Saturday, May 07, 2011

The Business Chat - Guest Poster - Tackling the Hard Stuff

Catherine is sans-interwebs this week - so I said I would fill in.

Course - what I know about business you can put in a thimble and rattle. Well - no longer true, but I will say - 80% of what I learned about business and marketing, I learned from Catherine.

One of the more important things I learned was to shed the "but I'm an artist and artists don't need money" attitude. When you come to crafting-for-a-living from an art background, you might have a tendency to think in terms of "the purity of art" or it's timelessness or that trying to earn a living is a shallow, money-grubbing approach, and that you are better than that.

Well - you are better than that, but it has probably occurred to you by now - you need to eat. And live indoors. And - feed your cats and pay phone bills and wear clothes and other necessities of life. Nearly all of us have responsibilities to others that we need to fulfill - so if it helps - think of the ideal of the responsibilities outweighing the ideal of not being profitable.

Marketing, organizing, record-keeping, selling - you may see some or all of these as tremendous chores - truly loathsome tasks that you go out of your way to avoid - but they are an important and integral part of making a living - even making a living doing something you love.

You can tell that a task falls into this category when you find yourself doing almost anything else instead - such as cleaning the stove, emptying the cat-box and mowing the lawn instead of, say, going through your receipts for the year. (These are called "avoidance behaviours" by the way. Just realized you scrubbed the bathroom for no particular reason? What were you avoiding doing?) You'll probably find that these business chores fall into one of two categories - stuff you don't like doing, and stuff you are truly bad at doing.

For instance - taxes. You may find this a particularly heinous part of running a business. I know I do. You can divide it into two portions. The getting-organized-first section, and the actual doing-of section. Sorting through those receipts and adding up the numbers is no fun. Actually sitting down to fill out the forms makes your head hurt.

So perhaps it's time to divide and conquer. How about picking some nice self-indulgent reward for the stuff you hate, and delegate the stuff you are actually bad at to someone else. Your approach might be to pick a couple of movies you really want to see, sit down at the desk with your paper work - thinking about how much you are going to enjoy your mini-moviefest, plow through the paperwork, and then watch the movies. Then take the pile of sorted, organized and tidy paperwork to a tax prep person or accountant, and let them do the actual return. (Reminding yourself that if you just take them the shoe-boxes of receipts - it's going to cost waaaay more.)

Personally - I reward my self with a few hours of video games. I find some so all-absorbing that I come out of them hardly remembering that I was doing something I really didn't enjoy just before-hand. And studies have demonstrated that playing video games (i.e. Tetris) can reduce post-traumatic stress - so surely they can ease the stress of tackling a big pile of receipts?

But I should point out - this doesn't work if you give yourself the reward first, and never get around to doing the chores. ;-) But you knew that.


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