So you have an artist friend.
They’re smart. They’re talented. You’re not just saying that.
You’ve seen them work hard on their craft and, after much deliberation, they have ventured into the big wide world trying to make money off it. You’re incredibly proud of them, and admire their work ethic. They bow their heads and mumble their thanks.
You wish there was a way to help them out.
The most obvious thing is to buy their stuff, but let’s face it – you probably have received a piece from them, as a gift, and they will do their best to sell you their wares at a discount because that’s what friends are for, and anyway, who needs a big margin. When you do the math, especially if your friend is just starting out, they won’t make much profit from one sale – not with the expenses they are mostly incurring.
And you can’t just buy off everything they ever make. For the majority of us, that is just not realistic. Some people can’t even afford the purchase – they might have kids, or ailing parents, or student loans, or they might be artists themselves.
AND even after that, the question remains: How is your friend going to get their name out there if only their nearest and dearest buy their stuff?
I am not for a second going to argue against family and friends buying my stuff – by all means, Mum, get 10 calendars to hand out to your friends in their Christmas present, I will sign them all and thank them personally if they hang it up in their house – but! There are more ways to help out your artist friends. Some of them don’t even cost you anything.
Just to clarify though – these are ways you can HELP your friend. If you believe artists are no-good layabouts who should just get a regular job and don’t deserve any support, this post (and the rest of this blog) will not be useful for you.
Consider this my merchant’s warning.
The rest of you people who believe your artist friends deserve to make a living wage, here are some ideas for you:
First and foremost, help spread the word. Got a social media account? Thought so. Does your artist friend have a business website? Or an online store? A Facebook page? Do they tweet pictures of their art or announce they’re taking commissions? Are they a writer using their blog for visibility? Have they monetised their videos/blog so that they get a little bit extra cash through clicks?
Then SHARE. THAT. You think that Google algorithms care about talent? Naw, man, it’s a series of commands to get one software to understand another software and help users find what they’re looking for quicker. (They’re not always successful.) Like attracts like, so when you share your friend’s accounts, you’re increasing their chances of being noticed.
“But… isn’t that a bit tacky?” I hear you say.
Well, guess how your friend must feel. Fact – most artists already fear they are frauds. We struggle for legitimacy in our own heads, and we HATE beating our own drum, even when it is our livelihood on the line. Can you imagine a doctor or a lawyer feeling like they can’t have their name listed on their practice website, or take patient recs, because they don’t feel good enough? No. Just the artists.
So beat their drum for them. Beat it as hard as you can bear.
Let me beat someone’s drum right now. The lady in the photo above, Kashmir Thompson, is an Atlanta-based visual artist who does some fantastic stuff, with a very distinct style. Check her out. Love her. Then go back to reading the rest of this post.
On the subject of social media, you could gently offer some direction, if the mood feels right. You know your friends best, you will be able to tell if they’re up for this kind of suggestion or not. But. If they are the type of person to sell their wares online (on Etsy, though a copy-writing agency, Red Bubble, Society 6, etc.) you should help them build a solid social media presence that is separate from their personal accounts. (Very important. Business account. Personal account. Keep them separate and keep the latter private.)
If they are on YouTube or WordPress, or another service that allows ad revenue, it might be worth suggesting to them to monetise those channels. It isn’t a lot of money but if they do get clicks (because you routed traffic their way, and then YouTube algorithms did their magic and bumped the video up too, for example) that’s a little bit extra they can use to restock their kit or take a mental health day or get their kids a new sweater. We gotta do what we gotta do. Ads may be tacky, but they pay for all the free content online. Your friend works hard – they ought to be compensated.
Also, do they have Patreon account? Can you spare a pound? It’s a way to support them without ending up with 1000 handmade potted mugs in the process. (Unless you like potted mugs. And have sufficient space to display them, and no pets or children who can knock them down.)
Holidays and birthdays – ask them what they need. Maybe someone needs to restock their kit. Or they really want to go on a course with their favourite author. Or they want to upgrade their drawing tablet because their current one is a total piece of $%%^. Ask – then see what is doable. Maybe you can get a bunch of people and you can all chip in for something. Maybe you can get them a giftcard for a store that sells what they want.
If all else fails, we never turn down some good old-fashioned friend time. Movies. Food. Drinks, if they drink. Maybe you can offer to babysit their kids so that they can have a date night with their partner once a month – depends on where you are at and what you can afford.
Most importantly – ask them about their job, and let them offload once in a while. I know, our rants can get annoying. They can get really, really annoying. But if your friend allows you to offload about your boss, or your colleagues, or that barista in your local Starbucks that always puts skim milk in your morning Americano – you get the idea.
To your friend, the art is the job. It’s not always a fun job – even when something fulfills you and brings you joy, everyone has their bad days. I do. You do. They do. Let them offload, be there for them, and give them a hand when they need it. They have to work a different structure than you – no colleagues, no promotion opportunities, no health insurance, no pension plan. (If they have a day job, they have to juggle that with an art venture so that quality doesn’t go on either end.)
It can get stressful.
Let them get it off their chest – at least when you’re together.