copyright Katherine Tyrrell
People keep telling me that artists aren't business-like but I beg to differ. I think successful artists are business-like - even if they sometimes get somebody else to do it for them!
It's really great to see artists getting involved with creating new ways of presenting art to consumers. Creating innovation - whether it is developing new ways of engaging with the customer or improving upon what happens at present is how the art market (or any market) moves forward. Create a great idea and deliver it well and you too can reap the rewards.
I've observed a lot of different projects and developments in the art world in the last three years - large and small. Some have worked well, some didn't do quite as well as anticipated and some bombed.
What I've also found out is that the lessons I learned during the course of my career - in a completely different field - now appear to me to be pretty universal and could, in my opinion, be applied to the art marketplace too.
So, if you've think you may have a great idea or are contemplating getting involved with a major project, here are some principles which, if followed, can often lead to a happy outcome for all concerned.
Think of them as pointers or food for thought. The headings pretty much apply to any new project although the detail can obviously vary somewhat according to the size of a project.
Know what you're getting into
- if you try to run before you can walk you're apt to stumble. Developing a new product (artwork/ website / gallery / workshops /online store /whatever!) takes time, requires thought and you do need to have the basic skills requirements covered.
- Knee jerk reactions increase the risk that your project will fall over. Do your research - you need to know what the competition looks like and what has gone before. Why reinvent the wheel? Why not learn from other people's mistakes?
- Identify gaps in the market. People who are successful in business can always clearly identify where there is scope to stimulate or satisfy a need by:
- offering a new product or service
- improving an existing service by offering it at a better price and/or in an improved way.
- No surprises - cost everything - in the long run. If you don't know, don't guess - find out. Finance can be a challenge in more ways than one - and cashflow can be a killer.
Having a bright idea does not make you the best person to deliver it. Recognise that you usually need help.
- Check out what resources are required, check out what resources you can offer (in reality rather than principle) and size the gap.
- Capitalise on your strengths and maintain your energy levels for what you're doing.
- Know your vulnerabilities. Identify what's likely to drain you and your resources and/or make the project fail. Mistakes get made when you're tired. Know when to stop digging a hole.
- Be very realistic about what sort of help you will need to get your project off the ground - and keep it moving - financing, expert skills, contacts etc.
- Work out what options you have for getting funding and expert help. What do they cost and how affordable are they?
- Voluntary effort and goodwill will get you started.....and often help you get a long way....... but it's rare to find an endless supply of these very valuable commodities.
.......is a well known acronym for a very good reason.
- All the best ideas are breathtakingly simple
- Keep your project as simple as possible - it's more likely to succeed. The more complicated you make a project, the more you introduce scope for it to go wrong and/or fail.
- If you want to introduce 'better features'
- either design them in from the off (it's cheaper)
- or improve your basic design in stages and in the right order.
Does your project speak for itself - or does it need a bit of help? Weaknesses in communication can often lead to problems with other people's expectations. Can you explain your new product or service to others in a simple and clear way?
- Spell out the benefits as well as the features
- Make sure you can back up any claims you make.
- Keep communication clear and simple. It avoids creating scope for confusion and aggravation at a later date.
- Check that your channels of communication are effective and reach the right audience
With any major project, get it right and you can potentially get a big 'pay-off'. However, if you get it wrong you can have a lot of misery.
- What are the risks and what's your plan for reducing and/or managing them?
- Work out the risk reward equation.
- Who takes the risks? Who gets the rewards?
- Does the basic equation 'feel fair' for all involved?
- When will you start getting a payback (on the basis you generally have to payback investors and creditors before you get to reward yourself) ?
- Manage your risks
- Work out how to reduce risks to an acceptable minimum
- Important! Avoid the risk of becoming distracted from delivering your core activity which keeps the show on the road and pays the bills.
- Have an exit strategy for if it all goes wrong.
Have you got any useful pointers to add?
What do you think have been the best new developments for presenting art or art-making to consumers and why?