The Art of the Business

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

How the Olympics affected my business March 5, 2010

Filed under: Cash flow,Life,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:42 am
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I originally wrote this post last Sunday, February 28, in the morning. That afternoon, I watched Canada’s hockey team win the Gold medal at the Olympics in a nail-biting match against the Americans. Seconds after the game ended, I headed downtown to check out what was going on.

Something magical happened that afternoon. Granville and Robson streets were a river of red and white, cheering, hooting, celebrating fans. It was the last day of the Olympics, and Canada had won more Gold Medals than any other host nation in the history of the Olympics. That, topped with the Gold in Hockey, well, our national pride erupted in a way that I have never experienced.

It was absolutely amazing to be part of that energy. I must have high-fived about a thousand total strangers–we were bound together simply by our shared national pride.

That was Sunday, and I had scheduled this post for Monday. Needless to say, I didn’t post it. But here it is, only lightly edited since I originally wrote it.

the scene at Robson and Howe

July 2, 2003, was a red-letter day in my city. Vancouver was, on that day, awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics.

As I write this, I am getting ready to go watch the final gold-medal hockey game between Canada and the US (go, Canada!). Today is the final day of the Olympics, and what a long road it’s been.

I remember being very for the Olympics when we were in the running to host them. I voted yes in the referendum. I believed that the Olympics would be good for my city: it would bring big business and lots of traffic in the form of visitors. I was also aware of the Cultural Olympiad: a year-long celebration of the arts that is part of every Olympics.

In the ensuing years, and especially over the last year, my enthusiasm for the Olympics has waned. Cost overrun after cost overrun has thrown our province into a state of serious debt. Housing prices rose to a point where it was impossible for me to ever dream about owning a house. And then came a recession–something which no one could have predicted seven years ago–which has lead to serious cuts to the arts sector.

I got two Cultural Olympiad contracts: one already took place in January, The Edward Curtis Project at Presentation House, and the other takes place next month at the Roundhouse: Mascall Dance’s The White Spider. Because these two shows were being presented by the Cultural Olympiad, every media release and thing I sent out to the media had to be vetted past the Cultural Olympiad committee and staff. Which added an extra, unaccustomed and time-consuming step to my already busy schedule.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to wallow in the negative. I have loved watching my country compete in the games, and it has been refreshing and exciting to see the outpouring of national pride during these last 16 days. It is an outpouring I have never witnessed before. Canada has done very well at this Olympics, winning more gold medals than any other host country in the history of the games.

While I doubt that we will actually break even at the end of the games, I do see that all of the TV coverage and people visiting are sowing the seeds for future business and tourism. And who knows what that number will be.

Closer to home, February of 2010 has been my worst month of business since I started in December of 2007. Other than the books I sold online and via Biz Books this month, my income was $0. A quick conversation with some of my friends led me to believe I was not alone: Biz Books, in fact, also suffered its worst month of business in its 14-year history.

I’m not too concerned, as I put money aside exactly for this worst-case scenario, and the projections for the next three months are excellent. I just think that this is more than a coincidence.

It has been difficult to get media coverage this month for the shows I have coming up in March. Over and over again, I heard from the media, “If it’s not to do with the Olympics, talk to us on March 1.”

I can only conclude that, if you were not operating your business in the middle of the Olympics, or your business was not directly connected to the Olympics, you suffered a significant loss during the month of February.

So… great for National Pride–Go, Canada!–but lousy for business. I’d love to hear from you if you live in Vancouver and run a business. How did the Olympics affect you?


Is E-mail Evil? January 27, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:43 am
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Just before Christmas, I got this in an email from a friend of mine:

I’ve decided, you see, that I’m spending too much of my precious time on this planet staring at screens of one sort or another so I’m attempting a wee bit of a wean.

My friend then listed his contact info: snail mail/address and phone number.

I was also a bit shocked to discover that one of Vancouver’s more prolific Bloggers and Tweeters, Raul Pacheco,              Hummingbird 604, announced that he was going away on holidays from Dec 18 to Jan 3, and was choosing to  disconnect during that time–no email, no texts, no tweets.

This got me to thinking: is e-mail evil? So evil that we have to cut ourselves off from it completely to save our sanity?

The idea seems horrible and foreign to me. Looking beyond the fact that e-mail is basically the main tool I use to make a living, it also is about as ingrained into my life as breathing. I, in fact, have this little automatic timer inside my head that goes off when I haven’t checked my email in a while. I can’t stop it. And I don’t need to–I have a Blackberry, so I can even check my email when I’m not in front of my computer.

