Artists, Learn to Love Business Planning

By Samantha Rodin, Visual Arts Editor, LaVaLab, visualarts@lavalab.ca

There’s no denying that artists are entrepreneurs. A couple of years ago, I hosted a seminar for artists in York Region on the topic of personal and business branding. The turnout wasn’t great but those who attended seemed to experience somewhat of an awakening about themselves and their practice. At the end of the session, I walked up to the podium and asked, “before you came here today, did you consider yourself an entrepreneur?” This was met with virtually no response. Then I asked, “after experiencing this seminar, do you now identify as being an entrepreneur?” This time, all arms shot in the air.

Making art and business planning are not integrated in mainstream education, which has created a polarized stigma about acknowledging that an art practice is, in fact, a business. Setting goals and developing strategies to meet those goals does not mean you are “selling out” or compromising the type of work you make. It also doesn’t matter if one artist aspires to sell landscape paintings and another desires to win a site-specific commission or perhaps become an arts educator. What matters is that you have goals and create a roadmap to reach them.

Here is an exercise to get you started: think of your “Promised Land,” that is, where you want to be and what you imagine you will be doing and making in 20 years from now. Write this down on a piece of paper and work backwards, including where you anticipate being 10 years from now, 5 years from now and one year from now. Be as specific as possible.

Now you’re loosened up and ready to write a plan! There are several options and no singular template when it comes to formatting a business plan. Several creative business coaches have developed completely new formats geared at right-brained thinkers. Below are two samples of how you can consider mapping out your plan.

Traditional Business Plan Elements:
Executive Summary
One page summary of key points from the business plan.
Description, Vision & Mission
What is your business? What is your ideal state? What are you committed to and how?
Target Market & Value Proposition
Think about who you are appealing to and why. Be specific about demographic, behaviours, lifestyle, income bracket, etc. What are you offering and why should others value it?
Environmental Scan/Market Analysis
What is the current state of the market you are working within? Who are your competitors? Possible partners? Conduct research.
SWOT Analysis
Strenghts and Weaknesses (internal), Opportunities and Threats (external)
Goals, Objectives & Strategies
What are your goals? What specific result do you want to achieve and what are the actions you will take to that happen?
Products & Services
What are you selling?
Marketing & Promotion
How do you plan on reaching your audience? What tools will you use?
Team/Organization Model
Information about you and others working with you, if applicable.
Financial Plan
Create a 5-year budget forecast that lays out revenue over expenses. Also include a month-over-month cash flow projection.
Marketing Budget
Itemized marketing expenses
Work Plan/Timeline
Chronological outline of what you plan on doing, when and who is accountable for each task

If you choose to follow a traditional model, don’t be afraid to change up some lingo to suit what you do and make space for creative experimentation. LaVaLab Literary Arts Editor, Sheniz Janmohamed, explains this further in her latest article, "Finding a Way: Envisioning a Creative, Complete Life".

Alternative, Non-Traditional Plan:
Creative business coach, Jenn Lee, developed a completely alternative way of writing a business plan that looks more like a visual roadmap, aptly named “The Right Brain Business Plan.” She offers an 8-week online intensive, has published two books and shares more resources on her website at http://www.rightbrainbusinessplan.com.

No matter what format you choose for your business plan, be decisive, specific and realistic. Most importantly, have fun writing and putting it into action. 

Useful Online Resources:
http://theabundantartist.com/business-plans-for-artists-here-i-did-it-for-you/
http://smallbusiness.chron.com/write-artist-business-plan-56745.html
http://creativesandbusiness.com/2922-artists-you-need-a-business-plan/
http://raprehab.com/10-step-marketing-plan-for-artists/
http://artsmarketing.org/

 


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