Do artists need business plans? Only if they want to succeed
"Impossible." / "Can't be done." / "It won't work." These are the responses I got when I told supposedly creative people I was researching business plans for artists.
"There's no way to predict," said a well-paid Hollywood screenwriter. "You just get used to telling bill collectors you'll pay them when you get paid."
I figured there had to be a better way.
True, artists can't budget based on whether our custom products will sell or not. So I started with what income sources I could predict -- regular freelance gigs like this one, for instance. From there, I could at least determine a base pay so I knew how much I had to earn to make up the difference.
I found the other major parts easy, as well: a mission statement, philosophy, set of operating principles, goals. Artists are dreamy people, idea machines. All that visionary stuff should be easy for us. And fun in a narcissistic way. Personally, I was able to set my priorities just by examining what order I read The New York Times. (Theater, film, commentary, books. Very illuminating for someone who's been writing books for seven years.)
So that just left strategy.
Like most artists, I suck at project management. And time management. Any kind of management, really. What's more, I've defended my disorganization as proof of my creative genius. Then the recession hit and with it a little something called reality. Since one of my operating principles is "If you want to keep getting what you're getting, keep doing what you're doing," I knew it was time for a change.
Luckily, information is easy to come by in the Information Age. So I only had to turn to Scott Belsky, the founder and CEO of Behance, a company "on a mission to empower and organize the creative world."
"The fact is that most ideas never happen as a result of rampant disorganization," Belsky said to me in an e-mail. "Organizational skills may not be sexy, but they are just as important as the ideas themselves."
"We want to help creative people and teams enhance their ideas with a grounded sense of what must be done to make them happen," Belsky continued. "I've always loved the concept of "enhancing" something as well as the notion of "being" yourself while you market your strengths and adopt the necessary structure to scale. Hence 'Behance.'"
Behance will hold its third annual 99% Conference, so named for Thomas Edison's observation that "genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration." This year's conference features a star lineup of sweaty overachievers, most notably Twitter creator and co-founder Jack Dorsey, who got his idea from observing the constant communication of taxis, couriers and emergency vehicles.
Unfortunately, the conference is sold out, but you can overcome the obstacles between vision and reality by reading Belsky's book, Making Ideas Happen, which happens to be for sale. I did, and think I finally got my creative brain to understand the equation that no action = no results. You see, the problem with the Information Age is it is also the Age of Too Much Information, meaning most of us focus on what Belsky calls "reactionary work flow" just to keep up.
The antidote is to get organized and take action steps. In my case, that began with planning my work. Now I just need to work my plan.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.