I won’t apologize for loving my e-mail. But I do get how people can get burnt out of technology. And I don’t want you to get the wrong impression–I feel like I control my email, not that it controls me. I’m pretty good about leaving it alone on the weekends or when I’m on holiday. I have all the beepy-flashy alerts turned off on my Blackberry, so I check it when I feel like it, instead of when it blinks.

What do you think? Is e-mail evil? Are we too dependent on it? Or is there some way to forge a relationship with our e-mail where we use it as the tool it was meant to be, without it taking over our lives?

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Preparing for the Unexpected December 2, 2009

Filed under: Finances,Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 8:33 am
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A couple of weeks ago, my apartment was broken into. I live on the ground floor of a three-storey walkup, and I knew that kitchen window was dodgy from the moment I moved in.

They did a thorough job–jewelery, my older laptop (thank goodness I seldom leave the house without my Mac!), tools, my digital cable box.

The truth is, bad stuff happens every day: sickness, accidents, fires, job losses. And you can never really be fully prepared. But there are some things you can do. As an artist, someone who creates their livelihood from their art, you are more at risk than someone who has a job to go to, in some ways. If something happens, and you lose all of your paintings, you have lost a huge chunk of your income. For me, my main means of making a living is my laptop. If that was gone, either because it broke down/crashed, or was stolen, I’d be in big trouble.

So, in the spirit of hoping that people learn from my mistakes, here are some things I’m asking you to think about:

Insurance. I didn’t have insurance on my place, but the next time I move, I will get it for sure. In addition to having insurance, make sure you have a video or photos of your valuables, and have the serial numbers written down in a safe place. Emailing them to your webmail address is a great idea. You may want to do the same with ID. My passport was stolen, but I had scanned it recently because of a trip I took. It was very reassuring to be able to find my passport number with a minimum of effort.

Emergency fund: Even if you do have insurance, chances are there is some kind of deductible. As well, it may take quite a bit of time for the policy to be processed and for you to get the money. Having a separate bank account that is harder to get at (perhaps at a different bank than your main one) is a great solution. Whatever you can afford every month: put something away “just in case.” Experts recommend three months’ salary. You may not be able to manage that, but every bit that keeps you from having to borrow in dire circumstances is worth it.

Backing up: If you have files that are important or integral to your business, back them up. You may want to even think about multiple backups, including one that is off-site, in case of fire or, as in my case, the thieves took my flash drive backup, as well. Upload your photos to Picassa or Photobucket. You can make your settings private so no one else can see them, but at least you know you have a copy of your wedding/baby pictures somewhere.

The best-case scenario in preparing for the unexpected is that you will never need your backup plan. But if the worst happens, you’re covered…

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Updates October 30, 2009

Filed under: E-book,interview,Life,Workshops — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:06 am
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Today is an aggregate post, a bunch of links and news items about what I’ve been up to and what’s coming up.

First off, I have just finished a major rewrite of my Guide to Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts guide!
The rewrites include:

  • A fully re-worked chapter on Facebook
  • A new chapter on You Tube
  • Updated screenshots
  • More exercises, which makes it feel more like a workbook.

For those of you who have already bought a copy, thanks. And I’ll be sending you the updates in the next little while. For those of you who are interested, you can purchase a copy by clicking here. It will also be available, in hard-copy, workbook format, later today at Biz Books, 302 W. Cordova St.

I did a couple of interviews last week, too.

One with another Rebecca (Krause-Hardie) who does stuff that is surprisingly similiar to what I do, only in the States.

One with Toronto’s Ian MacKenzie, for his company’s marketing blog, The Big Orange Slide.

One final reminder that Simon and I will be on a panel this weekend entitled The Power of Social Media. We’ll be joined by Angela Crocker and Ryan Mooney, and the discussion will be moderated by Sean Allen. This takes place Saturday, Oct 31, at the Making a Scene Theatre confrence at Granville Island, from 1:30-3 pm.

Finally, stay tuned to my blog next week for an interview I just did with that wonderful Canadian playwright, Daniel MacIvor.

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On Going it Alone… October 23, 2009

Filed under: Business of Arts,Business relationships,Life,Networking — Rebecca Coleman @ 4:21 am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the business we are in and how hard it is to continuously be motivated. As artists, we are one-man-shows, chief cooks and bottle-washers. For the most part, when we write that song, sketch out that painting, work on our novel, we do it alone. The arts can be very solitary.

I talk to people all the time to who struggle with this. Forced to have a job to support themselves while they build their art DSC_0643practice, they find themselves too tired/burnt out/uninspired to focus on their art practice at the end of the day.

The answer is just to show up. To treat your art as a job that you carve out time for every day, and show up to. It works because you no longer have to worry about inspiration or quality. Just by producing your work in sheer quantity, you will eventually come up with something great, or be inspired to create.

