If you lack in knowledge and implementation of art business basics, you deprive your career. You will find yourself in a constant game of catch-up. It’s easy enough to know why so many of us rush things, miss things, or avoid doing things.
I partly blame the avoidance of performing the basics on the desire for instant success. In our social media-fueled, 24-hour celebrity-driven culture, we are bombarded with messages about how seemingly everyone around us is rich, skinny, beautiful, and happy. Who doesn’t want that?
Or, we see edited details of the perfect lives of our Facebook friends. Even when we know it’s not real or the full story, it’s still hard to not let certain things seep in and affect us.
There are more reasons that the information age why people don’t nail down the basics at the beginning. Human nature, shortage of training, lack of interest and other factors contribute. No matter the reason, you end up doing the basics eventually.
It’s painful and time-consuming to stop and backtrack to do basic things before you can move forward. As the saying goes…
There is always time to do it right the second time.
Given the rush of life in general, passing on learning and doing the basics happens. But, it’s not an excuse that pays off. In American football, they call the fundamentals blocking and tackling. If a team fails to perform these essential functions, they lose. In the long run, superior talent will not beat teams that execute the fundamentals flawlessly.
You see it in basketball, too. Teams with hotshot shooters who can score from anywhere, but who don’t play defense, and don’t pass the ball to teammates fail. The individual player is fun to watch, but never grabbing the trophy is a bummer.
Lack of basics creates a void that is like a trap door. You may dance around it for a long time, but you will fall through sooner or later.
To a significant degree, we might as well call them small business basics. As an artist in business, you are unique. That’s because you imagine and create the products you sell through your business. Having this extra, and quite demanding duty to create is a hindrance to you in business. Plus, as a creative person, you are most likely not to tackle business basics with zest. For many, it’s more of an inconvenient, and an unavoidable set of must-do tasks.
So the natural temptation then is to jump into the advanced stuff while skipping as much of the boring necessary details. The rush to get into galleries, start cranking up social media, investing in shows, buying advertising and more happens. That’s because those are the endpoints where art gets sold. Why wouldn’t artists want to get a handle on them right away?
Unexpected problems seem to crop up at the worst time when your fundamentals aren’t in place. You might have some early success selling art at shows, but if you lack the right licenses, don’t have an inventory and bookkeeping system set up, or any of a dozen other necessary things working right, you will find yourself taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Knowing the basics helps you get to the upside faster, too. Imagine you know enough about contracts to give you the confidence to make a negotiation favorable. Or, you win because you understand how the licensing market works you recognize a promising opportunity in it. You find success at the intersection of hard work, opportunity, and preparation.
All artists need to know about these topics. Use this checklist to find out where you might need additional information. If you are comfortable you understand the subject and don’t have questions about it, then check the box. If you aren’t sure, leave it blank.
No one will see this list but you. The reason to do this is for your self-knowledge. You need to know where you might be vulnerable due to lack of information.
There may be other topics on the list. I believe if artists have a working knowledge of these subjects, they can make informed career decisions. Knowing the important aspects of the topics will help them to decide if they need a deeper dive on any subject. If you have ideas for other items for the list, please use the comments box below to let me know.
I’m in the business of helping artists succeed. It’s my mission and my full-time occupation. This list comes from me observing artists in business for nearly 30 years.
For instance, you must use good banking, taxes and inventory management. Others may be nothing more than a good thing know. Perhaps you know you will never blog. That’s okay. But, it’s more than a good idea to know why blogging is popular, how it works and what the benefits of it are to artists.
The beautiful thing is you can learn about any of these topics by just doing a Google search for them. That takes a lot of time. Plus, it’s not always easy to know if you are getting accurate and up-to-date information. Such is the nature of most things that are free. You are on your own when it comes to using them.