In this issue ~~
* The Business of Art
* Getting Professional Help
* Creative Tip
* Wise Words
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.
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.
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.
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of a conflict, registering your unpublished work with the copyright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
Go to lcweb.loc.gov/copyright/
for forms and information.
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.
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
~ 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
(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
in Finding a Mentor & Becoming One . . . Bobb Biehl
© 1999 Sharon Good. All rights reserved.
and tapes listed in the Bookshelf section of each newsletter
can be ordered from Amazon.com. To go to a specific book's page
on the Amazon site, click on the book or tape icon next to each
Click on the graphic left for a message from Amazon's president.