Be Smart About Art

Does your art business require risk-taking? Measure, minimise and open creativity channels

written by: Susan Mumford Oct. 18, 2015 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 2231 views

Does your art business require risk-taking? Measure, minimise and open creativity channels

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As much as taking risk is part and parcel to pursuing a non-orthodox career in the arts, ranging from taking a punt at a fair to producing a new body of work without guaranteed sales, reducing how much is at stake, from shipping costs to rent, likewise important for establishing long-term sustainability.

In much the same way that health & safety rules stipulate safe use of ladders to avoid unfortunate and unintended accidents, it’s your responsibility as an owner of a small enterprise to do the same for the business as a whole. Rather than plunge head first into pursuits and opportunities, step back and consider what you can do to reduce hazards being undertaken.

A key issue for going it alone is the establishment of income streams. Are your offerings speculative or guaranteed? (For example, the former might be exhibitions and the latter bespoke commissions or rental of art.) Have you put all of your eggs into one basket? Not a good idea; much like making investments, it’s advisable to spread risks.

While some people might assume my focus as a mentor and teacher to art professionals is to work towards making 100% income from creating / selling art, this is not the case, and nor is it right for every individual. It’s vital to establish a healthy balance of activities that enable you to follow your true path, while not putting yourself or your business at great risk. (Many people assume that being ‘successful’ requires being ‘full-time’, which is only popular convention.)

Have you ever wondered why well-known artists continue to teach? Whereas most artists dream of the day they’re no longer teaching, this view often changes over time. Many such ‘successful’ artists find that getting out of the studio, discovering new inspiration and explaining their own practice to pupils does a world of good for themselves. While they originally pursued teaching to achieve a (by and large) reliable income, they ended up maintaining the mix not for financial reasons, but for a balance of activities.

Many professionals are ashamed of continuing work as designers, technicians, copywriters, etc. I implore you to put aside such shame, as if you haven’t made the big time! Instead, feel fantastic that you’ve created a viable living that incorporates the pursuit your creativity as part of the overall mix.

And anyway, something I’ve seen time and time again is that financial struggles block creative channels, for artists and gallerists alike. The issue is much larger than not being able to afford basic supplies or key promotional materials, for financial stress eats away at a person and prevents essential lateral thinking and creative activities. Once the money is flowing, the creativity and go-getting attitude does, too.

Whether you’re planning a pop-up show in a corporate setting or are working out how on earth to make a living in general, for each and every situation, consider the risks being taken. While fully eliminating hazards is unrealistic, at least do your upmost to reduce them, from having someone hold the ladder to sharing costs with collaborative partners. This will go a long way towards creating consistent results and rewards doing what you love. 

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Posted by : Jane 19/10/2015 20:56

This is good advice! It took me years to get the 'balance' right between teaching and earning regular money and my studio time. Eventually it worked and now I love seeing students, it gets me out and literally talking to others. Being s painter can be very solitary.

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