Art & Design Magazine

Why Does an Artist Need a Business Plan?

By Ianbertram @IanBertram

If like me you have come to making art as a second (or in my case third!) career it means you are probably trying, if not to reinvent yourself, then at least aiming for some sort of renewal.The idea of a creative life seems a popular choice for those of us in that position, with more of our life behind us than we can anticipate in front. It isn't surprising. You make what you want to make, you interest yourself in what you want to be interested in, and you do all of this when you choose to, not at the behest of any boss.

It's a grand dream isn't it?

Unfortunately self interest is fine so far as it goes, but what is missing from this picture is the need for enough people to share your interests, to like what you make of them and in so doing give you enough money to carry on pleasing yourself...

I can't find the source now, but I recall reading recently that the average income of an artist in the UK was less than £10,000. Bearing in mind that this includes people like Damien Hirst, it is clear that for most artists, while they may dream of making a living from their work is that is what it is likely to remain - a dream.

That doesn't mean you can't approach your work as an artist as if it were a business. In fact it means just the opposite. Most self-described artists will be supplementing their income in various ways - by teaching or by working in some unrelated activity.However, the more time spent teaching or answering the phone in a call centre, the less time you have available for your own art. Somewhere along the line, you need to strike a balance.

Finding that balance is something only you can do. It will mean taking a long hard look at your life in the round - and who you share it with. You will need to look at your financial reserves which may mean thinking about your artistic ambitions and how they mesh with your need to eat. Finally you will need to organize yourself to maximise the return on your investment of time in making your art. Only when you have dealt with that issue can you start planning your business. After all, you want your art business to support you, not the other way around.

Unless you are content to let your work pile up at the back of your studio or in the attic, you need to sell your work. That puts you in business and the ultimate purpose of any business is selling a service or a product to someone willing to buy it at a price that makes you both happy.
Being in business as an artist is of course different to a degree. Selling art and selling cars may share some characteristics but they aren’t identical. When you sell a painting or a print, you are partly selling something of yourself. Paradoxically though, you don’t lose anything when you sell. Each painting, each print you make takes you one step further towards being a better artist. So, in a strange way, selling your work, by giving you the capacity to make more, can be an integral part of your development as an artist – and let’s be honest - who doesn’t get a buzz when somebody likes your work enough to pay over cold hard cash for it?

This is a quote from an e-book on Business Planning for the Working Artist I began writing some time ago. Work stalled but I'm hoping to get back to it in the near future.

[This is a revised version of two separate posts on my other blog, before I split out the arts element to locate here.]


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