4.5 Theory on Business Development and Portfolio
New technologies and digital communication have completely changed the way cultural works are created, produced and distributed, have provided innovative tools for accessing culture and personal reinterpretation, and globalisation has enabled artists and creators to reach an unprecedented number of audiences. Developing artistic and creative skills and fostering talents i.e. stimulating innovation, sustainable growth and social inclusion, is at the heart of the cultural and creative sector. But it is not easy to develop your artistic or creative career. And success is not just about talent or luck: it is all about hours of work, daily self-motivation, continuous development of skills; this is a combination of a free and creative mind with entrepreneurial spirit. This is thinking about strategy (including the marketing strategy); it is often administrative work, discipline and huge amounts of necessary energy (and often sleepless nights). It is planning and coordinating your artistic activities and working with others. Artists and creators are mostly individualists; hence, every creative business is different, and it is impossible to develop and then copy a ready-made business model.
Developing artistic/creative career: building the portfolio
Developing your creative or artistic portfolio, remember, apart from marketing issues (for more information, go to 🡪 Effective Marketing Strategies: International Marketing), about a few other, extremely important components:
- developing your own recognisable style and technique;
- developing your creativity;
- setting (short and long term) your goals;
- developing your work planning skills.
Developing your own recognisable style and technique
Every artist and creator strive for recognisability. The distinctive style makes it possible to recognise an artist virtually without checking their name in the signatures. This style can rely on different issues, e.g. technical or artistic ones, theme selection or a combination of these factors. In order to develop it, it usually takes years of work, patience, perseverance and experimentation. The technique of an artist or a creator and their constant improvement is also extremely important: every subsequent commission or project will be easier and faster to do if you can rely on your skills: you know what thickness of line or what colours or play on words will work and what will sell best. A good technique optimises your work (although you should never forget about experimenting!). In addition, it is good to look at the results or creative process of others, but also to constantly analyse your work: to develop your portfolio, but also to change the works in the presentation part.
Developing your creativity
Nobody knows how creativity arises. But we do know that creative ideas come from long-term memory which is the result of all life experiences, sensations, images, sounds and words. That is why it is so important to constantly provide inspiration for your long-term memory, but also to rest because then the brain works most efficiently creating new nerve connections. It is not only stimulating the artistic part of your soul, but also working on the entrepreneurial part: it is changes, testing, new approaches, business plans. An extremely inspiring report about where artists and creators from 143 countries derive their creative ideas from was compiled by wetransfer; the IDEAS REPORT 2018 is available here 🡪 https://wepresent.wetransfer.com/story/ideas-report-2018/#/ . In particular, you should mention your inspirations in an stimulating way in the artist statement.
Setting your goals
The necessity and role of defining (and redefining) goals in building your artistic or creative portfolio is already mentioned in 🡪 Building the Portfolio at the International Level. Setting your goals, you should remember that they:
- are clearly defined;
- refer to specific actions;
- were concisely formulated; and
- are realistic.
Working on your personal goals, you should also remember to always formulate them in a positive way, so that they are dependent on you and not on the actions of other people or factors over which you have no influence, and also set over time. It is also good if you divide them into stages: it facilitates their achievement.
You can divide your goals into current (operational), short-term (tactical) and long-term (strategic) goals. This classification also allows reasonable categorisation of tasks, taking into account your priorities and the time for their achievement. Working on a portfolio and choosing specific information or work should reflect these goals, so it is worthwhile to spend some time defining them.
