Creating A Business Plan for Artists

A NEW YEAR … a new plan

Here I sit at this familiar place in my life where the nostalgia of another year gone by crosses paths with the excitement of a new year ahead. I look back on the wonderful blessings that the past year brought and at the same time I reflect on the disappointments along the way that serve as a constant reminder that dreams are never easy. I hear so many artists lamenting over dreams that always seem to dangle just out of reach. And I remind them that for every wonderful opportunity, there are always many others that do not work out – whether you're a beginning artist or a seasoned one. I like to think that we're given a gift without clear instructions on how to use it. And the instructions are given to us over time through opportunities big and small. And we need to focus on the journey, not the destination. For tomorrow is a new day. A new year. Okay, I'm rambling. Perhaps I should put the egg nog down and get to the reason for this month's article – planning your year.

I'm not one for making resolutions at the beginning of a year. Mainly because I'm not one for keeping them and I already spent the last year creating lists of ways to improve myself and we see how that turned out. So even though I'm not a fan of resolutions, I am a fan of making a business plan. And the beginning of the year is the best time to make a business plan. As artists we often do not see ourselves as business people, but if you want to sell your art successfully it helps if you come up with a plan. There has been much research on how the mere act of putting your plan on paper helps you achieve your goals.

Your business plan does not have to be complicated. It's simply a plan for how you want to run your business in 2007. What are your goals? How will you try to reach those goals? What is your focus for the coming year? How will you plan out your expenses? These are the kinds of questions you want to ask.

The main reason that I like making a business plan is that it keeps me on track. It shows me where I want to focus my energies and my finances. When I think about how much money I need to bring in, it helps me have confidence when quoting fees. Having a plan helps me decide which jobs to take and which jobs to turn down because they do not fit into the plan. And there's always room in your plan for change because you wrote it. It's your plan.

I can not tell you how to write your business plan. That depends on you and your own personal dreams for the future. I can not tell you where to get business or how much you need to spend to grow your business. There are certainly far more qualified people to speak on that subject. I would like to help you get the process going so I'm going to show you the bullet points that will be in my business plan for 2007. Use it as you wish, or come up with something of your own. These are just ideas to get you thinking about the year ahead.

Kelly's Business Plan for 2007

1. Getting New Business … I'm going to ask myself who my customers will be for this year. Where will I go for new business? How will I approach them? What types of customers are best for what I do? I will probably make a list of three or four target audiences. For example: libraries, women's conferences, storytelling festivals, corporate banquets. Through the year whenever I am faced with incoming business or outgoing expenses, I will ask myself how it fits into my plan. This really helps me from spending money in areas that do not fit my focus.

2. Getting More Business from Old and Current Business … Do I stay in touch with my clients from the past? Do I send them reminders and updates to keep me fresh in their minds? Do I make the best use of my current clients? Do I ask them for referrals? One of the best ways to get repeat business is on the heels of current business. Ask them for names of other people who might like what you do.

3. Fee Structure and Discount Policy … What will I charge this year? How much do I need to bring in to meet my expenses and make a profit? Under what circumstances will I lower my rate? Will I do any pro bono work, and how will I determine what pro bono work to take? How will I quote my fees? What will be included? How will I phrase it when I quote them my fee? Think these things through in your mind and it will be much easier when you're asked for a quote.

4. Product Sales and Product Creation … Will I create any product this year? How will I aim to sell more product this year? Do my products fit the audiences I have chosen to target this year? Am I making the most of my back-of-the-room sales?

5. Customer Service … Is there anything I want to do differently this year with my clients? Any new policies I want to incorporate? How are my customer service skills? Do I reply in a timely manner? Am I easy to work with?

6. Services that I offer … Do I want to offer a workshop this year or coaching? Is there a new program and / or a new audience that I want to target? Does my promotional material (web, brochure, etc.) reflect these new changes?

7. Networking … How will I get my name out in the community this year? What organizations will I join? What groups will I become active in?

8. Budget … How much do I need to live? What are my future monetary goals? What do I need to make this year to meet these goals and needs? How much can I spend to grow my business? Do I need to raise my rates to meet those needs?

9. Inventory … Will I track inventory? Will this be a manual process or an electronic process? Will I run it through my accounting package?

10. Continuing Education … What kind of education do I need this year? How much money can I afford to spend on workshops and conferences? Which workshops and conferences fit into my target market and business plan?

11. Material … How is my portfolio of creative material? Are there some things that are lacking? Does my material fit the audience I've chosen to target this year? Does my promotional material reflect my current portfolio? Is there a way to change my material so that it adds value in the marketplace?

And there you have a list of topics I have chosen for my business plan of 2007. You may have more topics on your list. Or you may only have one or two. Or you may choose not to do it at all. That's okay. It's YOUR plan. Make it simple and make it realistic.

I wish you all the best as we head into this new year. I hope you find peace and joy at every turn and that your disappointments pale in comparison to your blessings. We'll talk more next month.