23 – 7 Books That Will Change Your Art Business
Art Business Books

If you’re a regular listener to the podcast, you already know that Laura and Nikki buy books faster than they can read them. In trying to come up with 5-8 books to recommend on this episode, we realized we had way too many and decided to split them up into categories to share over time. In this week’s episode, we’re sharing 7 books we’ve read that have helped us in our art businesses and why we love them. We think you’ll love them too.

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Laura

0:07
Hi, this is Laura.

Nikki

0:08
And this is Nikki with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

0:17
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

0:31
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura, what are we talking about today?

Laura

0:41
Well, we both have admitted in the past that we’re totally addicted to books.

Nikki

0:46
But Laura, are we addicted to reading books or just buying them?

Laura

0:52
Well, I admit that I buy them faster than I can read them. But today, let’s talk about some that we’ve actually read.

Nikki

0:59
What a great idea. So when we were going over our list of books that we love, we had so many that we decided we needed to split it into categories, or we’d be giving you book ideas for five hours.

Laura

1:12
Seriously. So first up, we want to share seven books that we think can make a serious difference for your art business.

Nikki

1:20
Yeah, so what comes up first?

Laura

1:22
Alright, so the first one up is a book called Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. And Marie Forleo is kind of a badass in the entrepreneurial world. And she’s taught thousands of folks how to create and market their online businesses through her B School and Copy Cure programs, along with literally hundreds of free Marie TV episodes, which are super funny.

Nikki

1:46
They’re totally funny.

Laura

1:47
They’re awesome. They come out on Tuesdays, so you guys should check them out. But you’ll frequently hear her say everything is figureoutable, which is such an awesome phrase. I was so excited when this book came out that I actually attended a couple of her book tour events in Austin and LA. Yes, I’m a geek.

Nikki

2:05
And apparently a stalker too.

Laura

2:11
Well, if you like audio books, this is a great one to listen to, in Marie’s own voice. And in this book, she gives you both inspiration and concrete examples of how you can figure things out as you go along. And I don’t know about you, Nikki, but I always want to have it all figured out before I get started.

Nikki

2:28
We may have heard this about you already, Laura.

Laura

2:32
Well, it frequently keeps me in a cycle of procrastination. But this book helped nudge me in the right direction. So in this book, Marie helps you break that cycle. She covers things like having a growth mindset, eliminating excuses, dealing with fear, starting before you’re ready, progress, not perfection, love that. And really being persistent in the face of resistance. It helps you get past the voice in your head that gets overwhelmed and stuck – to push forward, just one small step at a time. And one of my favorite quotes from the book is, “insight without action is worthless. Taking action is the only path to change.”

Nikki

3:14
So true.

Laura

3:15
And another phrase that Marie says a lot is “clarity comes from engagement, not thought, take action now and you’ll find your truth.” And I love that because I am always feeling like in order to be clear, I have to, I kind of have to do mind games with myself and sit and figure it all out. But that’s not how you get clarity. You really get the clarity by doing the thing.

Nikki

3:38
Totally. We can have all the insight in the world. Maybe one day we’ll actually take action.

Laura

3:45
We’re working on it.

Nikki

3:46
We are we are.

Laura

3:47
I think we’re making small steps in the right direction.

Nikki

3:51
We are, at least we keep telling ourselves that right.

Laura

3:56
All right. So what is our second book Nikki?

Nikki

3:59
Okay, so the next book I want to talk about is called Art Inc., by Lisa Congdon. And I’ve talked about Lisa several times before, specifically in relation to daily art challenges. And Lisa Congdon is a great example of a Startist. I first learned about her maybe 10 or 11 years ago when she began sharing a collection a day. And I’ve been following her career ever since.

Laura

4:25
I remember those. I remember when she showed those.

Nikki

4:27
We talked about this before, I think probably we may repeat ourselves. We may repeat ourselves. See what I did there? Anyway, our styles couldn’t be any more different, but I totally think of her as a role model of the kind of career that I want for myself. She’s an illustrator and a fine artist, as well as an author. She creates paintings, licensed products and her own products, publishes books and teaches. Although she was always creative, she got started with her art career a bit later, after being an elementary school teacher and working for a nonprofit, she started making art just as a hobby, which turned into a side business and is now a very impressive career.

Laura

5:12
Yeah, very impressive.

Nikki

5:13
Yeah. The book of hers that I want to talk about today is called Art Inc.: the Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist. It’s not the first book she published, but you might say it’s the first one she’s really written. And it’s, it’s a great introductory reference for starting and running an art business. Unrelated and completely unimportant side note, I read this book shortly after it came out while I was on a cruise in Alaska.

