Nobody Wants To Support You During A Recession (ECA)
That doesn't mean you're stuck. Keep your career moving forward, even when the economy doesn't follow.
Collectively, many of us are in the same boat right now: waking up weary of what the news might bring inside its broken nets today. Recession and oppression before your morning coffee. Layoffs, gas prices, unaffordable housing: just when things can’t get worse, they do. How are you to focus on anything else?
When in survival mode there is no space in your mind or your wallet to keep your passions moving forward. You’re not Basquait - the market is down and washed out. Furtherance is a luxury. And while this half-empty glass might appear to be all you have during a drought, there’s rainfall a few miles over. You can nourish your passions now, and monetize them even, but it’s going to take a new strategy - because nobody wants to support you during a recession.
When The Money Just Isn’t Flowing
According to Grantmakers in the Arts Association - all types of art are not recession-proof. And unless you’re an established artist inside a borough, you’re probably not attracting investors that can cover your sales until buyers, readers, listeners, and consumers are back at your door. That means artists are worried. Let’s take a look at the numbers according to GIArts.org:
'The most commonly experienced negative change (among artists) is a decrease in sales of work (48%) or a need to lower fees/rates charged for work. (44%), both of which suggest the arts are experiencing the contraction in consumer spending as much as many other industries. Grant-making has been affected in a number of ways, with more than a third of artists reporting a decrease in the monetary amount of grants (37%), the number of awards granted (36%), and the number of grant opportunities available (35%). Those organizations and venues that often serve to link artists up with audiences have also been affected by the recession, and this is having an impact on artists in turn. More than a third of artists report that compared with last year they have fewer bookings scheduled (38%) and fewer opportunities to exhibit/perform/present their work (35%). Artists’ chief worry is loss of income (77%) followed fewer sales (70% worried or very worried), difficulty finding funding for future projects (67%), rising amounts of debt (61%), fewer exhibition / presentation opportunities, fewer grants (59%) and low morale for themselves and others they know (59%).
No doubt about it, these numbers are not the happiest. And if you’re reading this, you’re probably among them. I’m not here to tell you that it’s fine. Because with the normal way of doing things, it isn’t fine. Yet, there is a strategy that can yield your career journey as an artist away from some doom inside these statistics. Whether you’re a visual artist, musician, writer, or passionate knitter - let’s talk about reorganizing your methods to the current state of the environment.
First Thing First: Should I Lower The Price Of My Talent In A Recession?
Let’s clear the air with the obvious question that’s been pounding through your beautiful little artist head for the past few months. My personal belief is no - you should not lower the price for your talent. You should be paid what your art is worth for the work you put into it. Whether it’s a role you’ve been cast, a book you’ve written, or a photo session you’ve booked - you should charge for what you are worth in a steady market. If you need to focus your end-user efforts elsewhere while you wait for more full-price buyers to come around, that is another story. However, if you are having to lower your prices for a consumer to buy your talent at all, take that as a reflection of the market. Adjust your market strategy. Not your price. Know your worth and do not accept less just because the stock market is underperforming.
In A Recession, Flow Comes From a ‘B’ not a ‘C’
You’ve heard of the term B2C and a lot of your art probably falls into this realm. You being the business - your sales come from the consumers. But in a recession, we must change our sales strategy to B2B (meaning business to business). Why must we do this? Because we’re wanting to align our talents with business models that thrive on art-fueled practices. This does not mean we have to design art for a corporate conglomerate or write for the local paper. It means we have to go where we are needed by a business so that their own cash flow can stay afloat. Instead of being the first letter in the B2C equation, we now move to the second letter in B2B.
B2B can mean several, several things in the artist world. We can move our talents toward a company, freelance work, contests, magazines, and more. We focus on these opportunities because we want to target our talent toward businesses that need our skills to keep their own businesses moving. (See behind the paywall for my industry-specific list of resources and contacts that you can reach out to today) For writers, this looks like reader-funded businesses. For visual artists, this looks like buyer-funded businesses. For musicians, this can mean listener-funded or performance-funded businesses. Typically, you either need to sign a contract, submit a single-use piece, attract a client, or enter a contest.
PROS: You get to make money pursuing your art form, flex to new creative projects, and grow your reach through the hand of another business.
