I am in the throes of writing a business plan. Even though I knew this was coming, I still feel overwhelmed by the process. Clarity. Refinement. Strategy. Financials. Subject-verb agreement. Oh, sigh! Some nights I find myself laying in bed at 2am rearranging strategy sections in my mind. Other nights, my brain is so tired all I can do is hum toddler songs until I fall back to sleep. Baby Shark…do.doo.do. do.dedo. This is from a person who loves to write, loves ideas, loves to organize. I cannot imagine how this process would be for someone who loves none of these things!
I imagine myself standing (naked of course, because it’s a scary dream) in front of an investor talking the “talk” and then, if they decide to support my dream I have to do all the things I promised in my business plan.
Perhaps the underlying stress of it all is knowing that I might one day pitch my plan for Worthwhile Studio to a potential investor. It gives new meaning to the phrase, The Art of the Deal. I imagine myself standing (naked of course, because it’s a scary dream) in front of an investor talking the “talk” and then, if they decide to support my dream I have to do all the things I promised in my business plan. I want what I’ve written to actually be achievable. I want to be able to fulfill those promises, not only for an investor but for the artists I hope to inspire in the future.
I recently took a part time job as a content writer for my alma mater. I write pages every day. Although I think I was a bit crazy to take a job at the start of my final semester in grad school, I do think the job has re-attuned my senses to the art of writing. Goodness knows I use too many commas, and that active vs. passive voice stuff still confuses me, but I find myself writing faster each day. My ideas come more clearly with practice. My daily task of writing at work is helping me write a better business plan. And perhaps creating a few more 2 am Baby Shark moments than before!
My hope is that I learning how to write a business plan, the entire research process, the whittling away at the unnecessary bits, will help me empathize with future clients. Writing a business plan is difficult, but I have a feeling the promises I want to keep in the future will come a little easier because I persevered.
Being a graduate student gives me an in for asking people for interviews. Over the last fourteen months, out of ten to twelve inquiries, only one person declined an interview. In this time of digital communication, sitting face to face (even virtually through skype) and talking on the phone allows me to get to know my interviewees on a more personal level. A lot of people I interviewed were flattered that I cared to ask questions about them at all. I’ve been honored that so many people are willing to share their experiences, knowledge, and advice. This process of interviewing people has been very enlightening. Many of my ideas have been reinforced and broken down by listening to others with different expertise. I wish I knew long before graduate school that I could learn so much about my interests by interviewing people who also cared about my interests.
So, my recommendation to anyone looking for answers about how to be an artist is to talk with other artists and creative professionals.
Don’t be shy. Ask them to sit down and have coffee with you. Ask to visit their studio and then show up and ask more questions! I think artists by nature are naturally curious. Use your curiosity to your advantage. Discover what it is that challenges them in their everyday practice. Find out what their path to success looks like. Explore their studio space like a dectective. Inquire about their techniques, their work flow, and their experiences with exhibitions.
And don’t limit yourself to those within your interests. Some of my most useful interviews have come from people who I initially thought would be outside my areas of interest. I once interviewed a non-profit director who worked with homeless populations. I discovered they had a program that brought homeless men to their organization to create art. Through his story, my interviewee helped me see the importance and benefits of art creation for this underserved group, an idea that stays with me as I dream up areas for growth at Worthwhile Studio.
Finally, if you embark on the challenge of interviewing others, be sure to honor time and expertise with gratitude. A timely, handwritten letter is most memorable. Try to write it as soon as your interview is over to capture the feeling the interview created for you. If you are not the letter-writing kind, then be sure to send a follow up email expressing your gratitude. One way of extending gratitude for an interview is by offering to connect your interviewee to something (another artist, an article you read, or a relevant resource) that might be beneficial to them. Your interview should reveal any potential resources they may find helpfu. Just remember, if you offered any references, connections, or introductions in the interview, be sure to follow through with those promises.
You can find all manner of tutorials on the internet for interviewing people. My recommendation is to do your research on the person you intend to interview. Write your questions based on who they are and what they are passionate about. Ask for their permission if you plan to record your conversation. Let them know who will hear it if at all. Whether you are recording or not, listen intently so you can follow up with pertinent questions. Don’t interrupt. And be yourself.