This article exists as part of the online archive for HuffPost Australia, which closed in 2021.

How To Not Be A Starving Artist

Just because you're in a creative industry doesn't mean you don't need a business plan.

Every artist knows that it's wise to treat their art as a business entity or they will never make a living from it. Yet many prefer to throw caution to the wind and 'thrive in the moment'.

It's all part of the image of being a highly creative being.

Drawing inspiration from your surroundings and being 'in the moment' is all part of the creative journey, so feeling like your creativity is stuck to a rigid business plan can feel contrived for those wanting to focus on their God-given gifts. But there are practical ways you can be creative and business savvy at the same time.

Matt Jackson helps organisations bridge the gap between art and commerce. He told The Huffington Post Australia some artists worry, unnecessarily, that having a solid business plan will take away from their creativity.

"In my experience the opposite occurs. Taking time to draw a plan of how and where you would like to apply your creativity, the resources you will require and the audience you want to attract opens your mind," Jackson said.

"It's not important that you follow the plan step-by-step. What is important is that you empty your mind of the worrying questions that can interrupt your process."

"Protect the time you set in your day to make your art with your life. For without that time you cannot enjoy the life you love to live.

"Then allocate your remaining time to applying your creativity to serve the needs of others in a way that doesn't lead to resentment. Resentment is kryptonite to the creative spirit."

Matt Jackson
Matt Jackson
Matt Jackson

Natasha Hawker from Employee Matters told HuffPost Australia it's important that all artists are savvy about business -- unless they are lucky enough to have a major benefactor and no need for an income.

"Most artists need to make a living," she said.

"With advances in technology, artists have more opportunity than ever to self-promote and grow a following and a potential client database.

"Like every business, you need to understand the goals and then build a business plan to help you achieve those goals. You need to have a sense of how much you can produce, how long it will take and what you can charge for it."

Artists also need to understand how they can market their products effectively. For example, building relationships and looking to partner or work with organisations that might have your potential clients.

It's not good enough to just be good at what you do.

"You also need to know something about HR, finance, legal, social media and technology. Although some or all of these things can be outsourced over time," Hawker said.

You can still be creative and have a business plan. Unless you have a benefactor, you will need to make a living from your art.
Getty Images/iStockphoto
You can still be creative and have a business plan. Unless you have a benefactor, you will need to make a living from your art.

"If you are truly passionate about getting your business going, you will do whatever you need to to get it going.

"Also consider: are there other ways that you could make money from your work by thinking about other ways to productise? For example, printing post cards of your works of art or teaching art on the side."

Matt Jackson also suggests creative people buy a copy of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and read it daily.

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you're not poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place." - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

"No matter what your craft is, Rilke's assertions on why the artist creates and what they should expect from their art is as valuable as it is candid," he said.

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