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Business Smarts for the Creative Arts (October 2014): Business Strategies

By Caley Cannon

Business Strategies

In addition to careful career planning, a life of successful creative work requires understanding and employing business strategies.  Alison Branagan’s The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers provides a comprehensive guide to business skills for a wide range of artists and designers.  Although some chapters, such as those covering tax and legal concerns, are written specifically for readers in the United Kingdom, many of the recommended resources and business concepts apply to a global audience as well.  Branagan covers practical tips for professional development, business theory, entrepreneurial and interpersonal skills, and growing a small business.  Throughout the book the author emphasizes the critical role of research and proactive engagement in the creative professions because “things will not simply just happen for you … wishful thinking or a passion for art isn’t enough to put food on the table.”  To support such practical considerations, each chapter includes a checklist and worksheet to assist readers in applying the concepts learned, and a list of resources and professional organizations for additional support.  Support for the practical aspects of a creative career is also the goal of Daniel Grant in The Business of Being an Artist.  Grant seeks to bridge the gap between training received in college and the tangible necessities for success in a creative career.  He acknowledges that business and art may, on the surface, appear to be unrelated interests.  However, Grant makes a strong case for incorporating aspects of the business world’s approach into creative work, such as developing a marketing plan, establishing price and sales strategies, applying for loans and funding, and protecting copyright.  Grant makes clear that he is not offering a how-to book, but rather an outline of various strategies that many different artists and designers have employed to develop their creative careers.  He encourages emerging professionals to take a similar, hands-on approach to their careers.

Taking Aim!: The Business of Being an Artist Today, edited by Marysol Nieves, was published in connection with the thirtieth anniversary of the Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program and website offered by The Bronx Museum of the Arts.  This series of weekly workshops focuses on career development for the emerging artist.  Taking Aim! is organized much like the in-person workshops, with each chapter (or weekly discussion) focused on the viewpoints of a wide range of art professionals and organizations, including artists, curators and critics, dealers and collectors, foundations and arts councils, and artists’ residencies.  Together these viewpoints provide a useful “insider’s” perspective on art and design fields.  The goal of both the book and the in-person program is to help creative professionals develop strategies for establishing and sustaining careers as artists or designers.  This informative volume concludes with a selected chronology of world and arts events covering 1979-2010, and a bibliography of books, periodicals, websites, blogs, U.S. and international funding opportunities, and residency programs.

In The Designer’s Guide to Business and Careers, Peg Faimon offers an introduction to business issues that impact design careers.  Faimon’s insights into building a portfolio, interviewing, establishing a freelance career, and starting a design firm provide practical guidance to help emerging designers navigate the competitive world of professional design.  The author also considers ethical guidelines; creativity and design thinking; universal design and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance; and sustainability in design.  Part 6 of Faimon’s book is devoted to freelance work—a potentially intimidating prospect for many creative professionals.  She identifies the characteristics and attitudes that a designer needs for success as a freelancer and explores the advantages and disadvantages of solo work.  Many suggestions for additional resources are offered throughout The Designer’s Guide, including the BoDo: Business of Design Online blog—a forum in which designers may post questions, engage in discussion, and identify useful resources for career success.

Works Cited