CONS: Yes, this takes away from an element of your artistic process. When you’re working B2B - you must understand that you must compromise an element of creative control. There is usually a topic, prompt, or guideline a business wants you to follow.
Only for my ECA-Users, I will list out contests, contacts, and magazines to connect with at the bottom of this article. However, let’s talk about contract work specifically. The first step to getting contract work is creating your artist resume geared toward your skillset. Next, we want to decide what type of services fit your artist wheelhouse.
Magazine Features By Industry
At article end
Open Contests By Industry
At article end
Paid Business Opportunities by Industry
At article end
Contract-Work B2B Example Titles
Installation and exhibit designer
Mixing and Mastering
Remote fashion model
Hosting Your B2B Contract Work:
What To Do With Your ‘C’ In The Meantime
It’s important we don’t put our ‘C’ (end consumer) completely on the back burner while we focus our monetary efforts on B2B in order to keep things moving during this recession. Those are still our clients at the end of the day and probably the ones we care most about because they love/support us when we have total creative control. We must continue to nourish these relationships, even when we’re not expecting a flush of sales at the moment. Here are a few ideas on how to do that:
Start an Email List
People want to support you in whatever way they can, even if that isn’t financial at the moment. Give your supporters a way to keep in direct contact with you, flush out news to them about your new projects, and open a new line of communication. When the economy exits recession, this email list will be even more valuable. Being able to reach your contacts on demand (rather than waiting for them on Social Media) is an underrated and powerful tool
Distribute Some Work To Digital Products
This is easier for certain types of artists rather than others. The idea is that translating your work into a more affordable design can allow people to support you without breaking the bank. For example, if you’re a digital artist - try uploading some scanned prints to Etsy at 5% of what the original costs. Authors can digitally format work to be downloadable or subscription-based at much lower costs than asking buyers to purchase three of their inflated hardcovers. Pottery creators can sell pottery plans on a downloadable site. Photographers can license their photos to become stock images online. Actors can create how-to guides and so forth. NFTS, digital products, streams: it’s an endless buffet of options. I understand this can sometimes take away from the point of the overall art itself, but it does provide a low barrier buy-in point for more people to enjoy what you are creating and you only have to do the work once. It’s pull-the-lever from there. Cost is heavy these days and people are just sick of paying premiums for anything right now. Unfortunately, your artwork is probably not the exception. If you need to widen the monetization net or just connect with your audience more during this recession - going digital isn’t the worst option when leaving a B2C door open.
Share with Them the B2B Work You Are Doing
Allow your supporters to enjoy (if allowed by other party) the work you are doing on the B2B side of things. Share your magazine features and contest pieces. Ask for their support through action-based items like clicking a like button or asking for a vote. When the people who care about the work you do can’t support you financially there’s a great chance they’ll go out of their way to support you with their time and action. Even if they don’t, it’s good practice to keep your audience plugged into the wide range of your work. This keeps your numbers continually growing.
Don’t Quit The Larger Projects You’ve Already Started
Never stop creating for your ideal end user. Even if you’re changing your approach for the short-run in the recession to B2B, don’t stop making things for the C’s. Maybe you won’t release them or get to air them out for a more extended period of time, but it’s not worth it to lose sight of who really matters in your most pure artist relationship.
Continue Using Social Media To Showcase What You’re Creating
I, as the social media loathing queen, support this message. Social media is an invaluable tool for artists. We can keep growing and connecting with our communities by putting our art on display in the digital marketplace - even when fewer and fewer people are purchasing from there. We’ve got to make the effort to stay in touch.
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Resources For Artists During a Recession:
This section will be for my paid ECA-subs to showcase career and pre-existing opportunities/contests/freelance/magazine work based on the industry or talent you might have. Included categories are as follows:
Visual Art/Photography Opportunities
Open Residencies (17)
Work-Needed Postings (8)
Magazine Features and Contacts (7)
One email connection for free artist showcases (400k social media reach)
Open Residencies (11)
Writer Contests (10)
Magazine Features and Contacts (8)
Musician and Sound
Work Needed Job Postings (5)
Residencies: Dance, Entrepreneurial, Film, & Ceramics
Magazine Features and Contacts (2)
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