By Jess Duda, Creator & Host of The Day Job Artist
As a professional strategist as well as a volunteer supporting over 500 day job artists in New York City, I have seen too many talented people struggle to get their work into the right hands or in front of the right audiences.
Some conservatories and university arts programs have been expanding their course offerings to teach the basics of arts management: Strategic planning, business management, legal protection, press, promotions, digital media, and/or political activism. However, most day job artists have not had any such training. Further, these roles are often full time jobs in themselves and require specialized skill sets.
As such, the intention of this article is to empower all types of day job artists – at any stage or level in their career – to reach the right audiences and to do so with greater ease, sustainability, and impact. Life won’t be sunshine and roses everyday, but doing this work will set day job artists on the right course to fulfill their creative needs and potential.
This starts with a solid strategic plan, which I have provided for day job artists based on nearly 20 years of experience as a Strategist and Content Director for PBS, documentary filmmakers, advocacy organizations, publishing, as well as from my graduate training in advocacy campaign management. I have seen it with my own eyes that it within reach for creative people to learn strategic planning and to put it into practice effectively.
This does not have to start at the beginning of your project, while ideal. My karma as a strategist has been to be that consultant brought in when the project ran off the rails. The projects I oversaw have hit their key goals spanning: Gun safety, criminal justice reform, and health care. That’s all to say, strategic planning works and while it’s ideal to do it at the beginning, it can be used at any point in the process, even at the end as a review. Therefore, if you are well into your project and/or career, going through the strategic planning process will significantly expand the reach and impact of your artistic talent.
Strategic Planning Caveats
Let’s review a few caveats before we begin. The strategic planning process is only effective if you “plan the work and work the plan.” This process creates tangible outcomes because of four factors:
- Clarity of your artistic vision and intention,
- Organization of the work tasks,
- Consistent implementation, and
- Monitoring progress and need for changes.
For those who follow personal transformation modalities, getting your ego out of the way by detaching from the outcome and focusing on how you can serve others are also critical.
This process works, but if your environment is not aligned with creating systems and habits that support the strategic plan, it makes for a stressful production.
Lastly, the strategic plan is meant to be used as a benchmark, and it can shift as you receive new information or your circumstances change. Note I said shift – not ignore or do a 180 degree turn. The plan needs to be referenced regularly to stay focused and motivated with modifications being a part of the process.
So, let’s get started in creating the future that will welcome and sustain your beautiful and impactful works of art! This template is also available as a Google Doc to copy and begin using (today!)
The Day Job Artist Strategic Planning Template
What future do you want to create or be a part of creating? How are you creating a new possibility for your audience? Write this in the affirmative in terms of what you want to happen. Only use positive and action oriented terms.
NOTE: If your work is focusing on a topic new to you, especially if it involves political activism, interview the key stakeholders to assess what’s at stake, the nuances, their strategy, and needs. It’s up to you on how to identify and balance your needs versus theirs, but critical you understand the full context within which you are working.
Goals / Outcomes
What value are you providing your audience? What do you want as a result of this piece?
Note: Creating or increasing an audience is not an outcome, it’s an objective to reach your outcome. What concrete impact do you want to achieve for yourself, others, and/or the project?
- List concrete outcomes you want to occur as a result of your project.
Objectives: How do you measure success?
- List the ways you will build towards your outcomes. This could be specific measurements or indicators. It could be milestones, booking an agent or venue, getting X number of ticket sales, etc.
Given the massive amount of work it can be to produce art, get clear on your values regarding how you want your art to be received and how you manage the creative process. Yes, audiences will always experience your art through their personal filters. Meanwhile, you have the power to create the context through which that happens. These values will seep into your communications and the work itself.
List specifically the types of people you want to attend/support your project. Note professions of people, gender, age range, interests, location of where they live, etc. Yes, art can cut across socio-economic demographics, but in this fragmented media environment that is less and less likely. Be as specific and narrow as possible. This process drives where you find them online and among partner groups.
List related groups and people who may take interest in your work, but are not the key people.
List other similar projects and how yours is different.
Similar to audiences, list your primary and secondary partners, how they are aligned with your needs or their position within the network of your arts community, and what your requests will be of them.
Primary Partners / Influencers
- List type of organization or specific organizations and what your ask is of them: Posting on their digital networks, organizing an event, using their content or research, appearing at your event or in your content, etc.
