Shirley Marquez, STAR Company Bookkeeping Assitant and singer/actor offers three useful strategies to help you make a living from your art…see her tips below.
Shirley and the STAR Company team will be at the Toronto Fringe Festival Tent Talk “Business of Being an Artist” evening, one of the ways that STAR Company is supporting the Toronto Fringe as a Community Partner. So if you are an artist with a headful of questions about making a living from your art, then come by. We’d love to meet you and answer your questions.
“The Business of Being an Artist”
Saturday July 7, 6-9pm
outdoors at The Fringe Club at Bloor and Bathurst.
One of the most commonly asked questions by artists and creatives alike is…
“How do I turn my creativity into a career?” Having been a performer in my twenties, I realized there was a lack of proper “business training classes” in theatre schools. Quite interesting, since as a creative artist you are self-employed. Yet there no core classes specifically addressing the step-by- step process of self-promotion – how do you produce, where do you get the money to produce a show – Just how do you start? How do you keep afloat?
There are many ways to go about this issue, but here are some basic beginner steps to take note of:
1. Have a Business Plan:
Yes artists – have a business plan. As creative people our first main focus naturally falls on the artistic side of things (deciding which plays to do, how many shows to do in a season, which directors to consider, etc.). While those are very important (of course!), realize that you need to have a business plan to bring it into fruition. Start with your wish list – where would you like to be in one year? How much money do you think you’ll need to accomplish that goal? Where do you think you can get help? What resources do you have, and how can you expand them?
2. Create a List of Actions.
One of my instructors at NYU, James McGarry who taught a course called Financial Management for the Arts, said that starting a career in the arts is like planning a vacation. You plan in advance (at least a year in advance, not two months before you wish to open your show!) Assign specific dates to achieve a certain goal and make each step goal-oriented. Simply writing down “look for a venue” is not definitive enough. Something like, “1. Narrow down venue choices by July 15th, 2. Select a venue by July 30th, 3. Deliver venue deposit by August 5th “ initiates and demands action and planning, rather than simply stating what you wish to happen next.
3. Think Long –Term.
In the book “Yours for the Asking” by Reynold Levy (President, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts), one of the lessons that struck me the most is the idea of planning for long-term survival. How many times have we focused on how to have a successful first show with no plans on how to continue this success into the following year, the next five years, ten years, etc? Remember the old saying back in elementary school? Getting an A is easy, keeping an A is hard. If your goal is make your passion a career, you need a business plan and a list of actions that does not end after your show wraps up.
Some Helpful Links (grants)
Theatre Ontario – Professional Theatre Training Program Grants are given to professionals who wish to gain professional development within their own discipline or a “change of direction” within their careers (examples: an actor wants to become a publicist; a stage manager wants to become a producer; a technician wants to become a designer.)
Ontario Arts Council – OAC offers grants to individual artists (Project Grants) and arts organizations (Operating Grants).
Toronto Arts Council – TAC provides grants to outstanding artists and arts organizations that contribute to the cultural life of the City of Toronto.
Canada Arts Council – Provides funding to individual professional artists and arts organizations.
Metcalfe Foundation – Provides grants to registered charitable organizations in three areas: Community, Environment, and Performing Arts.
Management for the Arts Byrnes, William J. Focal Press; 4 edition. 2008.
Yours for the Asking: an Indispensable Guide to Fundraising and Management Levy, Reynold, John Wiley & Sons, 2008.
Winning Grants Step by Step Mim Carlson, 2nd. Edition, Alliance for Non-Profit Management, John Wiley/Jossey-Bass, 2002
The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations Kaiser, Michael M. , 4th ed. Brandeis University Press, 2008.