Laura

5:37
Nice.

Nikki

5:39
With glaciers going by.

Laura

5:41
Were there whales and stuff also in the background.

Nikki

5:44
We did go on a whale watching trip.

Laura

5:45
I’m trying to picture this all in my head. So that’s awesome. I really like this book too. And I think rather than listening to the audiobook, or even reading the ebook, I think it’s great to have a physical copy to flip through because it works really great as a reference guide that you can pick up and go to the appropriate chapter for whatever you need at that time.

Nikki

6:04
Totally. So in this book, she’s completely debunking the myth of the starving artist. She starts with a bit of mindset, talks about embracing yourself as an artist, finding your voice, finding time to make art, which is something we all need to try to do. And then it goes into exploring all the different income streams, building your business, organizing your time, managing your income, promoting and selling your work. It doesn’t go into these topics really in depth, but it’s a really great overview for people just starting out and trying to figure out all the options that are available to them from fine art, and exhibiting in galleries to illustration, licensing, and really just managing your art career as a whole.

Laura

6:49
And we talked previously, in the episode about going to art school how you know, when some people don’t go to art school, like myself, and you’re looking for resources. Even if you did go to art school, actually, those resources don’t necessarily exist on the business side. So having a book like this is a great starting point to that just get familiar with all the different options that are available.

Nikki

7:09
And it’s beautifully designed too.

Laura

7:12
Yes, that always helps, doesn’t it?

Nikki

7:13
It really does. Alright, so what’s next?

Laura

7:17
So the third book on the list is called Hashtag Authentic: Finding Creativity and Building a Community on Instagram and Beyond by Sara Tasker.

Nikki

7:26
Okay.

Laura

7:27
I first learned about Sara Tasker through her gorgeous feed @me_and_orla. And several artists that I knew about raved about her Insta retreat program, which I couldn’t afford at the time. And when this book came out, I grabbed a copy to devour. And it’s full of beautiful images, and some thought-provoking exercises and guidance on how to create an Instagram feed that is visually stunning, while remaining authentically you.

Nikki

7:57
So this is probably another one that it’s better to have a physical copy that you can, so you can see the beautiful images rather than as an audio book.

Laura

8:06
Yeah, for sure. I mean, the images are integral to what you learn in the book, right. And she talks about storytelling through your own visual style, steps you through, you know how to compose pictures for Instagram with the best lighting using just your camera phone, and how to share your everyday world in an authentic way so that you can find, you know, your people. And I mean, she discusses taking everyday things and elevating them into beautiful images. And if you just look at her feed, you understand half the pics, she takes her just around our house.

Nikki

8:37
Oh, awesome. I have so much really cool stuff around my house that I can show on my Instagram feed. Well, things I think are cool that a lot of people might think are really creepy.

Laura

8:47
Yeah, like me. I think they’re creepy. But, but that being said, that’s how you find your people.

Nikki

8:54
And my people will think that all of my dead things are beautiful.

Laura

9:02
They will, they totally will. Oh, so um, so the fourth book, what is the fourth book on our list, Nikki?

Nikki

9:10
Okay, the next book we want to mention is one that we’ve both read. And it’s by Seth Godin, who’s a marketing genius. And it’s called This is Marketing.

Laura

9:19
Great title, right?

Nikki

9:21
Well, like everything he says, it’s like, it’s like concise and to the point.

Laura

9:25
To the point. Yes, we should all learn from that.

Nikki

9:28
We really should.

Laura

9:30
This is Marketing argues that marketing success in today’s world comes from focusing more on the needs, values and desires of our target audience, rather than spamming as many people as possible with our message. Advertising as we’ve known it is dead. It’s more about having 1000 engaged fans then 100,000 instafollowers.

Nikki

9:51
Oh, we gotta keep telling ourselves that.

Laura

9:56
So there’s a quote that I love from and it’s the quote says “persistent, consistent and frequent stories, delivered to an aligned audience will earn attention, trust and action.” And that’s really what we all want, right? We want that, that attention, trust and action. And so it just takes being consistent and being aligned with that audience to hear our stories.

Nikki

10:20
Absolutely. So to me, this book is more about the mindset of marketing, rather than, like a practical how to guide. And I think it can be summed up pretty well by reading some of the chapter titles. So it’s got chapters, like “marketing changes people through stories, connections and experience,” “in search of better”. And the one that I really like the most is, “People Like us Do Things Like This.”

Laura

10:46
Right.

