The Art of the Business

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

For Babz May 23, 2010

Filed under: Life,Musings — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:00 am

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about legacies.

You see, on May 7, we lost Babz.

I need to say that I haven’t known Babz for very long: only about a year. A little more than a year ago, I did a gig for my friend Carrie. The play was called Dying City, and it was directed by Ben Ratner. Ben and I got to know each other a bit through working together, and one night he called me up and told me that the current admin person at the Babz Chula Society was leaving, and would I be interested?

I was heading into summer, and wanted as little work as possible, but it didn’t sound like a big job, maybe just a few hours per week. I’d lost my mom to cancer a year previous, and knew Babz from her work. I thought, “my mom’s gone, her fight is over, but maybe I can help this person a little bit.” I was unsure if I could take it on, but agreed to meet Babz.

I met Babz on April 3 last year. We met at Delaney’s, and I remember she had a cinnamon bun and a soy latte. She bemoaned her food choices (trying to avoid sugar is part of an anti-cancer diet), but characteristically enjoyed every bite.

We talked about many things: mutual friends, being an actor, my mom, our kids and the cancer. I spoke the language of cancer, and she was always very forthcoming about the details of her disease. I came away from that meeting knowing that I already loved this amazing, stubborn, vibrant woman, and that I would do whatever I could to help her fight. That was Babz. You loved her the moment you met her. You couldn’t help it.

Over the last year, there’s been many meetings, Thai and Chinese food, a new website, emails, discussions about fundraisers, chemo, and many, many hugs.

I last saw Babz in late December at a Society meeting. Babz was leaving shortly for 6 weeks in India. At the end, I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and how excited I was for her trip, and that I’d see her when she got back.

Shortly after she came back (feeling fabulous, by the way), she took a turn for the worse, and the doctors said the cancer was in her liver, and they were done. We knew it was only a matter of time. I tried many times to get to see her, but between my work and her bad days, I never was able to.

Going through some old emails the other day, I found this one, dated December 14.

Rebecca.  It is early-ish on Monday morning and I’m struck by an
image of you in my apartment last week when you came to make the
video blog.  I want to tell you how much I appreciate you…how
wonderful you are at what you do, certainly, but more than that…the
person you are.  Beyond what you are doing for the Society, it is the
way you do things…the grace and dignity with which you execute all
your actions, and I am so pleased to know you and so very honoured to
have you on my side.

That’s it.  That’s all.  I’m buzzing around here trying to get going
and you kept popping into my head…as you have for days.  I needed
to tell you what I think and I wanted to thank you for everything.
Hope to see you soon at our dinner and if that doesn’t happen, then I
wish you a lovely holiday and I will see you when I return from
the…uh…continent. Ahem.  Love. Really.  Love.   babz chula

That was Babz. Prepping for a trip to India, dealing with chemo, and yet she still had the time to send me a really wonderful email.

Which brings me back to legacies. Babz has left many: the Society, which will continue on in her name, and help others, a remarkable body of work, and many, many people who loved her, of which I am one.

You see, I went into this whole thing hoping that I could help someone out. But I probably got more from Babz than she did from me in the short time we knew each other.

She showed me that, no matter how tough things are, no matter how desperate, there’s always someone else worse off than you. And that person could maybe use a helping hand. And that love, while it can’t cure cancer, can make an impact on your life you never thought possible.

I love you, Babz. You live always in my heart.

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Are You Scalable? April 12, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future planning,Musings,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:31 am
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Now, before you go make a doctor’s appointment to get some cream to help you with that, let me explain: scalability is your business’ ability to grow.

This topic has been on my mind a lot lately, because, although I love my work, my business is, in fact, not easily scalable. You see, there’s just me. And, even if I took on as many clients as I could, and worked 24 hours a day, there would still only be a finite number of people that could take on. Eventually, I’d have more work that “just me” could handle.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because I’m at a point in my business where I need to either a. stop taking on new clients because I’m at capacity or b. figure out a way to clone myself so that there are now two of me running my business.

