I can identify strongly with a story in the New York Times this week in which the city is paying for courses to help creative types learn to be more like bean counters. Intuitive and feeling visual artists and wild eyed, long haired musicians often need business managers, accountants, agencies and all manner of other “representatives” to handle their business affairs.
I started my career as a photographer working as an assistant to an advertising photographer – who had sales reps that showed his portfolio to ad agencies, bookkeepers to manage his money, a studio manager to run the business affairs of the photography studio and two of us acted as photography assistants to do whatever else he didn’t do himself.
These are typical of successful creative artists – especially the sales rep and business manager – who do the pieces that are difficult for the creative mind to grasp – numbers, planning, organizing and forecasting are not something that great visionary artists take to well.
I went on to work as a magazine photographer after assisting the well known photographer for a couple of years. I was a good fit for the staff photographer position and loved it for years before moving on to freelancing … and that is where I learned that it was important to keep the books, make the appointments, make the calls to advertising agency art directors, schedule the photo shoots, arrange travel, rent and purchase equipment for each location shoot, record my expenses and stay within budget.
It was quite an awakening – one that my single “Business Course” at the famous art school I attended didn’t prepare me for. I’m no longer taking photographs, but all of that was valuable to learn and serves me well today. I’ve taken on less creative (but no less challenging) and extremely interesting corporate positions where the ability to create spreadsheets, document and report on results is required – and I love it still.
When I said above that I could identify strongly with the Times article (see below) it’s because I know how important the bean counting is to business success – and it’s a challenge to those of us with a creative bent. We LOVE to think outside the box, we thrill to doing things in a new way, we love innovation and growth, we challenge authority and expand boundaries – and sometimes we must learn to separate our creative selves from the analytical selves by doing things like …
… attending a class paid for by the City of New York that is intended to help them turn their creative works into money.
???Does everyone have Excel?,??? Peter Cobb, a lawyer and administrator at the New York Foundation for the Arts, which runs the program, asked the class last Saturday. ???For next week, your assignment is to make a list of all your expenses for 2009.???
The sighs and complaints that followed were proof of the challenging task Mr. Cobb and his colleagues have taken on: trying to teach people who like to color outside the lines about drawing up business plans, budgeting and making a sales pitch.