MAYBE it’s a left-brain-right-brain thing, but running a successful business as a creative person is “always tricky”.
That’s why Arts North West is running workshops for artists this month, answering questions such as “What should I charge?”, “How do I negotiate with a client?” and “How do I weather the income ups and downs?”
To be held in Gunnedah, Tamworth, Armidale, Glen Innes and Tenterfield, the workshops are titled Money Is Not a Dirty Word and Comms for Creatives.
Arts North West executive director Caroline Downer said: “It’s not a common thing that creative people do have fantastic business skills.”
“They’re wonderful, creative people who do these amazing works, but often the business side of things they struggle a little bit with,” she said.
The workshops are supported by Business Connect and Creative Plus Business, and presented by the latter’s business adviser and creative industries expert Monica Davidson.
Ms Downer said they were for anyone creative, from musicians to visual artists to dancers.
The art of finding a balance
Baan Baa-based alt-country musician Sarah Leete, who travels to play across the region, has made music her sole income last year with the help of a young artsist's grant.
She said her current goal was to do fewer gigs playing covers and more playing originals, but she'd taken "a massive hit on money to do what I want to do".
Another challenge was being asked to play "for exposure", which she said happened “every day, every single day”.
She’s had to limit her free gigs to charity causes, but said she was always willing to offer advice to younger or newer musicians - and she sought it out, too.
“I actually have a podcast about this specific thing: I started to just interview people a couple of steps ahead of me on how they manage their career and make a living,” she said.
Tamworth artist Joanne Stead said she’d attended similar workshops and networked to further her skills.
Last year, about one-sixth of her income came from selling paintings and taking commissions.
Some artists were “natural marketers, but a very large percentage of artists I know find it hard to promote themselves”.
“In terms of the ratio of time you spend, sometimes you spend more time marketing … than in the studio; it seems to be 'round the wrong the way.”
Ms Stead said she also found it tough to be asked to work for free.
'We all need to eat'
Ms Downer said creative people's passion for their art could be why others believed they might work just for the love of it.
"We'd never ask a plumber or electrician to do it and, really, it's working in ways of educating people that this is actually a career and this is what you do for a living [and] just because you play a musical instrument, doesn't mean you don’t need to eat ...
"It's always very tricky as an artist to be able to make a living out of what you do.
"What we like to do is really support our artists in our region, and look at ways they can support themselves.
"Often that doesn't necessarily mean they can do art as their sole income, but it's certainly a way of increasing the economic output of their work."
- Money Is Not a Dirty Word will be held in Gunnedah on March 26, Armidale on March 28 and Tenterfield on March 29
- Comms for Creatives will be held in Tamworth on March 27 and Glen Innes on March 28
- Tickets are $25 from Eventbrite