Thoughts on Risk and Reward
The following article was written by Debra Keirce, a regular contributing author to The BoldBrush Letter.
I am always doing cost and benefit analyses - I think we all are, whether we call it that or not. It’s a leftover from my last century career in corporate America. We walk away from each art event thinking about what we could have done better to minimize risks and costs, and maximize outcomes. I spend lots of time at the end of each year reflecting on what worked and what didn't.
So why don’t we have it figured out already, after a lifetime of analysis? I wonder that every day! Still, I am always surprised by how much I continue to learn with each review. I thought to share a summary of the learning points I refer back to most. If you can add to this list, I’d love to hear your ideas too.
Failure is a great teacher, and is often worth the cost.
A sell out in one show doesn’t guarantee success at my next one. In my circles, the artist who never had a failure or rejection doesn’t exist. In fact, the most accomplished seem to have the most failures. Those at the top learn from their mistakes, so they make fewer in the future.
I am always prepared for the worst scenario.
I’m sure there are faster ways to the top, but I go for the brass rings with lots of value that feel like they are just within reach. I’m not just sticking to what is least risky. But, I make sure my time, energy and bankroll are big enough for the risks I am taking. I only participate if I can afford to lose.
I try to keep a beginner mindset.
Teaching is a great way for me to stay connected to the basics. Teaching allows me to better approach my work and art experiences as if I were new to the art world. As a beginner, I can more clearly see the risks and I can imagine even bigger rewards.
Collaborating minimizes risks.
To tip the scales in my favor, I work with others to promote my high risk endeavors. Here are some examples of how I have done just that.
I don't have a very large advertising budget. I run ads with a few other artists, or with a society I am part of. Not only does this save money, but then I have other people helping to promote the ad, and their collectors will see my name and work as well.
A few times now, I have formed small groups of a dozen or less and we took turns each month, sharing the posts, stories and reels from each other on social media. This increases the views on my posts, with little effort. Having said that, I personally despise the time I spend on social media. It’s my least favorite marketing tool to use. But dang it - It works, so I feel like I have to do it. Anytime I can partner up to share the burden of time spent on socials, I’m in.
Also, trading promotions works with other tools too. Whether it’s a podcast, newsletter, live video, etc., I will do a trade with artists where I interview them and share via my media, and they do the same for me.
Share the good and the bad.
Whatever risky things I do, even if the story ends with a resounding mwah mwah mwah, I share the journey with my audience. I take lots of pictures and videos and share as much as I can. Just as I do for those I follow, my followers want to cheer me on and they become vested in the outcome with me. Letting them see the lows as well as the highs - it shows I'm as human and easy to relate to as they come.
In conclusion, this sounds a bit depressing. Fail, expect the worst, approach everything like your are just starting out, work with others so losing doesn’t hurt so much, share the bad so people will root for you to do better. OR, the “glass half full folks” (I try to be one of those) would read it this way:
If you aren’t failing at first, you’re not dreaming big enough.
Managing resources is a valuable learned skill.
Beginners are by definition not quitters yet, so they are always getting better.
Collaboration and networking are a blessing when you do them with likeminded people.
Our stories are as varied as we are. The world would be boring if they all had happy endings.
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