Redeye’s director Paul Herrmann writes about the significance of business models for photographers and artists.
Every so often we survey and interview working photographers to find out how they are doing - to see if they have got enough fulfilling work and a reasonable income.
There’s consistently a small minority who say that things are going very well. This was true even through the depths of the recession.
What are they doing that is different to the majority who say that things are difficult? What do they all have in common? It doesn’t appear to be that they are extroverts, or optimists, or even that they are trying to look good in our surveys.
I think the common thread is connected with the way they run their business.
This doesn’t mean that they put money-making ahead of creativity, or that they change what they do to please their clients. It’s unusual to find artists who admit to doing either of these.
But here are some of the things that the thriving minority do seem to do well:
- They are very aware of who their best clients are, and their potential clients, and how to reach them.
- They know exactly where they are in the market - they are aware of the kind of people who might buy their work.
- They have a recognisable style or voice, and values.
- They are good planners and they work productively on their business - researching, networking, marketing and evaluating.
- They often - not always - have something about their business model that marks them out as a bit different.
So, what’s a business model?
About seven years ago I heard about a short course called Innovate with Confidence, and went on it. It was a revelation to me. It concentrated on a tool called the Business Model Canvas that allowed the essential elements of any business to be shown on a single page. The advantage of doing this is it is then much easier see where the weak points are, and to make changes for the better.
The course has helped me continuously since then - to understand more about my work, and help me identify where to concentrate my efforts to innovate, not for its own sake, but to fulfill the needs of Redeye’s community better.
It’s taken a little while but we’ve encouraged the people who originally delivered Innovate with Confidence, Company of Mind, back to do a slimmed down version of that course aimed specifically at individual photographers and artists. The new event is called Rethinking your business model. We also have some guest speakers, all of whom are doing things a little differently to the norm.
One of the speakers will be Sarah Fisher, the director of Open Eye Gallery, who already has brought notable changes to Open Eye. She has also spent a lot of her time building links with higher education. She’s chairing another event for educators called “What sort of artists do we want?” She said recently:
“Artists are part of the broad economy. Their USP is their brand of creativity and they need to really understand the markets in which their brand is, or could be, of value. To develop a viable business, most artists need to produce really good work in a range of markets.
“Artists need to bring a high level of creativity and excellence to whatever constituencies they're involved with, or wish to be involved with. In my experience, sometimes artists fall into the trap of almost exclusively talking to other people in the art world about their work and considering the art world, rather than the world, as their market. Visual literacy is growing in every field of activity; people want to experience good art and culture, and they want to engage with artists that can inspire them. Some of the most interesting developments in artists' work and careers have happened through engagement with non-art markets.”
I agree, and it’s similar to our thinking behind Rethinking your business model. The big question for our event is - how can you stay true to what you really want to do creatively, but engage with different markets, and bring in new clients?
I’m hoping Rethinking your business model is our answer to that big question. At any rate, it should be an exciting journey.
If you are happy bumbling along, doing the same sort of thing as you always do, then this event probably isn’t for you. But if you’re ready for a change, ready to challenge your assumptions, to think differently about how you work as a photographer or artist, then join us on that journey.
For more information about the Rethinking your business model event click here.
Photo: Time Flies, by Paul Crudgington, www.behance.net/PaulCrudge