Ah, the stereotype of the starving artist. As a poet married to a visual artist, I know it quite well. You probably do, too, even if you’re not an artist yourself.
But just because the stereotype seems to have lodged itself perpetually in the zeitgeist, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily accurate. Despite what many of us may believe about the opposition between art and commerce, it turns out that art and business can actually fit quite nicely together.
Just ask Alexis Fedor, a performance artist who teaches other artists how to turn their passions into profitable ventures.
“As an artist myself, I struggled for years trying to figure out how to make ends meet and how to put together a business plan for my own work,” Fedor says. “I had a vision that one day I would figure it out and help other artists do the same.”
Fedor started by studying. She enrolled in a number of courses, including classes in business and marketing. But she quickly found that these courses “missed the mark in terms of the artist’s lifestyle and learning curves when it came to money and business growth.”
So she took matters into her own hands and launched her own company to teach artists how to pay their bills without trading their easels for office desks. Through the 14-Day Art Biz Challenge, Fedor addresses the specific challenges artists face in business development. After testing the course on more than 500 artists, Fedor says “the results have been extraordinary.”
Art and Business: Not Such Strange Bedfellows After All
The words “art” and “business” don’t often go together in many people’s minds. The stereotypical artist – broke, bohemian, free-spirited – is, in many ways, the opposite of the stereotypical businessperson – professional, disciplined, fixated on a business plan. But Fedor doesn’t entertain these notions. From experience, she’s knows they’re simply caricatures – and bad ones at that.
“I truly believe after seven years of running a successful business of my own, mentoring with multimillion-dollar business owners and working with more than 500 artists, that artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world,” she says. “Artists have two-thirds of what makes a business successful covered: a passion for what they offer and a desire to understand their ideal clients intimately.”
The only thing artists are missing, Fedor says, is the financial piece – the knowledge of how to run a smart business from a monetary point of view.
“Once they master that step, they are the best at building thriving businesses,” Fedor says. “Running a business is such a creative act that requires careful decision making combined with spontaneity and the ability to pivot when necessary in order to stay on the course you believe in. No one is better equipped to handle such a ride than artists!”
The Business of Art and the Art of Business
It isn’t only in the realm of money-making that artists can learn a thing or two from their business-world counterparts. Artists can also pull a few pages from the business playbook to improve their art practices.
“Artists can learn how to systematize, organize and become excellent project managers, all skills that they can use in their process of creation,” Fedor says. “It is in these times that artists can become their own worst enemies in terms of resisting the process or letting the process pull them too far out so they lose sight of what they were working on to begin with. Being able to consciously reign that in on the business side or roll with the resistance by putting your own structure in place is invaluable.”
Fedor also believes artists can benefit from learning to work within a community and to hire the right people they need to help them accomplish their goals.
“Becoming your own boss and switching to a business-owner mindset can benefit all artists,” she adds. “It leads them to take control and confront their own limitations.”
But that isn’t to say that artists can’t teach businesspeople anything in return. In fact, Fedor believes there’s much that the corporate world could gain by paying attention to how artists work.
“I think the business world can learn how to look at their own businesses and clients from a creative point of view,” Fedor says. “The many business owners who do this are successful, and it’s such a pleasure to watch and learn from them. Still though, there are many businesses that lack that ability to look at what they’re doing from a creative standpoint, and it can only behoove them in both their personal success and the growth of their brand.”