The Business of… Business.

The Business of… Business.

More recently, I’ve been looking at the not-so fun side of having a creative career… the dreaded business side. Of course, us creative minds don’t always grasp the ideas behind “business” easily and more often than not are rather daunted by them. Despite my aversion, I know it’s important to understand the legalities, the accounts, all the really boring bits. Not saying I plan on becoming an expert by any means, but I’m being realistic in knowing I have to at least have a general grasp on most of it.

I’ve been reading through a few books which have been floating around my bookshelves for some quite time but never really got a proper read – more of a “and this book is for later, when I have a career”. Of course, without these books, a prosperous career is all the less likely. You don’t run a marathon unless you’ve trained for it (unless perhaps you’re just mad), so why enter the business world without some training as well? I know a lot of people don’t equate “freelancing” with “a business”, but it is. If you want to make a living out of what you do (in my case, Illustration), you need to enter the big, bad, rather unforgiving world with a plan.

So, alongside the practical work, I’m trying to carve out my short and long term plans for my career. I want it to be a career, one that can at least kinda-sorta sustain my lifestyle as well as pay my bills. It’s a lot of work but if it’s what you want to do it, it’s worth it. Most of us don’t have a rich other-half or a trust fund to fall back on, so we have to be realistic about keeping ourselves above the poverty line (apparently, a good majority of creatives live well under the poverty line – sad statistic) and put in the time and effort.

Now, I know I’m not going to enter the industry and be inundated with so much work I won’t know what to do with it all, but I know if I work/plan hard, I can at least find enough work to keep me going. I don’t believe my talent is enough to make it on and I don’t think that I’ll be “discovered”, because it’s not bloody likely. I know I’ll constantly have to grow as an artist and a business woman, push my own boundaries and put my perfectionism and creative ego on the back burner at times and take work that I may not enjoy as much as some. All of this makes me glad I wasn’t 18 when I entered into my Visual Arts degree, I don’t believe my young-self would have been able to grasp these facts and would have been very much of the “it’s my way, or no way” mindset.

Onto the books I’ve been reading/bookmarking on the subject recently. If you’re an illustrator/want to be an illustrator, you may have heard of some of these but maybe not. Either way, they’re definitely worth purchasing or a second look if they’ve been sitting unread on your shelves.

1. How to be an Illustrator– Daniel Rees
This book tackles the subject of preparation for the industry, literally a how to prepare “your portfolio”, “for your first job interview”, “for getting an agent” “your self promotion”, etc… A good book to start with, as it gives a good idea of what you’ll be facing in the long-term and how to get through it all. Includes interviews with Illustrators and how they make a living.

2. The Fundamentals of Illustration – Lawrence Zeegan
This book goes through the steps of illustration, from beginning to sending it off to the client and is much more of a “how to illustrate” than “how to be an illustrator, but I think it’s a good book that looks at illustration with it’s professional head on and working for and with clients, which is important.

3. The Essential Guide to Business for Artists and Designers (Essential Guides) Alison Branagan
Does what it says on the cover, an overview to the business side of the creative business. Not just for illustrators, but all creatives including fine art and commercial. It covers business plans, loan applications, realistic goal setting, money management and is littered with interviews from various creatives.

4. The Illustrator’s Guide to Law and Business Practice (Association of Illustrators) – Simon Stern (The AOI)
Does as the title suggests – great to learn your rights as an illustrator , includes contracts and Terms & Conditions for you to use.

These last three are more for the creative crafter, but I think they could be relevant for the illustrator who wants to also sell prints and other items alongside their illustration work, online and off.

1. Creative, Inc.: The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business – Meg Mateo Ilasco & Joy Deangdeelert Cho

2. The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts Locally, Globally, and Online – Kari Chapin

3. Grow Your Handmade Business – Kari Chapin