Eight years ago I was going through a particularly tumultuous time. Call it an early midlife crisis. During those confusing years, my best friend would say to me, “Lisa! What do you want?” While this seemed like a fairly straightforward and easy question to answer, I can assure you it was not. The possibilities seemed endless. There were a lot of options! What the hell did I want? It took me a year and half to refine the answer but once I did, the path forward was a lot clearer.
Entertaining the question brought with it all sorts of far out and crazy fantasies. On more then one occasion, I took out a blank piece of paper and brainstormed about “What I want!” I wrote down things and drew sketches regardless of how outlandish or simplistic they might have seemed. I want a lot of money. I wrote it down on the paper. I want to travel the world and become an international spy. I wrote it down on the paper. I want freedom to pursue my goals. I wrote it down on the paper.
Over time I was able to refine these goals. I’m not going to have a million dollars (I don’t think) but I can take steps to ensure my financial security. I’m not going to travel the world, (or become a spy) but I can plan for Prague in 2010. If I want the freedom to pursue my goals, I have to first define my goals, make them a priority and then go after them with a vengeance.
Our economy is in crisis and times are scary. But crisis is also an opportunity for change and growth. This is exactly the time to ask yourself as a business owner “What do I want?” And I’ll go a step further and add, “How do I get it?”
Think outside the box: What do you, in your heart of hearts, want from your art, or design, clients, collectors and from your business. Be brave and go crazy with this. Think the unthinkable. What do you want from your business? Where do you want it to go? How do you want to grow? Who do you want to align yourself with? If you want to sell art in London…figure out a way to do that. Even if you are just taking baby steps, move toward that goal. If you want to design for a company in Helsinki, make a plan. I guarantee you this… if you take some initiatives now, even small ones; you will be much closer to your goal in 6 months then you are today. These are not tradition times and survival depends are creative thinking and you are going to have to take action!
Get Back to Basics: Think about your strengths and your weaknesses. Which practices are making you money and which are not? You might have to actually redefine what you are doing. What are the necessities and what are the niceties? When asking yourself what you want, it is also important to ask what you don’t want. Isolate your true niche, and then draw and expand upon it.
Cut costs: This is obvious, of course. Sacrifices are going to have to be made. This means no more lunches out. Reusing papers and supplies. Yup, just like the old days when starving artists drew on cardboard and napkins. Who knows this may inspire you to work with found objects in a whole new way. Save money not just because of a bad economy, but because you have a bigger plan for the future.
Get new clients, projects and meet new people: Just because times are bad doesn’t mean you can forego marketing and outreach. You just need to re-examine the most cost effective way to do this. This might mean using email campaigns for outreach instead of direct mail 5x7 postcards. Later this week, I will be posting an article about the advantages of Internet marketing and e-commerce and how it is an essential tool in a tanking economy.
Stay Active: If things are slow keep your hands in the pie, even if the projects are pro bono or generated by yourself. Keep your mind active rather than dwelling on doom and gloom and freaking out. These types of pro bono or self directed projects also allow you freedom to explore your creative longings and perhaps even achieve a break-through in your creative work. When I first found myself in the position of being a single mom, I sat around for 8 days saying “omg omg omg omg” and eating cookies. That did absolutely nothing for me. But then I started to create a website for single women and moms called “Fresh Start You.” Sadly the site went by the wayside, but that was because my client load picked up and I started getting honest to god higher paying jobs. Get out of your office or studio and go to a gallery opening or a museum. Search the Internet for opportunities. Call old contacts on the phone and inquire how they are doing. Activity brings activity.
Realize we are in this together: The economy sucks and people are scared. Rather than fighting or alienating one another we have to help one another. Together we can do better then we can alone.