Thursday, August 9, 2007

Still More Ingredients

In my last post I described some of the ingredients that are essential to developing fully as an artist. But this blog is called Artrepreneur, isn't it? That means we have a whole other facet of ourselves to work on and develop....the entrepreneurial side. What are some of the essential ingredients for the artist entrepreneur?

1. Separation. Yes, your work is in part about you, and your story. But, the business is about your products. Can you separate yourself from you work to be able to evaluate the viability of the work in the marketplace? We need to be able to make decisions about our work without the emotional attachment.

2. Decisive. Details, details, details. There is no escaping all the details that need to be attended to if you are in business. If you develop a product you think will sell, now the work has just begun. You need to figure out a price? How to package it? What colors or variations do you want to offer? How can you streamline your production? Decisions have to be made about endless details of how you will run your business. And decisions build upon decisions. If you freeze up at the idea of all the decisions and details that you need to attend to, your business will screech to a halt.

3. Problem solver. Inevitably you will be presented with challenges. You don't have a staff with varied expertise to call upon. You have you. You need to be able to be a problem solver. Ready to dig in and learn. Sometimes solving the problem will meaning finding help. But that will be your call.

4. Salesmanship. Can you sell your work and yourself? Can you talk about your work without going into the "Gosh, shucks" mode, looking down and kicking the dirt with your foot. "Oh, it's nothing. I really am not that good." Face it, if you cannot talk with enthusiasm about your work, you cannot sell your work. Being humble is good, but being passionate about your work, and being able to share that passion is helpful if you want to sell your work. Bruce Baker has some excellent classes and CD's about sales if this is a struggle for you.

5. Long-range thinking. If you can't visualize where you want to go, you will not begin to be able to move your business beyond where it is today. My husband has a phrase he is fond of, "If you keep doing what you're doing, you are going to keep getting what you're getting." If you cannot see where you want to go, you cannot start planning how you will get there. What are your goals, and how can you start moving towards those goals?

6. Capital. You will not be able to grow your business, or make it run efficiently, without capital. Capital is your financial investment in the business. Without making the investment into your business you will not be able to grow effectively and efficiently. Capital can help you buy the equipment you need to produce your work, or the booth display to help sell your work. Put your money where your heart is.

7. Stay current. You need to stay current about what is going on in your "industry". What are the trends? How strong is the market for work like yours? What price ranges are selling well? Are there things going on in the world that will impact your business? For instance, the internet, off-shore manufacturing of "craft" items, the flucuations in the price of gas, or the price of silver and gold, environmental issues, etc......all these things may have an impact on your business. Magazines, newspapers, radio, blogs, podcasts, forums, ....can all be used to one extent or another to stay current with your field and the wider world.

8. Organization. There are many deadlines with the business of being an artrepreneur. Deadlines to apply to shows. Deadlines to file sales tax, or income tax. Production schedules to stay on top of. Receipts, invoices, order forms, bank can't run a business without some paperwork. For some, organization comes easily. For others it is a struggle. But there is no leeway when it comes to filing taxes, or deadlines for entry to shows or competitions. Figure out a system that works for you, and use it. There are lots of solutions, but the best one is one you will use. It may even be hiring someone to do it for you.

9. Passion and Persistence. Any successful entrepreneur is passionate about their business, and persistent. They are willing to accept the inevitable challenges, and do their best to work through challenges. They are willing to accept that it takes time to build a business. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, the inevitable demands on your time, energy and financial resources will not be worth it.

10. Support team. It is not a sign of failure to need help from time to time. We may need an informal board of advisors. People who can give us the advice we need at times, or help us think through an issue. Or, we may need to hire help. There are limits to how much time and energy we have. If we hire someone to do the bookkeeping, it may give us more time in the studio. Or if we hire a rep to sell our work, our sales may grow more than enough to compensate for the expense. You can try to do it all yourself, but chances are, you will need some advice or help from time to time.

Overwhelming, isn't it? But, if you love what you are doing, and can't imagine doing anything else, you find a way to make it work. I work too many hours. I am months behind on my paperwork, and I can find very little clear space in my studio. But when something has to get done, it gets done. Just like becoming a better artist, becoming a better business person means continually working to improve. We will never be perfect, but we can keep working at getting better.

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