Today is where we start to look at how market forces affect your ability to be successful in making a living out of your art.
It’s important to point out that as an artist you have a right to produce any art you wish. We all need to express ourselves creatively. Just can’t expect other people to pay you for it. If you want to make art for yourself, then you can’t cry into your soup if no one buys it.
If you are looking to make a living from your art, then you need to engage with the market and consider things from your customers’ point of view. This is where Pathway Three: Value & Profitability comes into play.
Where does your art (or service) create value for buyers? People buy a product or service because it solves a problem they have. Maybe it’s the perfect present for aunt Mabel, or it makes them laugh at the end of a busy day, or it makes them feel warm and cozy inside. Maybe it teaches them a new skill or helps them sleep at night. The list is endless; but you’ve got to figure out what it does for your audience before you will ever manage to find buyers for your work. Otherwise you are making work for yourself.
You are not your product, even if your product is something you do. By that I mean that even if you are an actor or a singer, you are still trying to sell something you DO, your acting services, NOT selling yourself. You must view your craft as something external to yourself. You are selling your acting skills to make people laugh, or to tell an important story about Xxxxxx (something important to your audience) or you are recording an album of songs of lullabies, etc. You must connect with what it is you are selling, and it isn’t you. And then you need to figure out what value that has for the buyer. What need of theirs does it serve? What problem of theirs does it solve?
Once you determine what the value you offer is, the marketing becomes easy because you are making your potential target market aware of the value your service or product offers them. It isn’t selling if you are simply letting them know how your product or service can meet their needs.
When you identify a great need of people that you can solve, then you make it much easier for your creative business to be profitable. Great need = great profit.
You can consider your creative business to be profitable when the revenue generated covers all your material costs, your labour costs (including your own time), and infrastructure costs (rent, phones etc). You should also be looking to generate enough profit above expenses that you can look at growing your business, buying new equipment or gaining new skills so that you can remain profitable.
Now we are getting into the very scary, but very real business thinking required to make a creative business profitable. Many creative people just want to make art and stick their heads in the sand about business ‘stuff’ – but unless you tackle these issues, you are just relying on luck to make money, which isn’t a very good business plan!
It is perfectly possible to create more than one kind of art. It is possible to produce one stream of art which takes account of market forces, is properly priced, well marketed and that makes you money. That then provides you with the opportunity use some other time to produce your personal art which sets you on fire but maybe doesn’t have much of a market.
As an actor, it is possible to balance more commercial projects with more artistic projects to give you the revenue streams that you require to stay in business. You see Hollywood stars doing this all the time – doing a print ad campaign, then an art house film, then a commercial in Asia and then a Hollywood blockbuster, all so they can produce and direct that very personal film that perhaps has a limited audience.
I’m not suggesting your jobbing actor has those choices available to them, but it’s possible to juggle doing a commercial, some corporate role play work, some voice over work to have some money coming in through more commercial projects to balance out the unpaid, or underpaid, creative work that maybe you do in a small theatre or low budget film. Understand the difference between passion projects and profit projects (or even better work out how to make your passion projects profitable by looking at it from the audiences’ point of view!).
It all comes down to Value & Profitability. If considered in isolation, it can be quite depressing; but start to look at places where this pathway intersects with the other two pathways to identify areas of your artistic practice that you could perhaps exploit to be more profitable, value-driven streams.
Our fourth pathway will begin to make this work even more clear. Stay tuned!