Don't Settle for Good, Dominate

When I started working for Marvel Comics and being self-employed again, I thought the secret to long term success was being good at what you do.  And after a few years of working and being mentored I started to get good at what I was doing but I still had slumps and slow periods that drove the stress of freelancing.  

After reading 10X by Grant Cardone I realized being good wasn’t enough to have consistent opportunities and income, I needed to DOMINATE.  

I wasn’t happy anymore being on 8th page of Google, I wasn’t happy anymore being the second or third option for an editor.  I wanted to be so good at my craft and and packaging myself that people would think they were crazy for not hiring me.  

Michael Jordan is known as one of the best players in NBA history.  Most experts say it’s because he has six NBA Championships.  Yes, that is a lot but others have more.  One reason why Jordan is memorable is because he dominated in almost every game he played.  

This isn’t about ego.  This isn’t about saying you’re the best, this is about leadership.  Onceyour phone and inbox stay full of opportunities, then you can help other artists.  Wouldn’t it be cool if you had so many leads you could help other artists who need work?  

In Thriving Artists Academy I don’t just teach you how to be good at positioning yourself, I teach you how to dominate!  

I’m currently enrolling for Thriving Artist Academy, click here for more info:

Have a happy Fourth of July,



My Venti Size Vegas Lesson

I was in Las Vegas this past weekend at Amazing Comic Con.  When I took my tired butt to Starbucks Saturday morning I got a kick out of these coffee cups.  I always have to remind myself that there are still people on planet Earth who don’t frequent Starbucks or who aren’t familiar with their cup sizes and wacky names.  

The image is the Vegas Convention Center guide to choosing your coffee size.  It’s not a great picture but I’ll take you thru it.  Tall is if you’ve slept 8-10 hours,  Grande is for those who slept 5-7, and Venti is 0-4 hours.  I thought this was hilarious but it also teaches a lesson.  Keep your business talk simple.  

I’m sure it’d be great to tell your average client about the readability of your Iconic design, or the all foci descending weight of your composition.  These examples are a little much but artists do it and confuse the hell out of the people.  

This is a case by case scenario of course because if you are talking to art directors who are skilledartists they may know a lot of that stuff.  But if you’re talking to an art director with little art knowledge, it may not work well.  So when you talk or write the e-mail or ad, think about:

  • What do you need to say or what is your message?
  • Who are you talking to?
  • Do they understand it or is your message resonating with them?

It sounds simple but so many artists don’t do this.   Don’t be that guy.  Especially in marketing!  Clear communication is everything.  If people don’t understand they will not act.  Understanding brings action, a lack of clarity breeds paralysis.  

On a side note enrollment is still open for Thriving Artist Academy.  Because of my Vegas trip I pushed back enrollment to July 10th.  Get the art education that changed my life and many others.  Check it out!

The law that makes boosting your income possible

I had a talk with my oldest daughter today and I pissed her the HELL off.  I told her I would help her but it is not in the way that she would like.  I mentioned to her something Jim Rohn said, “life responds to deserve and not to need.”

Nature is neutral and it doesn’t care what you need.  Nature responds to your habits (positive or negative) and it gives you what you earn.  In science it’s called cause and effect, in the bible it’s called sowing and reaping.  

If you’re stuck and don’t know what to do, try my Thriving Artist Academy course.  I promise it is full of proven ideas that I have used in my own art business.  You don’t have to enroll in my course, but if you don’t, where are you going to get the info?  

And if not now, when?


Thriving Artist Academy enrollment starts today!

Here's my step-by-step system that gets you booked!

You'll discover:

  • How to prospect current and future clients easily and know what to say.
  • How to market your business without coming across salesy or obnoxious.  
  • Effective ways to manage your time and workload.
  • How to network with anyone without sounding cheesy or sleazy.
  • How to develop unshakable confidence in yourself and your art.
  • Strategies to grow your income by thousands of dollars.
  • A 60 day money back guarantee.  