For something like what I do, publicity, it’s possible for me to do this. I have a certain system that I work with, and I could teach this system to someone else, and hopefully, they’d get the same result. But if you are an artist, creating one-off original works of art, you can’t do that (even though Michangelo had assistants). As an actor, there’s just one of you. As a musician–just one.

So, you need to look for other methods of scalability, and those things often incude taking a small, less expensive piece of you and cloning it. So, for example, visual artists can create prints, cards, calendars. Actors (hopefully) get residuals from repeated productions, and musicians can sell songs.

One of the coolest ways to create scalabilty is to create a product that is automated, and can sell all on its own, even while you are asleep, or say, on a beach in Greece. This is called passive income. For me, it’s creating an e-book. For you, it could be selling prints off of the internet, or downloadable songs, or courses that show people a particular technique that you have perfected.

How can you make your business scalable?

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Are you Idea- or Task-oriented? April 7, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Future audience,Musings,Planning — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:27 am
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I got this email from one of my clients a week ago. It said “I love how task-oriented you are.”

People’s brains work in different ways: in my experience, I find that people tend to be either idea-oriented, or task-oriented. Idea-oriented people have big ideas, and seeing scenarios in the future is no problem for them. Task-oriented folks tend to be more in the “now” and ask, “what do I need to do right now to make things happen?”

This guy? Probably an ideas man.

And that’s me: task oriented. A doer.  It frustrates me sometimes. I’m a small business owner–I should have some kind of plan for the future, right? Five-year, ten-year goals? Yeah, I got nothing. I have goals and plans for this year, but beyond that, it’s fuzzy.

However, I have an extensive to-do list already constructed for today, and most of the stuff on it will likely get done.

I write this blog in a very task-oriented way: I often share tips that include screen casts and “how-tos.” Because that’s what I value, so that’s what I tend to write.

Don’t get me wrong–Ideas people are important, and needed. I could use one, in fact. But I sometimes get frustrated with ideas people, because at some point, I have to stop dreaming and start doing. That’s just who I am.

We need each other–if you tend to be quite task-oriented, I’d encourage you to find a friend in business who is idea-oriented, and meet with them once a month. You can help them to create a plan to get things done, and they can help you with your vision for the future.

And if you are one of those people that moves seamlessly between being Idea- and Task-oriented, well, then I hate you think you’re nifty.

 

My Makeover March 24, 2010

Filed under: Attitude,Musings,Perception of worth,photos,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:17 am
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I have a shameful secret. Because I work from home, and no one sees me when I’m behind my computer, I look like this:

My daily routine is the same: roll out of bed, pull on something made by Lululemon, make coffee, open the computer, get to work. It doesn’t matter what I look like, because no one is going to see me.

Now, when it comes to meeting clients or going out in public, I’m a bit better. I’ll throw on some jeans, or a clean shirt. Or even dress pants and a nice, white blouse. But over all, my dress is casual. I argue I can get away with it, because my business is pretty casual. And it takes a lot of time to do hair, makeup and pull together a nice outfit. And people are hiring me for my brain and my track record, not because of how I look. And sometimes heels are uncomfortable if I have to walk a long way, and I’m just going to pick up Michael at school, anyway….  The rationalizations go on and on.

I’m an avid fan of TLC’s What Not to Wear, and one night when I was watching, Clinton Kelly said “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and despite the advice of my business adviser, am not even looking for corporate clients. If I can make a living in the arts, I’m happy. But I am a business-owner, and maybe it’s time I start dressing the part. And if I do, what will happen? Will new or potential clients look at me and view me as having a higher perception of worth? And how will my own perception of worth change? I feel different about myself when I dress up–more confident–how does a confident attitude affect my work?

I love to shop, but I am also hopeless, and I had no idea where to start. So, I hired Jasjit Rai, who is a stylist and wardrobe consultant. Jasjit says, “as in theatre, it is important to dress the part(s) that you want to play in your life.  Clothing is an easy and immediate way of transforming yourself. This is why uniforms are so important in some professions – once worn, they draw the person into the role. Others immediately respond in return.” She came over to my house and did a wardrobe audit. A bunch of stuff went. Then, she gave me a list of stuff to go shop for, including tear sheets from magazines with photos.

