Tips Before Launching an Arts Venture

The following are some tips to consider before launching an arts venture.

  • If you could create anything, regardless of financial cost, what would you create? It can be as large as you can dream. It can be a stadium opening, starring the Rolling Stones or can be a small art installation at the local library. Whatever you dream to see exist, articulate that.
  • Who (or what) are you serving? Who is your audience? Knowing who your audience is, specifically, will help you cater your specific message and can serve as your muse throughout your creative process.
  • Know your revenue drivers. How is cash flowing into and through your business?
  • What are you passionate about? If you are going to embark on a process of leadership and risk assumption, you had better love what you do.
  • Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure are parallels. Heroes go on adventures and entrepreneurs create ventures. Entrepreneurship is a hero adventure traditionally paved with obstacles and only those who preserver come to “win the game”. Being passionate about what you do will help you weather the inevitable hardships.
  • Is your passion obscure or rare? The more rare your passion, the more that other people who share your passion will want to help you. Ask those who share your passion for advice, tips and help.
  • Enthusiasm is your greatest tool. People are attracted to vital people. Energetic people often generate excitement and positive energy. Share your passion with others. People very often want to support passionate and clear minded people. You will need other people along your way.
  • Describe your idea in as much detail as possible. Try to see it with clarity, as though it already exists and write it down. Writing down your thoughts makes them real, as they come to exist on the paper or screen.
  • Create a budget for your idea. Think of any and all costs you can think of that might be associated with what you want to build. Think of employment costs, resources needed, promotion, etc. Think of everything. What is your guesstimate profit potential? If you are going to put time and energy into this endeavor, which may take years to realize, you should make your living from it or at least net a gain for your energies exerted in some meaningful way. Put a value to your time and offerings. Include that in the budget. When starting a new pursuit, often the entrepreneur will have to financially sacrifice, at least at first. What do you think is average pay is for such a position in the market? Start with that and competitively price yourself.
  • Try to use only the resources you have at hand to build your idea. This is bootstrapping. Bootstrapping your company is an organic and lesser risk approach to entrepreneurship. It may take a bit longer, but if this is something you are passionate to build, you will likely be ok with the length of time needed. Bootstrapping is a war-era modality of thinking, rather than that of a debtor society mentality. “Spend and use only what you have or can acquire” is the motto. Bootstrapping enables one to keep up ownership and though the process is typically a slower than a process of cash-infusion, it is considered the least risky path of entrepreneurship.
  • If your idea is not possible to fund at present…Scale your idea back to one that is more manageable, that is within your resources. Remember that everything takes time to build. You will likely have to gain community trust (your customers), investor trust (if you go this path), etc.
  • Who can you work with? Are there existing organizations or people who have talents you do not presently have, but know you will need? Are there organizations that could enable you to develop greater community awareness? Consider ways to partner.
  • Remember that everyone must benefit. Time is money. In fact, for many, time is more important than money, as there are only 24 hours in a day. Consequently, people expect compensation for their talents, time, energy, ideas, etc. Sometimes this can be as small as a credit in the product. Other times, people are going to want a negotiated contract that clearly spells out how they will benefit now or at a later date, if the projects develops a life. Whenever possible, pay people, as this is the ideal way of gaining their loyalty to a project. Artists often do work for free, but when a larger paying gig comes along, they will often, naturally, hop ship to the project that pays.
  • Be careful about your favors. Favors can dry up quickly. Use your favors wisely. If you are going to ask someone of influence for a favor, make sure your favor is something you need, that you absolutely could not do without their help and therefore must ask. As with most other industries, the arts industries are largely about who you know–or your network. People want to work with those they know, like and trust.
  • Contract everyone. Some startup businesses have a loving beginning. Everyone is enthusiastic. Everyone is all-energy-forward. But people and their needs change. Contract what the relationship is, what its expectations are and compensation. Do so as clearly as possible. Anyone who is a professional will not have a problem with a contract. When relationships are not contracted and go south, problems arise–especially if the business develops significant value. In your contracting process, when dealing with partners, clearly define how someone exits from the company and how this affects the company and its distribution of or compensation for value. Deciding on an exit strategy will serve as a roadmap, as most partnerships in business inevitably go their different ways over time. When conflict arises, the contract serves.
  • Now that you have your idea, why would you not build it? Make a list of all the reasons not to do this idea. Then make a list of all the reasons you should do this idea. Give each item in your lists a point value and add them up. How do they weigh up?
  • How is what you offer different and necessary? Knowing your difference makes you more competitive. Understanding what makes you necessary positions your mind towards a perspective of service. Serving others is the only way to become necessary as an artist. Doing so is heroic.
  • Don’t let funding be a start or stop issue in creating your vision. Start small and slowly, incurring cost and risk only as you have the resources (bootstrapping). There are many ways to find funding. Bootstrapping enables one to maintain more control and consequential profit from their product, as they don’t divide the ownership pie up. Otherwise, people can invite investors in, find donors, can do fundraising events, do crowd sourcing campaigns, write grants and other options. Be creative. Think about what value people can receive in participating in what you are establishing.

Jim Hart

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