Nailing down Thriving Artist Academy

I'm naming down the content for my long awaited Thriving Artist Academy tele seminar course, and I wanted your feedback.  If you were taking a course to develop your art business skills, what's one or two vital things that you would need to know?  You can comment on Facebook or e-mail at adam at

The video says the same thing, so if you read this far, no need to watch it.  ;)


Mastering this skill is just as important as your ability to draw

When I was in my teens and visited comic book stores regularly, I used to open bunches of comic books at the comic book store every week.  You know what I used to say a lot, “the art in this book stinks”. 

You ever see art that is, well, bad but yet it’s selling?  Guess what, crappy art that sells is everywhere.  The main question you probably have is, why is no one buying YOUR art?  This reminds me of something I heard Brian Tracy say.

“Your ability to sell your product is more important than any other skill.”

It is VERY hard to earn as much money as you want as an artist without having a complete understanding of the kind of person that buys your product.  I’m not talking about a niche, I’m talking about a customer profile.  

Your niche may be art directors in Fortune 500 companies who need cartoons for newsletters but your customer profile may be female art directors between ages 35-45 with 10+ years of experience in their field who earn at least $70,000 a year.

Let’s say you market to school teachers because that’s who buys most your art.  That’s great but not all teachers are the same.  Do you think high school teachers in a large inner city school are going to have the same buying habits as teachers in small rural catholic schools?  I’m thinking they’re going to be different.  

Here’s what you do:

1.  Make a list of your best clients.

2.  Look at their common attributes (location, income, demographics, job title, time in business etc.).

3.  Ask your clients why they hired you instead of a different artist.

That’s it.  Slowly you will notice things repeating and you’ll want to take notes of all that wonderfulinformation. 


The extra ingredient to book  yourself solid

It’s hard to get and stay booked solid as an artist.  There’s all sorts of highs and lows in freelancing but there’s one over looked method of pimping out your work calendar that artists overlook, and it’s called bartering.  

When most people think of bartering they go too far old school.  They think I’ll trade you one of my chickens for some of your rum.  Yes that is bartering but I’mtalking about pixels not livestock.  

Most artists rule out bartering because we think of the days before we were established and we think about working for “favors”.  Like remember when your cousin wanted you to design his logo and you never got paid or that back end deal you did for that budding director who’s film was going to be “bigger” than Star Wars.  

Bartering is awesome if it is done right, if not it can completely suck.  Here’s a few tips.

  • Don’t barter for your art, barter for your rate.  Let’s say your uncle wants an illustration for his dry cleaning company’s website and you charge $1,000.  Don’t give him a lower rate, tell him your rate is $1,000 and that will buy you $1,000 in dry cleaning in his store.  If you have no need for a dry cleaner, bartering with him could be pointless but this brings us to number 2.
  • If you barter for something you don’t use, sell your credit to a third party.  For example, let’s say you barter with your sisterwho runs a printing shop.  Sure you could use business cards and a few things butyou may not need $1,000 in printing.  Find a third party who needs printing and sell them the credit that you have thru your barter with the printer.  In the end what started out a barter ends upas a cash transaction for you.
  • Use a barter/exchange network.  I personally use a company called Value Card Alliance.  I pay a small monthly fee to trade with all sorts of businesses.  OnceI sell my art I can then trade with other businesses.  Thru this organization I’ve had my car detailed, weeds sprayed, and traded for vitamins, all while having another outlet to promote and market my business.  

Bartering can be a fun and creative way to fill some of the holes in your calendar.  Make sure you treat your bartering clients the same as everyone else.  Don’t be that guy that doesn’t give 100% because your client isn’t paying in “cash”.  

Also keep in mind that all bartering is subject to taxation according to the IRS so check with your tax professional.

4 Tips to make fine tuning your niche easy

In business having a niche is important.  As artists I think it is even more important.  Most artists go kicking and screaming to the concept but it’s really not that difficult with a little deliberation and planning.  Why do people like me yap about niches all the time?  Look at it this way.

