The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Outsourcing March 22, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Cash flow,Finances,Future planning,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:40 am

As artists in business, we are a one-person show, and we wear a lot of hats. Not only are responsible for the greatest bulk of our work, namely creating our art, but we are also responsible for the business and marketing of that work.

I talk to so many artists that say “I just want to do my work. I want someone else to handle the business.”

Realistically, you need to know how to manage your business, for a couple of different reasons. First of all, as you are just starting out, you probably don’t generate enough income to be able to pay someone to manage your business. Secondly, even if you did, many, many artists have been ripped off by unscrupulous people who recognize that the artist is willing to hand everything over and fully trust them. In order for you to not be in that kind of a position, you need to know enough about your business, and be involved enough in your business to recognize when something like this might be taking place.

So, certainly you need to have some basic knowledge in legal matters, bookkeeping and accounting, and marketing. However, at some point, you will no doubt want to outsource some of your business.

You’ll know you’re ready for this when:

1. You feel like you are able to do some of the basics, but you know that you’d be over your head if you attempted to go deeper. A good example of this is creating a website: you might have a clear idea about what you want on it and how you want it to look, but you don’t possess the technical skills to build it. Another great example is getting your taxes done by an accountant.
2. You know how to do something, but it takes you longer to do that an expert could do it, and you feel like your time is more valuable spent elsewhere. An example from my business is that I upload information about my client’s shows to certain event websites in Vancouver. Honestly, I hate this task. It’s repetitive and boring, but it’s a part of my contract, so I need to do it. I outsource this task, because my time is better spent contacting and pitching to the media and trying to get my clients preview and review articles.

I would love to hear what kinds of tasks you outsource from your business, and why. Please share!

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3 Responses to “Outsourcing”

  1. Susan Weiss Says:

    Outsourcing: What a joy, I can’t do my business without it!

    First of all as artists, creators, producers and managers, inventors etc. the basic premise to outsourcing is based on “Trust”.

    If you have “trust” in yourself and your “gut” reaction to/of the person/company you outsource to – you will have a sound base in which to build the “biz” side of your art on.

    I was in a curious position for a major project in Mexico, (Creator/Producer/Investor) of my product.

    I outsourced; here are just a few tasks/jobs I outsourced:

    • Casting of actors, opera singers, dancers to a “local” team, (Why? Because outsourcing “locally” is the ONLY way to go).

    o The local team included a lawyer who was also an experienced head wardrobe in another major entertainment company. (Two for the price of one, what a deal I negotiated and secured).

    o An actor with administration experience who was, (and still is) the Assistant Director of a major theatre school in Mexico City.

    o A world renowned Mexican opera singer who knew every opera singer in Mexico who could “fill the bill”! (The Soprano later told me that she learned a lot about her “opera biz” from being outsurced to, and she has since used this experience to create two opera shows for children that she will tour all over Mexico)

    o The Stage Director/Choreographer of the show, so he could “really” be comfortable and decisive about the cast he was going to direct.

    o The only thing I stipulated: “here is the budget, stay in the budget, period”.

    • An professional advisor to me and my company, who is the most successful cultural promoter in Mexico to deal with, and I mean deal with, the venue(s), local “traditional” PR, Advertising, Sponsorship because he had the experience, contacts, and (he is a “He”, an important factor in the culture here in Mexico).

    • Nontraditional PR – Social Networking, Bluetooth special events campaign to attract the 20-30 something’s to my show. This was more challenging. Because, the 25 year old team leader had no idea whatsoever about my product, (opera). She did know her Social Networking – 100%! Gratefully, for me, after two months the team leader “got it” and started downloading opera tunes on her IPOD and mobile phone! (Wow, now that was “AMAZING”.

    On many days I said to myself, “I can and maybe should do these things myself because”:

    1. I know what “it” is better than anybody else.

    2. I have to explain it over and over so many times, ‘til it sinks in so why not just do it, myself?

    3. Outsourcing costs me a lot of extra work, (time/energy), building the background information so the teams I was outsourcing to can do their job(s) effectively.

    4. But, and it is not a “BUT excuse”, my right and left hand assistant taught me a valuable lesson when she asked me these questions: Susan do you want to “live” to see this project completed? Do you really believe there are enough hours in the day, or days in your life, to do this all yourself?

    My response: If I were considerably younger, less experienced, I would probably do it all myself.

    I am older, wiser, (experience is a superb teacher), so I gave up on doing it all myself.

    Honestly, upon reflection, I can admit it was emotionally gut wrenching for me to put/give responsibility for “my creation – my art” in the hands of others. It was like watching your child leave home to begin their life, kind of “scary too”.

    But and this is most important: Find someone you “trust” to outsource to, and most of all “trust” your gut on which person/company you outsource to.

    (You will be overjoyed; I promise you that from my own experience).

  2. I think the choice to outsource can depend a lot on how you work as a person and what size of a project “you” actually are.

    I have known many performing artists over the years who wanted management long before any half-decent manager would want to look at them. Their thinking was “I just want to do my art” to which I would reply, “join the club.”

    When you are small and starting out, managing things yourself is critical. You get to know the business that way.

    For the core part of my own business, I usually only take on projects I can handle myself. It’s a philosophical approach I have to my business and a decision I made a long time ago. Part of my reason is that I want to keep things simple and not be managing others for even though you outsource something, you are ultimately responsible and it takes time.

    The things I have outsourced are some more technical work related to web sites (I needed someone with more technical knowledge) and on the other end, my father who I’ve hired to do some real, old-fashioned illustration (he was a freelance illustrator all his working life).

  3. Thanks for your comments. Thoughtful and interesting. I have the best blog readers in the world!

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