- List secondary partners.
If you are reaching out to many organizations, create a spreadsheet or use a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to track your progress. Include listing variables to both prioritize as well as measure your reach.
- The ask/request
- Org title
- Number of social media followers
- Other assets important to your project
To achieve your vision, write key themes and messages you will use to communicate the value and the outcomes of your career/project to be used in your 1:1 emails, social media, newsletter, and partner outreach.
What are the key emotions and thoughts that you want the audience to feel and contemplate during and after consuming your work? Here are some examples:
- Insert – Self-reflection
- Insert – Healing
- Insert – Inspiration / motivation
- Insert – Forgiveness / empathy
What is the value that your project provides to your specific audiences? Write value statements for each of your key audiences.
- What will be the visual and tonal representation of your project? Draw upon the above list of themes.
With that strategic and communications ground work completed, write a one-sentence and one paragraph description of the artistic work to be used across all of your verbal and written communications.
One line Description
One paragraph (2-5 sentences)
In addition to your actual art, what are all the types of content you will produce as a part of the piece / your career and to promote it / yourself?
Content for Your Art
- Live performance
- Emails – partners, colleagues, friends, key audiences
- Social media
Content for Fundraising and Promotions
- Live performance
- Emails – partners, colleagues, friends, key audiences
- Social media
- Press materials: Bio, press releases, images, video, list and links to previous press coverage
- Independent means: Online and offline networks and venues
- Arts venues: Performance, gallery, mixed-use spaces
- Partners: Their events, digital networks, websites
- Entertainment industry distributors: Broadcast, streaming, online, record companies, etc
Roles & Budget
- List the key staff on the project along with their roles and responsibilities.
- Budget: Your salary and benefits, insurance, legal fees, full-time and freelance staff (even if their work is pro bono), materials, rentals, and promotions. (A sample budget is forthcoming.)
Implementation: Deliverables & Timeline
List your key deliverables/milestones along with realistic due dates.
- Fundraising and Financial Management
- Creative Development
- Creative Production
- Project Review
Create folders named with your key deliverables (such as those above) stored in a shared drive. Save your documents/assets with a clear and consistent naming convention and version number. This makes it easy for the team to find important documents, especially necessary if there are staffing changes or someone is sick.
Ideally, your tasks are listed and assigned into a task manager, such as Teamwork.com, Asana, AirTable, etc – or at least in a Google spreadsheet shared and used regularly with your team.
Whatever you do, don’t manage your project entirely through email and text. It lacks organization and important items fall through the cracks.
Benchmarks and Evaluation
List the metrics you currently have as a benchmark to assess where you are and then list where you want these indicators to go. Be sure that these directly link to your objectives, goals and vision – stored in your task manager.
There’s a concept of “vanity metrics” which are indicators that fail to measure what you really want to accomplish. For example, having “a lot” of social media followers is useless if they don’t click on your content as well as attend your events or consume your art (real world outcomes.)
- Audience reach: Social media followers and engagement rates, website traffic and engagement rates, newsletter size and open/click through rates, ticket sales / sales of your artwork, attendance at performances
- Press coverage: Amount of coverage and the type of press coverage (industry, entertainment, local media, national, international, ethnic/community media, fan blogs)
- Funding: Contracts, clients, foundation grants, industry sales/revenue
- Impact: Are you hitting key milestones relating to your objectives and goals that are consistent with your vision?
Feedback on Your Strategic Plan
To have the best outcome from this process, while writing/contemplating this template, discuss these concepts with your collaborators or a mentor. (Avoid asking friends, who are more likely to be cheerleaders than sources of constructive feedback.) Upon finishing a draft, seek feedback on what is missing, needs clarification, or should be removed. I have never written a strategy document in isolation because the work has always been for other people, as is your art. If your art is not for other people, then it’s a hobby, which can be just as valuable, but it’s an important distinction. As noted at the top of this document, if you are focusing on a topic important to a community of people, interview them on what’s at stake as well as their strategy and needs. It’s up to you on how to identify and balance your needs versus theirs.Here again is the template that you can copy and use in your own files as a Google Doc to start (today!)
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Imagine how it would feel to have all of this down on paper. Please write to jessad@kindredspirits to let the Day Job Artist team know how this process has created clarity and results for you and your collaborators, and to offer feedback.