The Three Jaguars: Many Roles

Our first step in embarking on any business endeavor as an artist is to realize that there’s more than one role involved in making a business work. The moment you hand over something in return for money, you’re no longer just the Artist… now your concerns have expanded to include how to handle money, how to get your art into people’s hands, and how to arrange things so both those things happen more often.

By my way of thinking, there are three basic roles: Business Manager, Marketer and Artist. Artist covers any artistic endeavor: writing, craft-making, singing… whatever you’re trying to make money on. Veterans of larger companies will note that I’ve folded Sales into Marketing, which is a personal bias. Don’t worry, Marketer’s pretty energetic, she can handle it.

Without further ado, then, the Three Jaguars!

Business Manager

Primary Workmode: Practical and Administrative
Your Business Manager self needs to channel an inner Virgo (if you have one): meticulous, data-focused and completist. This is the self that makes lists and does chores and says, “Uh, no” to things like “Can I buy a crazy-expensive thing that we can’t afford.” Since I don’t have an inner Virgo, I think of the Business Manager as my inner Parent; they both say ‘no’ a lot.


  • Accounting: The primary duty of the Business Manager is accounting: tracking expenses and revenue and calculating profit. That means every time money comes in, you write it down, and every time money goes out, you write it down… and then you subtract the one from the other to see how you’re doing. The Business Manager is also in charge of maintaining lists of customers, tracking layaways or recurring purchases/income, and preparing taxes.
  • Personnel Management: Your Business Manager self is also charged with time-tracking: this means that you need to know how long everything you do takes, whether it’s marketing, creative work, or your business management tasks. That really does mean everything. Runs to the post office, inputting income, drawing a new picture, researching a new art supply, social-networking, composing blog posts; all of that is a cost of doing business, and you need to record it. The Marketer will need this data to help advise the Business Manager which tasks are more profitable than others.
  • Asset Management: The Business Manager also tracks (and depreciates) all your assets, manages inventory and replaces or re-orders necessary parts. This is the part of you that shows up to sort and label all your existing work, figures out if you need to buy a new computer or brushes, and purchases another year of your post office box when the rent comes due.
  • Process Management: All businesses have processes… and the Business Manager should always be on the look-out for ways to streamline yours. If you spend less time on processes, you have more time to do everything else. Things like deciding to run all your business errands on the same day so that you aren’t constantly interrupting your studio time to hit the post office fall under process management.
  • Administrative: This is the Self that goes out and mails out things, deposits checks, packages products for mailing, buys pens and papers and coffee.Facing: Vendor and Financial Institutions
    The Business Manager is the one buying things (with a jaundiced eye and a tight fist) and interacting with banks and financial institutions.

    Outsourcing Potential: Medium.
    You can get people do so some of the work of the Business Manager; it’s not too hard to get someone to label things and mail them for you. You can pay for someone to prepare your taxes. This can be moderately expensive, depending on where you are or whether you have access to artist organizations. The cons? A lot of Business Management requires close interaction with you on a day-to-day basis, or exchange of personal information. Getting other people to help you streamline your processes can be hit-or-miss if they don’t know your daily routine or your personal situation.


Primary Workmode: Creative and Social

Your Marketer self is the one that spends most of her time thinking about, interacting with, or guessing at what other people want. This can be a surprisingly creative process. The first questions she holds in her mind are: “How would I like to be treated as a customer? What kinds of things would I love to buy?” (Followed closely by “How do other people seem to like to be treated? What kinds of things do they seem to like to buy?”)… which means you spend a lot of time delighting yourself by figuring out what makes you happy and trying to do that for other people.


  •  Trend Analysis: Your inner Marketer is in charge of taking sales, revenue, and expense data and using it to figure out which of your tasks are the most profitable. For instance, the Marketer might notice that selling prints at a show takes roughly 20 hours and makes $800 before expenses and $600 afterwards… while selling a single original might take 8 hours, make $500 before expenses and $450 after; this would lead your Marketer to tell Business Manager and Artist at their next meeting: “Hey, stop going to shows and produce more originals.”
  • Customer Care: The Marketer is also in charge of dealing with customers. She’s the one who figures out how to attract them, the one who closes the sale (and decides how to manage the sale process to make the customer feel special), and the one who keeps in touch with them afterwards to see if they’re interested in new products. The Marketer’s also the one who deals with problems: yours (“Oops, I was late delivering something I promised: here’s my apology and a coupon or free cool thing!”) or theirs (“Ack, the post office broke your handmade bowl, let’s discuss what we can do about that”).
  • Product Management: Your Marketer is the one who develops new products and maintains existing ones. There’s more than one way to sell an artist’s labor; the art you make is not a product until the Marketer figures out how to sell it. You might choose to license it, sell commissioned work, package it as a book, sell it as prints, collaborate with someone else to create a different item… the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
  • Research and Advertising: When you sit down to update blogs, do social networking, respond to customer queries, enter contests, send work to juried shows, design fliers, or contact the local paper to offer an interview, it’s your Marketer who’s doing the work of advertising. She’s also the one charged with research to see what your peers are up to: how are they marketing themselves? What products are they offering, and can they be adapted to your work-style? What’s hot now?Facing:Customer
    The Marketer is the one dealing with patrons, audience, customers. You should always have your best face forward for them!

    Outsourcing Potential: Medium-to-High.
    Of all the roles you’ve got, Marketing and Advertising can respond the best to outsourcing (in my experience). You can hire people to run and create your website. You can buy books or read blogs that basically tell you what kind of products to sell or how to sell them. You can hire advertising firms, if you’re so minded. The problem? It’s very expensive. It also means your marketing is less customized to your product and work-style, which can become a problem.


Primary Workmode: Creative and Internal

Nose to the grindstone in your studio! Here’s the raison d’etre for the whole business.


  • Creation: Your number one job as an artist is to make stuff. That’s probably the reason we all signed up for this, after all. But this is ironclad: you really have to make things. You can’t sit in a studio and think about making things. You can’t say you’re going to make things and never get around to it. You can’t make things irregularly. If you’re doing this as full-time work, you should be doing it for most of the day.
  • Research: Your other job as an artist is research. Not just what other artists are doing, though that can be helpful. You should be researching your craft (has some new technology come out that’s made things easier or better? Is there a new technique you can learn somewhere?). You should be experimenting, both with the art itself and with the processes you use to create it. Your goal should be to develop as an artist, because there’s no holding steady. You’re either improving or stagnating. Entropy is law in this universe, and you are no less subject to it than anything else.
  • Practice: Related to research is practice: you should be improving your skills. This relates not just to technique, but how quickly you can turn your work around. Practice is also the only thing that will allow you to learn to estimate your time-per-project, an essential skill: this will allow you to set realistic deadlines and feed data to the Marketer about how much time it takes for you to create something.Facing: Internal
    Your creative self should be quieter than your other selves when interacting with people; by nature most people’s inner Artists are passionate and that passion can often clash badly with your need to be an empathic salesperson. A lot of artists also find that talking about their work gets in the way of doing it: they lose interest after discussing it, or they find themselves discussing it as a way to procrastinate.

    Outsourcing Potential: Low
    Only you can do the work!

In our next segment, we’ll discuss products! Stay tuned!


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