Nikki

10:46
He even has a whole PDF I’ll link to in the show notes around that topic that really kind of goes into the detail about connecting with your audience that they are “people like us.”

Laura

10:58
Right. And marketing is not about you, it’s about the people you serve.

Nikki

11:02
Totally. We tend to think of things in terms of, this is who I am, and I’m totally guilty of this on my website right now, which I totally need to change. It’s all about this is who I am, this is what I do, this is what I sell. But what we really need to think about is, this is who we are, this is who I am, and you and this is how I can help you. Which brings me to some quotes from the book that I really liked. One of them is “they say the best way to complain is to make things better.” I really like that. I really like that. And then the other one is, “we sell feelings, status and connection, not tasks or stuff.”

Laura

11:42
Well, yeah, we were all chasing those feelings, aren’t we? And so when we realize how important that connection is, and it’s not just the stuff, it’s not just telling somebody, you know, here’s my beautiful piece of art for sale, go buy it, it’s creating a connection with your audience on what the meaning and the beauty behind something and what that will add to someone’s life. Right?

Nikki

12:06
Absolutely, absolutely. All about connection. Okay, so what is our fifth book.

Laura

12:11
The fifth book is Building a Story Brand. And it’s by Donald Miller. This is a book that both Nikki and I have read. And he also has another great book called Marketing Made Simple. So we recommend that one as well. But Building a Story Brand is all about making the customer the hero of their story.

Nikki

12:28
And some of the other ideas he puts forth, which are just so true. “Companies tend to sell solutions to external problems. But customers buy solutions to internal problems.” And “customers don’t take action until they’re challenged to take action.” So what you need to really do is not just say, here’s what I have to sell you, you need to just say, here’s the plan to solve your problem. And here’s, you know, exactly how you can do it.

Laura

12:59
So I think that’s interesting. I think that works really well for things like classes. But what do you think, Nikki, about things like a piece of art? What problem are you solving?

Nikki

13:11
Oh, well, I’m solving the problem of your house is really boring. And your walls are blank. And you need beauty to look at every day.

Laura

13:21
Right? And I’ve had classes before where we dive into this topic a little bit more. But you know, just saying, like I mentioned before, that this item is for sale, nobody’s really interested until you tell them the reason why, like, what is the what is the meaning behind this piece? And what can it bring to their world, the color and the beauty and whatever into their world.

Nikki

13:44
Right. And a person is looking at the things they buy to fill their house with as a way to express who they are. A person buys your art so that they can express who they are, through what you’ve put into it. So, you know, you might think you’re just selling a pretty picture, but you’re selling a person a way to tell other people who they are.

Laura

14:06
Yeah, absolutely. So sorry, we had to go off on that tangent.

Nikki

14:11
We like our tangents. But back to the marketing idea, not that we stray too far off of it. But there was another quote from the book that that I wanted to read, it’s a little bit longer but so “Alfred Hitchcock defined a good story as ‘life with adult parts taken out.’ And good branding is the same. Our companies are complex for sure. But a good messaging filter will remove the stuff that bores our customers, and will bear down on the aspects of our brand that will help them survive and thrive.” So what this says to me is that although we might want to tell our entire story, what our customer really needs to hear is the part of our story that relates to them, that shows them how what we’re offering will improve their lives. Whether it’s our art or a course or a digital product, it’s about how it will help them, not about us. And there’s also a fun Madlib style tool that helps you put together a brand script to tell your story that we will link to.

Laura

15:12
Okay, that’s available on his website.

Nikki

15:15
Yeah, yeah.

Laura

15:16
Awesome. So he also has a book, as I mentioned, called Marketing Made Simple. And what that does is it breaks down how to create a basic sales funnel that works. And let me just say, I hate the word funnel. I hate these marketing terms that they just seem to dehumanize the process.

Nikki

15:33
Well, I like the term funnel, because it makes sense visually, if you picture the top of the funnel as the widest part. And as you tell your story, you narrow it down and narrow it down until you find just the right people who like all the creepy dolls and dead stuff you have in your house. And then you know you’ve found your people.

Laura

15:55
True. But to me, there’s this aspect that turns it into a formula instead of a personal thing. And maybe those are just my own hang ups around selling and marketing that I need to get through. But that being said, what I got out of this book was the fact that so many people when marketing their businesses, use really flowery language or like cute play on words to make it sound better. And you know, you do need to express the beauty of your artwork, or whatever it is that you’re selling. But what you really need to do is just explain things pretty simply like in a concise sentence, which is not my forte. And to take the focus off yourself and make it all about your customer, because it is.

