From Art to Business and back again

I knew since sixth grade I wanted to go to art school and never wanted to work in an office. In 1995 I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture from Virginia Commonwealth University. The whole idea of sales and math repulsed me. I was determined to be an Artist, not a business person.

Virginia can get pretty hot. After a few exhausting months of welding steel with a flame, I decided I wasn’t meant to be a physical sculptor, but a conceptual one. Computers are ideal tools for this kind of work. So I spent a significant amount of time working with an Apple Macintosh 8500. It was an odd thing to have a computer amongst sculptors then.

After graduating, I moved to Blacksburg, VA – a college town. I had a room in a poorly-heated warehouse with a bunch of other artists. One day an art professor asked me if I knew how to use a Macintosh. I said yes. He needed help doing layout and color correction for an eighty-page art book. It was my first “real” job after college. I’d never done desktop publishing before.

Before you know it I was a professional graphic designer. VCU has a wonderful School of Graphic Design. But I didn’t go to it. All of the skills I used at work I taught myself. I spent thousands of hours in front of a computer monitor “playing” with Photoshop and hacking HTML. It paid off. But in retrospect what it really did was get me involved in a traditional business.

Fortunately I was at the right place at the right time. The Internet had really just begun and was becoming a multimedia world. Somehow as an adult I have always been a early adopter. A innovator that is a few steps ahead of the mainstream on trends. This included digital art. But because I love to learn and am easily distracted, I moved from one career area to the next. Print design to flash animation to feature film editing to documentary video to web sites. I am a jack of all trades. This used to be a disadvantage. Now in the twenty-first century it’s increasingly an asset.

My dad got a Masters of Business Administration at night school. It took him years. I remember visiting the library with him while he looked for books. Some of that entrepreneurship stuff rubbed off on me. I got interested in stocks briefly and even owned some shares in Best Products when I was a teenager. After a few long shareholder meetings I decided to do normal kid stuff like baseball. The life of Alex P. Keaton was not for me.

By my late thirties I was tired of working for other people, but not satisfied with freelancing either. I discovered coworking in 2007. Folks like Tara Hunt and Chris Messina were building Citizen Space and openly sharing how they did it. It spawned hundreds of imitators. A seriously powerful global meme.

My first step was a comment I left about coworking on a local blog called OrangePolitics. A local elected official praised the idea and connected me with the Town of Carrboro’s Economic Development Director. I met with him and he helped me develop a business plan. I got enrolled in the Town of Carrboro’s revolving loan fund, which included more assistance, especially with my financial plan. Their help has been essential to Carrboro Coworking’s success. The Town later loaned me the money I needed to launch the business. Since Carrboro Creative Coworking opened in October 2008 it’s been one lesson after another.

Now I have a lot of new business skills and an artist’s mind and I want to use them to help other creative people. Here are a few ideas.

  • You have works of art, also known as products, that you can sell.
  • You have talents and services that can be sold at a fair rate.
  • You can find balance between your socialist and capitalist sides.

But first you need to market your art, price your work, tell people about yourself, do gallery shows, and develop a plan. Let’s discover your own path to being a self-supporting artist. Contact me and join my email list and lets talk about it.

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