Why Artists are Good at Business

Magnified Dollar
Creative Commons License photo credit: Brooks Elliott

Successful creative workers make something and then relentlessly pursue ways to improve. To make progress as an artist in any field you must be able to critically assess your own work.

These same skills apply to improving your creative business. It’s not scary; you do it all the time. Let’s use some examples to break it down and show how these ideas apply to your business.

Observe

What’s working and what’s not? Don’t try to consider everything at once, narrow it down to two or three things at a time. In the example painting, we’ll look at the color scheme, theme and composition.

For a business example, let’s think of a studio jewelry artist, we’ll call her Kate, who creates one-of-a-kind statement jewelry from precious materials. She’s concerned about her business’s overall profit and the time she spends keeping track of business records instead of creating.

Examine

Next, look closely at those selected areas for where they do and don’t meet your expectations. The painting (it’s mine, head to my art blog to read more) has a soft subdued color palette and the theme is a reference to Christmas without being too cute, both intentional. However, the composition is – Meh. It’s static and boring, certainly not intentional.

Likewise, Kate’s overall business profit is lower than last year. She looks more closely and sees that profit is good for most of the year but the per-item profit drops significantly during the busy holiday season. The flurry of sales is also adding to the recordkeeping load because of the increase in inventory tracking. Clearly, more sales are good but gaining them at the expense of overall profit isn’t what Kate wants.

Solve

Start by asking “What would make this better?” The painting is working on several levels. Changing one thing in the composition to a more active line will enliven the painting while keeping the palette and subject. Sure, there are lots of other things we could’ve changed but by tweaking just one thing at a time, it’s easier to isolate the effect.

Christmas Ornament with Ribbons FlowingKeep that idea of isolation in mind when solving business problems as well. When Kate considers what would help increase her holiday profits, her answer is to lower the cost to make and sell holiday jewelry. She discovers that her holiday promotional spending has gone up as she’s tried different marketing ideas and she’s added a lot of special holiday items for the season.

Kate decides to drop out of a holiday show that has doesn’t break even and to pare down the number of holiday offerings but make the remaining ones more distinctive. These two changes ease her recordkeeping but she also determines that her method of tracking inventory has more detail than necessary, so she simplifies the system to only record minimal information. Now, Kate has more time to create the specialty jewelry she’s known for as well as making more on each item.

Same Skills – Different Application

Successful creative people are good business people because they think critically. The labels and terminology may be different, but the end result – improvement –is the same. So, don’t let anyone, even yourself, tell you that you can’t be good at business because you already are!

Have you applied your creative skills to your business management? Tell us about it in the comments or send a note.

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2 thoughts on “Why Artists are Good at Business”

    1. Hi Helen and thanks for stopping by with the kind words!

      Most of the creative people I’ve met are incredibly smart and perfectly capable of good business if they would just let themselves. I’m just trying to get them to realize it 🙂

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