The result?

Photo by Pink Monkey Studios

I’m still trying to get comfortable with this new concept: spending money on clothes still seems a little frivolous to me, and I also feel a bit resentful that people might judge me on how I look. But the reality is, people do make snap judgments when they meet you. I might as well  put my best foot forward. And I’ll let you know if land any high-paying clients, or if my income goes up dramatically.

If you are interested in having your own makeover, I highly reccomend Jasjit’s services.

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What’s your perception of value? Pt 2 March 19, 2010

A few years back, I had an eye-opening experience around money. I had an interview to be hired by a small social-profit corporation to to marketing and PR for them for a summer. I got the interview via my network, so these people didn’t know me at all. I did some research around what I should charge, and when they asked me what my rate was, I said, without hesitation, and with some confidence, “$30 to $50 an hour,” which seemed like a huge sum of money to me at the time. And you know what, they didn’t even blink. I got the job, and it paid for a trip to Europe that fall.

A week ago, I put up a post about how people perceive our value, and more importantly, about how we perceive our own value. I was starting to feel out of my depth, but handily, I have a money coach in my network, so I turned to her.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Shell Tain:

RC: If I’m just getting started, how do I know how much to charge for my work?

ST: Well, if I’m just starting out, how much to charge is partially a math question, but it’s never solely a math question. There is some research to be done about what other people charge who are doing what I want to do, and what is the range of charges for this in my geographic community. That’s the math part. Even more important, whether new to the game or an old hand, is creating enough commitment with the charge that someone really shows up. What is the amount that has the client have something at stake, but not freaked out? I once had a couple of very wealthy clients. My normal fee just wasn’t even the cost of lunch for them. They didn’t show up. Where is that tipping point? You always have to experiment to find it, but it’s worth finding.

On the emotional side, money isn’t just about money, it’s about self worth. Yep, self worth. So, somehow I get tangled in that the client is buying me, and putting a value on me, and gosh what does that bring up? So there we are, tangled up when we are asked how much we charge. Here’s an alternative perspective: they actually aren’t buying you, or even what you do, they are buying the results. They are buying how something will be different, better, or complete once you have done what you do. So that’s worth something to them. And it’s something they can’t easily do themselves, or they would have.

So, here’s the technique.

Once you have figured out what the charge is, get your brain firmly around it so it’s easy to say. Then, when the potential customer asks for the fee, state it, clearly, without back tracking and then, (this is the most important part) SHUT UP! Stop talking. Let the silence be there, awkward as it may be. See what they say. Don’t anticipate; don’t make up objections for them. See what they say. They might actually say something like “fine”. They might say “Gee that’s expensive” to which you could say “yes, and it’s worth it”. They might say “I can’t afford that” to which you say “I understand, and what would it be like for you to have the work done?” What you do not do is discount your fees, collude with them about finding the money to pay for it, or add things on. You want them to understand the value. Pushing back on the fee can mean they don’t see the value. It can also mean they just like to bargain.

RC: But what if I loose the customer entirely, because I wasn’t willing to negotiate the fees?

ST: Let me answer an even more important question than “what if you lose the potential customer”, that is “what if I get the customer by lowering my fees?” What’s the cost of that? Well that hard teacher, Experience, has shown me and many of my clients that the costs of discounting fees are many. One really challenging one is that it diminishes your credibility with the customer. That shows up by them criticizing your choices and micro managing you. Another cost is that by dealing with this customer for less money, you aren’t available to the customer who would pay your full fee. And yet another is that if other potential customers find out you discounted they will either want a discount too, of feel foolish for having paid your full fee. What a tangled web this can be. If the idea of standing firm on your price still just drives you crazy I suggest that you create a “one time” special package for some multiple units of whatever you sell. You can offer this to everyone, and limit how long it goes on.

RC: Last words of advice?

ST: You deserve to be paid well, and if you are underpaid, or worse yet, give away your time and expertise, you will resent it. And if you resent it, you are likely to not do as good a job. All that just creates a never ending cycle. Remember, you do well what they can’t, don’t want to, or find harder to do than you. What a gift you bring.

(more…)

 

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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