Should artists practice business skills? The legacy of the starving artist suggests artists are not capable of running their art as a business. That art and business should be kept separate.
Yet, in our rapidly changing world where machines threaten job stability, some jobs like those that involve creativity remain preferable for humans. Starting up an art business as an income source looks desirable.
In countries like Australia, Creative Artists, Musicians, Writers and Performers makeup a measly 0.15% of the population (Census, 2011). This less than remarkable figure represents:
- Artists contracted to government or industry associations like state orchestras.
- Recording artists who have signed a legal agreement with a record label.
- Live entertainers in musicals, stand-up comedy, operas, circuses and theme parks.
- Authors with a publishing deal or agent who work at their writing full-time.
- Individual artists committed to proving their talent.
America’s statistics on creative industries paint a different picture of innovation, perhaps made remarkable by places like Hollywood and Broadway that employ thousands of entertainers. What’s it like for where you live? Let me know in the comments.
But whether it’s selling your art as a product or service, or contracting out your artistic talents, these four reasons for using business skills can turn a hobby into a profession:
1. Grow your audience
The growth of the Internet has allowed more independent artists to produce and market their art online. According to Internet World Stats, there’s an estimated 3.9 billion people online as of June 2017. That’s a huge potential market.
With so many people online, there’s never been a better opportunity for you to set up a supportive base for your talent in a broad international community. Some people call it a fan base, a readership or a tribe.
Aside from moral support, growing your online audience has other benefits too. Like:
- Showing agents, you’re willing and able to promote your work yourself.
- Gathering leads to maximise sales of your artistic product.
2. Reduce time-wasting
Still, it’s important for an artist to develop a business acumen whether signing a deal with an agent or doing it alone like self-published authors do. You need to know if you’re signing a good deal and how to keep control of your artistic talent.
Too often, inexperienced artists sign away their rights. I should know, I signed up on an exclusive contract with the wrong agent fresh out of acting school. Years of acting preparation sabotaged by an all-too-eager signature.
If you sell your art online, developing business skills extends beyond contract law. It’s also about knowing how to invest your time so you can balance art creation with selling.
You don’t need to:
- Do all the techie stuff.
- Write every blog post.
- Push your art on social media.
- Give a personal response to every email.
But you can:
- Outsource aspects of your business but maintain control.
- Develop your talent to create something new where there’s a need.
- Raise capital and spend it wisely.
- Choose online marketing programs that work and when to use them.
3. Assess opportunities
Business-minded artists seek opportunities but also create them. When you’re a business-minded artist, you prove the market value of your art and its fit.
You evaluate your practice’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) to:
- Discover new achievable opportunities.
- Manage or eliminate threats.
An artist practising business skills employs creative thinking to strategically introduce their art to the marketplace.
Recently, I prepared to enter a short story into a competition. I had the perfect piece. It just needed a polish. One week before the deadline, I re-read the guidelines: ‘We prefer literary pieces, not genre based short stories.’
It occurred to me that my short story suited the genre of speculative fiction. You may be aware of the controversy around what is literary fiction and what isn’t, especially speculative fiction.
Had I stopped to assess the SWOT of this opportunity, I might have chosen a different piece to enter or focused on a different project.
Without any evaluative process at the start of an opportunity you can waste valuable time and resources.
4. Do what you love
Artists practice business skills to sculpt a living from doing what they enjoy. It enables the opportunity to do what they love most: their art.
To value your art as a product broadens the meaning and purpose of the process to create it. Perhaps, you will aim to develop your brand into a trademark, where your studio’s R&D may qualify as intellectual property.
Entrepreneurial artists also look at:
- Process repetition and whether a different project can use the research data.
- Financial costs and whether to seek grants or venture capital.
- Easy-to-use apps that help to build their business.
- What you do well (strengths) and when you should ask for help (weaknesses).
In my last post about writing goals, I mentioned how being an artist can be a lonely profession. But when it comes to the final production and marketing of your art, you don’t need to do it on your own.
Artists practice business skills to…
- Negotiate sales and purchases.
- Organise help to strengthen their weaknesses.
- Form partnerships with other creatives.
- Turn a hobby into a profession.
When your passion to create and sell art eats a hole in your pocket, it can suck the life out of your soul. Bringing business skills into your art studio, can help you manage your time and resources.
Within our changing technological world, there’s an opportunity for creative people empowered with business skills to discover new possibilities.
What business skills do you practice with your art?