Nikki

16:38
It’s about connecting with the person, not impressing them with your ability to use marketing-speak. And my favorite thing is the free video workshop that he has called the Five Minute Marketing Makeover, which is a really concise method of helping you implement the ideas in his books and narrow down your message and figure out what your website’s homepage should really say. And we’ll link to that, but it’s fiveminutemarketingmakeover.com.

Laura

17:08
Yeah, and I don’t know what the exact stat is Nikki, but I know when people go to a website, you have something like three to five seconds to basically capture their attention and to get them to scroll. Otherwise, they just leave. So I think his tool helps you sort of figure out how do you get that message right up front above the fold on your website so that people don’t just immediately go away.

Nikki

17:32
And that brings us perfectly into the next book, which is really about paring down your message. And it’s called Essentialism. And it’s more about, it’s not specifically about business, it’s more about life in general. And the author is Greg McKeown.

Laura

17:49
Yeah, and it’s not even just paring down your message, it’s paring down your your life to the essentials. And I read this book while at my last corporate job, and it really hit the nail on the head. And there’s so much non-essential work we do, that doesn’t really move us forward. And we might even think it’s essential. And I’m not talking about things we don’t like that we still have to do like bookkeeping, marketing, etc. But sometimes we spread ourselves so thin trying to do everything, and saying yes to things that we really don’t want or need to do.

Nikki

18:23
Like washing dishes.

Laura

18:24
Like cleaning the house. And then we end up making no forward movement at all. So one quote I love from this book is “only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

Nikki

18:45
Totally. My biggest takeaway from this book is don’t confuse essentialism with minimalism. And this is a quote that kind of sums it all up for me, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done, it’s about how to get the right things done. It doesn’t mean just doing less for the sake of less either. It’s about making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution by doing only what is essential.”

Laura

19:15
Yeah, so do less, but identify the important things that are truly essential. I mean, it’s called essentialism. Right.

Nikki

19:23
I guess he means that huh?

Laura

19:26
So from the book, there’s another great quote that says, “sometimes what you don’t do is just as important as what you do.”

Nikki

19:34
And here’s one that some friends of mine and I say all the time and don’t always follow through on but “if it isn’t a clear, yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Laura

19:44
I love that.

Nikki

19:45
I need to tattoo that backwards on my forehead so I see it in the mirror.

Laura

19:51
Me too.

Nikki

19:52
That’d be pretty.

Laura

19:53
So easy to say yes to things that you don’t have a full body yes to you know, and then you end up generally regretting it in the end, when you could have had other opportunities that you could have said yes to.

Nikki

20:04
What is a full body yes feel like?

Laura

20:06
We’re not that kind of podcast, Nikki.

Nikki

20:08
Oh shoot. I keep trying to steer us that way.

Laura

20:14
So another key takeaway I had from this book was the fact that the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s and was singular. It stayed singular for the next 500 years until someone in the 1900s decided that priority should be plural. It’s illogical to think that we can have multiple first things, right.

Nikki

20:37
Oh, totally. And how many things are on your list that you consider priorities?

Laura

20:44
Yeah, a lot.

Nikki

20:45
Okay. So to figure out what’s really essential for us, we can ask, what do I feel deeply inspired by? or What am I particularly talented at and what meets a significant need in the world?

Laura

20:59
And I like applying this concept to our own calendars and scheduling. Like I have a planner that…

Nikki

21:04
Wait, you have how many planners?

Laura

21:07
You’re getting off topic. But it has your one key thing to get done that day and sort of the rest is gravy.

Nikki

21:16
Or icing on the cake. I like icing, especially bourbon flavor.

Laura

21:21
And there it is. Alright, Nikki, so those are our first six, what is our seventh recommended book?

Nikki

21:30
Okay, so the seventh book is called Being Boss. So Being Boss began as a podcast between two designers, Kathleen Shannon and Emily Thompson. And really, it was part of my inspiration in wanting to start this podcast with you, Laura. Kathleen and Emily started out as business besties who were having conversations about their creative businesses, their lives, marketing, juggling it all. And they decided it would be fun to turn those conversations into a podcast.

Laura

21:59
Like us.

Nikki

22:00
Like us. So what started as conversations between two friends turned into an award winning, hugely popular podcast, and a community and business that includes retreats, conferences, education, and the book that’s the reason I’m telling you about them. The book is called Being Boss: Take Control of Your Work and Live Life on Your Own Terms.

Laura

22:21
Good name.

Nikki

22:22
Yeah, side note, they considered calling it the Kathleen and Emily show. But fortunately, they went with Being Boss.

