Working in the arts is not a path to financial security or a job for life. Being self-employed in the arts is even more risky. People who set up creative small businesses are usually natural risk takers, but choosing a life of risks means coping with the consequences day to day. With grown-up responsibilities like a house or a family it becomes even harder.
The irony is that art is risk. The only sure way to fail is to do nothing. If creative business owners don’t take risks, it’s practically impossible to get ahead in their career. It’s a simple truth, but a hard reality.
Assessing the Risks
A proper risk assessment is vital when contemplating any new business venture, in a creative field or not. A risk assessment looks at all the possible problems that this project could encounter, and the consequences of each area performing badly or failing completely. During this process it’s imperative to define what success, failure and breaking even actually means. The risk assessment should present a few options and variables for how the project could progress, and what the possible outcomes might be.
During the risk assessment, the worst possible case scenario must be examined from every angle. If taking this risk was to fail completely, what is the most that could be lost? How far is too far?
Risk takers would gamble almost anything to succeed, but there’s more to a business decision than financial failure when freelance or self-employed. There could be an emotional cost, like time spent away from the family or the loss of creative spark. If a freelancer fails, what else could be lost?
Working as hard as possible on a risky venture will speed up the process – if failure is inevitable, at least it will happen quickly. Of course, it also means that success could happen just as quickly and reduce the possible risks enormously.
Knowing When to Leap
If the worst case scenario is bearable, and the thought of staying put is more painful than the idea of moving forward, then the risk is worth it. If a business can afford to lose whatever failure would cost, then there is essentially nothing to lose.
Succeeding against the odds is one of the most exciting things that can happen in any small business. Imagining a possible future, and taking the thought-out steps towards that goal, is the difference between a surviving business and a great one. As Goethe wrote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.”
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