6 Tips For Artists From Business Thought Leadership

October 7, 2014    

Written by Janenne Willis

The business world is insatiably soaking up lessons from art. They can’t get enough of it, and for good reason. There are now claims that artists will be the emerging new business leaders, predicted by John Maeda, the former president of Rhode Island Design School whose graduates include the co-founders of AirBNB. We attempt in the arts to take lessons from business but let’s face it, the same sexy undertone is missing. Here I hope to inspire you with some current business ideas that translate to art.

Selling art is not selling out. The singular pursuit of wealth without regard for the consequences is selling out. Same goes in business. Today consumers are increasingly demanding ethical and environmentally aware products and services. Even Chinese luxury brands are realising greater success in focusing on morality over elitism. For businesses and artists alike integrity is king. Making art is possible for those with creative talent and something to say. Selling art is a means for being heard.

Do well and do good. We must not be afraid to make money. Money is freedom. Freedom to create social change, jobs for artist friends and more art. The rise of social enterprise is the ultimate hat tip to the power of doing well and doing good. Sure, there is seed funding out there for start-ups with bold vision and the capacity to deliver. Relying on philanthropy and government grants however to fund your artistic life just isn’t common sense any more.

Decide if entrepreneurship is for you. You are passionate about your work, right? A thumbs up for being an entrepreneur. But do you take risks? Are you a good decision maker? Can you juggle many things at once? If the answer to these kinds of questions is no then perhaps making a living from your artistic talents needs to take one of many alternate courses. Before you throw your hands up though, remember that entrepreneurial skills can be nurtured. Precisely where my next point comes in..

Learning is your superpower. Business innovators like John Hagel from Deloitte’s Centre For The Edge talk about the big shift. Protecting knowledge is dead. Those who can learn the fastest will ultimately thrive. The best part is that one of the keys to fast learning is something deeply ingrained in an artists very being: collaboration. Whether it’s learning the skills required to be a successful arts entrepreneur (more on that here) or discovering everything you can about the landscape in which your niche offering sits, gather brilliant minds around you to collaboratively learn.

Start every venture with three questions. Are we passionate about it? Does it make economic sense? Can we be the best in the world at it? That’s a whole post in itself. If you can answer these questions with a resounding yes, you should definitely begin.

Wear failure as a badge of honour. Many of the world’s most famous companies fumbled around for a period before the beginning their success trajectory. Google, Paypal and Apple all changed their course to achieve success rather than slogging it out on the original path. The lesson here is to rapidly employ a process of ‘think, build, launch’, then repeat it again and again and again, failing fast and failing forward each time.

Oh and a cheeky seventh tip, it’s a teaser for a plethora of marketing ideas I think artists can take from business. Your art is your product not necessarily your marketing content. Dream up a content marketing plan that pulls like minds in with 95% content and 5% product. Got you thinking? I can’t wait to hear about what you come up with.

This article was originally created for Jump Mentoring, a program delivered by Next Wave on behalf of the Australia Council for the Arts.

Image credit: Eugene Howard