Still, like going to the gym, it can be tough to have the self-discipline to make yourself do it. So I suggest you get an art buddy.

Find someone who does what you do, or someone who doesn’t but is still an artist, and make a pact with them: you will both spend ‘X’ amount of time on your work over the next day/week/month. And then phone each other, send each other emails, or meet to discuss how it went. Having someone to be accountable to outside of yourself can be a very powerful motivator.

I’ve used this method many times in my life. It started when I worked at the SEARCH program, a self-employment program for artists. We would regularly create “Success Teams” out of groups of graduates who were encouraged to meet after the program was over to share ideas, help and motivation. The first few times I tried to get through The Artist’s Way, I was unsuccessful, but by going through it with a group which included weekly meetings, I got through it and I got lots out of it. Currently, I belong to a small business support group. We have been meeting bi-weekly for two years, now, and this group has been a great source of assistance–both by cheering me and kicking me in the butt.

So, whoever you are, whatever your art practice, I encourage you to not go it alone. Find someone, or a group of someones who are like-minded individuals, and create your own support group.

You can learn more about how to create your own “mastermind group” here.

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Happy Blog-versary! October 1, 2009

Filed under: Blogging,Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:30 am

One year ago, on October 1, 2008, I posted my first blog post on

I had been writing monthly guest post for Simon Ogden for nearly a year, and decided it was time to launch my own blog.

It’s interesting for me to have the opportunity to reflect on the past year. There have been times when it was really tough slogging: I was too busy or simply lacked the inspiration to come up with fresh content. Three posts a week is a fairly sizable time commitment for a gal who is also attempting to run her own business and raise a young son.

But, for the most part, I managed to bang out three posts a week. Some were quite good, and well received, while others maybe not so much. I had made a commitment, and I was determined to stick to it.

I had to do lots of research in order to write posts on social media, which later became the structure on which I build my e-book, which was launched in June, and continues to sell quite nicely, thankyouverymuch.

I love blogging. Despite that some days I struggle for the right words (or words at all), I love the immediacy of it, how I’m able to post about things that are topical and relevant, and even controversial. I love being able to share information. I hope that I’m making a difference.

It’s been a great year. And I am so, so happy with the success of the blog. When I started it a year ago, only 400 people read my blog that month. In September this year, there were more than 3,000. Which goes to show you: post regularly, try to have meaningful and valuable content, and your numbers will grow. Oh, linking  your blog up to social media like Twitter also sends lots of people your way.

Special thanks to you, the reader, for doing that thing you do: reading, commenting, re-tweeting, challenging, asking questions, and especially, subscribing. We can create the most beautiful piece of theater ever, but if no one sees it, what’s the point? You’re my audience, and I really appreciate you.

Special thanks to all the wonderful people that helped me along the way with technical questions, like Travis Bedard, Nick Keenan, Kate Foy, Rebecca Bolwitt, Susie Gardner and Shane Burley, and Lorraine Murphy. And an extra special big thank you to Simon Ogden, who answered “yes” when I asked him if I could use his blog as a testing ground for this idea I had called “The Art of the Business.”

Not sure what the next year will bring, but I’m excited to see!

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That elusive work-life balance September 11, 2009

Filed under: Life — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:12 am

As some of you may know, I have a young son. Michael is 6, and honestly, he’s the love of my life.DSC00461

Two years ago, I lost my part-time job. It was a good job for a mom with a young child to have–not too much responsibly, benefits, fairly good pay, 18 hours a week. But it was government-funded, and the government un-funded it, and I found myself unemployed.

I wasn’t sure what to do. My first priority was to find a job I could do without having to put Michael in daycare. Expanding my publicity work from part-time to full-time seemed like the most viable option, so I took a small business course, and, two years later, here we are.

I’ll be the first person to tell you how much I love being self-employed. I love being able to choose who I want to work with, what hours I work, when and where. I love that when Michael has a field trip to the pumpkin patch, I can take the day off and go with him. I turned down work this summer so that I could hang out with him on summer vacation.

This worked really well for the first part of the summer, but over the last couple of weeks, it’s been harder to balance life and work. My clients are gearing up for their fall seasons, and I need to get stuff done. So, it’s been tough these last few weeks, trying to balance getting stuff done with hanging out with and enjoying the last few weeks of summer with my son.

Truth is, part of being a good parent is being able to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. So, I know it’s important to keep the money rolling in. But I still feel guilty saying “sure, bub, I’ll come and help you with that in two secs, after I send this email.”

What do you think? How do you parents out there manage your work and your kids? I’d love to hear.

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