Pointers on choosing projects to grow your (art) business
At my day job, we go through a process twice a year, where some creative types submit ideas to; generate revenue (new products) or make things better for our customers (enhancements to existing products).
Then people like me, read these proposals and ask a bunch of questions to get clarity on what is being asked for. Sometimes in these discussions we are able to suggest ways to modify the request to make it easier to do (less development) while still achieving the same goal.
Then the proposals get prioritized in terms of benefit to the company and the development costs vs return on investment is a key consideration.
The proposals that are deemed too expensive to be worthy of development get cut. The same idea may still be important six months later, then it is re-submitted and re-considered.
Once the projects that are going to be worked on are selected, requirements are gathered in two phases.
First, the “what” is studied: what is the benefit of doing this work? What will successful completion look like?
Then the ‘how” is studied. What is the best (most efficient, cheapest, fastest) way to achieve this goal?
At any time the entire project can be deferred or cancelled.
How does this relate to artist’s work?
I am not suggesting doing market research to determine if landscapes would sell better than abstract work. (I am not suggesting that because I could not do that. Believe me, I have tried to do “simple” paintings that I can sell for less. In theory a simple painting would cost less because they would take less of my time because I am just doing a simple landscape… That never works for me because I just keep on working it until I am satisfied….)
think of your art business as a whole.
What is your long term plan? Your vision?
You must keep that vision in mind as you proceed.
What must you do now to attain long term goals (marketing via social media, creating or updating your website, getting more exposure for your art via submissions to galleries or juried shows…)? Keep your goal in mind as you distinguish between what is nice to have and the truly necessary right now.
Strategic planning is worthless - unless there is first a strategic vision.
Weigh the positive potential benefits against the cost to you in time, energy and money.
Make a prioritized list
Assign yourself the projects that are important and timely
Before we start with the process let’s first establish that we are looking at a special project.
This project, unlike studio work, has specific goals and of limited duration, with a beginning and an end.
Allow yourself an appropriate amount of time to complete your goal.
And keep to the plan you establish.
First, the what.
What is it that you need to do? Why? What benefit do you expect to get?
The clearer you are on what the benefits are, the easier it is to define for yourself what needs to be done to achieve those benefits.
You decide you want to increase sales. How should you go about that? You want to get more exposure? Should you go directly to galleries? Would it be beneficial to have a website?
Answer the question: what is necessary now? Be specific. This analysis will come in handy when you start to evaluate what aspects stay in the project and what will be eliminated or put off for another time.
Do some research.
Look at the websites of other artists and study what works and what does not. Make a list of what you want to include in your website and why.
Next, the how.
You need to make decisions about how to accomplish your goals. Like any business you must decide on how to allocate resources; your time, your energy and your money.
You might want to outsource and pay someone else to do something you know needs to be done but will take too much of your time, or for which you do not have specific skills.
For example building and maintaining a website is time consuming and costs money no matter how you do it. There are many sites that will do the work for you, for a fee. You still have to upload images, label them correctly etc. but you may want to consider this option if you can afford the fee and do not want to give up the time to familiarize yourself with the software used to build the website yourself and then design and build the website.
Speaking of images, we all have cameras ready to hand these days but there are times when we need a better quality image than is possible to obtain in your dining room with the blinds open. (Think good quality images for printing or submission for exhibits/galleries).
It is time for another decision, need and cost versus return on investment, how long will it take you to finish this task and what will you need to invest in (lighting etc.)? Do you know a good photographer who takes good images of art work (a specialty)? Can you afford to hire that person?
Remember to reevaluate
As you continue down the road to accomplishing your goals, be sure to pause and make sure you are still on point. Is this getting too costly? Is it still worthwhile to spend your time/energy/ money on this goal? Is there an approach you can take to accomplish your goal sooner? Cheaper?
Sometimes we start out with a simple goal and then see a lot of things we want or think we need. Re-assess and make sure you have not fallen prey to “scope creep” (scope creep is the process by which a project grows beyond its originally anticipated size). Let’s say you have decided to create a web site to display your art work. As the outset you know you want a simple site to show your work. Then you wisely start to look at what other artists are doing. Now you are thinking, I need to have a shopping cart and e-commerce. I need pay pal. And that feature where there is embedded video and music to accompany my paintings… Oy!
Go back to your original plan, what was your desired outcome? Is e-commerce necessary now?. Are you ready for that? Identify all the tasks you have to do to launch the e-commerce site (don’t forget to have a shipping plan in place, in case this takes off!) Now, does it make sense to delay your website publication while you complete the tasks associated with enabling e-commerce? Maybe it does. Or should you do this work in phases? Phase 1: Set up your website with galleries and then Phase 2: where you work out pricing, a shipping plan and the e-commerce page and support.
You’ve planned, researched and analyzed. You’ve made your plan on how to accomplish your goal, now get it done. Allot the time and do not cheat yourself, take the steps you need to, to accomplish your goal.
Keep at it until you are satisfied that you have achieved your outcome. Step back look it over and take a deep breath. Good for you!
Finally, you are done.… What is next?
Yup, the reward for good work is more work. It is time to start the brainstorming sessions again!
Look around you see what others are doing. Make sure you reach out to fellow artists, leverage your relationships, read blogs and listen to others to get an idea of what should be next on your list of things to do to improve your art business.