The Art of the Business

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

Does your book match its cover? July 28, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Perception of worth — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:04 am

Last week, I almost didn’t eat dinner at what is, quite possibly, the best restaurant in Kelowna.

Quick back story: I was in the Okanagan for the premiere of The Beast of Bottomless Lake at the Okanagan Film Festival on Wednesday night. My sweetie and I came up a couple days early both to work and to have some fun–wine tasting on the Naramata bench, hanging out at the beach, that kind of thing.

We got into town after the long drive from Vancouver last evening around 4. We dropped our stuff at the hotel, and headed out to see the town and look for a place to eat dinner. Just down the street is we found a place called The Rotten Grape–recommended to me by a resident here. But it wasn’t open, so we moved on.

I wanted to take a photo of the OIFF banner, and while I was doing that, Dave discovered another restaurant. It was called RauDZ, and honestly, from the outside, it didn’t look like much. But we were hungry, and it seemed like the best option at the time.

So we went in, and were immediately ushered to a cozy little booth in the back. The decor was exposed brick and warm chocolate tones, with a huge blackboard above the kitchen sporting quotes about food. The kitchen was entirely open behind a pane of glass–the ultimate in transparency.

The experience just got better and better. We were informed that the chef, Rob Butters, likes to cook local and seasonal, and that the menu was about 85% organic. They had martinis which they made with a fresh fruit puree of whatever was currently in season. The food was wonderful: I had plump little grilled squids stuffed with a kind of tapenade, served on a salad of the tentacles and cauliflower. Dave had white salmon with gnocchi that were so tasty. Our desert was probably the best part of the meal: a fantastic coffee creme brulee and a chocolate ganache with a cherry/anise sorbet and cherries stuffed with hazelnuts.

There is nothing to not recommend about this restaurant: the drinks, the food, the room, the service were all exceptional.

The problem was, we were confused by the branding.

The signage (cheesy martini glass), the confusing name (“Rod’s”? “Road’s?” “Rawd’s”??) spelled with a mix of capitals and lowercase letters gave me the feeling that the restaurant was something pretty average. But it was pretty special on the inside.

Photo by David McIlvride for RauDZ Regional Table

Photo by David McIlvride for RauDZ Regional Table

Whatever it is that you are trying to sell: paintings, jazz albums, seats at the opera, ballet or theatre, or even martinis, remember: people do judge a book by its cover. Yes, I know, we’re not supposed to, but we do. It takes us less than 10 seconds to form an opinion about something. That dosen’t give you a lot of time. Make sure you do it right.

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My Makeover March 24, 2010

Filed under: Attitude,Musings,Perception of worth,photos,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:17 am
Tags: ,

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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Your perception of value March 8, 2010


It’s been a trending topic in my own personal blogosphere, lately.

First there was John McLauglan talking about Firing some of his Customers.

Then Nancy Kenny asked me for some advice about valuing her new service, and wrote about that experience in a post called The Value of Me

That post lead Michael Di Lauro to riff on The Perception of Free.

The second blog post I ever wrote was called Putting a Value on Your Work. In it, I talked about the fallacy of “The Starving Artist,” and how, just because we are lucky enough as artists to have found a career that we love, it’s not okay for us to work for free. Here’s an excerpt: (I feel weird excerpting myself, but at least I don’t have to worry about copyright!)

See, there’s this perception out there in the world (and we as artists are guilty of it too), that because we get intrinsic value from our work, that we don’t need to be compensated financially. In an ideal world, we would all make a living from our artistic practice. Some of you out there already are (and you make me very happy and proud and give me a great deal of hope, so thank you). But for the rest of us, where does it end?

Beginning to value your work also means beginning to say ‘no’. And I don’t know about you, but I find that scary. Scary because, if I say no to someone, am I cutting off all future ties? Will I lose paying business down the road if I don’t give them a freebie the first time? Maybe. I can’t answer those questions for you. But what I have experienced is this: often unpaid work leads to more of the same. Conversely, paid work often leads to more of the same.

