The Art of the Business

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

Fringe Marketing for Dummies July 23, 2010

Here in Vancouver, there are 86 productions in The Fringe this year. Now, you aren’t going to be competing with every single one of those at any given time, but certainly you will be competing with some. On top of that, you will be competing with whatever else is going on in Vancouver at the time: other theatre, live music, movies, the weather.

If you want your show to be a sell-out, I’m offering up some tasty tips on how to market your production and stand out from the crowd.

Get started early. You’ll need to start getting your stuff together and planning 4-6 weeks before the Fringe.

What makes you unique? The first thing you have to figure out is what it is that makes you unique–what makes you stand out above the crowd. This is called your unique selling point. Your USP should form the basis of all of your marketing: from your poster/postcard image to your press release.

Get a great image. If you have a bit of marketing money to spend, hiring a professional photographer is a good investment. Deb Pickman and I endorse Pink Monkey Studios. But whoever you are using, here are some tips to keep in mind when shooting. Your shot does not have to be a scene from the play. In fact, I think it’s better if it’s NOT a scene from the play. Go back to your unique selling point. Can you create an image that communicates that? Your image should be arresting. The ultimate goal would be to stop people in their tracks as they are walking down the street, if they see your poster on a pole. Here is a blog post that I wrote on the topic: https://artofthebiz.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/the-importance-of-a-good-publicity-photo/

This is your competition, folks. (photo of Toronto Fringe poster board courtesy of Sue Edworthy)

Marketing Materials:

Posters: 11×14, hire a graphic designer if at all possible, have them printed in colour (they should only cost you about $1/ea), make sure you include star ratings from other fringes or positive reviews. Print around 100-200. Concentrate putting them up on and around Granville Island. There are specific places for Fringe posters, like the Fringe Bar and the Info centre. If you want to put them up beyond, through the rest of the city, call Perry the Poster guy: 604. 874.6828. He charges nearly $1/per poster, but they are put up in places where they will not be taken down.

Postcards/leaflets: Most people go with a scaled-down version of their poster. There are a few places you can leave postcards, but the real value of a postcard is as a “leave-behind.” “Hey–I’m doing a Fringe show–wanna come? Here’s a postcard with all the info.”

Industry Images is currently offering discounts on printing for The Fringe.

Part 2

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Managing the Noise: Blogs July 5, 2010

Filed under: Blogging,Business of Arts,Planning,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:59 am
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There’s no doubt blogging has come into its own. There are hundreds of millions of blogs on the internet right now, and countless posts on those blogs.

If there’s something your interested in, any kind of niche at all, I guarantee you someone out there is writing about it.

In the past, if you wanted to learn a new skill, or get better at something, you had to buy a book, or take a class. You don’t really have to do that any more–you can learn things from the comfort of your own home–via blogs.

This is all very exciting, but if you’re like me, then you have an area that you  like to concentrate on, plus a few friends’ blogs, plus a couple of other sidelines. That adds up to hundreds of blogs, all publishing at a rate that can make it hard to keep up with. So how do you manage?

1. Get yourself a feed reader. Every single blog in the world has what’s called an RSS feed. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication.” This little URL makes it really easy for you to subscribe to the blog, in the same way that you might subscribe to your daily newspaper. After you subscribe, every time that blog posts, it is delivered to your RSS reader. You no longer have to check the websites of all of your fave blogs every day to see if they have new posts up. You just have to check  your feed reader.

I use Google, just because it’s easy, and I already use the entire Google suite. But Bloglines is also great. Most web-based email programs these days have a feed reader built in–so check yours to see. Here is a list of the top 10 feed readers.

My google reader

2. Organize: group the blogs that you follow into categories. For example, I have a category for Theatre bloggers, one for general blogging or business tips, one for friends, and one for random and miscellaneous blogs that I just like. This allows you to, at a glance, to see the most important new posts to you.

3. Make time to catch up. I currently am following around 60 blogs in my feed reader. If you do the math on that, you can see that it won’t take long for my feed reader to get out of control. It’s often over 500. So make time, whenever it works for you, whether once a day (hi, Simon! How’s your coffee today?) or once a week.

4. The power of mark all as read. Some days it just gets away with you. Despite all your best effort to read everything, or even to skim everything, you just can’t. Hit the mark all as read button and let it go. It’s okay. The world will go on.

Whatever blog reader you end up using, make sure it has some way of noting posts that really turn you on. Google Reader has a “starring” system. This way, if there is a post that you think you might like to reference later, it makes it easy for you to find.

What’s your best tip for managing your blog reading?

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Managing the Noise: Email June 18, 2010

Filed under: Business of Arts,Planning,Tools — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:12 am
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Last month, I wrote a post on how to mange the “noise” of Twitter.

