Being a sole-trader or part of a small/ medium-sized organisation can be challenging, with so many roles and demands to fulfill. Here’s a selection of ‘top tips’ from several leading creative sector specialists to help you keep your business on track …
Project Manager, Creative Enterprise
Having spoken to many many creatives over the life of the Creative Enterprise projects there are probably a few key points that frequently surfaced.
It can be very difficult, and isolating, to set up and work on your own business – so it’s important to find a network or group, where its physical or virtual, where you can talk about what you do, and any issues you have, or just raise any queries and get real-life answers form people who know what’s its really like to run a creative business.
Sometimes the amount of things that need to be done to set a business up can seem impossibly daunting, so break tasks down, and then focus on what you can do, and what you can enlist help from others to do, possibly on a work exchange basis – and then just do one thing, however small, and then do another thing – as a wise man said, the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
It can seem very hard to ‘sell’ your business when you talk to people, whether they are potential clients or not – one way to approach this is to speak in the third person, as if you were talking about a business that belonged to someone else – it’s often easier to talk positively and objectively if you take yourself out of the conversation.
Don’t be precious: Artists don’t compromise their vision do they? But sometimes co-creation, whether that’s with other artists or clients, can be an incredibly creative and productive process.
Little and often on the business: The business side of things (admin and marketing, networking, chasing payments, etc.) is really boring but if it is left until the end of the month it might not get done.
Think of the future: While you are busy delivering the current exciting project, think about what you might be working on in a year’s time and what actions you need to do now to make sure that you have projects in place for when next year arrives. In other words, keep the pipeline busy.
Network and more networking: Yes, it is about who you know. But you can know the right people if you bite the bullet and get networking. It seems like a chore and a challenge but you’re probably better at it than you think and at the end of the day, networking is really about building relationships and is often an enjoyable experience.
(Just) Do it! That person you met a couple of months ago who you think might be able to help you – ask them; those ideas you have been holding onto for weeks/years – share them; that business idea that has been nagging away for ages – let it out.
We are passionate that networking doesn’t have to be the cliche that it has become.
Building lasting relationships can add value to your work, business and personal life. The best news is that networking is a learnable skill and not dependant on your personality.
Here are two top tips :
1. There is no ice to break. (No really!) The other person wants the conversation to go well too.
2. Smalltalk is important. It fulfills a very important social function . Ask great questions, leave people in a more positive state than you found them – and you will find it easier to build business relationships.
Editor of Emerge & Freelance Consultant
(PR, Marketing, Comms and Audience Engagement)
Different words for different audiences: When selling your product or services, don’t always use exactly the same copy for your marketing pack, website, social media and press release. Sure, keep the essence the same, but you shouldn’t, for example, talk to potential buyers in exactly the same way as you talk to the media … or communicate to your volunteers the same as you’d converse to patrons or artists. Consider (and respect) the audience(s) … they’re all there for different reasons …
Know the media: If you’re planning a PR campaign, do your research. Find out deadlines and who you should be sending press releases to. Spend an hour or two online, searching out contacts who are covering similar things to what you’re selling – there’s no point sending a press release about your next show to the sports correspondent. And don’t forget, you also need good quality, well-shot, full-colour photographs (ideally landscape and portrait), suitable for print and online use, that still look good big and small.
Keep it up to date: If your website hasn’t been updated for three months … what does that say about your business to potential clients? Keep all your online channels up-to-date. Make sure those latest tour dates or your new product ranges are clearly visible and easily accessible. If there’s no change, then freshen things up regularly – swap header images, add new product pics etc.
Top Tips for starting out in community or participatory arts.
If you are interested in working in community or participatory arts think broadly about opportunities that may be available in your local area. Research local groups and organisations and consider local priorities such as improving health and wellbeing, reducing crime and improving the environment. Community artists need a passion for working with people and using their creative skills to inspire.
You will also need to develop skills in facilitation, partnership work and project management as well as being aware of safeguarding , public liability and Disclosure and Barring Service requirements (DBS).
Participatory arts is a great way of engaging with audiences and working with others which can refresh and inspire your own practice. To gain experience, consider volunteering time with a local organisation that you support or think about shadowing other artists.