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Issue 19

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In this issue ~~

* The Business of Art

* Getting Professional Help

* Creative Tip

* Wise Words

* Bookshelf

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The Business of Art

As much as we would like to devote our lives to our art and forget about the business aspects, there are times when, for our own benefit and protection, we need to deal with some legal issues and paperwork. While there are professionals to help us handle this, it serves us to at least know enough to spot the areas in which we may need such help. Some of those areas:

~ Setting Up A Business
If you're creating work to sell, you may need to establish a business from which to do your selling. There are several different forms within which to do business: sole proprietorship or "dba" (doing business as), partnership, and various types of corporations. Your lawyer and accountant can advise you on the best form for you. If your product or service might in some way cause harm to the purchaser and liability is an issue, you'll want to give some serious consideration to incorporation (and possibly liability insurance) as a means to protect your personal assets.

~ Insurance
As much as we hate to think about it, insurance can be important should disaster strike. You should have coverage for your finished work, tools, equipment and workspace. Life insurance can pay off business debts should something happen to you. And, as stated above, if your product might in any way be dangerous to someone -- pottery that could break and injure someone or health advice that could be misused -- check into liability insurance.

~ Taxes
Get yourself a good accountant, one who's familiar with the arts. As an artist, you may be entitled to all sorts of deductions, and an accountant could save you lots of money. Actors Equity offers free tax preparation to members.

~ Copyrights
Writers, musicians and artists will want to protect their work by copyrighting it. Technically, once your work is created, it is copyrighted, and you can lend additional protection by including "(c) 1999 Your Name" on each piece. But in the event of a conflict, registering your unpublished work with the copyright office will give you an edge. When a work is published, the publisher will register the copyright for you, in your name. Electronic rights are still being defined, so be especially careful in this arena.
Go to lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/ for forms and information.

~ Trademarks
If you have a distinct logo or trade name, you may want to protect it by registering it as a trademark, so that others cannot cash in on your hard-earned reputation. A lawyer can help you file the appropriate papers and check to see that your trademark is not already in use through a trademark search.

~ Unions
If you are a professional actor or musician, membership in one or more unions will eventually become mandatory. The unions set minimum standards and oversee contracts, removing that responsibility from the performers themselves, who can safely turn their attention to the work itself. They may also offer such benefits as health insurance, credit unions and training to enhance your skills (or change professions). In some cases, they may help you find work.

~ Professional Associations
While not a union per se, membership in professional associations can afford you all sorts of benefits, credibility, networking opportunities and support. They may help you negotiate contracts, provide legal support and offer group benefits, such as health insurance and travel or other business-related discounts. Some offer skill-enhancing and informational seminars.

~ Contracts
If your field is not covered by a union or professional association, you will need a lawyer or agent to review employment, booking or commission contracts to assure that you are being compensated fairly and not taken advantage of. It is easy for an unsuspecting artist to sign a contract that assigns ownership of their work to someone else. And if you are collaborating in your work (band members comprise a partnership, for example), you will want to consult a lawyer about a partnership agreement that spells out your rights and responsibilities.

~ Agents, Representatives ("Reps") and Arts Lawyers
These professionals can find you work (or at least set up auditions or meetings), negotiate contracts and deals, and basically protect your rights and interests so that you can focus your attention on your work.

There are several good books that cover these issues in depth; some of them are listed in the Bookshelf section below. To find appropriate professionals, consult trade publications and associations, the Bar Association and get recommendations from colleagues in your field.

While it may be tempting to handle these areas yourself to save money, it could cost you big in the long run. Law and finance are complicated, with many nuances and obscure details. So save your pennies and hire the appropriate professionals. You'll avoid many problems up front and be well prepared should any arise.

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Getting Professional Help

Over a number of years as a spiritual seeker and coach, it's become very clear to me that none of us is meant to go it alone. It's too hard. The stance of the "lone ranger" individualist has become glorified over past decades, and I believe many of us have suffered for it.

