July 2105, feature
The idea that artists can’t and shouldn’t think about business is an entirely new construct, says California painter, entrepreneur, and LivePlan customer Ann Rea (http://www.annrea.com). Master artists have marketed themselves to potential patrons throughout history, and “Andy Warhol was a PR master,” she says.
With Rea’s help and inspiration, artists all over the world are doing just what she did 10 years ago: starting businesses and finding ways to earn a living.
Two of the biggest things anyone needs to be successful at their own enterprise, Rea says, are a plan and the ability to focus on what’s in front of you. As she sees her own enterprise evolving, LivePlan is helping her with both.
In December of 2004, Rea moved into San Francisco and wrote a business plan outlining how she would earn $100,000 from her artwork in the coming year.
Rea attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, where she studied industrial and graphic design. She assumed this combination would give her some marketable skills when she graduated–even though what she really wanted to do was paint. She found work as a designer, but had to give it up when her then–husband’s job took them to Sacramento. Unable to land another position in her chosen field, she took a dead–end “cubicle job.”
“It was like shoving a round peg into a square hole,” she says. “It required absolutely no creativity.” For years she struggled with depression and anxiety.
Ann Rea’s original oil painting of the Napa Valley, “ Earthen Vines”, showcases her unique artistic style.
Eventually, she couldn’t take it any longer. “I realized that life is very short and that I should just try to do what I wanted. If it didn’t work, I would go back to doing what I was doing before.”
For Rea, doing what she wanted meant making a living as an artist. On a whim, she wrote a letter to Wayne Thiebaud, who she describes as “one of the most famous painters alive,” and asked him to critique her paintings. He told her she had real talent and should pursue her dream of painting full-time.
Her next question was how to earn a living as an artist. His answer shocked her. “His words were, ‘I don’t know. I’m not a businessman,’ ” she recalls. “He saw a disconnect between making art and making money.”
This was her epiphany moment. “I didn’t want to wait until I was in my seventies to figure it out,” says Rea.
Rea had no background in business. What she did know was how to make a plan and follow it through. “When I had a job I was a project management consultant,” she says. “It didn’t teach me how to be entrepreneur, but I did know how to set a goal and make a plan to accomplish that goal.” She also read everything she could find on marketing.
Ann sees no conflicts between creating art and making money from those works of art. Good business sense applies to every industry.
In December of 2004 Rea moved into San Francisco and wrote a business plan outlining how she would to earn $100,000 from her artwork in the coming year.
She didn’t meet her goal–she exceeded it.
What she realized, she says, is that “selling art is very different, because you’re in a very saturated market. You have to create value above and beyond the art itself.”
Her plan for creating value–added art was to partner with wineries in Napa and Sonoma. She didn’t know anyone in the industry, so she cold–called wineries until she found several managers who would listen to her proposal.
She would paint their vineyards in her striking contemporary landscape style, she told them, and they could offer reproductions to their best clients as special gifts. She would also sell her originals at wine tastings.
“The wineries benefited because they got a permanent advertisement in someone’s home,” she says. From their perspective, the true value of the artwork was that it reminded their customers how much they enjoyed the company’s wine and encouraged them to keep buying it.
“Every artist is an entrepreneur, and every entrepreneur is an artist, that very much summarizes my world view”
Rea’s compelling story of personal achievement earned her recognition in the press, and other artists started coming to her for help. She realized she liked marketing almost as much as she liked helping other artists realize their dreams. She started a blog called Artists Who THRIVE (https://artistswhothrive.com/) and dedicated one day a week to working with others.
Demand for her services was quite high, especially among the many smart artists leaving school with lots of debt and no road map, she says. In 2013 Rea decided to formalize her expertise into eight-courses in The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester. (http://www.makingartmakingmoney.com). She taught a portion of it on a website called CreativeLive in 2014 and got rave reviews. The full curriculum will be offered for the first time this year.
Rea didn’t use LivePlan her first several years in business, but she says having a written plan was absolutely essential to her success.“ It’s insane not to have a plan. You would never build a house without a blueprint. You wouldn’t bake a cake without a recipe. That’s how important it is.”
Through her blog and classes, she’s proud to share the wisdom she’s learned from entrepreneurship and business planning with other artists who can use those tools to their advantage.
Now, as she looks to reposition her own brand as an artist, she’s using LivePlan to help her clarify her thoughts. The software’s question and answer feature has helped her determine how to most effectively communicate her message to others.
The fact that LivePlan is accessible online means it is very easy to share information and gather feedback from her colleagues. She also regularly collaborates on the plan with Caroline Cummings, her mentor at Palo Alto Software, who she met through MicroMentor (http://www.micromentor.org/), a free online community of entrepreneurs and volunteer mentors.
One important thing to consider when creating a business plan is that the same format won’t work for everyone, Rea says. “You have to make the plan suit you. Sometimes people look at business plans and say, ‘I don’t get it, ’ and then they say, ‘Screw it. I can’t deal with this.’ It has to be your blueprint. “That’s why LivePlan offers entrepreneurs many different tools and resources for creating the business plan that’s right for them.”
Businesses that create plans and keep them current have a much higher success rate, she notes. “A business plan is not a road map, it’s a compass. You take a few steps toward a destination and it’s going to change. It’s a living and breathing tool. Schedule time to look at LivePlan every day. Make it a habit even if you’re busy. Ask yourself, am I headed toward the destination I want to reach? Am I pointed toward my mission and my values?”
The idea that becoming a business person means “selling out,” is also a dangerous myth pervading our culture. It’s one that scares many artists away from using their passion and talent to make money. But the two things don’t have to be at odds. Keeping a firm focus on a personal mission and specific values is one of the best ways for artists to remain true to themselves and to earn a living.
“Every artist is an entrepreneur, and every entrepreneur is an artist,” Rea says, quoting Pepperdine University business professor, Elliot McGucken Phd. “That very much summarizes my world view.”