Thursday, June 26, 2014

Planning BIG, but planning mindful - Art business plans

A few weeks ago I posted my latest 9 month biz plan on Facebook, and again had the usual responses that artists don't make plans. Or that some artists have plans but they're just always trying to catch up on their existing backlogged list.

I thought maybe I need to be a bit more clear.

"Never compare your inside with someone else's outside"
by Hugh MacLeod is my visual mantra.
You can see the cartoon here (I couldn't get permission to use it)

So my plan looks good? Complete? Detailed?

I ask in return: so what?
Looks aren't everything.

  • My plan can only be my goals. So I can lay them out in a nifty spread because I can fill them in and know how I like to see them. Only you know your goals and how you might be able to write them down that makes sense to you. My plan includes silly things like:
    - Star party
    - find a new class to study (yes, really)
    - screenprinting yay!
     - Goth weekend
  • I plan knowing how I work. You'll work differently. The hours I work will be different from you. We'll have different personal commitments. So, I have a day off planned a week. Actually, I also usually plan for a "down" day - a day I'm not actually functioning well. This means there is a way I've grouped tasks by day so they can be rearranged if need be. And one day a week often having a couple tasks but also acting as a "catch all" day for things I didn't get to. (and there are always things I didn't get to - things transfer to the next day, the next week, the next month)

    Do you know about those? Of course not. I don't go on Twitter and say "hey, I'm depressed today and hiding in a dark room with the fan on and working in 10 minute sessions to a timer because it's all I can handle. I managed to send 2 emails, yay me!" But I know myself, take that knowledge and whittle slowly at things from the week's plan that I know I can handle. Maybe working backwards or ahead.

So the plan is actually quite flexible - but you don't know that looking at my plan. We can't be intimidated by each other's goals and plans, there's too much hidden information.

  • Complete? Biggest myth of all. No plan is complete. I've got a few rather nice ideas, but a lot of those things in the plan are then the small steps to the goal.

    So it looks like a lot, but it's steps in a process. Other things will come up in the 9 months. Some of the goals are incredibly vague and I have no idea how to get there, but just jotting down the idea is a start. Yet other things will fall off the plan. With no galleries left and moving across country, my "plan" is actually pretty open ended and exploratory rather than some sort of complete structure.
  • Detailed? Ha! Keep in mind that sometimes I have a goal like: "Show paintings in Whitby". And then an action item is "figure out where to have show in Whitby". See, I write it down so at least there's a time line there. When that item comes up on the month it's written, then I break it down more and really think about concrete steps. (which might include things like go to Whitby and see galleries, research Whitby contacts on LinkedIn, etc)

    But a lot of my plan steps are just simple reminders. Or unformed ideas. Seriously, the plan includes Northumberland?, USA?, Local show or open studio?. Things to think about.
  • About that backlog? The new plan includes the backlog. We can't go back in time so if there's a list - that list has to fit on now and months ahead. I go through what's left on my existing to-do list and put it on the plan. In fact, that helps immensely. Some things still need to be this month, but I can be more reasonable with expectations and spread some out to months ahead. It means I can re-prioritise things. Or actually realise they aren't something I want to do at all.

So how do I plan?

Easiest are things where you're familiar with the processes. So I can work backwards for those. For example, I know that I will need photos for AAF promotions about 6-8 weeks ahead of the art fair date. Which naturally means at least a handful of the paintings need to be done and varnished by then. So I then schedule in doing x number of paintings in the two months before the photo deadline. Working backwards.

Another example is my Kickstarter project. I know how long it takes to print a book, and to design the book because I'm experienced with those things. So I work backwards to find my planned dates for printing, work back a few weeks for proofreading, which gives me a date for completing the designs. Knowing how long the design takes, I work back to a date for scanning the work. That's the date all the drawings must be done, so I can work back to space out how many drawings a week or month I need to do to reach my goal by then. I always give myself about 20% more time for extra drawings (bad drawings will happen), weather (rain will happen), and those unproductive days. Get it?

But if you're doing something you have never done before, it's a bit squiffier. I'm trying to pitch the idea of a museum show. I've never done that before! eep! So I'm working out some dates based on knowing how to work with a gallery, but I'm leaving lots of extra time. There is also extra time built in based on the this is scary element - I know I'll hestitate on some steps.

And some specific goals are small things I do know dates for. Booking train tickets, buying ink and paying the tax bill are on the 9 month plan. Are those impressive goals? Nope. But they have firm deadlines I can slot in.

Why do I share photos of my plan? Certainly not to make anyone feel guilty!

I share my business plans online partly because it's makes me happy to draft a new one - it's a big task so Facebooking it is a "yay me!" moment. And partly to encourage other artists to do them. Your plan is your goals and just a tool for you. I've always been in the "do what works for you" camp. There are so many kinds of plans you can make. In reality my plan isn't a business plan, it's a life plan. It includes studying, travel, friends and family, geology outings, and astronomy viewing.

If business plan sounds scary then call it a creative plan, or a life plan, art plan, fun goals, or a World Domination Plan. (in 2010 mine was the Kick Ass 2010 plan)

Maybe I should re-name mine the Plan to Build an Art Death Star in 2016 plan?

And now I must go pursue today's plan... to play some World of Warcraft. ;) Hey, there's no point not being honest. That fits in the plan too.

See the coast paintings
Post a Comment

Follow by Email