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Article first published as Book Review: Let Your Creativity Work for You: How to Turn Artwork into Opportunity by Heather Allen on Blogcritics.

January 28, 2015

Let Your Creativity Work for You:
How to Turn Artwork into Opportunity, The Self-Employed Artist’s Guide
Heather Allen
Aviva Publishing (2014)
ISBN: 9781940984629

New Book Will Be Artist’s Best Friend for Career and Life

Your Creativity Work for You: How to Turn Artwork into Opportunity, The Self-Employed Artist’s Guide by Heather AllenAnyone who thinks you cannot make a living as an artist had better think again because Heather Allen is not only here to prove that old myth wrong, but she is ready to share common sense about being an entrepreneur and how to make a career out of your passion.

As a self-employed author myself, I wish I had been able to read this book when I first set off to support myself through writing and related activities. Let Your Creativity Work for You is the perfect guide for anyone who wants to set up a business, who wants to make a living through his or her artwork, and who isn’t afraid of making money or being a success. It’s time for people to quit thinking that being an artist means having to starve in a garret. Great artists deserve to be appreciated and make a viable living, and the world deserves great art to make it a better place.

Early on, Heather addresses this issue through one of the many artists she interviews, Jason Hoelscher. She states, “They didn’t have professional development classes when Jason Hoelscher was an undergraduate. In fine arts studies courses, the notion of combining artistic skill development with career and income opportunities remains, as it has historically, off limits.” However, Jason reveals that artist solopreneurs can be successful by doing three things:

  1. You must be strategic in your approach.
  2. You must do your research.
  3. You must be in it for the long haul.

From this both inspirational and down to earth beginning, Heather walks readers through everything imaginable that a business person and artist needs to know. Chief among these is setting goals, and then making them achievable through five, two, and one year plans. She includes goal sheets and other activity spaces throughout the book for the reader to fill out and do exercises to motivate and make the advice in the book applicable.

From there, Heather gets into some of the real nitty-gritty of running a business, including tracking mileage for travel, taking credit card payments, and using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) program. But she never gets too caught up in details to overlook the bigger picture of being an artist who needs an income. She discusses how to balance producing your art with the details of running a business, how to create multiple sources of income, the importance of branding, how to use social media and websites to promote your art and business, and one of the most difficult of all subjects: how to set boundaries with clients, be direct about expectations with them, and even maintain a waiting list for your services.

Personally, I especially enjoyed the interviews Heather conducts with successful artists of various mediums, both in terms of their artistic processes and their approaches to running a business and maintaining a successful career. Through these various perspectives, readers learn just what it is to be an artist, what kinds of joys and pitfalls they can expect, and how to create a business that is full of values and principles as well as fun, nourishing their artistic souls without turning their artwork into drudgery to please clients. I especially appreciated the discussion of principles. Here are some principles she suggests artists may incorporate into their businesses:

  • I will treat others as I would like to be treated.
  • My collectors are my most valuable business partners.
  • If I say I’m going to do something, I can be counted on to follow through.
  • I will commit 100% to projects based on the joy and/or revenue they bring me.
  • I will donate artworks to organizations that support ____.
  • To honor the investment of my collectors, I will not donate or discount my work.
  • Once my pricing is set, it can only increase—never decrease.

Most importantly, Heather reminds artists to be true to themselves. As gallerist Michael Foley states in the book, artists need to ask themselves, “Does the work mean something to you? Are you passionate about it? It needs to be your personal meaning for you, as opposed to what you think will sell.”

Anyone who dreams of becoming an artist or is an artist already trying to make a living needs to read this book. I would love to see this book adopted as required reading material in all college art programs across the world, and probably also in music and creative writing and other artistic fields. It truly contains what people rarely are taught in school. Heather Allen has learned all this information through experience and through being a consultant to creative businesspeople for several years. I am sure countless artists like myself will be grateful to her for now sharing all of her invaluable information in these pages.

For more information about Heather Allen and Let Your Creativity Work for You, visit www.HeatherAllenOnline.com.

— Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D., and award-winning author of The Best Place and Arthur’s Legacy

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