Being an Artrepreneur


by Johannes Madsen

I have always had a dream of 'starting my own thing'. I wanted to create something I would love and that others would love too. I think many people share similar dreams, but, like me, lack a context to put that in. It is easy to have a dream, but it is something else to put it into reality and actually realise that dream. I have all sorts of ideas. I wanted to make and sell t-shirts, make community websites, do online games and many more ideas that I never realised. It took me a while to figure out that what I was doing was entrepreneuring.


An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision and puts actions behind it to realise that vision.

Little did I know that what I was attempting to do was actually called entrepreneurship and has its world of tools, literature and best practices when it comes to making a sustainable business.

Most entrepreneurs have a goal to grow a business and make money, but that wasn't really exactly what I always wanted. I just wanted to make enough to get by, doing what I love doing. The goal of my vision has always been to make myself and others happier through what I do, not to make a big company that makes lots and lots of money.

I think many artists share this with me. Somehow we would like to do what we love and share it with others, but we get strangely uncomfortable a soon as money is involved. Most artists would rather avoid it and certainly not have it effect their product or vision.

Traditionally in entrepreneurship the product and vision are primarily focused on money - although with a growing sense of social responsibility, the drivers of entrepreneurial vision have become about:

  • Sustainability
  • Enriching people's lives
  • Making an impact on the world
  • Empowering others to express themselves

Through rock star entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg entrepreneurship has become cool, and what's cool about it isn't all about making. Making an impact is what matters.

Many artists share this vision of making an impact and there is a lot artists can learn from the practice of entrepreneurship that would empower them to make a deeper impact with their artwork.

That is why I am writing this series of articles and why we are using the term 'Artrepreneur' to describe an artist who applies practices to grow their artwork.

The Artrepreneur

Artists live thinking that all they will have to do to realise their artistic vision is make the artwork. Good artists wonder why their work isn't being seen, featured or sold. The answer is that there is a lot more that has to be done besides making the artwork. Networking with galleries, setting up an online portfolio with your art, submitting your stuff to competitions and so on. All of this is Artrepreneuring!

An artrepreneur is someone who does things around their artwork to amplify the value of it. A painting only exists one place but upload it to your online portfolio and it will be viewed many places around the world. You are taking a static value and stretching it out farther and wider.

We are using the term 'artrepreneur' in order to state clearly that there are many more activities besides making good artwork that makes a good artist. We are going to apply terms entrepreneurship to the world of artists in order to set some guidelines for what you can do as an artist to farther your artwork and yourself as an artist.

Having an entrepreneurial mindset as an artist can be extremely powerful to realising your art in more innovative and creative ways.

The artwork is only the beginning!

Being good at your craft and producing great artwork isn't always enough to make a great artist. 'Making it' as an artist is much more than doing good artwork.

It is:

  • Promoting your art and distributing it in creative ways
  • Engaging with a community through your art
  • The process of how you make your artwork
  • The value exchange between your artwork and your audience
  • These are all artrepreneurial subjects

As an artist you might realise that these are  things you are already doing, but it might not be considered part of your art. You are already an Artrepreneur, and becoming aware of that will empower you to master the art of Artrepreneuring. When you take responsibility for making your art grow and nurture the soil around it, your art will flourish in incredible ways you couldn't imagine.

Getting your art out there and experienced by people in new ways will free your artwork from the darkness of your storage room. You can make much more with what you have by being innovative in what you do with your art.


Another thing we will attempt to do with the term artrepreneur is to remove the phobia artists have for money.

Money is simply another tool you can make things with and it is essential if you want to build a sustainable life as an artist.

I do understand the discomfort artists tend to feel about money but ignoring it won't make the reality that the world runs on money go away. Don't be naive and learn how you can use the money system to your advantage.

The idea of money messing with your vision might not be a productive one. Bring money into your vision and embrace it as an empowering tool you can use to realise your artistic vision in greater ways.

The point of this whole article is to say 'get out there and do it!' Art is not something that stands alone by itself, it is an interaction with an audience. You as the artist make that interaction happen and that takes work besides doing the art.

You have to get out there and talk with others, make connections and show your artwork to the world.

Practical examples

  1. Submitting your artwork to social networks
  2. Creating an online portfolio or blog about your artwork
  3. Making businesscards and networking with potential stakeholders