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Art Beyond

Creative Business Management: What Does that Even Mean?

Updated: Mar 22

I moved into arts management when I accepted an offer from Elizabeth to help her run the business side of EllaFae Art. With the #NoDaCloudwall actively under construction and other projects on the books, she needed someone to keep schedules, numbers, and tasks on track. I’d done a little consulting for her in the past and she was ready to make the leap into hiring a full time teammate for her business.

Once I agreed, she told me to think about my title. If you’ve read my introduction blog post, or the About section on this site, you know I have pretty varied career experience. What Elizabeth needed me to do was combine all of my past roles into one. I knew immediately what that job title was: Business Operations Manager. 

What even is a business operations manager?

My favorite description of this role is from an article on the website , “Business operations managers are like Swiss army knives - when it comes to contributing to various aspects of a business, they can pretty much do it all.” This title can encompass different tasks and responsibilities depending on the industry and size of the company. The main goals of any business operations manager center around streamlining processes, working across different “departments,” building relationships with everyone, and helping out everywhere.

Why would a Creative need one of these?

The short answer is, because your time is best spent pursuing your creative endeavors.

As your creative practice grows, there will come a time when you need to run it like a business, but not every creative has a knack for business.

A business operations manager takes over tasks that are not the best use of your time and streamlines those tasks to get them done more efficiently. Good business operations managers have the ability to think analytically and strategically, monitor and measure metrics, course correct as needed and just get stuff done WITHOUT you asking them to do it.

Okay, but like, what do you actually DO?

A lot of different tasks. My day to day tasks for Elizabeth includes things like:

  • Communication:

    • I communicate with Clients, subcontractors, fabricators, other artists, and students on Elizabeth’s behalf. In one morning I may send an email to a Client making sure they are aware of our schedule for the week, text subcontractors to verify their hours, send an email to students or parents of students, and then call a supply store to verify if a product is in stock.

    • I also do a lot of the communication around meetings. I check calendars, create agendas, take meeting notes, and send recaps. Example - I just paused writing this to send a meeting invite on Elizabeth’s behalf to a group of artists for an upcoming project (keep an eye out for more on that, it’s going to be amazing).

    • Elizabeth trusts me to communicate with her professional contacts on her behalf. So if I have a question for her accountant, I just reach out and ask. I don’t have to add that item to Elizabeth’s to-do list. I am also included in Elizabeth’s relationship with her lawyers. We talk through any potential legal/contract issues together and then I set up our appointments as needed. We HIGHLY recommend Katherine and Rob over at Implement Legal. They really do understand what creatives need.

  • Scheduling:

    • I help Elizabeth schedule tasks and due dates, and I also make sure that she meets those deadlines. I know that her work-life balance has improved as a result of saying “no” to opportunities that we just don’t have time to complete. Having me on her team also enables us to work together to make ways to say “yes” to the things she really wants to do.

  • Bookkeeping & Budgeting:

    • I provide full service “in house” bookkeeping for Elizabeth. This means that she can ask me at any point what her finances look like, and I can tell/show her. Using Quickbooks, I not only keep her income and expenses updated, I also track those numbers by project, by contractor, by type… any way she wants me to track them.

    • Keeping her numbers updated means that we can project her total annual income at any point in time based on year to date and scheduled projects and expenses. I also had her books ready for tax filing the first week of January and all subcontractor 1099s submitted to the IRS and out to recipients long before the Jan 31 deadline.

  • Filing business paperwork:

    • EllaFae Art now operates as an LLC. Elizabeth decided to move this direction last year. As an LLC, there is additional documentation that must be filled out annually, plus additional as needed filings (Beneficial Ownership Information Report anyone?). I ensure that all of these tasks are taken care of.  PS. If you have an LLC, don’t forget to file your Annual Report.

    • Even without an LLC, there are still documents that you need to fill out

  • Writing:

    • You may have noticed that all of these Art Beyond Blogs have been written by me, Elizabeth just doesn’t have time to do it. EllaFae Art always has great interaction and response to newsletters but on her own, Elizabeth just would not get them done. I get the ball rolling by presenting her with topic options and putting a rough draft together, taking the pressure off of her to get started.

  • Organization:

    • Where did you save the W-9 you filled out to send to clients? Do you have a W-9 for the subcontractor you hired? How many hours did they work this year anyway? What happened to that proposal you were going to use as a template? Did you save that Call for Art in your Drive or on your laptop? 

    • I can find all of those things for Elizabeth because I’m the one who saved them to our shared Google Drive Folders in a way that makes sense and with easily identifiable file names.

Obviously, Elizabeth has given me permission to use examples from our work together. So settle in folks, it’s story time.

Story # 1:

Once upon a time, this past fall, Elizabeth did a private indoor mural and the Client wanted the mural sealed. We thought - “no problem, we’ll order World’s Best MuralShield.” What we didn’t realize is that if you apply MuralShield by itself (with no World’s Best Graffiti Coating), it is HIGH gloss. Definitely not ideal for an indoor mural with spot lights trained on it and not what the Client asked for. We realized this at 11:40am the day before we were supposed to apply the sealant. Elizabeth called me and asked me to problem solve it asap. Within an hour the problem was solved, supplies ordered from 2 store locations to cover the amount needed, and contractors lined up to pick up supplies and help apply the coating the next day. 

Story # 2:

In a galaxy not far away, about a month ago, Elizabeth was looking at a Call for Art that she had been encouraged to apply for. The project location was out of town and we knew the budget was going to be pretty tight. As we talked through the opportunity together - materials, supplies, travel, lodging, timeline - I ran the numbers. We realized that while this Call for Art was exciting, it wasn’t going to be the best opportunity for Elizabeth due to timing, location, and budget. 

Great. You do amazing work for Elizabeth. What does that have to do with me?

Well, now you know that there are people out there who have the skills to help you when you’re ready to hire someone. This is also a big fat neon sign screaming that YOU SHOULD TREAT YOUR CREATIVE PRACTICE LIKE A BUSINESS IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A LIVING WITH IT. We’ve all flown by the seat of our pants at some point or another but that doesn’t always keep clients coming back or the bills paid. We have some upcoming free classes that you may find helpful as well.

Also, you too can hire me.

If you’re interested in hiring me for bookkeeping and/or business management I have a couple of slots available for those services.

I also offer project specific services if you just need help with a single project.

Elizabeth and I also offer coaching to help you identify what you can do to level up your creative practice/business.

If you have questions, or want to talk about any of Art Beyond’s offerings, feel free to email me:

❤️- Esther

Check out our all of our classes HERE.

Have a specific question(s) for Elizabeth or me? Book a 15-minute "Ask us Anything" Consultation available HERE.

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