Laura

22:32
Better choice.

Nikki

22:33
Yeah, I think so. So it gives you practical business advice, along with lessons on self care, finding balance. It’s part inspirational reading, part reference, and it includes worksheets that help you with mindset, establishing boundaries, setting habits and routines, and doing the actual work and living your life on your own terms.

Laura

22:54
I might have to check that one out.

Nikki

22:56
Absolutely. Unsurprisingly, since it’s written by two designers, it’s a beautifully designed book. I’ve been wanting for way too many years to cultivate a daily reading and writing practice. And this book has actually helped me do that. Not as consistently as I’d like. But it has worksheets interspersed with the text of the book, and it’s thought provoking reading, and then using the worksheets as prompts, it helps you write about the business and life that you want.

Laura

23:24
You know I have to say the one thing about that is I love books that have these worksheets, but then I never want to write in the book.

Nikki

23:28
I know, because the book is too beautiful, right?

Laura

23:31
Yeah, it’s like you spoil it.

Nikki

23:32
I know. In fact, I have to admit that there’s another book like that, that I bought from somebody else that I actually bought two copies of, because I wanted to write in one, and I wanted to keep one pristine.

Laura

23:44
Yeah, I get it. I do that sometimes with beautiful patterned paper, I have to buy a sheet that I can’t cut into and like yeah, and then one that I can.

Nikki

23:51
Well, we should stop that.

Laura

23:52
Okay. Getting back on track.

Nikki

23:55
Getting back on track. So I have a couple quotes I wanted to read from the book. So “Being boss is about knowing what you want, and being unapologetic about it. It’s about being who you are, nurturing your talents and sharing them with the world. Being boss means doing the work to get you where you want to be, even when it’s hard, or when no one understands.” And then, “with creative work, it’s your duty to do the work that you believe in, work that brings you joy, work that allows you to express yourself in the best ways you can. You need to spread your soul’s message far and wide through whatever medium you have at your disposal. If you don’t you’re wasting your talents. You’re not fulfilling your destiny. You’re putting a stopper on your potential for happiness. By embodying your creativity, you’re taking the first step toward living what you love.”

Laura

24:46
I love that. Very well written.

Nikki

24:48
Yeah. So in a way these quotes are in direct opposition to what we were just saying about marketing being about who you’re selling to. But their focus is really about personal branding. And I really think that both are important to live a life you love and to make it profitable.

Laura

25:06
But here’s the thing, you have to love what you are creating and making for the world and believe in the value that you provide. If you’re just thinking about what can make you the most money, or exactly what you can say to convince someone to purchase your art, your classes or your products, then you’re gonna get burnout, you’re gonna get frustrated, and people see right through it, it’s so inauthentic. So you know, those things have to be in alignment.

Nikki

25:34
Right? If you’re passionate about what you’re creating and marketing, your enthusiasm about it will be contagious, and people will really want it in their lives.

Laura

25:42
Exactly. So we hope you’ve learned about some new resources you may not have known about. We know that sometimes either time or money do not allow us to take all the classes we’d like. But books offer a great way to learn on your own time and within a reasonable budget.

Nikki

26:02
And as we told you. in the beginning, Laura and I had so many recommendations that we decided to split this into categories. Today, we told you about books that can help your art from the business side. In upcoming episodes, we’ll focus more on art mindset, art practice, and probably 100 more categories we haven’t considered yet.

Laura

26:20
And we’d love to hear about some of your favorite business books and why you love them. You can share them on Instagram, tagging us @startistsociety, or in the Startist Society Facebook group.

Nikki

26:33
And if you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, be sure to follow Startist Society and leave us a five star rating and review.

Laura

26:40
Speaking of, we want to give a shout out to this five star review from MrsSeabie, from Apple podcasts in the UK who said, “Practical and down to earth. Approachable and friendly, with lots of valuable insights and tips. You don’t need to have a business to benefit from listening. Anyone who has a creative practice they want to develop will find support here.” Thanks so much for MrsSeabie.

Nikki

27:05
And if you’d like us to shout you out on the podcast, leave us a review and then go to startistsociety.com/reviews and share it with us. You never know when you might hear your name on the podcast.

Laura

27:16
To get links to all the books and resources we discussed in today’s episode, go to startistsociety.com/businessbooks. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next week.

Nikki

27:29
Well, we won’t actually see you because this is a podcast.

Nikki

27:37
Laura, what are we talking about today?

Laura

27:41
I’ll tell you in a second after the plane passes.

Nikki

27:46
We should totally leave that in.

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