Developing your work planning skills
The labour market for artists is different from the traditional labour market. On the one hand, it is distinguished by the importance attributed to the individual features of the artist (talent) in shaping the way of life, demand for work or remuneration. On the other hand, it should be remembered that this talent is not subject to a precise economic assessment, so it is not possible to apply modelled, standard functions of work assessment or determination of earnings. Additionally, the features that distinguish the labour market for artists and creators include short-term contract work and paying for effects (work) and not for the time worked. This is why the ability to plan and manage your work is so important, especially as it is usually project-based work. According to the definition in A Practical Guide to Project Management: How to Make it Work in Your Organisation (C.Burton, N.Michael, Astrum, Wrocław 1999), project management is, ‘the process by which a project manager plans, steers and manages tasks within a project, and has at his disposal the resources made available by an organisation to carry out the project (…). Project management is the skilful use of available techniques to achieve the results you require, within budget and on time’. Yet, in the world of artists, freelancers and self-employed people conducting creative activity, this manager is you. Therefore, when you plan your work, you should remember about a number of elements, the most important of which are:
- setting your goals diligently; defining project parameters;
- a plan, schedule and budget developed professionally;
- available funds and other necessary resources;
- good communication with project stakeholders/clients; and
- the ability to manage change and unexpected situations (risk management).
The criteria for effective and flexible project management in the cultural and creative sector depend on many factors, including the specific nature of the project, the form of organisation, etc. This results in the fact that the same criteria cannot be applied to different projects and different creative sectors; there is no single pattern or a model that can always be used and in every case. But this is why good planning of your work is so important; it increases efficiency and allows you to optimise the forces, resources and time spent on tasks.
As in the context of setting long-term and short-term goals, in the process of organising your work, the most important thing is to set goals or rather to rationally plan tasks to be performed over time.
It is worth making a list of tasks necessary to be performed and then to prioritise and structure them (e.g. in accordance with the Eisenhower Matrix -> look at BUSINESS MANAGEMENT).
The definition of priorities might be easier using the ABC method which draws on the 80/20 rule formulated by Vilfred Pareto (80% of the results are achieved in 20% of the time allocated to the task). Having made the list of tasks, assign every activity to the appropriate category in terms of its importance:
- Category A: the most important tasks are 15% of all duties but allowing 65% efficiency;
- Category B : important tasks which constitute 20% of all tasks and allow 20% of the results; and
- Category C : minor tasks that are usually the majority of all your duties (65%), the fulfilment of which brings you closer to the target in only 15%.
First, of course, you should perform Category A tasks, then Category B tasks and finally Category C tasks.
Inspiring is David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) method which involves collecting tasks (e.g. writing down all duties and ideas) and managing them: analysing (e.g. the most recent issues first, one issue at a time, not postponing them), organising (task hierarchy), reviewing (regular monitoring of tasks to be completed) and performing (performing planned and unplanned tasks and planning work).
Another interesting and useful technique in performing planned tasks is the Pomodoro technique developed by Francesco Cirillo. It also starts with a list of tasks to be completed and arranged according to their importance. With such a plan, you should set a clock, an alarm clock or other timer for 25 minutes (this is one “pomodoro”) and during that time work intensively, without interruption, and then take a 5-minute break, and so on. After you complete one task, start another one.
Another technique of planning your work, the most comprehensive one (although drawing on the previous ones) is the ALPEN method:
write down the tasks and then group them according to their priority and interrelations (you can use the GTD method)
L (Länge schätzen)
this is a term for performance of tasks; you have to estimate how much time each task will take and then add up the result (you can use the Pomodoro technique)
P (Pufferzeiten einplanen)
it is planning 60% of the available time (e.g. using the Pareto principle (80/20)) and leaving 40% of the available time for unforeseen matters
E (Entscheidungen treffen)
that is, assigning priorities to tasks (e.g. using the Eisenhower Matrix) and delegation of some activities
the last stage of the process, i.e. the control of performance of the tasks according to the plan you prepared
Finally, a few inspirations for developing your creative business or artistic career, and thus building your portfolio:
- learn to say ‘no’ (you really do not have to grasp all the opportunities, artistic proposals or commissions);
- learn how to delegate work, how to network and how to liaise;
- learn how to build relationships with clients and your audience: people are most important because they are the target of your work; and
- in your work, rely on intuition, in that business part of you, and on objective premises, not subjective feelings.