July 14, 2010

Learn to sell your art, so you don’t have to sell your soul


And I use “art” very loosely here when I mean the creative products of your head and your hands and the tools you use to extend the reach of both. Whether writers, filmmakers, musicians, webdesigners, potters, poets, dancers, landscapers, crafters, carpenters, architects, hatters; whatever the avenue for the creative imperative to realise itself, these endeavours are most often shunted aside to our secret life, our hobby. Because creatives don’t make money. Or not enough to make a steady living. They do it for the love. Or until they get a real job.Business Acumen for Artists at UCT Graduate School of Business

Or maybe that’s just a convenient hangover myth from the Industrial Age that we’ve continued to believe even as the world changes around us?

What if doing good business, a roaring trade no less, isn’t about aptitude or “something you’re just born with” but something learnable. A language. A game with a particular set of rules that we just need to be shown so we can get in and play along, rather than feeling unfairly relegated to sideline spectator?

This is the ongoing premise of a 4 year long wager that UCT’s Graduate School of Business Exec.Ed unit director Elaine Rumboll chose to bet on. She believed that artists with the right tools in their hands COULD excel in business. Business Acumen for Artists is about to launch into its 4th year because of that belief.

Learning the rules of the game

The first business school programme of its kind for artists, it’s always oversubscribed because it answers a very pressing need. More of us want to escape the confines of corporate soulsuck, but watched friends step out into the freedom of freelancing or creative entrepreneurship and fall down a chasm, eventually claw their way back to the numbing safety of a grey job, worse off than when they left. The unexpected truth of their fall, is that despite having worked for a big business, they may know nothing about running their own.

For artists ..and recently-escaped company execs too

This holds true not just for creatives. Many are they who come swaggering into a startup with their big swinging CVs and crashland their jetsized egos on the undulating ground of entrepreurship. Business in the buffered realms of a big company and running your own, share enough genetic markers on paper to be alike; but in the realworld, it’s like you and a sightless sea-urchin.

To my utter despair I’ve also watched as people of genius hand the business-end over to experts (read: recently escaped swaggering execs) so that they don’t have to be muddied by marketing, sales, admin and money. Which seems perfectly logical, but almost always ends in tears. We need to be involved in our enterprise on all levels (or at least understand how to check the reports) if it’s to be a success. It’s essential to bring in specialists to do things like our taxes, but to hand over the engine to someone else to remote control isn’t amongst the finest strategic move ascribed in biographies of the greats. But despite eons of creative geniuses handing down their stories, we still fall into the same sticky tarpit generation after generation.

Business can be terrifying, disheartening, overwhelming as a solo venture. But to do it with the fundamentals in place when it all starts shaking, the right people on speed-dial and having built-in back-up plans are all best practises that winning creative entrepreneurs have learned.

Who’s this program a best-fit for?

Business Acumen for Artists goes a long way to getting those elementals in place for:

  • those planning an escape
  • those bravely out there plying their creative trade but frustrated that they’re not doing as well as they should.
  • ..and also as a refresher masterclass for those already successful artists wanting to get a better idea of what opportunities they could be grabbing to strengthen their marketing [Dave Duarte will be leading 2 sessions on marketing with todays new tools! if nothing else, this is makes it worth it] or stretch into a global market [should you go PayPal? use an agent?].

The Essential Details:

  • It’s R 4995 for the 13 week programme, including personal mentorship (priceless)
  • You also need to be geographically right for this one: you need to be in Cape Town from the 30th Aug – 29th Nov 2010 (Monday eves from 6pm til 9pm – built in for those still with dayjob).
  • It’s held at UCT Graduate School of Business (right by the V&A Waterfront) with plenty of safe parking
  • The group can only work if the numbers are kept tight [which means that you will be held accountable for your development and working through your OWN business outcome to share at the final wrap celebration]. It’s for the quick and decisive. If you KNOW you need it, grab the opportunity.

If this sounds just right for you, or someone you know who’s a perfect match (and you’re in South Africa) text ART & your email address to 31497 or book online: If you prefer human contact give Mario a buzz on 021 406.1268 or mail him: to find out more or grab your place on the journey.


8 Comments on “Learn to sell your art, so you don’t have to sell your soul

July 15, 2010 at 9:31 am

Thanks for the amazing heads up on this, Max. Personally I have found that in all my years on programme directing this, that it has been an extrraordinary journey for those wanting to up their game and understand the language of business. As far as I know it is the only programme of its kind being run at a business school internationally and certainly from the results I have seen, extraordinarily worthwhile.

Maximillian Kaizen
July 15, 2010 at 10:20 am

Astounding that there isn’t a concerted push by the business schools to get these kind of programs out there for artists and creatives.
The maxim that Culture precedes Commerce was shuffled under a stack of more urgent and immediately profitable sectors perhaps?

We notice raging trends like social media as valuable to culture and try to retrofit known commercial models onto them as they reach the middle market.

The creative ones making sense of the prevailing chaos in film, music, tales, objects, urban art and culturejamming need to be have the freedom from ‘being bought’ and retrofitted into a known box or politely silenced by uncomfortable benefactors. The chance to develop our own models and money the way we choose delivers that independence.
Well done to you!

Tony Vink
July 15, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Hi Max, this is a very good initiative, and should ideally be taught already at tertiary level while we were all learning our art/craft. My personal experience has been similar to most out there, jump in with two feet at the same time only to find it’s quicksand and not a lovely Mediterranean sea. :-) As ‘tradesmen’ we are well equipped, but we need the managerial and entrepreneurial side of business to be successful. (Read book: ” the e-myth”)
Personally I joined a business coach up here in Jo’burg and that has also helped a lot, it keeps me mindful that I’m not alone in this and inspires me every 14 days because I meet with other SMME owners.
Maybe one day if the course comes to gauteng, I could join that too.



Maximillian Kaizen
July 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

agreed Tony, but it doesn’t just come as a shock to the creatives, it spans the board of professionals who go into their own practice without a primer course on business fundamentals. Hear it from doctors particularly.

The E-Myth is something I recommend heartily too. Oldskool but cool. The myth that belies the monster that sucks the pockets, time and enthusiasm from so many newly sprung entrepreneurs. With a little flexing and pre-flight fitness (from a coach, a mentor, a biz program) those first falls can be avoided.

You’re not the only one, are sooo many people who have begged for it to run in Joburg.

August 28, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Amazing… God bless you!

August 28, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Amazing… God bless you wonderfully!

Nic Buchanan
September 16, 2010 at 2:08 pm

How about presenting this in a graphic novel format?

Maximillian Kaizen
September 30, 2010 at 9:24 am

Now THAT’S a cool angle Nic. Know anone who’s up for working on something like that in SA?
Some of the best books on dense texts and otherwise impenetrable subjects I’ve read have been rendered memory-sticky and easy to grasp in comic book format if not graphic novel. But story is the ancient brain-hack to learning.
I’m up for any transmedia takes on education >>

Comments are closed.