Q&A with Monica Davidson

We chat to Monica Davidson, CEO of Creative Plus Business Group and the former NSW Creative Industries Business Adviser and online course facilitator for NAVA's Art Business Basics about the practical skills artists need alongside their creative practice.

Why do artists need a business plan?

Artists who are serious about trying to make some money their craft, or who want to build an entrepreneurial arts business, really need a plan in order to help them think through all the challenges they might face. Very often we have a pretty good idea of what we think might happen for our business in our heads, but once we commit those ideas to paper we can start to really plan what our business is going to be. A plan doesn’t have to be a boring written document - a plan can be anything that helps you to understand and demonstrate your business. I’ve been very privileged to some plans in the form of storyboards, mood boards, even an interpretive dance!

What are some practical business skills artists need?

There are certain practical aspects to running a business that also help artists to obey the law, things like having an Australian Business Number (ABN) and perhaps a registered business name. There are also the practical necessities of marketing, such as a domain name and the website. Mostly though, the practical skills that artists need to have include time management skills, the ability to set and meet goals, and ways to treat their art practice as a serious and ongoing moneymaking enterprise - just as they would a job.

As a filmmaker how did taking a business course at the beginning of your career help your creative practice?

To be honest, the reason I started doing what I do now is because when I first launched my production company in the early 1990s there were no business courses for creatives. I did a standard small business course back then which was fine, but I found it lacking because it didn’t address my particular needs as a creative practitioner. What I do now started as a talk that I gave about creative business in 1996, and in the last 20 years I have seen a real understanding grow about the needs of creatives as small business people. It’s so fantastic to see organisations like NAVA take the business needs of artists seriously.

What are some key skills students will take away from completing Art Business Basics?

Art Business Basics follows a business plan template that I created for NAVA, so each week we’ll look at the skills that students need based on that particular section of the business plan. That includes everything from setting goals to managing financials to understanding the beginnings of the marketing process. By the end of the course, students will have a completed business plan for their creative practice, whatever that may be, and the practical skills necessary to act on that plan. Previous students have used their plans to help them grow their businesses, and I’m sue this year’s group will be the same.

Art Business Basics runs for 7 weeks from 8 August - 26 September.