Saturday, January 26, 2013

Are you Running a Business or Enjoying a Hobby?

When I first started designing fabric and selling it, I really didn't think about what I was doing in terms of a business. I think most creative people don't like to think in terms of balance sheets, profits and losses. Most of us want to practice our art without sullying our minds with thoughts of money.  We worry that our creative energy will be diminished by the exchange of dollars and cents. Some folks can practice their art and sell it for pleasure, selling at a loss, but not minding, because they can afford not to mind. Most of us aren't that fortunate.

I have been taking a hard look at what making money creating art entails. Yes, it involves a creative process that can be a wonderful stress reducer and outlet for nervous energy. It can be a means of self development and growth not attainable through other avenues. But, if you need or want to make money from your art, you have take a hard, unemotional look at what you do and how you do it. You have to be as hard as flint.  

The first step is to cast an unvarnished eye on what you do and determine if you are creating the best product you can that is worth people giving up their hard earned dollars to own.

You are probably thinking: "of course my art is quality! I make it, don't I?" Well, no, it might not be.

Evaluate your artistic product in terms of the competition. Ugh, that ugly word! You might be tempted to think you don't have to think about the stinkin' competition because you are making ART! My advice: don't be afraid to look. Check out what others are doing. You might learn a few things, and you might well come away feeling proud of the knowledge, skills and talent you do have. But it always bears asking yourself: Have you advanced your skills to a high level? Can you learn more? Would you be considered an expert in your area? If you aren't, you should strive to be. If that means attaining greater technical or artistic skill, make the investment of time and/or money to attain those advanced skills. Often this won't involve an outlay of funds, but many hours reading and practicing. Find a support or educational forum where you can ask questions and get advice. There are no shortcuts in getting better at what you do. Your investment of hours will pay you back many times over in satisfaction and productivity.

Ask your friends and relatives to look at your craft and tell you what they would pay for it. Ask them how it could be improved. Don't be afraid to listen to and follow their advice. 

Once you've taken this critical step, you can start the process of determining the monetary value of your highly qualified creative output. That sounds easy, but it is not. Most of us devalue ourselves and our output. You have to keep telling yourself that your creative time and grunt time is worth someone else's dollar. And there's always grunt time. Not everything I do when creating fabric is fun. Some of it is repetitive and boring. But you can and should place a price on it if you want to earn money practicing your art. Notice I haven't said "earning a living" here! I'm just talking about having someone pay you fairly for the art you create, even it it's just so you can pay for music lessons or tutoring or college for your kids.

So how do you go about figuring out how to price your work, i.e., your creative output?

In my next couple of posts, you can come along with me as I walk you through my own process, still in refinement.

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