How to Run a Successful Art Career - The Business Side
Kevin Caron introduces Mary, his business manager, AKA The Voice. Kevin gets a lot of questions about how he got to where he is and how others can do it, so they decided to do some videos about it.
This video is about the business side. A lot of people consider this boring, but it has to be done. Mary explains that even she has a lot of help, hiring people to do things she isn't good at. For instance, they have a bookkeeper come in for $70 / month because Mary isn't good at numbers.
Someone who has been absolutely invaluable for them is a business coach. Mary has a phone conversation with her monthly to talk about what's happened that month: what commissions and sales are in the pipeline and how things look compared to the budget, which the coach helps her put together annually.
Even though Mary isn't an artist and doing it all, she gets so focused on the day-to-day activities she can't see what's going on. A business coach helps her get perspective. How do you get a business coach? Mary recommends SCORE, which is an organization of experienced businesspeople who are ready to help you. Or maybe you can form a Mastermind group, or just a group of artists who can help each other with this task. She also recommends http://www.artbizsuccess.com to help you get perspective.
When you're an artist doing the art, marketing and business yourself, you have to wear a lot of different hats. And you kind of have to have some clarity about which hat you have on at which time. When you're being an artist, you definitely want to be creative. When you're doing marketing, quite often you really want to be creative. With the business side, not so much.
So what do you do on the business side? One important part is planning. If you don't do the planning, you really don't know where you're heading. It would be like going on a cross-country trip and not taking a road map, GPS or an atlas to help you see where you're going.
One thing you want is a business plan, which tells you what your business is and what you want to achieve. It can be a one-page document. There are books, Web sites and blogs that help you write a one page business plan.One major reason a business plan is important is to not get diverted when distractions arise. But if you don't have a plan and don't know where you're heading, it's really easy to lose your way. A business plan isn't carved in granite, though. You can - and should - change your plan, which is a living document.
You also want to get a bookkeeping program. Kevin Caron uses Quickbooks. This is important because it helps you keep track of what you have, what you've sold, who you sold it to, etc. - in essence, where your money is. Kevin Caron also uses his bookkeeping program for inventory. There are also specialty programs such as Artwork Archive, which helps you keep track of things such as inventory. You can even save your images in the program. Kevin Caron keeps track of all the photographs of his artwork in folders.
One of the other pieces of software that they is sort of a crossover between marketing and business: a Customer Relationship Management program. They use a program called Act!, but there are others, too. This type of program helps you keep track of customers, prospects, vendors and others. It also lets you know when to follow up with a prospect, say a week or two weeks later - the automation means she can use her mind for processing instead of a memory bank! And she knows where she can find all the information.
Kevin Caron also often gets asked about shipping. The customer always pays for shipping. Every now and then, Kevin Caron will include shipping, depending upon the situation. But generally the customer pays for the shipping. How do you know what to charge them? Kevin Caron gets bids from some trusted shippers based on their requirements, then includes that with the cost of the sculpture.
If it's a commission, the patron pays the first half of the total amount up front based on an agreement. The agreement helps because it tells people what to expect and keeps everybody on the same page. So this pretty simple document says shipping must be paid. When they pay the second half of the price of the sculpture, they also pay shipping - before the piece is shipped.
Pricing, however, is what Kevin Caron gets the most questions about. It's easier for 2D artists (painters and other artists who make things for walls). Many 2D artists price their work per square inch. There are exceptions, but it's a good starting place. Sculpture is a little bit harder, especially when artworks are quite different. There are also some rules of thumb here that that make pricing easier. One is make sure you're not LOSING money. That's where the business side comes in. Mary keeps a spreadsheet of every project, noting what materials cost and how much time Kevin spends, working with an hourly rate. This gives you a good idea of what it takes for you to make something. That make sure you aren't losing money.
Once you get past the early days of your career, then you're actually getting paid for your experience, your brilliance and your ability. Then your prices can start going up. You still want to keep them consistent. Sometimes you want to price an artwork higher than you might have thought because buyers equate price with value. So if you make something that didn't take you very long to make, but it's in the size range of a larger sculpture, you don't want to underprice it because people will think there must be something wrong with it.
One more important note about pricing. When you work with galleries they usually take about 50 percent of the sale. If that seems like a lot, remember they're doing all the sales, marketing and business tasks. So if you do that work YOU get that money. So if you plan to work with galleries, you need to make sure that you are making as much money as you need in that 50 percent. Do not, though, undersell your galleries - that's a good way to ruin a relationship!
Mary hopes that helps with the business side of your art career. If you have questions, put them below, and they'll do their best to answer them.
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