Supporting artists and designers in business

Every year I get at least 200 students and graduates come to me for business advice. More than half of these come from are from the creative industries. My relationship with the Art community is one of mixed feelings. As a former Graphic designer, I myself come from this world and I’m constantly amazed by the talent, creativity and innovation that you only ever see in the creative industries. There is something about creative that makes them different – it’s like they’re wired upside down or something.

However, for all its good it is littered with problems. Low pay, high unemployment, lack of cross industry knowledge and transferable skills and low understandings of business and enterprise to name but a few. Its no wonder that many creatives choose self employment as a necessity and rather than by choice. Its true that graphic, product and textile designers (being vocational) see a much higher rate of employment than other sectors. For  painters, sculptors, makers and fine artist there really isn’t any other option. Most graphic designers will at some point be self employed at some point in their career.

My top 3 problems in training creatives…

Problem 1

The difficulty in training creatives to do ‘business’ is by their nature they don’t really like ‘business’. It requires a great deal of entrepreneurial ability to be a self employed artist and by graduation most haven’t even started.

Problem 2

It takes a considerable amount of time selling, negotiating and marketing  a creative business. In some cases this can equal or go beyond the amount of ‘creating time’. this problems is accentuated by problem 1.

Problem 3

Understanding the value, cost and price of their work and themselves. This problem also relates to the value of their abilities to other industries.

Getting it right…

The trick to teaching creatives business is to allow them to be creative in business. To see areas of their business as more room for them to be innovative – Such as marketing. the next step is to make them understand the importance of business (this is where our mentors come in) We cover the usual business support subjects such as finance, book keeping and legalities but our primary focus is on changing the way they view business. We try to introduce artists to as much of the business community as possible, who are usually desperate for innovative people. Getting them to integrate and work together can be difficult but we have seen some phenomenal success from the ones who have learnt to do this.

Change takes time, but the moment you see artists and designers approaching business with the same level of creativity and dedication as they do their work, it’s also the moment you see something special.






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