Business. Money. Profit. They can seem like dirty words.
Well, as an artist who has been practicing her craft since 2007, I have some advice. You have to make money. There’s no 2 ways about it, you have to learn business skills. Nobody wants to learn them (well, maybe a rare few). Everybody would rather spend all their time creating. But that is not possible if you want to be successful and make a living from your art. And by successful I mean be able to pay your rent, go on holiday, buy food, afford to take the tube instead of the bus…..
Now, I could go on telling you what I have learned over the last few years, but I think it’s better if you get the information from where I got the information. This blog is written for the Claire I was in 2007. That Claire knew she had to learn something about business but didn’t know where to start. And also didn’t know how to find the good stuff in all the rubbish that can clog up the internet.
A last few words of advice: Don’t expect to jump from having no financial skills to suddenly having incredible financial skills. Even if you have paid for a great book or course, you have to put the work into it. Keep things (e.g. a business plan) very simple at first. Just get the basics down, and then go back to flesh it out in more detail.
Every time you practice working out a cash flow, or brainstorming who your customers are, or the basic cost price of one of your creations, it gets a little bit easier. But you have to work at it, little and often. The more you do it, the more confidence you have, and the more you will have peace of mind that your finances are under control.
Claire’s top 5 templates / courses / books to help you, as a creative, get a grip on your finances:
1) The book ‘Making Sense of Business’ by Alison Branagan.
Alison has written a few books, but I have found this to be the best one. It goes into enough depth without being too wordy. I can not recommend this book enough, it is very useful and also good to keep on the shelf and refer back to.
2) Mark McGuinness courses (coaching)
Mark is a fantastic coach who specialises in coaching artists and creatives. He has really helped me figure out what path I am on, and a lot of his courses are free. Being a confident creative is, I think, as much about your state of mind as it is about the state of your skillset.
So this is where Mark comes in – he has lessons that will help you ‘break creative blocks‘ and find your ‘creative path‘ as well as lots of brilliant posts on how to use the internet to promote yourself.
3) ‘mycake’ bookeeping software
Now, I won’t lie. This year, whilst looking at my finances, I very nearly decided to stop the ‘mycake’ annual payment. But I decided to keep it on, and there are a several reasons why. First of all, it makes your life much easier. It keeps track of all your quotes, invoices, receipts and customers. You can very easily turn a quote into an invoice. You access it online, so you can sign in anywhere you have internet.
You can also set up ‘projects’ and assign different projects to different invoices and receipts. That means you can then simply click on a project and immediately see exactly how much money is remaining after all your expenses.
‘mycake’ keeps me looking professional and makes my business dealings quicker, easier and more organised. There is a 2 month free trail, so I would strongly recommend at least trying it out (and it can generate easy to read pie charts, assess areas of weakness in your business and much more). Also for me it replaces the need to have an accountant, and saves masses of time when filling out my self assessment tax return.
4) Prince’s Trust website – Business Plan template
It is doubtful that you will be writing your business plan as a document for a bank to use when deciding whether or not to invest in you (although you never know what the future brings!). Instead it should be something that helps you focus on where you are heading. It should be something that you often update and refer to when making decisions about your business.
This business plan template on the Prince’s Trust website is nice and clear and easy to understand.
5) Money for Creative People (course)
In the ‘Money for Creative People’ course, Mark McGuinness (mentioned above) and Sarah Thelwall (the financial management consultant behind ‘mycake’, also mentioned above) team up and address the issues of creatives and their finances.
You do have to pay for it, but it is an investment worth every penny. Also, the course is audio based, so it’s a good option for anybody who struggles to concentrate when reading. One of the key ideas that Mark and Sarah want their students to take away from the course is that ‘selling yourself short is as bad as selling out’.
The page linked below has a good description of the course to give you an idea of what it is about. Also, I recommend that you spend the extra money and get the whole course not just the manual.