Friday, December 07, 2007

So you've got a new idea.............

A wall of ophioscoridon #2
297mm x 210mm, coloured pencil on Arches HP
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.
Know what you're good at. Recognise and compensate for your weaknesses

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.
K.I.S.S 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.
Can you 'sell' what you have to offer?

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
Take calculated risks

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.
What do you think is the most useful pointer?

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?


Anonymous said...

Katherine - You did it again! What an immensely useful post! And just what I needed today as I am looking at 20 tasks, all art biz related, but with no particular hierarchy - the DIY aspect of it all can be quite daunting. Keep writing such excellent posts!

Martha said...

That drawing is stunning!

All of your points are right on and align with my real world experience as well. I'd say that holding off until the initital concept is perfected or totally complete, before exposing it to confirm that the basic direction is sound, is a common mistake as well.

Making A Mark said...

Anna - glad to be able to help!

Martha - oh I do so agree - but I think age, experience and confidence give you the ability to try things out before you've got the idea 100% refined.

For me it's a second order point though. It's the 'jump in feet first'/Dawn French/Vicar of Dibley moment which tends to cause the most problems!

(And if anybody doesn't understand what I mean about a Vicar of Dibley moment do let me know and I'll explain).

Miki Willa said...

Please explain theVicar ofDibley moment.
I appreciate all your valuable information here. My husband has been selling his art for a few years and is encouraging me to do the same. I think am fearful of the business end of things - especially the getting the painting to the purchaser aspect. Pastels are so difficult to ship. One of these days, I may take the plunge and this entry will be one of my guidelines.

Making A Mark said...

Sorry Miki - I was having a 'UK moment'.

Dawn French (comedienne) is the Vicar of Dibley in a very popular BBC series of the same name. Cut to the chase - she 'gets her new man' and there is a sequence in one episode which shows her having a good time with her new man. They go for a country walk, they jump playfully in puddles on the muddy path - and she jumps in one which turns out to be rather deeper than she was anticipating. She is then up to her armpits in muddy water!

Substitute 'new idea' for 'new man' and you get the picture

And if you've got a couple of minutes to spare, you can even get a picture on You Tube here.

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