Sep
08

Small Business Expert Takes Notice of Artist as Entrepreneur

This article appeared on The American Express Open Blog Forum on August 20, 2008. It is written by Steve King who is a member of The Small Business Trends Experts Network. He is also a partner at Emergent Research, a research affiliate at the Institute for the Future, and senior fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. He is a co-author of the Intuit Future of Small Business report series, which is a three-part study that examines significant trends affecting small business over the next decade. Steve also blogs at Small Biz Labs. Thank you Barry Moltz for passing this along!
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From jazz musicians to painters, a growing number of artists are choosing to become entrepreneurs. Artists do this so they can pursue their artistic passion and pay the bills. And while making a living as an artist continues to be difficult, 3 broad trends are combining to create new opportunities for artist entrepreneurs:

1. Consumer interest in unique, one-of-a-kind or handcrafted products is growing, broadening the market for works of art.

2. The Internet is creating new and effective methods for tech savvy artists to find an audience – and for art buyers to easily find art that interests them.

3. Technology is reducing the costs of producing many types of art, allowing artists to price at levels that attract new buyers and expand the art market. Technology also gives artist entrepreneurs the ability to create and manage small businesses with multiple revenue streams. This greatly increases the likelihood they will generate enough revenue to succeed.

Collage artist and illustrator Claudine Hellmuth is a good example.

She creates unique and customized collage art which she sells on her own website and on her Etsy online store. Because high quality printing costs have declined, she can profitably sell her customized prints for less $200. An avid user of social media, she communicates with her audience via her blog, podcasts and Twitter.

Like many entrepreneurial artists, Hellmuth has multiple revenue streams. In addition to her collage art she gives workshops, has written two books, sells DVDs on collage making and has a line of greeting cards. Digital tools allow her to easily re-purpose content for different uses and office automation tools help her manage her complex personal business.

Even artists without business skills or interests are able to take advantage of these trends. The online art gallery 20X200 is one of a growing number of online art middlemen who connect artists with buyers. Gallery 20X200 introduces two new art pieces each week, with each piece limited to 200 prints. The smallest prints sell for $20. Artists effectively outsource their sales and marketing to Gallery 20X200, which uses low prices and the reach of the Internet to get their artists exposure and tap new buyers.

The result of these trends is a growing number of self-employed artists and creative professionals. Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items, claims that over 200,000 artists and crafts people make a living selling on their site.

According to the Brooklyn Economic Development Corporation, there are over 22,000 self-employed creative professionals in Brooklyn alone. Their numbers increased by over 35% between 2000 and 2005.

We expect the trends driving the growth of artist entrepreneurs to continue to gain strength over the next decade, resulting in many more entrepreneurial artists. While many artists resist the call of entrepreneurship, others are embracing it. According to Yury Gitman, an artist entrepreneur and the creator of My Beating Heart, it’s not about money alone. It’s about being able to pursue his passion, distribute his work to a broader audience and provide for his family.

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