I’m following that up with a post on how to manage your email.

I get a lot of email. I send more. Email is the main tool with which I run my business. I’d say I probably receive between 50-100 emails a day. And there was a time, a few months back, when my Inbox was up around 2,000, and things were getting missed. It actually caused me quite a bit of anxiety: I’d be out somewhere doing something, and I’d suddenly remember an email I forgot to return! Panic!

But then, last year, I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done. I implemented a new email system, and have had a few months to tinker around with it, and am finding it’s working great for me. I regularly get my inbox to 0, and I have a system in place so I don’t forget to return emails.

I’d like to share it with you.

My email inbox

1. First, you have to deal with your existing inbox. If you are like me, I had a lot of email in there. Know that it’s going to take you a while to get through it, and maybe dedicate an hour or a few mintues every day to getting through it. After you have gotten your inbox to 0, you just need to do this every few days or once a week, depending on how much volume you get. It becomes about maintenance.

2. You need to classify every single piece of email in your inbox. Most email programs, even web-based ones, allow you to create folders in your email. I have a folder for every contract I am currently working on, plus another couple random ones: one for family stuff, one for Michael stuff, and one for “pending” (I’ll explain that in a sec).

3. Start at the bottom of your Inbox, and look at every single email.

  • If it’s dealt with, but contains some information that you may need in the future, move it to the appropriate project folder.
  • If it’s dealt with, and you won’t need any of the info in the email again, delete it.
  • If the email needs a response, and you can respond to it within a minute or two (ie: immediately), then do so, then put it into the appropriate folder.
  • If it requires a response that’s going to take you some time to work out, respond accordingly: “I’ll get back to you on this,” and then place it into the “Pending” folder.

4. Lather, rinse, repeat until your Inbox is 0!

5. Every once in a while, say once a week, go through your “Pending” file and see if there are any emails you can deal with and move out. Once I’ve wrapped up a contract, I just delete the entire email file.

6. I do this every couple of days, but if you don’t have a lot of email, you could do it once per week. Friday is the best day, because it allows you to start your weekend with a clean slate, stress-free (hopefully).

How do you deal with your overwhelming email? I’d love to hear if you have a system that works, or, if you try mine, how you modified it to work for your specific needs.

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Social Media with Purpose June 14, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Business relationships,Planning,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 12:40 am

I was shooting some video the other day for one of my clients, and they remarked on my camera, and that they were intending on getting one. I, of course, was excited, and launched into a  monologue about which camera was the best one. But then I stopped.

“What are you using it for? Business or personal?”

Turns out, my client is looking to buy a camera to shoot video for their business.

Why?

“Everyone is doing it.”

There’s so much pressure right now to jump onto the social media bandwagon. Heck, I’m part of the group of folks that are generating that pressure.

If you have a business, arts-related or otherwise, are you missing out right now if you are not participating in social media?

Yes.

But.

I feel like there is so much pressure to get involved in social media that lots and lots of folks are doing it willy-nilly, and with no purpose or plan in mind. Here’s the thing: it’s actually pretty easy to get into. What’s hard is keeping it up, which is why the internet is littered with abandoned blogs, websites, and Twitter accounts.

Part of the issue here is that because these mediums are so new, it’s hard to know what is going to be the right fit for you until you get into it and test drive it for a while. But part of the problem is also that folks are jumping in, because they know they should, but they are not doing it in a way that is thought out and planned.

Insert shameless plug for my book here.

Also, be aware that some tools will fit better for you than others. I have an active LinkedIn account, with lots of connections, and I check it about twice a month. LinkedIn does nothing for my business. But there are lots of people that use it faithfully and regularly, and find it very useful. For me, Facebook, Twitter, and my blog are the areas where I get the most return, and therefore, put the most work into.

What is it for you? I don’t know. Do some research up front on the different social media platforms, educate yourself as much as you can, create some goals for yourself, make a plan, and then jump in.

And good luck.

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Is it Impossible to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan? April 9, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Planning,social media — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:05 am
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I saw this video a while ago, but haven’t had the guts to share it with you. Here’s the thing: I preach the gospel of creating a plan for your social media marketing. Heck, I wrote a book about it, and am making money off of said book. So, when I saw this, I thought: “eep!”

But I just watched it again, and I am going to share it with you. This is Gary Vaynerchuk, social media and vlogging guru, talking about how difficult it is to create long-term social media plans, because the world of social media moves so quickly.

(Sorry, there was no embed code, so you’ll have to go off to Gary’s site and watch this, and then come back)

Click here to watch it.

Now, let’s discuss….

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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.

 

Outsourcing March 22, 2010

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