Monday, November 19, 2007

What Risks Are You Willing to Take?

No, I am not talking about chemical risks this time, but personal risk. How much are you willing to step outside of your comfort zone to succeed in your business? It is inevitable if we want to move our business forward from it's current state, we need to take some risks. Discomfort is required.

There was a lot of discussion recently on a forum about a very competitive craft show, and how hard it was to get in. There was some cynicism about the verity of a letter that some received saying they were in the top 25% of entrants. The griping was about the cost of entry, and the near impossibility, or so it seemed, to get into these shows.

Finally, another artist, who has done many of the top shows chimed in. He gave some frank, no nonsense advice, based on his own experience. The piece that stuck with me the most was if you want to move into this top circle it comes down to doing what 97% of the people are unwilling to do. It involves taking some risks. Putting yourself in the position of having to hear some hard advice or opinions. Risking rejection.

I think this is true for any entrepreneur, but perhaps more so for someone in the business of craft. There are many opportunities open to those who step forward and make an effort, go the extra mile. Maybe nothing will come of every effort you make. But if you don't even try, you are guaranteed nothing. And each time you get your work and your name out there, you are building your brand.

Elise Winters shared in a recent interview that she enters the Niche awards every year to gain exposure for her work, and polymer clay in general. The people who are judging this competition are very influential, and the potential exposure from exhibiting your work as a winner or finalist at the Rosen show is invaluable.

The artist who posted on the forum suggested making an appointment with the curator of at least one, preferably several, of the top museums in the world of craft. You may have to call several to find one with the time or inclination. Or visit with a gallery owner who is often a juror at top shows. Pay for their time, or make a donation to the museum. His suggested donation, $500. Before you gasp, recognize what it could mean to get the type of advice you could receive from such a person. He suggested that you ask them to look at several of your images and give you feedback. Ask them what they look for in the jurying process. More good advice, was to leave a packet with some images, artist's statement and bio, and your CV. And dress appropriately for the meeting. This is all about making a positive impression, not just with your work, but with the rest of the package. You are not only getting advice. Your work is getting seen and better known.

Are you willing to go the extra mile? Are you doing what you can to network? Does every person you know, or that your spouse knows, know that you are in business as an artist? I recently went to a reception for alumni of my business school. I came armed with a crane for my former professor, who is now the dean. It was a gift. But it was also about letting someone who is connected to many others know what I was up to in a very real and concrete way.

This summer I joined the Origami Society because of the cross over of my work. Several members had approached me at shows, and I finally investigated it, and joined. It provides me with a wider audience to network with, and to learn about more opportunities that might be a good fit for my work. Recently I emerged from lurkdom briefly on the discussion list, and was received warmly. I am back to lurking, but perhaps I won't stay there quite so long next time.

The business of craft is competitive. It takes stretching yourself, and reaching outside your comfort zone to succeed. It takes getting up and starting again after you get knocked down. It does not mean you have to go after the top, top shows to reach your goals. But, have you set goals for yourself? Have you thought about the steps you need to take to reach those goals?

Not everyone has to, wants to, or can be that 3%. But if you are aiming to reach far with your work, it takes more than time and effort in the studio. How badly do you want it? How far outside your comfort zone are you willing to extend yourself? Do you have the resiliency to pick yourself up after a rejection, and try again? Are you making every effort to be professional in your encounters with others?

In the next few months, it is a good time to start considering where you want to go, and what you need to do to acheive your goals. Or at least take the next baby step towards accomplishing your goals. This time is invaluable. It helps us see the progress we have already made, and can motivate us to aim for a new target in the coming year.

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