In days gone by, extended families provided community and a support system. As we've broken away from our families and asserted our right to do as we please with our lives, rather than pleasing the "tribe," we've also sacrificed the foundation of support that our ancestors had. While it feels good to have a clear path to follow our dreams, it can be a lonely struggle without allies.

But not to worry. Help and support is available. I've spoken before about creating community (Issue 3) ­- something I feel is of utmost importance for all of us. But sometimes we need to go beyond that and seek professional help of some sort. That help can come in several forms:

~ Personal coach
Since becoming a coach myself, I've come to see how beneficial a coach can be in helping you stay focused and resolve or heal issues that you couldn't on your own. Many of us are not in a place where we require therapy, but we're still human and tend to get mired in our own thought processes. A coach can help us clear our vision, gain perspective and see beyond our self-imposed limitations. And the encouragement and support can work wonders for those of us who suffer from self-doubt or insecurity.

~ Professional Coach/Teacher
Just as athletes continue to have a coach throughout their career, you may find it useful to continue working with a teacher in your field who can help you to hone your craft and provide feedback, encouragement and guidance. A teacher can, for example, help a singer use their voice in a way that promotes optimal health and avoids damage to the instrument, where they might otherwise push themselves too hard in their drive to succeed.

~ Mentor
It's not uncommon for someone accomplished in their field to take on a younger person as a protege. Conversely, if you're new in your field, you might seek out someone older and more experienced to guide you. Like a coach, a mentor can give you guidance, feedback and perspective on your work and your career. (In his book, Callings, Gregg Levoy talks of a man who called his mentor a "tor-mentor," because he was constantly needling him to do stretch beyond his current ability.)

~ Therapist or Counselor
While the artist has gained an image of being more neurotic than the average population, this is not true. In fact, facing up to the demands and challenges of an artistic career can help you build great inner strength and a confident, positive ego. However, if you've had a traumatic childhood or a recent crisis, or are depressed over a setback or continual discouragement in your career, therapy may be just the thing for you. You may be able to work through the issue(s) in time on your own, or with the assistance of one or more of the numerous self-help and personal growth workshops and books currently available, but a professional can help you "cut to the chase" and heal more quickly with their guidance and support.

Therapy can also help you clear blockages such as writer's block. In The Tomorrow Trap, Karen Peterson points out that procrastination is often not an issue of time management, but a fear that once we complete our work, we'll be shamed or humiliated for being inadequate, in much the same way we were as children. A therapist or counselor can help you find a realistic view of yourself and your work and free you to express your creativity.

So if you're feeling overwhelmed or discouraged trying to be a lone ranger and do it all yourself, take off your mask, get off your horse and head to the nearest appropriate professional.

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Creative Tip

If you have several stories, songs, recordings or pieces of artwork that you want to register for copyright, submit them as a compilation, listing the name of each piece as part of the title. That way, you can cover them for a single fee.

 

Wise Words

"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit."

~ e. e. cummings

"The worst thing in your life may contain seeds of the best. When you can see crisis as an opportunity, your life becomes not easier, but more satisfying."

~ Joe Kogel

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Bookshelf

(click on the book graphic to see a description at Amazon.com)

The Writer's Legal Companion: The Complete Handbook for the Working Writer . . . Brad Bunnin and Peter Beren

Mastering the Business of Writing: A Leading Literary Agent Reveals the Secrets of Success . . . Richard Curtis

The Business of Being an Artist . . . Daniel Grant

Legal Guide for the Visual Artist . . . Tad Crawford

This Business of Music . . . M. William Krasilovsky and Sidney Shemel

Music, Money, and Success: The Insider's Guide to the Music Industry . . . Jeffrey Brabec and Todd Brabec

All You Need to Know About the Music Business . . . Donald S. Passman

This Business of Artist Management . . . Xavier M. Frascogna, Jr. and H. Lee Hetherington

Mentoring: The Most Obvious Yet Overlooked Key to Achieving More in Life Than You Ever Dreamed Possible: A Success Guide for Mentors and Proteges . . . Floyd Wickman and Terri Sjodin

Mentoring: Confidence in Finding a Mentor & Becoming One . . . Bobb Biehl

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© 1999 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.

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