Portrait of the Artist as an Entrepreneur: Pitching a Creative Niche

Turning a work of art into a small business product presents its own set of challenges for an artist entrepreneur, beginning with the creative process.

Unlike traditional entrepreneurs, who first identify a need in the market before introducing a product, artist entrepreneurs start by creating a product—their art—and only then begin to look for someone to buy it.

“Artists create with a different set of values,” said Diane Scott, director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Artists INC Program, which teaches business skills to artists. “Their creation is the primary thing, so they create out of love or passion, and then they go and find the market. But we know that there is a market for what they’re doing.”

And reaching that market is infinitely more doable for individual artists today, thanks to social media and other high-tech advances in communication that facilitate connections with customers no matter where they are.

“Technological changes have made it much simpler to be able to reach out and find that bigger market,” Scott said, whether an artist is selling a flamenco guitar album or a piece of highly idiosyncratic visual art. “You can be working a really small, niche market, and it can be a really tiny percentage of the overall population. But if you’ve got access to everyone on the entire globe who’s interested in the small, niche thing that you’re doing, it changes those numbers pretty dramatically.”