For this month's student post we asked Fine Art graduate Aidan Myers whether he considers himself an entrepreneur and for his view on business planning and time management as a creative. Here's what he had to say:
Time Management is always the key to ensuring that you can deliver your work on time and
without disappointing clients or galleries. It’s fair to say that it’s extremely
difficult managing time as a self-employed freelance artist, especially
alongside other part time roles.
First thing is to get a diary, everything goes in there however small or big the
meeting, deadline or plan is.
Figuring out what takes priority is difficult, though you have to negotiate this
and make compromises. Though it’s essential that you don’t neglect the
‘smaller’ or ‘lower priority’ plans or jobs, they’re just as important as anything
Juggling freelance jobs and part time work
Creative, freelance jobs are really
useful and beneficial. Especially working for something outside of your realm
or for using your skills for a different purpose. It’s effectively research to
broaden your skill levels and ideas.
Work for companies that may be able to help you in the future or
alongside your artistic career.
One of my current part time roles is in a
bottle shop/bar run for Waen Brewery. The salesmanship, client
interaction and product knowledge skills have developed greatly whilst in
this position, such skills are crucial when making business deals and sales
Running your own creative business isn’t a 9-5 job; it’s a lifestyle at all
hours. Choosing to be creative cannot be something that sits between
regimented hours, because every artist has creative spurts, thoughts, and
ideas at all times of day – trying to get these ideas out can become too
contrived or forced if you work 9-5 hours. I personally see being an artist
as an obsession; it’s gotten to the point where I have to be constantly
It’s certainly quite easy and tempting to become overly ambitious too
early. This is where I tend to make lists of all the things that I need to
complete and all of the ideas that I would like to make, perhaps that
aren’t feasible or logistically possible at the time. The list is then useful to
ensure you’re on track and that you haven’t forgotten the
adventurous/more risky ideas that may be useful for another project.
It’s important that you develop all of the skills that you have. No matter if
these skills are not necessarily relevant or constantly needed now, you never
know when the opportunity that requires your innovation.
I guess that there is a certain amount of ‘luck’ involved with being a
successful artist, however one defines the ‘success’ of an artist. Whether this is
money related, happy with life or prolific in the work you make.
To make a sustainable living as an artist, you have to be willing to take
compromises, many in fact. I hear people say that they want to have a ‘break’
from art or do something different. This is something that I don’t understand. For me it would be twice as hard to start creating again – it also is explains
the exact reason for making artwork in the first place. It’s not just a means to
make money; it’s a way of life. I certainly think that I’d be completely lost without the opportunity to walk into the studio and make something creative.
So to answer the questions ‘Am I an entrepreneur?’ and have I always
wanted to be self-employed? It’s not about wanting to be self-employed;
it’s more centred around the necessity & obsession to pursuing
creativity. For me being invested so deeply into the thing that I love means
that it naturally becomes entrepreneurial, especially as I have dedicated my
time and energy into creativity.
Running a creative business is always a huge worry, but equally the thing
that I love the most. Personally I don’t quite understand why anyone who has
invested time to study and research a creative degree wouldn’t
want to earn a living by doing the thing that they love.
I’ve spent a lot of time since leaving University living off minimal money, to
the point that I had to really think about new ways to source income to pay
the rent whilst still making & developing work. This certainly comes down to
time management, compromising and planning. i.e. where a business model
Broadening your contacts and exposure is key; certainly it’s something
that any student can begin doing from day one. i.e. developing an online
presence through a website, blog, artist platform (managed by another
company), making business cards, with your contact details, getting involved
with local or artist community projects, events and exhibitions that interest
you. The more involvements you have with things that interest you, the more
conversations you have, the more relationships within the art community you
I still think back to projects undertaken in Made in Roath, Modern Alchemists
and BIT Studios as a few examples of ongoing relationships and friendships
within the art community.
Leave your comfort zone
You totally have to be able to leave your comfort zone – both for commercial and
creative development. i.e. making a commission that you may not want to
do, test your skills and push yourself. It’s certain that mistakes happen along
the way, but this has always been the best way for you to learn.
Don’t be afraid, have self-belief
Certainly my number one tip. This
comes from experience of applying for commissions, exhibitions, and open
call projects. It’s certainly worth applying for things even if they seem ‘out of
your league’ or ‘that your work isn’t good enough’. Even if you’re faced with a
rejection letter, it’s effectively a market research tool as to the places or
communities that are interested in your work.
This for me is where generic business models differ in creative businesses,
particularly as you have to take risks to push the work out there and
challenge your creativity, as opposed to always taking a ‘safe’, risk-free option.
It may not mean that you specifically make a sale, but it could lead to a
future collaboration, audience or another show.
- It must be said that taking these risks must be weighed up and relative
against other valuable options.
A particular way of getting your work out there is to apply for graduate
shows – If you are serious about being an artist these are vital exhibitions for
people to discover you and take interest in your work. These platforms are
more available and beneficial in London, particularly as you learn a great
amount of business techniques and ways to connect or build relationships in
such a short amount of time. Depending on where the venue/ gallery is
situated, you’re exposed to such a large number of London/ international connections. I certainly see that having a number of connections to London is
quite important, particularly as there is always something fresh and new
happening and it’s certainly a city in keeping with contemporary art
You must be patient and realise that any recognition or investment takes
time. As with any innovative idea or business you have to be self-motivated
and willing to put in as much hard work as it takes to get some kind of
recognition or outcome that you aim to achieve. You definitely have to stick it
out too; it’s easy to begin something, lose interest and not complete it.
Things might not come as easily and quickly as you anticipate.
Business Planning from an Artist's perspective.
Are plans useful?
Plans are useful. Though they certainly have to be loose and
Business planning could consist of monthly goals in terms of sales, where you are planning on applying for shows or exhibitions etc.
My planning consists of keeping regular contact with gallery
representations as much as possible to see what is happening elsewhere.
Planning in terms of what comes next is the key. i.e. figuring out the
methods of approaching your next project so that it is lined up ready for
when the current project is completed.
- Generally aim to keep loose plans of each month allowing flexibility for
juggling part time jobs, meetings etc.
Social media posts for an upcoming exhibition or a product/
painting that you’re about to release can be really effective. This has to be done at certain/set
intervals. It’s beneficial to get an audience as the product develops, it can
create a hype, excitement etc. Some people are seemingly more
interested and invested in something that they’ve witnessed being
developed from day one.
This is particularly relevant as I’m currently working on my first ever
catalogue/book publication with a colleague at Cardiff Met.
Planning when to release products can be difficult especially if the
development is process-based.