You’re sick.  You have a cold.  I’m not talking about a runny nose, I’mtalking about full blown sick; headache, cough, maybe even throw in some body chills for good measure.  You’re out of medicine so you go to the drug store.

What do you buy?  Something for the cough and headache maybe?  Something to help you sleep perhaps?  Is the cold and flu analogy getting old for you?  Stay with me.

Do you reach for a random bottle that says, “eases all cold symptoms” or do you reach forcough and cold syrup?  If you’re like most people you reach for the medicine that’s going to cure your biggest problems.  If because of your cold you can’t sleep, names like Nyquil come to mind.  

When it comes to having a niche, niches are important because most people who may hire you have a specific problem that they want solved, they don’t want to get a general artist and hope you can draw what they want.   

In addition to most people being pretty myopic in their online searching, when I read Sam Horn’s book, Got Your Attention two years ago, she said the average attention span of an American was 8 seconds.  And that study was done years ago so rest assure it’s gotta be even shorter today.  

In a 2013 study by Chitika 90% of people never look past the first page of Google when they do a search.  

You need to do everything you can to get in front of your prospects, and as fast as possible.  

When it come to a niche, you don’t necessarily have to be the butterfly artist or that guy who's known for drawing zombies, there are other options if you do not want to rely on themes.

Segment your business by:

Location:  You see real estate agents do this a lot.  One agent will pound a small area to become known as the premier agent for that area.  

Industry:  You can draw illustrations for anyone but what if you focused on computer companies, plastic surgeons, bloggers, or animation companies?  If you’re one of the firsts, you can dominate that industry! 

Common Interests:  People who love Harry Potter, Cross Fit, Border Collies, etc.  

Life Situations:  Graduation, buying a house, getting married, having a baby, etc. 

Let’s say your name is Joe Smith and your site is  You love doing caricatures of babies but you have a variety of samples on your site.  Buy or something and build a stand alone site for that specific niche.  

Don’t think you have to completely redesign your site, or do anything particularly special.  You could use something as simple as a landing page with a few samples.  You just want to move forward with something that gets immediate attention that is going to rank high with search engines. 

Appreciation Marketing Caveat

I forgot to tell you something very  important when I wrote about Appreciation Marketing.  When you're sending all of those wonderful notes, cards, and letters, under no circumstances should you ever...  I mean ever.  Ever ever market or promote.

Don't send a wonderful thank you message and end it with, "so that's why I need referrals."  Don't send business cards, don't offer a discount for a purchase, nothing.  

Gratitude is gratitude and marketing is marketing, don't mix them. 

Although we forget about this but human beings have amazing bullshit detectors (dogs too for that matter).  So if you send a note that says thank you for hiring me and the next sentence is do you know of anyone who needs an illustrator.  That becomes a sales message and no one remembers the thank you.

If you have propaganda you need to send or maybe they asked for more of your business cards or something, send them after you mail your thank you's.

Don't like selling, try Appreciation

Although I do have sales in my background, like a lot of people, I wasn’t a huge fan of selling.  And when it came to my art I had so many insecurities that it made selling it even that much harder.  

All sales gurus talk about following up before and after the sale.  What do you talk about?  What do you say?  It really sucked until I stumbled upon a new philosophy [and book] called, Appreciation Marketing. 

The philosophy is simple, tell people that you appreciate them.  Preferably via cards, hand written notes, phone calls, and e-mails.

Meet someone at a mixer?  Send a note or an e-mail expressing your appreciation in meeting them.  Client hires you?  Send them a thank you card.  It’s so simple you’re probably thinking it doesn’t work, and THAT’S where you’d be wrong.  

