As a start-up, we know how hard it is to set up your own business and keep it running. We also know that it can be extremely rewarding and that it’s definitely worth all the efforts, money and time. While some of our artists cannot (yet) make a living out of their art, others managed to start their own business and live from it.
We had an inspiring chat with two of them, trying to understand the key of their success. Whether you’re an artist looking for independence or anyone else interested in understanding the art world a little bit better, you might be grateful for the experience sharing by Mr. Milk and Innerfields.
Innerfields is a Berlin-based trio of artists. They came together and started painting murals as a group in 1998, founded „Innerfields“ in 2008 and haven’t stopped evolving ever since. Nowadays, besides creating and exhibiting their own art work, they’re working for companies and events, making spaces more attractive and unique by painting custom-made artworks on walls.
Bruno Leite, also known as Mr. Milk studied theatre in Porto and Paris. He’s working as an artist since 2006 and set up his own business to offer entertainment services, magic shows, aerial silk performances, fire shows and walking acts with stilts.
According to Holger from Innerfields, realizing that there’s a possibility to make enough money with their art was the first step: “Our first client paying us a decent salary was the Ministry of Justice in Italy. After this commissioned work, we realized we could manage to start living from it”.
Doing Something Meaningful
One of the perks of the job is the freedom to do projects you love. „Having the opportunity to do something meaningful is the most important part. As an artist you have the ability to reach a lot of people: it’s your responsibility to use your voice for a good reason“, as Holger puts it. Bruno enjoys the freedom he has when creating a show from scratch. He gets to create the concept of a new performance up to the point where he carries it out.
Gaining Respect And Credibility
Although following your passion and doing arts every day may look like a dream job, it is surely a challenging endeavour. Holger explains that „getting clients and earning money on a regular basis” was the main challenge in the beginning. As founders of our own business, we can totally relate to this struggle. As Holger says it: „You have to work constantly. It’s complicated if you want to take a break for some time because you might lose your clients“.
For Mr. Milk, the main obstacle was the difficulty to be recognized in the world of arts and gain credibility. It takes time and can be very discouraging. “I find it difficult when some people try to undervalue my art”. “Staying creative is also a real challenge” says Holger. “We get precise requests from clients, but we also want to add our personal touch and not only do pure commissioned work”.
3 Essential Take-Aways
How to overcome those obstacles and succeed as an independent artist? Here are Innerfields’ top 3 tips:
1. Consistency: “It takes time to get to the point and it’s important to keep working for it. Just continue doing it even though it’s difficult. If you work hard, you’ll surely reach your goal as an artist”.
2. Keep up artistic projects: although it’s tempting to do a lot of commissioned work, it’s extremely important to keep carrying on personal projects. It gives you more credibility and allows you to get more creative.
3. Business-oriented mindset: “You need to have a look at what’s out there to know the exact value of your art. Don’t get too cheap!”
Thinking like a businessman is maybe one of the tricky skills that talented artists need (and sometimes lack) to promote their activity. As Holger explains, it is important to learn about marketing and think of “the image you want to give to the world” as an artist. The second step is to learn how to deal with business-related problems: customers who don’t pay, tax issues, invoicing, etc.
“We learned by doing. But sometimes having a mentor or taking part in workshops for artists can help. We received some good pieces of advice from the Weißensee Kunsthochschule, where I studied”.
Having founded our own business, we can relate to so many things that Bruno and Holger have mentioned. Setting up your own business means standing for your idea, trying hard even when you feel tired of it, constantly seeking for improvement. We admire their efforts and ability to live fully from their art and hope it inspires more artists to make the big step into independence. This is why we exist and we hope to be a big support on the way.