Compost, Store, Share: Business Evaluation for Artists

As the year hurtles towards Winter Solstice, many small business owners are now tentatively making plans for 2017. In my Wild Creative calendar, the transition from Autumn to Winter is a time to reflect on everything you've harvested from your creative practice during the previous seasons, and to make a decision on what you want to take forward into a new year. It's time for some strategic business evaluation. If that sounds scary, don't worry, I have a simple way of evaluating that fits in with your Wild Creative Life and is less linear than traditional business evaluation techniques. There's very little point in planning for your future business without first evaluating what's worked and what hasn't, and more importantly, assessing whether your practice is still aligned with your North Star--your core business values. I call this the "Compost, Store, Share" exercise and it's a vital part of building your strong, sustainable, creative practice.

If you want to follow along with this exercise, grab a big piece of paper and a pencil and let's go!

1. Make a full inventory of your creative harvest.

It's impossible to evaluate your creative practice without making a full list of everything that has come out of your studio, and everything you've generated through your art. I take a really broad view of what constitutes a creative output, and if you sign up to receive my Wild eNotes, I'll send you a free pdf on how to assess your creative harvest. You'll be surprised when you see that you've created more than you first imagined!

2. Compost

This is often the easy one! The next step is to be absolutely honest about what didn't work, what you didn't enjoy, and what you never, ever want to do again! Throw these outputs onto the compost heap. Don't look back--enjoy the release of letting go of something that doesn't serve you or your practice. I like to think these ideas are regenerated and flow back out into the universe for someone else to pluck and grow! Who knows. 

Be ruthless with this. Things I'm throwing on the compost this year? Membership to groups that don't support my practice. Donating my best work to auctions that claim to give me exposure but don't (I'll sell the work and donate the money instead). Facebook groups that drain my time and energy.

3. Store

All good farmers store away part of their harvest for use in the leaner, colder seasons. All prudent gardeners harvest and store seeds to re-plant in Spring. I believe that we as artists and creatives should follow their lead in order to build a business that stays strong throughout the year. Here are a couple of suggestions of what to store:

  • Ideas that were hard to throw on the compost. There may have been some outputs from your practice that you thought might work if only they had been approached in a different way. Store these away to look at again next year and spend time over the Winter thinking about what is needed to support their growth.
  • Your "cash crop". We all have elements of our practice that come easy, are sold effortlessly and are loved by your audience. You may not find these as exciting as other work, but they're the bread and butter of your business--you definitely want to save these ideas and be ready to re-seed next spring.
  • New ideas that organically evolved from your work this year. The act of creation naturally generates new ideas, but we can't always allow those seedlings to grow otherwise we lose our focus. Jot down the best ideas that evolved from your recent work and save them to look at again next Spring.

4. Share

Once you've made a full list of your creative outputs, discarded what clearly didn't work, and stored away ideas for next year, then what you have left is your current harvest that's available to share with others--either by gifting, donating or selling. For example, I have some fun paintings that are not my usual style, so don't fit into my fine art practice, but they're not a disaster and don't deserve to be thrown on the compost. So what should I do with them? These are ideal pieces for me to donate for auction. I have lots of sample pieces that I've played with this year, especially small weavings, and these will make great gifts for my family and friends.

Once you've carried out this "Compost, Store, Share" exercise, then you can sit back and enjoy December! You've done a good thing for you, your creative practice and your business, so pat yourself on the back, have a nice cup of tea and feel good about where you are with your Wild Creative Life.

I've created a pretty six page pdf that you can print out to use when you list your creative inventory--it has tips and suggestions to help you. Sign up to join my creative circle and I'll send you a free copy. If you're already subscribed to my Wild eNotes, then you'll be receiving the link in my next Wild Note coming to you very, very soon!

I'd love to hear about what you're composting, storing and sharing. Leave a comment below, email me or pop over to my FB page--listening to your stories always inspires me to create greater work. 

Much love to you x