There is a wonderful analogy used at the beginning of the book The E-Myth by Michael Gerber, where the author describes any entrepreneur as a company of three strongly distinct individuals: the entrepreneur, the operator/manager and the technician/craftsperson.
When we start to offer our skills and services to others, we inevitably become all three, but one of the biggest problems for a lot of us artists (pretty much the majority, really), is that we love the craft and enjoy it immensely, but have no clue or even desire to do the business part and management of our small business.
The whole point of us wanting to become artists was to not be constrained by any boss or superior, telling us what to do and when to do it. In reality though, that’s exactly what we need if we’re serious about our art and want to succeed.
Regardless of whether we’re selling our art online or in person, if our primary goal isn’t to get signed by a gallery and we are instead aiming at selling all our art directly to our customers and fans, we’re consequently operating as a business — and any business that wants to survive the first few years of operation needs a plan and a manager to follow it through.
But it doesn’t mean that we have to do everything ourselves. This is what I think a lot of us get wrong and where we can really learn from the ways of how companies work.
If for example I was a great salesperson but crap at everything else, for me to open up my own business I would either need to build a multi-layer marketing pyramid scheme and exploit the masses by pushing sales coaching seminars on how to sell your grandmother to pie bakeries in 3rd world countries or find a partner that likes to make things, but lacks sales experience.
But if I was great at managing, again I could make an app that would provide people who wish to sell their grandparents to said questionable establishments with listing options, reviews and act as a third-party infrastructure to help them organise their sales, or I could partner up with both the sales-person and the craftsperson and the three of us could open up a reputable shop.
My convoluted point is simple: We need to take care of all three aspects of our art business if we wish to even have one in the long run. And this can be achieved by either partnering up with someone that compliments our skills of creating with their experience of selling and/or managing or we can do everything ourselves.
There’s really no right or wrong — I tended to do all myself in the past — but to be honest, I know that being a salesperson, accountant and artists doesn’t make me a uomo universalis, but an average practitioner of all three.
Thus, what I have ended up with is a good alignment with my goals of wanting to help fellow artists with their businesses, but because I stopped focusing primarily on my work, I haven’t grown as an artist as much as I could’ve in the past years.
I know many of my colleges and friends never cared or will start to care about the business side of art, but love to create, and I believe finding a partner to take over the sales (practically making them our agent) is a great way to leverage other people’s skills and mutually help each other out.
Having a good salesperson is an incredible advantage over most other creatives if we decide to focus exclusively on our craft, and the art business can be very lucrative (even just by selling our art directly and never having to set foot inside a gallery), so both can have an enormous upside from such a collaboration/partnership.
With the only really issue being a mutual trust and interest in the art world, having a partner in crime isn’t as hard to get — let’s face it, schools produce more economists and sales-people than ever and a lot of them would love to get their hands dirty in a field as creative and dynamic as is the art business. We just have to find them.