Dianne de Las Casas' The Story Biz Blog
The Economic Crunch: Surviving & Thriving as an Artist
November 10, 2008
Everywhere I turn, artists are talking about the downturn in the economy; the slashing of arts budgets; the sparse booking calendars... Yes, the state of the United States and the world economy is troubled. People everywhere are tightening their purse strings and cutting out "frills." Many people feel that the arts are a "frill."
So how do you survive and even (dare I say it?) thrive in today's financial atmosphere? Yes, it is a challenge to be an artist entrepreneur right now but you can do some things to strengthen your career and keep your booking calendar healthy. Here are some ways:
1. Explore new markets. As of late, I have been doing a great number of professional development seminars. A few years ago, my income was solely performance-based. Now, I have found a whole new market for my work, instructing professionals in the education and library fields. How can you expand your market? Can you offer workshops? Record CDs? Publish books? Perform artist residencies in the schools? Think of all the ways you can open a new market for your work.
2. In-School Field Trips. If you do school visits, consider this spin. Many schools are tightening their budgets and offering less field trips for their students. As an "in-school" field trip, you come to the school as a self-contained entertainer - no permission slips, no buses, no chaperones... Bill yourself as offering "in-school field trips." Be sure to list the benefits.
3. Network. Attend events and exchange business cards like crazy. I recently attended 2 events I didn't feel like going to but I made no excuses and went anyway. The first was an awards ceremony. I became re-acquainted with two very lucrative contacts, who will book me for dates next year. The second event was at my husband's workplace. I met a woman who wrote economic stimulus grants and said she had tons of money to spend. She wanted to talk to me about how I could help - how she could hire me!
4. Book in advance. Create a sense of urgency with your clients. Let them know that your booking calendar fills up quickly and that if they are interested in having you, they need to book you as soon as possible. Booking well in advance also gives you "job security." You know where your next gigs are coming from.
5. Join your local arts council. The arts council is a great source of funding information and trends in the arts. They have access to information about the arts nationwide. Join their email list and keep informed. Attend their workshops. Become a part of a committee. You will make valuable contacts. The reason my clients are constantly funded when they feature me in their arts grants is because the people at the arts council and on the arts grant panels know who I am and they know of my work.
6. Market, market, market! Don't let up on your marketing efforts. Keep spreading the word about you and your work. Keep your website updated and fresh. Create new marketing materials. Sometimes you have to spend a little money to make a lot of money. Send out postcards or brochures. Send out an email newsletter.
7. Explore social media. Join relevant social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Through the many social media sites that I belong to, I have made valuable contacts and keep my face and my work out there for people to see. Through Twitter, my website is constantly updated with live news feeds from me.
8. Stand tall and do not lower your fees. Give value to your work and your profession by sticking to the professional fees you have set. The economic crunch is temporary. Your value as an artist is permanent.
9. Follow-up. If someone contacts you about a possible gig, follow-up immediately. If they say they will get back to you, get back to them first. Be persistent but professional. Offer them something that makes you extraordinary (for me, that is my professionalism and being able to get potential clients any information they need immediately. Need a list of workshops, handouts, fee schedule, a bio, a write-up of my offerings? All of that can be emailed immediately). If someone hired you before, contact them and let them know that you are available for bookings.
10. Exude excellence. When you offer a service or a product that is excellent, you will be asked to return. Strive for excellence in all you do - from the desk to the stage. That is how you achieve Story Biz Success.
Best wishes for Story Biz Success!
Dianne de Las Casas
Founder of Professional Storyteller
Author of The Story Biz Handbook: How to Manage Your Storytelling Career from the Desk to the Stage
(Libraries Unlimited 2008)