? Background information?

  • bring more customers to the website
  • produce more regular mailings
  • get more people onto the mailing list
  • improve conversion rates on the website
  • have more sales and promotions
  • present your products better
  • improve your SEO
  • upgrade your website

Grow Mailing List

List building is essential in your art business goal planning and should always be a main goal. If you have 100 people on your list and generate a number of sales from a single promotion then once you have 1000 people on your list if you put the same amount of effort into the promotion your efforts can pay off 10 fold and 10000 on your list will pay off 100 fold! Lists make your business scalable and there are lots of ways to grow your mailing lists

  • footer signups on your website
  • popup signups on your website
  • social giveaways
  • discount on first order signup promotions
  • signup voucher in despatched products
  • lead magnets
  • signup on email footers
  • prize draw signups
  • DM people asking them to sign up
  • etc

Increase Social Media Following

Social media is a great way to build relationships with your customers and potential customers, bring them to your mailing list and to your website and other online shops to purchase. Like mailing lists social media is scalable. The more social contacts that see your content the more effective it will be so keep an eye on it and keep striving to grow it. Really get to know each social media platform you use so that you can understand what does and what doesn’t work so that your efforts will be much more effective

  • post more
  • use more social features
  • DM more followers
  • DM more likes
  • host more giveaways
  • take part in more challenges
  • introduce more video content
  • post at peak times
  • use better hashtags
  • collaborate with more influencers

Smooth Income Curves

Typically 80% of income can occur in the last quarter in the run up to Christmas and periods such as the first quarter and the end of the summer can be very slow online. This can lead to cashflow problems in certain times of the year. Identify those periods and plan promotions to stimulate extra income during those quieter times

  • carefully planned flash sales
  • range sales
  • giveaways
  • new product launches
  • open studios
  • stock clearance sales

New Income Streams

Are you having success in some areas? Perhaps you have a number of lines selling really well on your website? Maybe it is time to take those lines to another 3rd party platform too? Consider opening additional online shops. There are many platforms platforms to choose from. Research them and choose what suits you best. Don’t duplicate everything though or take on too many at once. Test the water with one. Only add your best selling lines and try to generate the same level of success on that platform before moving to another. Once you achieve consider doing it on another platform too so that you have multiple income streams. Each platform will work slightly differently but you should be able to reuse many elements from your original listings with a few tweaks for each platform that might work slightly differently.

  • new Etsy shop
  • Folksy shop
  • NuMonday shop
  • Redbubble shop
  • add a Facebook / Instagram Shop
  • Amazon Art
  • Fine Art America
  • Saatchi Art
  • in person or online workshops
  • create an online course

Trade Sales

It is probably not the best time to consider moving into trade sales right now while things are still so unstable but this might be something to set as a goal for the not too distant future

  • identify best selling lines that you could offer to trade
  • calculate trade prices
  • find stockist to purchase from you at trade prices
  • build a trade mailing list
  • schedule monthly trade emails
  • build a trade section on your website
  • build a trade brochure
  • etc

What Now

This is just a selection of ideas you might want to brainstorm in your art business goal planning. Once you have identified all the goals and steps involved consider what might be achievable. What steps are common in multiple goals? Can you kill two birds with one stone as they say? What are the values of the goals and steps? What do you need to do first as a priority? Which small tasks might produce big effects quickly? What is essential and what is nice to have and can happily wait until next year?

You cannot do everything and most artists, makers and photographers work alone with limited time so there will have to be compromises. Work out a ‘major’ goal for each quarter perhaps. Create 2 or 3 small goals for each month and then some 2 or 3 action steps for each day. Be sure to leave space for slippage and to allow you to add additional items, take time off etc and be flexible so that if you take on too much you can just move things back a little.

Make Yourself Accountable In Art Business Goal Planning

The key to successful art business goal planning is to write down your goals, your steps and your action points and make yourself accountable. That is how you will make them happen. Write them down at the beginning of the year. Monitor them throughout the year. Review the goals for that month and that quarter at the beginning and end of each month and each quarter and then review everything again at the end of the year before setting goals for the following year.

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  1. Gael

    Thanks again for sharing this. Really useful planning. I’ll work on this

    • Paul Herschell

      Thanks Gael. Let me know how you go on. Its a big job to do well but well worth doing! Paul


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