I’ll be honest with you: I sometimes turn down contracts, because they can’t afford to pay what I perceive as being enough. I have some bottom-line pricing–while I have a standard rate I charge for my work, I am willing to negotiate, but not below a certain number. When I first started this crazy business two years ago, I basically took any contract that was offered to me, but no more. It isn’t enough any more for me to just be working. I have to be working and making a living, or even a living plus a little bit more….

What changed over the past two years? I have gotten better at my job, my media contacts are stronger than ever, and I have systems in place that make it easier for me to run my business. I’ve had a fair amount of success at getting my clients media coverage. Generally speaking, it all comes down to confidence.

It’s natural to feel apprehensive about setting a rate when you are just starting out. My Putting a Value on Your Work blog post talks about ways that you can come up with that number, and having that information can help you to educate your client about why you charge that particular amount. Ultimately, you have the power to negotiate, and you alone know what your bottom-line number is. My philosophy is, go into any negotiation with three numbers in mind: your top price, your bottom line, and what you would be happy with (which is somewhere in between). Go in with confidence (even if you don’t really have it, fake it), and pitch a price that is in the higher range. And then take it from there…

Because if you don’t value the work that you do, then who will?

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Would you rather be Peet’s or Starbucks? March 1, 2010

It’s no secret that I’m a coffee addict. I simply can’t start my day without a decent coffee: an Americano Misto is my drink of choice. And, like many adults, my tastes are refining as I get older–I can no longer drink just any old slop–it has to be good, or I’m not satisfied (with the exception of Tim Horton’s, which gets my sentimental vote, as I grew up on it).

Many, many years ago, I was introduced to Peet’s Coffee by my high school english teacher and mentor, Art Griffin. Art would buy, and have his beans shipped from the States to Newfoundland, because that’s how much he loved the coffee. He told me the story of Peet’s.

Back in the ’60s, a hippie in Berkley named Alfred Peet started a coffee shop. Peet came from a coffee family, and when he opened his store, he roasted his beans on site. In 1971, some of his friends, English teacher Jerry Baldwin, history teacher Zev Siegel, and writer Gordon Bowker, decided to use his beans to open their own coffee shop in Pike Place Market in Seattle. They called it Starbucks.

About 10 or so years later, a guy named Howard Schultz came along. It was his idea to begin selling already-brewed coffee, not just beans, in Starbucks.

According to my teacher, Peet had an opportunity at this point to either continue in business with Baldwin, Siegel, Bowker and Schultz, but he chose not to.

The rest, as they say, is, ahem, history. Starbucks currently runs 16,634 stores in 49 countries around the world, and Peet’s operates almost 200 retail outlets, primarily in the western United States.

Ah, but here’s the rub: if you put a cup of Peet’s in front of me, and cup of Starbucks, and asked me to choose, Peet’s would win every time. I recently came back from Seattle with a pound of Sumatra, and I get some every time I go. To me, Starbuck’s coffee tastes burnt and acidic, and their mixed creations are way too sweet. I had a supreme Raspberry Mocha at Peet’s, which tasted like raspberries, chocolate and coffee, not too sweet.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t think it’s possible to maintain quality across such a big board. With fewer stores, it’s easier to maintain your brand’s quality, although feel free to argue with me.

For sure, we all dream about becoming stinkingly rich and spending the rest of our days on our private yacht in the Mediterranean (or whatever your version of that is). But for me, I think I’m too much of a perfectionist to allow my name to be attached to something that was less-than-stellar quality.

So, I’d rather be Peet’s any day.

Please discuss over a cup of your favorite coffee.

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Please don’t call me a “social media expert” August 17, 2009

I recently did an interview with Corwin Christie for the Technology in the Arts blog. As you know, in June, I launched my e-book: Getting Started With Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations. Since then, the good little marketer that I am, I’ve been exploring every avenue to promote it, so I was totally jazzed when Corwin found me and asked to do an interview with me.

