Monica Davidson is all about making creative people comfortable with the enormous and unfamiliar world of business.
A filmmaker and writer herself, she emerged out of film school with ‘absolutely no idea how to send an invoice, let alone grow an arts business,’ she told ArtsHub.
In response, she found people who knew more than her and ran a workshop in what she describes as a ‘grubby inner-city community hall’. That was in 1995. Today, Davidson runs a national social enterprise, Creative Plus Business, whose clients include some of Australia’s most prestigious arts organisations and which presents everything from workshops, webinars and online resources to bespoke one-on-one training.
‘There is a real need for these resources, and we cater to specific arts industry needs, from cities to country towns … We think of it as a pipeline – people can start online with our free resources and then build on that career journey with us.’
She also has a reassuring message for artists who are concerned about their lack of business skills.
‘If you develop a confidence in your own ability to understand business that is commensurate with your confidence in your creative ability, then you will be able to cope,’ Davidson said.
LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE WHO ‘GET YOU’
The team at Creative Plus Business have figured out the challenges of working in the arts and ‘want to pay it forward,’ Davidson explained.
‘Most creatives have battled with being told that “It’s not a real job” or that “You can’t make money from that” … Trying to prove that what you do is valuable is a constant slog. We get it!
‘Everyone on our team has a creative practice and we understand that it is not always about making money. But that doesn’t mean we don’t ask the important questions, like “How much should I be charging?” or “What kind of contract should I be making?”’
Creative Plus Business has structured itself as a two-stream business – they’re a social enterprise offering creatives freely accessible resources via their website, while simultaneously working with governments, councils and institutions vested in cultural entrepreneurship or that are required to provide cultural community programming.
‘The model works,’ said Davidson, adding that it is about allowing everyone to have equal access to education resources.
FEAR IS OK: FEAR COMES WITH GROWING
Davidson, who started freelancing 34 years ago, said that it is always a good time to start a creative business.
‘There are always external factors – the only constant is change – so if you are ok with uncertainty then don’t let it hold you back.’
She added that there is no shame in saying that you don’t know what you are doing when it comes to money. ‘None of us have been taught these tools and strategies. I genuinely believe that if you know how to charge appropriately, how to fight your corner in a contract or know how to utilitise best market practices, it will give you that confidence to succeed as a creative business.’
Davidson said the move to deliver more Creative Plus Business resources online last year has given her the confidence to grow the business nationally.
She added that many of her clients are senior arts professionals who are often faced with the question, “Why do you need that? You’re already successful.”. Her answer is that as we grow, we face new challenges.
‘We think we know everything about parenting after surviving a toddler, but you end up with a whole bunch of new learnings as they become teens,’ said Davidson.
STARTING A CREATIVE BUSINESS?
The key message, Davidson said, is that ‘the business stuff, although it’s yucky, it is important; you will definitely need it.’
She continued: ‘The very first thing is to get a good handle on what you want – goals are the lifeblood of what we do; they help you learn self-accountability and self-advocacy.
‘Learning how to hold yourself to account to your own deadlines and goals can be really difficult to do. And self-advocacy is about focusing on “inside” goals – goals where you do not have to wait for someone else to approve of you.’
Davidson added that slowing things down a bit and taking a more strategic approach is a great lesson.
‘We tend to be very reactive and charge at thing bull-at-a-gate – to grab the opportunity – but it is a bad habit. We are just reacting to the outside world, rather than slowing down and shaping our world.’
‘This approach is also better for our wellbeing as creative practitioners in small businesses’, she added.
Learn more about Creative Plus Business or dive into their free online resources.