All self help books have magic number tips such as 10 good tips, 7 bad tips (how not to do something) and 3 rules to live by! So, in the spirit of the self help book here are my top 10 tips to starting a successful arts business.
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1. Carpe diem! In the words of Los Campesinos, If it seems like a good idea then it IS a good idea. Start researching how you can turn your art into a business. Get some good business advice from your local Business Link or visit a business consultant.
2. Be honest with yourself. Do you have a product that people will want to buy or are you making art for yourself? a lot of people say they love your work but would they be willing to part with their money to prove this?
3. Be willing to put in the hours. Being self employed is great, you can work when you want and there's no-one else to tell you what to do. Actually, being self employed can be very lonely and more demanding than working 9 to 5. Are you willing to stay late, burning the midnight oil when everyone else is at the pub?
4. Know your sums. Calculate the cost of everything you make, including your hourly rate and then work out your profit. Don't forget to work out your overheads and running costs. Keep accurate records and, if you are not hot with figures, go on a book keeping course. Try and live by the expression "look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves"
5. Know Your Competition. Find out what everyone else is doing - look at their strengths and weaknesses, find out how they market their art, compare their pricing and look at how you can improve your business on THEIR performance.
6. Know Your Customer. Who will your potential customers be? Who will you appeal to? Where do they buy their art? What kinds of galleries/shops do they go to? What are they willing to pay?
7. Have a sure-fire Business Plan. Business plans are boring but, if you need to borrow money or to further your business, then you will need one. And you should WANT one too - a business plan can help you plan for the future, work out the direction you want to take your business in and identify all your strengths and weaknesses. (I will be blogging about business plans soon).
8. Organize. This means sort out your studio and make it an efficient place to work. Sort out your schedule - learn to prioritise your time so that you are not wasting time gazing at art on the internet instead of making it.
9. Networking. It's all very romantic starving in a garret but sometimes you have to come out and meet people. You can network with Twitter and Facebook (easy) but you also need to talk to real people about your work. Visiting galleries and exhibitions is a great way to network - you are your art's ambassador.
10. My Year in Lists. Make lists. Set targets. Stick to them. Lists give you a raison d'etre, goals to work toward. Lists include Your Strengths/Weaknesses, Mailing Lists, List of Tasks, Shopping Lists.