How to Overcome 3 Common Barriers to Success as an Artist

Artists who do not feel successful seem to run into 3 common barriers, mostly self-generated. The good news is that each of these barriers has an antidote that you already have within your grasp to becoming a successful artist.

Barrier # 1: Wanting Too Much Too Soon

  • Some artists are unrealistic about what is possible in a certain time frame and are impatient about the results they are getting.
  • They want to sell immediately, sometimes before they even have a signature style. If they have art skills, they get comfortable with a certain style and level of production.
  • They are not always open to critiques/suggestions about being more prolific, creating work in different styles or creating multiples of their work to have more pieces available.
  • They do not put in the hours. They are not consistent about what they do or how they do it, so their career never gains momentum.

The antidote:

Be clear about where you are before you decide where you want to go. Once you are clear, decide where you want to be at the end of your career. Now look at the gap between the two. Work backwards and write down the steps you need to take. Then start taking one step at a time. Be realistic about what you can take on so that you can see progress and feel success as you build your career.


Barrier # 2: Wanting to do too much without enough resources.

  • Most artists start off solo and think that they can build a 6-figure career that way. Those who take on too many tasks succumb to overwhelm and burn out before they experience success.
  • They resist investing in their skills, tools and materials or business skills.
  • They do not delegate less creative tasks to assistants or business professionals like web designers, accountants or artist advisors.
  • They interpret common art career events such as lack of sales, not winning awards or galleries not accepting their work for exhibit, as personal or artistic rejection.

The antidote:

Write down your goals for the year. Break them down into the tasks it will take to achieve each goal. Estimate the time it will take to do each step. Schedule tasks as if they were appointments on your calendar. If you see there are too many tasks to fit your work time, spread them out, get help or take smaller steps.

Barrier # 3: Wanting someone else to take responsibility for the business side.

  • Many artists tell me that they want a gallery dealer or artist representative so that they can abandon all business tasks and focus only on making art.
  • They tend to buy into many of the myths about artists as pure creators who deserve special treatment.
  • They are waiting for one big break.  They believe that there is a  silver bullet.  They hope for a miracle   that someone will discover them and save them from years of hard work.
  • They want representation as soon as they make a few sales. They fail to understand that they need to build a resume and be able to demonstrate that they are good business partners.

The antidote:

Understand that you are in charge of your art career, whether or not you have representation. If you do get a gallery dealer or artist representative to exhibit and sell your work, know that you are a business partner not a ward in their care.

“Eighty percent of success is in your mind, the rest is taking action to bring it into being.”

So let your mantra be:

  • Decide.
  • Act.
  • Learn.
  • Adjust.
  • Rinse & Repeat as Needed!


By guest author/Aletta de Wal is a popular Artist Career Trainging Advisor and guest author for To learn more, you can read or listen to Aletta’s interviews of successful artists here:

Thanks again Aletta! I appreciate you sharing your knowledge here with my readers. ~Lori 🙂

You might like to also read these related articles:

How Do You Define Success as an Artist?

Why You Need a Webmaster for Your Art Business

One Simple and Effective Way to Show the World You are a Pro

5 Small Business Mistakes To Avoid

2011-02-08T22:10:02+00:00August 10th, 2010|General, Guest Articles, Inspiration & Motivation|27 Comments


  1. Gwenn August 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I find that a good way to get over #3 is to think of how marketing my work like making a painting, then it’s no longer a separate problem but part of my creative whole!

    • Lori McNee August 11, 2010 at 10:08 pm

      Hi Gwen…thanks for stopping by for a visit and a comment! I like your blog and I enjoyed your link – thanks for sharing. You are welcome to share a post on this blog if you would like.
      Keep in touch!

  2. Rusty August 21, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I thin the same applies in the music biz. Especially now.

  3. Libby Manchester Gilpatric December 11, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    This appears to be a really helpful blog. I will share this with studio mates and artist friends! I would love to hear your comments on how I could improve my website, which is self-made via .mac. Thanks for bringing this blog to life!

    • Libby Manchester Gilpatric December 11, 2010 at 8:05 pm

      Please explain what you mean by moderation. How

    • Lori McNee December 12, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      Hi Libby,

      Thanks for enjoying this blog. Feedback like this makes it all worth the effort! Good luck with your website. I will check it out.


  4. Barbra Ignatiev February 9, 2011 at 10:04 am

    Agreed, agreed, agreed! I find it so annoying when artists want to be noticed for their art and make it into a livelihood, but don’t treat it as such. These are great simply laid out tips, Lori.

    • Lori McNee February 9, 2011 at 11:36 am

      I am glad this post struck a chord with you, Barbra. Thanks for stopping by.

      Lori 🙂

  5. Maria Soto Robbins March 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    All wonderful suggestions. I recently discovered your blog (through Robin Maria Pedrero’s interview which was, btw, terrific) and love it. I’m so enjoying some of your videos, too. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Lori McNee March 14, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      Hello Maria-

      Thank you for commenting. I am glad you are enjoying this blog and finding it helpful. The videos are fun to make. I plan to make more and hope you continue to stop by for a visit.


  6. Dabanga September 7, 2011 at 10:48 am

    TY was a great article. I am guilty of #2 so the suggestions
    will be a great start helping me to change gear.
    I so enjoy the usefulness of all the info you share.

    • Lori McNee September 23, 2011 at 9:46 am

      Most of us are guilty of something on this list…it is a good reminder. Thanks for the nice feedback Dabanga!


  7. Lori @ Think Global, Art Local May 15, 2012 at 10:15 am

    What a wonderful post….thank you! Will be boomarking it and referring to it often to keep me on the right track building my own fine art business 🙂

    • Lori @ Think Global, Art Local May 15, 2012 at 10:16 am

      *bookmarking (that’s what I get for trying to comment BEFORE drinking my afternoon coffee!)

    • Lori McNee May 16, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      Thank you Lori. I appreciate you taking time to let me know this great feedback. Hope to see you again.
      from one Lori to another 😉

  8. Eeli May 23, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Very good blog post and you are so right! I am also working very hard with my artist career and sometimes everything is moving so slowly, but I enjoy it very much, so working feels like no working at all 🙂

    With the best wishes from Denmark! Eeli

    • Lori McNee August 28, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Hello Eeli from Denmark! I’d love to visit there someday. Thank you for the visit to my blog. I love working when it doesn’t feel like work – that’s the best day!

  9. Michelle June 23, 2012 at 11:56 am

    I think a certain amount of impatience plagues us all! In your opinion, can an artist be successful if they only sell online, or do they have to have a local presence as well?

  10. Marwan June 5, 2015 at 4:27 am

    Nice work & i like it , but when i open the link ” want a gallery dealer or artist representative ” its show me an article about how to choose the right paint brush ,would u please check that out ?

    • Lori McNee June 7, 2015 at 3:15 pm

      Thanks for letting me know!

Comments are closed.