Why does it work?  First, look at your own life.  How many thank you cards have you received in the mail in the last 60 days?  Have you given another artist work?  How many gift cards have you received from those artists in the last year?  The biggest reason why this works is because almost no one does it!  The second reason why this strategy is so effective is because of the reciprocity that’s involved.  When you give to someone, on some level they want to give back to you.


So how can you start your own appreciation strategy?  

1.  Get into the habit (if you don’t already) of collecting addresses from your clients and people in your network.  

2.  Whenever you get work or someone does something for you, send a greeting card or a hand written note to them.  If you do not have their mailing address call them or send an e-mail but use e-mail as last resort.

3.  At least once a month send a gift.  Food is my favorite thing to send.  People enjoy gettingcards and notes but they will go gaga for food.  


Once you start sending notes, cards, and gifts every month your e-mail will start to get a bevy of new traffic from those recipients showing gratitudeback.  I have a ton of stories about people who had a bad day, or something negative happened, and when they read my card it lit up the rest of their day.  

So you’re thinking…  Adam, I can’t afford sending Hallmarks every day, aren’t they like $4 a card?    Probably, but I don’t spend that much on a card or note.  If you want to be frugal go to Michaels or Hobby Lobby, download a 40% off coupon from their website with your smart phone, and buy a pack of 50 envelopes and cards for like $12 and buy two books of stamps from your grocery store or postal service.

And what about gifts?  I generally send $5 or $10 Starbucks gift cards.  I also like sending small packages of brownies and cookies and they’re usually in the $10-15 range.  

I currently use a service called Send Out Cards for my cards and gifts but there other options online and you can use Amazon or just about any vendor to send gifts.  

If you run out of “thank you’s” to send, check social media.  If you’re connected with your clients on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, etc. people post what’s going on in their lives all the time.  You can send cards when your clients get married, buys a house, get promoted, etc.  The more aggressively you approach this reciprocation you will get back.

And don’t be surprised when you do this that you make the world a better place.

The first place to look if your money gets funny

When most of us start out as artists, we generally don’t have a huge consistent flow of clients.  Hell, half of us either still live with our parents, have a day job, or both.  Generally cash flow issues happen here because you haven’t worked the system long enough.  If you keep on doing quality work you’ll get more business from repeat customers, referrals, networking, etc.

Once you’ve done art a while, if your money slows, you generally have a different problem.  It’s not what you need to do, it’s what you should stop doing.  Yes, I’ll say it again.  It’s not what you’re doing, it’s what you need to STOP doing.  

When I started drawing caricatures live, one of the ways I built my business was by volunteering my services to fundraisers.  I generally earned enough tips to cover supplies and I usually did get a paying gig from it but there was a downside.  People thought, if he drew at this show for free, surely he’d draw at the next show for free too.”  

I thought surely some of these people who I developed relationships with would pay me sooner or later, right?  Hell no.  Cheap is as cheap does.  Why pay for the cow when you can drink the milk for free.  I stopped doing jobs for “exposure” and to “get my name out there” and dealt with cash and trade only.  I still do one to two events a year but I generally charge a reduced rate and I typically only support causes I believe in or donate to anyway.

What should you stop doing?  Is it that work from family who think because of blood you’re supposed to give them discounts on everything?  Is it working for free?  Is it taking on work you don’t like because you need to pay some bills?

Whatever it is you need to stop, stop doing it.  Think about it this way, when you are spending time on jobs that suck, it’s preventing you from taking jobs that you love.  We draw and paint to do what we love, not the stuff we can’t stand. 

The most critical part of business most artists ignore

One of my favorite Linda Bergvist paintings.

One of my favorite Linda Bergvist paintings.

About 12 years ago when digital painting was taking off, people would see works online by greats like Craig Mullins, Linda Bergvist, and Don Seegmiller.  Artists would pound the forums and obsess about which apps and/or Photoshop brushes they used.  Usually there would be at least one veteran who would quell the masses by saying, even if you had Craig Mullins’ brushes you still couldn’t paint like him.  That is of course unless you’re as skilled as him to begin with, and if you are, the brushes don’t matter.  

