How Working in Consulting Showed Me How to Conquer the Art World

Through a unique collection of hard work and good luck, I wound up working for one of the big consulting firms. It was a blast, and I worked alongside some incredibly talented and gifted creatives. A little over a year ago, I decided to leave this position to pursue art full-time. While growing my art career, I quickly realized that my time in consulting had armed me to thrive in the art world. These lessons taught me how to get my work shown across the world, how to work with galleries, how to carve out for myself, and how to move my work. Here are a few of the lessons that I have learned over the years.

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Produce:

When we began to integrate our firm into the consulting model, we were all told that we no longer had “bosses,” and that our career trajectory now depended on how we marketed ourselves. We were encouraged to reach out to individuals with whom we had previously never worked if we felt that we could add value to their projects. This meant that each of us needed to have a healthy number of completed projects, along with referrals from other team members. This change in operation created an open environment in which it became okay to speak out, take chances and not be afraid to fail.

As an artist, this idea will keep you out of the mindset that artists work alone, and can keep the fear of starting a new project at bay. If you are unsure how to go about executing your project when creating new concepts, then reach out to someone who does—even if you don’t know them. Where you lack experience, have the courage to ask for help. Over time, the scope of your work will widen, and you will find that it becomes easier to collaborate with others.

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Collaborate:

Working together is pivotal to the success of any project. Most projects gather people from different fields across the firm all contribute to the success of it. Each new project brings the potential to work with new people in various areas. Once you find your place on a new project, you quickly learn some of the skills of a project manager because you often find yourself working across different teams and reporting your contributions to others.

Learning to become a ferocious collaborator will quickly grow your reach and footprint in the art world. Collaboration broadens your creativity and keeps you hungry to make new work. There are also many other artists who would like to do projects, but who aren’t sure how or whom to work with. Learning how to work with others and to project manage also elevates the scope of the work that you’re able to accomplish and will position you to pitch any opportunity that you desire to take on.

Prospect:

One of our team leads emphasized how important it is to use your network. The noted that, once a month, she spends time reviewing her LinkedIn contacts and contacts from other networks to reach out for talks, to have coffee or drinks, or just to see what others are up to. If an opportunity arises from a chance meeting, great—if not, being on the radar of your colleagues is equally important. 

As an artist, you must be able to create work and get your work out in the world for people to see. If you don’t have anyone prospecting for you, then you should split your time 50/50 between creating and prospecting. Spend time reaching out to event spaces and other creatives, applying for opportunities, and meeting and talking regularly with others in your field. Remember that no is okay, as it may mean not yet.

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Get What You’re Worth:

In consulting, your career trajectory is up to you, and if you put in the work and prove yourself capable of taking your projects to the next level, then you can soar. At the end of the year, you describe your big wins of the year, and you detail why you should be given a raise or promotion.

Never abide by the stigma of the “starving artist.” Your potential to excel as an artist is limitless. Don’t be afraid to push back if you feel that an event or space is asking for too high of a percentage of your sales. Price your work for its worth, and don’t feel the need to follow the conventional ways of growing your career. Be radical, fearless, and calculated. 

Consulting taught me how to execute art, how to stay creative and make sure my work is seen. Both fields are built atop of the idea of you get out what you put in, except consulting shows how to make sure others see the work that you’ve put in. Take one or all of these ideas and put it into your creative process and watch how it works. Over time, you’ll be able to do anything that you want.