Be Smart About Art

Too much to do? Don't be afraid to ask for help and advice

written by: Susan Mumford Feb. 23, 2014 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 3365 views

Too much to do? Don't be afraid to ask for help and advice

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here)

You have too much to do. What you need is an objective view on how to deal with the mountain of work in front of you.  Something I recommend to artists is to find an artist buddy. This can be someone near or far, who you can meet every couple of weeks in person or over the internet. The same concept applies to gallerists and others.

It’s important that both understand you are there to help one other. You are one another’s accountability partner. Every time you talk, take notes. These help you take action, and enable you to check on each other’s progress the next time you speak.

I have my own story. Many moons ago. I was sitting outside a café in Soho, London, having a weekly half-hour call with my business coach. I felt overwhelmed with work. I had a list of about 25 things, including, somewhere in the middle: contact the university internship programme.

When I finished going through my list, the coach said that there was only one thing to do, with immediate effect. I was to get a couple of interns enrolled into the gallery team, and then the business would have the infrastructure needed to achieve everything in the year plan.

It worked. The internship programme that I have run in my various businesses ever since has been terrific for everyone involved, and I consider each and every person to be part of my professional family. Both of the young ladies in question received a course credit in their BA programme for the experience. One of them then became a freelance assistant at my gallery afterwards.

What’s important to learn from the story is not the solution in and of itself (running an internship programme is not right for everyone), but rather, how I arrived at the solution. It didn’t come from within, but from an objective third party. These days, I have committed to meeting a creative coach buddy every couple of weeks. She and I both learn a great deal from one another’s experiences every session.

Remember this: people enjoy helping other people. When you have too much on your plate and could do with objective input, to whom will you turn? This can be professional paid-for advice, someone in your peer group with whom you have an exchange, a mastermind group, or a combination theroef. I recommend putting something in place now, so that it’s ready and waiting when you next need objective insight.      


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Photographs © Chris King.

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Being part of a 1-to-1 mentoring programme for GCSE students and being mentored myself, I can certainly vouch for the value of regular or even occasional input from someone with significant experience in your sector or in a sector with similar challenges.

But what strikes me, Susan, is the distinction between a mentor and a volunteer buddy who doesn't necessarily have any more experience as an artist or a gallerist than you do but they're happy to offer a different perspective on whatever issue you have with your business or practice.

Such a buddy doesn't have any vested interest - certainly you won't be paying them for their time tho' you might treat them to coffee and a cake (don't ignore the problem-solving power of cake!) - other than expecting similar constructive advice from you in return when they request it.

That advice might come in the form of a challenge to your assumptions or a suggestion for how to test them or, as you have explored, what items on your 'to do' list need prioritising and which can be pushed to the bottom or deleted altogether!

So...putting my time where my mouth is...I could really do with a buddy to help me make sense of some of the issues I've got and challenge some of my assumptions. And I'm very happy to do the same in return.

Enjoy your Sundays!

Simon