In business there’s no one brush or simple fix but it does really only come down to three things: 




These three are what make businesses run.  If you are having money issues, chances are excellent you’re not putting time in the proper place.  Most artists spend about 75% of their time in production.  Draw, draw, draw, paint, paint, paint, ink.  About 20% is spent in operations (paying bills, ordering supplies, web sites, etc.), and about 5% is spent in marketing.   

If you want your art career to thrive you need to put at least 30% of your time into marketing.  Minimum.  Why?  Because almost every problem that businesses face can be corrected with cash flow.  Marketing is sales and that’s what allows us to do what we do.  Last I checked, I couldn’t pay any of my bills in Photoshop brushes.

You may be thinking, I don’t have time or I hate sales.  All you have to do is look at your checking account.  If what’s in there makes you happy, you don’t need to focus that much on marketing.  If what’s in your account doesn’t float your boat, you need to get busy marketing.  

If you don’t like sales, don’t fear, there’s two different strategies you can use.  One is push and the other is pull.  Push is more like traditional sales, it’s about asking people to buy.  Pull strategies are more about educating and making yourself magnetic so people want to learn more about you and what you do.  

Keep in mind there is no replacement for amazing art skills.  I’m not saying to ignore increasing your skill set, you should always be sketching, doing studies, etc. you just can’t ignore marketing until your phone is ringing off the hook and much of your time is spent declining job offers.

How you can make me throw up on demand

When I ask an artist what is their favorite thing to draw or paint,  and they say, "everything", I generally throw up in my mouth.  If this is you, stop reading right now, get a gun and shoot yourself in the face. No seriously, do it now and get it over with.   This will save you the pain of trying to make it as an artist.

Or worse, some artists I know do comics and when I see them in three months it's murals, and next week it's t-shirt graphics, and so on. When I ask which do they enjoy the most they either  give some pie in the sky answer like I love all of them or how they're equally as good at all of them so they don't know.  That's the equivalent to a medical student saying I could be podiatrist, gynecologist, or a rectal surgeon, they're all the same.  No, they're not.

If you want to be a professional artist by running your business by being good at everything, stop now and work for someone else the rest of your life. You may not have to shoot yourself in the face, but you will wish did at some point. If you're going to be an artist you need to focus on what you love doing the most or at the very least one niche or area of focus.  Why?

Generally speaking almost all artists can draw and paint just about anything, so you need to stand out in a very crowded and noisy marketplace.  So let's say your thing is drawing fairies, market the hell out of your love for fairies.  You could love drinking Orange Crush or the be the biggest Star Wars fan around.  The point is most people will find you because of what you are passionate about.  If a person  searches for fairy artists you have a better chance of showing up versus a boring "artist" search. 

Look at it this way.  I just googled artists and Google returned over 1,010,000,000 results.  I googled fairy artists and 20,700,000 results came back.  And the more specialized you get, the fewer results will be in your niche.   And by the way, generally speaking, you can charge more.

A life lesson from Einstein

In 2015, I wrote this:

I just took an insert from an e-mail by Dr. Jean Houston.
”One of my smart-alecky classmates said to him: “Uh, Mr. Einstein, how can we get to be as smart as you?”
He said: “Read fairy tales,” which made no sense to us at all.
So another smart-alecky kid said: “Mr. Einstein, how can we get to be smarter than you?”
He said: “Read more fairy tales!”
We of course didn’t fully understand him at the time, but what he was actually encouraging us to do was to nurture and grow our imaginations.
He understood something that almost all highly creative and successful people do, that the imaginal realm is where the most potent ideas—the ones that can change your life or change the world—are held.”
Other than comics, I admit I don’t read that much fiction. This was a good reminder for me.

Last year I read the Harry Potter books and let me tell you, reading books that excited me that much did more for me than I ever could have imagined.  I don't just blog for the hell of it, I do take my own advice.  :)