Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ask the storyteller: 11 thoughts on the business of art and more questions please!

Today on #askthestoryteller we're going to think a little about the business of art. I'm by no means an expert but a number of you have asked about my business practices.

Before we dive in I wanted to thank you for helping me with this column. It's been a good way to walk back into storytelling in this turbulent year. I'm looking for more questions to answer in 2015, so please send them to me! Thank you for your ongoing support and conversation.

Now, onto the question at hand. Like many artists, I find business practices challenging, but I believe that I must think of my work as a business if I am to succeed. I don't want this to be an endless blog post, so here is a list of some of the things I do to help me operate as the owner of a small business. As always, your mileage may vary, this is what I have found effective. I should also add, I don't do any of these perfectly.
  1. I make annual, monthly and weekly goals. Every year I list what I would like to accomplish; I have a business plan with a five-year outlook. I dream big. Then I break it down into specific goals with a timeline. There are many, many tools available to help you with this. If I understand my goals clearly I can work towards them.
  2. I schedule my time every day. Based on my goals, I come up with a monthly, weekly and daily schedule.  For example, Monday and Friday I look at my bank accounts. I pay bills. I see if I'm on financial track. I incorporate my goals into my weekly schedule. Tuesdays I develop mailing lists. Wednesdays I make phone calls.
    I use sticky notes to track everything and I give myself deadlines. My timer is my best friend. I use a modified pomodoro system that gives me blocks of time to work and blocks to rest. I keep lists.
    I have found if I don't have a real schedule I get very little done. It's much more fun reading, writing, watching tv, going for walks. I treat my desire to make a living as a storyteller as work. I am no more entitled to this work than anyone else is, regardless of talent and ability. I need to work for it.
  3. I revisit my goals frequently. Are they realistic? Are they helping me live the life I want? If a goal isn't working, why? By keeping goals in mind I have something to work for.
  4. I remain in contact. I go to networking events and conferences, answer emails and phone calls, post in my blogs, update my sites, remain active on social media. I recently relaunched my newsletters.I strive to provide excellent customer service. People need to know I'm there to hire me.
  5. I keep my ethics front and center. I treat others the way I want to be treated. I honor my customers. I strive to provide excellent customer service. I charge appropriate rates so I don't devalue our artform. People need to know I'm good at what I do AND reliable to hire me again.
  6. I keep my personal and business finances separate. This lets me see if I am actually meeting my fiscal goals. Money matters.
  7. I mind my brand. I use my logos, I keep much of my social media focused on the Laura Packer and thinkstory brands. Brands tell stories. What's yours?
  8. I outsource. I am not good at everything. I hire or barter for design services, some admin work and so on. Hiring a designer for my branding means I have products that look much better than what I would come up with on my own. A small investment saves me time and frustration. I look more professional.
  9. I strive to keep on top of current events. This serves several purposes. I can use current events to highlight the value of my services. I can also make sure I don't blunder when something big happens. I don't want to auto-send a post immediately after some horrible event. It makes me look tone deaf. Be relevant.
  10. I do something to feed my art at least weekly if not daily. At the heart of all of this is my desire to be an artist. I go on artist dates. I read fairy tales. I go to other art events. I do things I'm bad at like sketch. I strive to feed my creative self regularly. Creative nourishment feeds my heart which feeds my work.
  11. I don't go it alone. I have friends who help me, friends I help. I have a coach. Isolation is a sure way to kill our artistic intent (even Vincent van Gogh had his brother Theo). I remain as connected as I can. Being connected keeps me accountable and keeps me going.
A bonus, from photographer Sean Howard: Practice gratitude for every dollar. Yes! And I would add, for every gig and opportunity.

There are several resources I have found to be invaluable. Here are a few to start with:
  1. The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield. A practical, hands-on guide to being a working artist.
  2. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. Helps me get through resistance and keep going.
  3. The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World by Lewis Hyde (thanks to Bill Harley for pointing me towards it). This helps me remember the value of art in our world.
  4. Creative Capital offers some great webinars for artists trying to be more businesslike.
I'd love to know what strategies work for you and what resources have helped. Please add them into the comments below so we can all prosper! And again, I'm looking for more questions. Please send them my way so we can keep exploring storytelling together in 2015.

May the new year bring us peace, joy and prosperity.

(c)2014 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.truestorieshonestlies.blogspot.com.
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