Correction. You were an artist. Now you’re an artist and a business person, so get over yourself.

I went to art school.

And then I got out of art school and tried to be an artist and discovered that I did not know how to put together a portfolio, or network, or interview, or do self-employment book keeping, or create a business plan that would allow what was essentially my home business–making art–grow. No one ever used the term “business plan” to me during the entire 10 years that I was a working artist. I think about that now with a giant facepalm. Maybe if I had written, and followed, a business plan, I’d still be an artist.

In the business I’m in now, as a consultant working with start-up cultural nfps, I work with a lot of artists and musicians, and it’s the next thing to a mantra: “I’m an artist, I can’t be expected to deal with this stuff,” “Why isn’t my board doing this?” “Isn’t that what consultants are for?”

The truth is, it’s not your board’s job to run your business. It’s not the consultant’s job.

The board’s job is to monitor and oversee how you are running the business. It’s the consultant’s job to help you develop or follow your business plan, or to provide specific services. If you don’t know or like bookkeeping, by all means hire a bookkeeper, but you better understand what that bookkeeper is doing, or somewhere down the line you’ll either be facing a pissed off IRS agent or wondering why your bank account is suddenly empty. I make my living writing proposals so you don’t have to, but I can’t write a proposal for a program that no one’s bothered to develop. I can’t write your budget (and yes, I do get asked to write budgets).

I encouraged both of my kids, one an artist, one a musician, to minor in business entrepreneurship. And this doesn’t mean to take Econ 101, but rather to take bookkeeping in the community college night school. Don’t take Business 101, audit the course in entrepreneurship at the public library.

You’re not starting an orchestra; you’re founding a business. You’re not painter, or not only a painter. If you’re in the business of selling your art, you’re in business.

Advertisements