Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Planning Your Way to A Dream

To many people, the path to a dream feels very nebulous. Because so much of our emotions are tied to our ambition, we often treat it as we might an impulse and just sort of "go with the flow." While this is all fine and dandy, we suggest imposing some order upon your path, so that you might find your way a little quicker.

Many of us want to quit our jobs, live off our art, travel, etc. But how many of us have a concrete plan in place? Banks won't give out loans to small businesses without a business plan, as it's a risky investment. Due to the way our world works you need to start thinking about the concrete steps you need to take to get your art off the ground. Whether or not you want to be a non-profit or a huge corporation isn't the issue - if you want to be successful as quickly as possible, then you have to start talking a little business.

Let's look at a fictional person, and let's call this artist Sabrina. She wants to live off the sales of her paintings. Since she hasn't sold anything yet, she's looking into the options of selling prints of her work to make them more affordable. She also works 6 days a week at her minimum wage retail gig (which she absolutely hates) to survive.

Now, prior to getting a plan in place, Sabrina has been printing prints a few at a time at the local copy place whenever someone asks her for one. She has an Etsy shop, but doesn't update very often. She's been putting off creating a website, as the technical aspect of it scares her and she doesn't have the money to hire a web designer. So how is she going to change her life around where she can escape the retail job and just paint all the time?

Sabrina need to put a plan into place.

The first step in Sabrina's plan is to figure out her living expenses, and how much money she really needs to survive. She needs to figure out the bare minimum (food, shelter, clothing, student loan bills, etc.) that she needs per month to make it through. She also needs to figure out her ideal income (where she gets to go out to eat, hit the bar with friends, watch a movie here and there, etc.). She needs to figure out her budget because that's how much money she's going to need to make off her art.

The second step is to do the cold hard math. Say Sabrina's target income (where she'd feel comfortable completely leaving her job) is $2500 a month. Now, if she sells her originals, which take her three full days to paint, she thinks she can reasonably sell them for $600. She currently sells her prints at a profit of $8 per print. Because she works all the time, she doesn't get three full days to work at something, so she prioritizes it and works on it a bit each day, even though she's exhausted after work. So let's say the painting takes a week to finish, so she can make four paintings per month. How many paintings does Sabrina have to sell to make it by each month?

If Sabrina sells four paintings a month will make $2400, but if that's through a gallery, she'll only take home $1200 due to the 50% cut most galleries take. She's not sure if she can sell two paintings a month even with mad hustle, but she thinks she can sell one. So that's $300 through her friendly local gallery. That means, she has to come up with $2200 a month through print sales. Which means, at $8 profit each, she has to print, ship, and sell 275 prints per month (or about 69 prints per week, or about 10 prints per day).

Sabrina needs to evaluate whether or not she thinks this is possible, and if not, then she needs to re-evaluate her marketing, her pricing, her sourcing, or all three. She could also re-evaluate whether or not she's willing to make less before she quits her job, and where she can cut corners in her budget if need be.

You see, maybe Sabrina can sell her prints for more, so she has to sell fewer of them. Or perhaps her art translates well into greeting cards and she should look into licensing and wholesales. Maybe her art has an appeal to interior designers, and she could sell her originals for more. If her job is especially soul-sucking, maybe she'd be willing to give up her book-buying habit and instead visiting the library more, or maybe she doesn't really need that phone upgrade. Perhaps she thinks she just needs a better, strategic marketing plan.

Whatever it is, Sabrina needs to face the scary unknown of what she has to do to succeed. Most of the time it's a lot easier to bury your head in the sand and wonder "Why haven't I made it yet?" but it's important to really face the reality that you need to think of art like a business - with a budget, a marketing plan, and a well-thought out course of action. Then, which is a post into itself, comes the real challenge - putting it all into action.