I have to say, those were some some tough questions, but I like a challenge. You can read the final post here.

The back says "because this t-shirt says so"

The back says "because this t-shirt says so"

In the introduction to the post, Corwin rightly goes on to reflects on the term “social media expert”, which is a term that I have always felt uncomfortable applied to myself.

Really, anyone with a Twitter account can call themselves a social media expert. I mean, there’s nothing to stop them. There is no professional association of social media experts, no university or college certifications. Our world is so new, we are literally making it up as we go along.

What alarms me about the term “social media expert” is, people who are just jumping on the social media bandwagon may come across a self-professed “social media expert” and purchase services from them: a course, some consulting, or yes, an e-book. And it’s really buyer beware. Just because you call yourself a social media expert, doesn’t mean you are Gary Vanderchuck or Guy Kawasaki.

So, here’s  a couple of ways to tell if someone is really an expert or not.

1.    What are the numbers? Check out their profiles on Facebook and Twitter. How many friends do they have? What is their Twitter follower-to-followee ratio? Do they have a Facebook Fan page? And if so, how many fans? This point is about sheer quantity.
2.    Do they offer value? Check out their posts on Facebook and Twitter. Are they all personal? Are they all links to cute YouTube puppy videos? Or are they links of value, linking to their own blog, or someone elses’ about the latest and greatest in social media?
3.    Do they have a website? Is their website entirely dedicated to selling, or are there some freebies or useful information? Is there an about page so that you can get to know a little about them?
4.    Do they have a blog? How long have they been blogging for? Does their blog have an about page? A blogroll?

These are all useful criteria for judging expert status.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with the term. I prefer to think of myself as someone who is learning about this stuff, but I’m just a little ahead of the curve. And maybe a couple of people along the way can benefit from my experience.

For a bit of fun (and some solid info) on the topic, check this out.

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What’s your perception worth? July 10, 2009

Filed under: Perception of worth — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:34 am

I am somewhat embarrassed to say  that I went to McDonald’s the other day. It was one of those extenuating circumstances: I was starving, on the road, and they are pretty much as prevalent as Starbucks.

I thought I’d make a healthy choice and have a salad. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of years, you’ll notice that McDonald’s advertising has changed recently. In an attempt to manage the backlash against fatty, unhealthy foods, they have changed their advertising. Their commercials often focus on healthy lifestyle choices, a great example of which is their latest campaign to promote their new line of salads.

But I started to wonder, as I sat there, eating my salad, how many people come in to McDonald’s for a salad? I did a quick survey of the restaurant. As far as I could tell, I was the only person eating salad. A couple of older people were there for coffee and a muffin, but about 95% of the people there were eating burgers and fries.

It got me thinking: if you asked some random person on the street if McDonald’s serves healthy food, they would more than likely say yes. If you asked that same person when the last time was that they had a salad at a fast food restaurant, it would likely have been a long time ago.

We go to McDonald’s for a Big Mac. We don’t go there for salad. But what McDonald’s has done is shift our perception from thinking that they are a bad guy. Whether or not they are selling the salads doesn’t matter. What matters is that we no longer think of them as this huge, ugly corporation that is making our entire nation fat and sick (remember Supersize Me?).

Perception is valuable. How do people perceive you?

Just to be clear, I’m not advocating that you work on your hype and not follow through. I don’t like that McDonald’s has millions and millions of dollars to spend on slick advertising campaigns that appear to be able to change their public perception. What I am saying is, do some research and see if you can find out how people perceive you. Hopefully other people’s perception of you will be positive, and all you have to do is follow through to maintain that. But if it’s not 100% positive, think about how you can change that perception.

And then follow through.

Finally, in a bid to put my money where my mouth is, I’d like to invite you to share your perception of me in the comments section below. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m always interested in hearing ways I can improve.

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