Times are tough and holding on to a job means more now than ever. Still, there’s a little voice in your head that’s getting louder. It’s your creativity talking. Your gut tells you to venture out on your own, but you’re afraid of taking money away from paying the bills, so you hold back and don’t take a risk. There’s no time to get that second or third job to raise the funds you need to develop and brand your creative talent. So you have to think about alternatives that will support your quest toward a creative career.
The typical artist and musician spends most of their creative hours working for someone else. When you finally get home, your responsibilities are waiting for you — and all the while, you’re thinking … if I only had … $$. You can put in your own dollar figure and match it to whatever project burns inside you. Would you like your own art show? Are you itching to record that catalog of songs you’ve been writing all your life? Do you have a book in a drawer somewhere collecting dust? How about a two month leave of absence to get out on the road?
Today is a great day to start building that financial nest egg you need to further your arts career. So cut loose any negative thoughts and dump the treasure chest that holds your excuses when you’re afraid of getting out of your comfort zone!
Here’s a plan you can follow that will do the job, if you’re ready to commit to yourself and take the plunge!
- Set up realistic goal and milestones. For example, by August 15Th, I want to raise $5,000. That’s your goal. Along the way you’ll need milestones to track your progress. Set up a log book, calendar, napkin list – whatever you’re comfortable with – and pencil in the time to commit to your plan so you’ll reach your goal. Here’s an example of how the process flows:
- Week 1 – Research funding ideas. Find volunteers to help you (your mom, kids, spouse, friend, etc) and figure out what tasks you need get done. Prepare something to say, so you won’t stumble or sound awkward before you pitch the idea to them. Examples of tasks to get done are things like designing/printing flyers, passing out business cards, baking cookies, or whatever talent lies in your social group. Next, create a time table. If your volunteers are like my family, put up your “To Do” list and see who wants to pick which task. You can communicate via email or on Google docs. Not everyone has to be in the same town to help you. You must train your volunteers. You don’t want them to send mixed messages about you as a brand. Make sure they understand your vision and equip them to answer questions. Have a contingency plan in place if you lose a volunteer or two along the way.
- Week 2 – Mark specific dates and times you will set aside for your project in a calendar. (Sundays from 7am-9am, Tuesdays from 6pm-8pm, etc). It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use conference calls, SKYPE (free to download, free calls), or have a living room board meeting to train and reward your volunteer staff. Open a small business bank account to keep those funds clearly separate. Whenever you want to sell something on line, it’s a good idea to get a Pay Pal account to make collecting fees easy, inexpensive and pain free.
- Week 3 – Check-in on volunteer progress and hold them (and yourself) accountable. Give pep talks when needed. Remember these are volunteers. Share progress reports, “Hey friends, our flyer is ready to hit the streets”, or “we sold our first product”, or “we have made the first $100 toward our goal.” Success breeds success. Come up with little incentives and broadcast the winners to your volunteer support community. You get the idea.
- Week 4 – Check-in, adjust the plan, track and share progress, take photos of making deposits at the bank. MAKE IT FUN!
Now for the fund raising ideas. As you read them, you’ll probably be inspired and come up with some ideas of your own. If you do have a great idea that is tried and true, please share with my readers by using the contact page at the fund-raising forum at Rising Star Artists. We’ll publish the best ideas and give you credit for your work, and give you advertising space on our website for 30 days. Rising Star will also feature your idea in our newsletter! (check for details and terms on the website)
- Book Sale – Get book donations from your friends and neighbors and host a sale. Many people are happy to clear off a space from an overflowing bookshelf. Used college text books are especially sought after. You can donate left-overs to libraries or look for book dealers that may want to snatch up what you couldn’t sell. You could post the book sale in a publication like the Penny Saver, Craigslist or any other free outlet. Sometimes for a small fee, a local newspaper lets you put up an add in the classifieds where they list yard sales and estate sales. If you plan on a yard-sale type event, remember to pass out flyers to your neighbors and homes within a 1/2 mile radius of where you live, at LEAST two days before the event. Come up with a theme for the sale (everyone wears black t-shirts and a white cap). You can even buy a side-door car magnet for about $15 (VistaPrint does a great job with these) so you’ll be advertising wherever your car is parked. If you only have funds for one side-door magnet, pass it around each day to a different volunteer and get more people to see it.
- T-Shirt Advertising – Many companies offer T-shirts printed with a message and even have templates you can use to design your shirt. Ask your volunteers to pay for their own shirt and ask them to wear it whenever possible – make sure the design is hip enough for people to WANT to wear it. Everyone needs clothes right? This is another way to advertise your art/music and get your volunteers involved. Reactee has a great product where people see your message on a T-shirt and text you. The system sends back an automated message so you don’t have to worry about spending all day on your cell phone. It’s a good way to advertise, you can even change the auto-response message.
