Fractured Atlas Book Club: Grow
Last month, I reviewed our longest title yet. For the lusty month of May, I'm happy to hit the other end of the spectrum. At 5 chapters and 128 pages, you can breeze through Grow: How to Take Your D.I.Y. Project and Passion to the Next Level & Quite Your Job! by Eleanor C. Whitney in less than a day. That said, those 128 pages are put to good use and you'll probably find yourself underlining key points throughout, writing in the narrow margins, and dog-earing pages to refer to later. It's a pleasure to review a book by Eleanor C. Whitney, who is a friend of our fiscal sponsorship program and I would encourage you to check out her website to see what she's up to next.
At many points in Grow I found myself thinking: "YES! This is perhaps THE book that new (and a few old) fiscally sponsored projects should read." We spend a lot of our day defining terms like mission statement, budget, and earned income for the artists and arts organizations that we work with. Fair warning for the next person who asks me "What's a budget and how do I make one?" I might just respond: "Go read this book and call me when you're finished." It's almost as if Eleanor Whitney spent several years working with artists in a similar capacity. Ah wait - she did! One of her previous positions was as Program Officer for Fiscal Sponsorship at the New York Foundation for the Arts.
One section that I read with interest (because we occasionally have a difficult time grappling with questions about this) was the content on Paying Yourself. One of the challenging facts about today's creative economy is that so often artists are expected, required, and/or coerced into working for free. People often ask us how they should value their own time and energy. This book offers a few guidelines, some of which stood out to me (all of these are direct quotes):
- Have the confidence to know that your time is worth money.
- Consider your experience and expertise. Do you have a perspective or level of experience that is not common for your field?
- What is the reward for the customer? How much value does what you're offering bring to your customer's lives?
I also found the section on Market Research to be hugely valuable. It's nice to think that your target audience could be "art lovers everywhere," but not very realistic. An important part of starting a business is identifying the demographics who are most likely to pay for your product or services - and being specific about it. When you know who your ideal consumers are, you can then explore questions such as: how do they typically find out information about other local businesses? Word of mouth? Social media? Neighborhood periodicals?
One thing that I know about my own personality type is that my brain tends to reject content that is too theoretical. I want to know: how have other people applied these theories and how can I benefit from them practically? An aspect of this book that I especially loved is that she profiles D.I.Y. success stories throughout the book. These are pieces of clear, concrete advice from entrepreneurs who set out on their own - things that they learned getting their hands dirty in the field that they could impart to those just starting out.
So, if the sheer size of last month's book gave you pause, consider Grow to be a time-saving alternative. Especially if you're a part of our fiscal sponsorship program and need to catch up on some of the basics of starting and running a small business.
We probably have one last Book Club entry in us before we take a brief summer hiatus, so now's the perfect time to send us your recommendations for arts-entrepreneurial books that we can feature starting in the fall. Tweet us, Facebook us, or email your favorite title to firstname.lastname@example.org.