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Good business decisions paid off for the “profit-driven” artist career

Like many bright artistic kids, Terry Huddleston enjoyed drawing and artwork but he never thought about it being a career goal, only a hobby. But when he got older that changed. Due to a series of events that culminated into “the perfect storm” as he describes it, he decided to quit his factory job and devote 100% of his time to his art endeavors.

That “perfect storm”, he pointed out, caused him to be more ambitious. “So I decided to quit my job at this factory warehouse and pursue art fill time. I realized that if I didn’t dedicate 100% of time to doing what I wanted to do in life I’ll never get to do what I wanted to do in life; that I’ll always be doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that. So I made a decision to do art work 100% of the time. And it really paid off by a lot of good business decisions I made early on and in reading a lot of business books as well.

Huddleston was one of many artists in Chicago to attend the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo (C2E2) at McCormick Place, March 18-20, 2011.

And his advice to anyone who wants to get into the artist/art work business, the first thing to do is to get a business book and read it.

Why read a business book? “Because the business book teaches the fundamentals that you can build any foundation on.

“I can basically pack up this art work right now and sell cakes to people if I wanted to,” said Huddleston. “If you know how to sell something you can sell anything. It just happens that I’m a businessman that can draw. I can produce my own products. But even if it had been the other way around, I would have been selling something.”

In the beginning art was a hobby, he noted, but “I knew I wanted to start my own business. It just turned out that I was already into comic books; so it was a perfect match.”

Do you stay in one place for long or travel a lot? Escapism asked.

“I travel a lot because the industry basically travels a lot. The industry is booming even with the bad economy. I’ve done way better than most my friends that have nine-to-five jobs only because if you’re willing to travel to where the resources and money you’ll always have a market.”

So how long does it take to draw one of his fantastic pictures that were displayed at his booth? That depends on the picture – it could take anywhere from four to nine hours to do one piece of art work.

“I actually have a built-in rule not to take too long on any one piece,” said Huddleston. “As a business guy, it’s all about profit margins. So if you put too much time into one thing and it’s not going to sell for any more or less than whatever else you got, then basically you’re wasting time. And as the old saying goes, time is money especially when you’re your own factory.”

How does he get his art work printed?

“Basically, I print through a company called Rink Printing. That’s another business connection I made being an artist. This is something that you realize when reading business books, that you partner up with the people that take care of you. I take care of them by bringing them new clients and I get compensated for doing what I do already; which is going around the country selling art work. But now I’m just augmenting that by selling printing as well but I don’t have to do any of the printing work. Once again, this is the synergy you get from reading business books; you never want to be the guy doing all the work.”

Was there a Guardian Angel early on in his career?

“I’m not even going to lie. I don’t have that kind of story. Basically I’ve always been good as being able to see things and reverse engineer how people can do things. So the worst thing you can do for me is to let me get a glimpse of your process because I’ll take it and I’ll innovate it. I’ll take it and basically flip it and add something to it.

“I mean if you look around, and this is not meant to be arrogant – but if you look around at my display compared to anybody else’s, I got the biggest display in here. There’s nothing stopping anybody else from getting a bigger display than me, but they don’t do it. They don’t think about innovation and super sizing. So basically that’s my whole thing. I will take something and augment it to suit my purposes and overdo it…it’s all about standing out from the crowd.”

Marketing is everything, Huddleston said. “You have to market, market, market, and rearrange them (your products) into something that is going to be marketable and profitable…I’m really a profit driven artist. I’m not a just make me feel good type artist. Making money makes me feel good.”

The most exciting thing in his career is to make lots of money and do something he loves. “It’s something that’s your brain child. You come up with it and reap the results. You kind of feel like a farmer and you know exactly how farmers feel; because you must plant seeds early on. You can’t keep your seeds. You can’t eat the $200 bucks you just got from this job. You got to take that money and invest it in something else that will give you money half a year later. Six months later you’re going to see that that $200 dollars will turn into $3,000. But you got to get into that mindset of planning a little bit of money early on which Americans are horrible at. And this current crisis shows that we spend, spend and spend. We don’t invest, invest, and invest. Investing by the way is not saving money.  Saving money is not investing money. Investing money is paying a little bit of money into something that’s going to get you a lot of money later. It’s saying ‘hey, I’m going to buy this new tool that’s going to make me more money later’; not ‘I’m going to buy me a flat screen TV that’s not going to make me any money later.’ ”

So what is the downside of the Comic Artist business?

“The downside is basically you go through seasons of dryness in the beginning only because you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’re learning as you go. Business is very organic. It’s not something you can get all the technical rules for and then go out there and implement the rules,” said Huddleston. “You have to basically take a lot of events as they come along. And so you’re constantly changing the strategy on the fly. So the worst thing you can do is have a dogmatic business sense like I’ll never do this, I’ll never change his mind. No, its’ like a marriage, and you better be flexible if you want it to last…”

Article by CMac

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