- GO GREEN – Collect recyclables! This is a great way to get your kids involved or anyone else on your volunteer team. Set a day of the week for scavenging and give kudos to the best team. You may want to give each team a color, like the green team, red team, so you’ll know who wins the day. Give away a small prize. It could be a coupon book from McDonald’s and if you can afford a gift card – go for it! You don’t have to look too hard to find discarded plastic bottles and cans. Collect them and sell to recycle companies that pay you. Look up local recycling centers in your area and find the one that pays the best!
- eBay – Your own home is a treasure trove for unwanted items. Did you stop playing that clarinet from high school? Auctions like eBay are a good place to sell collectible and small items. You don’t want to have to figure out how to ship a large piece of furniture or a TV. But, if you have some great trinkets or don’t use Grandma’s dishes, this could be the way to go. Look around your house (and/or ask your volunteers for donations) and see what you can come up with that would have some value and would be easy to ship.
- CD/DVD/Game collections – Are you completely in love with your MP3 player? When was the last time you listened to those Cd’s you have stored away? If there are some Cd’s you still love, just upload them and store on your hard drive to put on a play list. You can sell gently used Cd’s/DVDs and Games either on eBay or at Second Spin. I like Second Spin because you know what your getting and don’t have to wait for an auction to close. Again, you can ask for CD/DVD or game donations from your resource pool.
- Farmer’s Market – It may sound corny, but I know many people who use this method all the time. Some families are blessed with bakers who don’t mind donating their time if you donate the ingredients. You can advertise your Farmer’s market though some of the ways mentioned earlier like flyers or maybe an ad on Craigslist. Plan to hold one say every Sunday morning from 7am-9am and do this for a month. If your family baker is really good, people will come back each week to pick up that loaf of bread, favorite pie or big slice of chocolate cake. In some cases, you can take orders in advance with a deposit (so you can buy the ingredients) and then the item will be ready for the buyer when your Farmer’s market opens again. Make sure you check with your town to find out if you need a permit or special license.
- Karaoke or Talent Show – Do you belong to a club or know of a place that rents space inexpensively? If so, have a karaoke contest or talent show and charge admission. You can make it a fun event and take 10% of the proceeds to offer a cash prize to the winner or ask local merchants to donate a free service or product. (TV, DVD player, grocery gift card, gas gift card, etc). Remember to give yourself enough time to advertise and get those volunteers to work passing out flyers and offering a discount for advance sale tickets. Charge a higher price at the door.
- Yard Sale – Tried and true. Help a family member clean out their attic or garage and in return ask if you can keep 50% of the proceeds from the sale. You’d be surprised how many women would jump at the chance to have someone help clear out their garage or attic and help with a yard sale. Husband’s can be let off the hook and come home to a clean garage.
- Portrait Photography – If you’re a photographer, here’s a win-win type of fund raising event that can help promote yourself and help a fellow artist/musician at the same time. The idea is this. You’ll need a place to take photos. Check community centers, halls, sometimes even restaurants will rent or give you space. The photographer gives away a free portrait, say an 8×10, the individual just pays a session fee. The photographer will be able to show off their talent and expand their potential repeat client base or up sell a bigger package and the organizer will get a percentage of the session fees. Many artists and musicians need photos, and families love portraits, so you may be able to draw a large crowd. The session photographer needs to recoup expenses, so keep that in mind when negotiating and factor in the cost of the space rental to decide on a session fee. If you don’t know any photographers, look for new shops opening or advertising on line and see if you can come up with a working partnership.
- On line Fund Raising – When someone comes to your door with a list of magazines, don’t you just groan? Here’s a twist that should help you raise the funds you need by putting your volunteers to use (especially those that LOVE the Internet). Join blogs for about any subject (sports, politics, parenting, etc) and target your magazine sales just to that one group. One way to do this is to let people know a magazine subscription is a gift that gives all year. The subscriber (or gift giver) can save up to 85% off newsstand prices! Fundraiser.com has a good deal going, so you may want to check there. Subscriptions are great for nieces and nephews and they look forward to getting their own mail – it’s a great add-on to a holiday or birthday gift. A co-worker may want to buy a subscription for a spouse as a surprise to support their hobby (wood-working, crafting, writing, etc). I’m sure you can think of other ideas to match a product to a buyer.
Now you’re ready to get started and make your project a success. Remember, the key is to start with a realistic goal, solicit volunteers, and stick to your plan!!