You are in charge of your art career.
This means you are the person who decides what to do immediately and what can wait for tomorrow, next week, or next month.
This sounded ideal until you realized how hard it is to prioritize your life and business by yourself.
You might have been accustomed to a boss telling you where to focus your energy. No more.
Entrepreneurship issued a wake-up call. You want freedom? Here it is! Go decide for yourself.
If you’re actively looking for opportunities, as you should be, there will be a time when you have more opportunities than you realistically have the bandwidth for. You’ll be hit with new invitations and requests from all corners.
But it’s unrealistic to involve yourself in every opportunity that comes your way.
Intellectually, you understand this. Emotionally, you want to believe you are somehow superhuman.
The projects might be exhibitions, commissions, licensing deals, wholesale contracts, teaching possibilities, separate jobs, or something else. They’re all projects that beg for your time, and they sound so exciting!
Your resolve is being tested by a voice that some people call a gremlin or troll. I call it The Tester.
How serious is she about this other project—really?
How good is he at knowing what he wants and needs?
All good entrepreneurs struggle with decisions in moments like these, especially if there is the potential for a big pay off at the end.
This is when you must ask yourself hard questions to help you answer the biggest question of all: Should I take on this project?
Below are some of the questions I ask my clients, which you might adapt for your own process of deciding whether or not to take on something new.
Does It Feel Right?
Most of us rely on intuition before signing on to something big, so this is a natural place to begin.
When I consider taking on this project, how does it feel? If you’re not enthusiastic about it, there is little need to go further.
Will I enjoy the process? You don’t really know what will happen, but there are clues. For example, if your tummy turns at the thought of painting another pet portrait, for Pete’s sake, don’t accept that commission.
While your gut may not get the ultimate say-so, it shouldn’t be ignored.
Is This Aligned With My Goals?
Consider whether or not this project supports the goals and vision you have for your art career.
Will this get me closer to my goal?
Will it completely sideline me?
What other projects might it jeopardize?
Will it move me into a new, equally or more positive area? Sometimes it is wise to change course when opportunity knocks. That’s how Art Biz Success came about. If I had stubbornly pursued the path I started, I would never have discovered such rewarding work with artists like you.
How Challenging Is the Project?
It’s deeply satisfying for artists and entrepreneurs to challenge themselves to learn a new technique, technology, or medium. If you’re bored or stuck, the siren call of a challenge might be a temptation too great to overlook.
Will this project force me to learn something new that I could incorporate into my work in the future?
Will I be taken away from my best work in order to learn something that I may never use again? The learning curve will add extra time to your already-full schedule.
Do I Want to Work with These People?
The people involved in a project can make it all worthwhile, or they could make it a nightmare.
Do I like the people I’d be working with?
Are they responsive to my questions and generous with their guidance?
Are there people involved with the project that I could learn from or benefit from knowing? It doesn’t hurt to take on a project just to rub elbows with someone you’ve always admired or who could help your career.
How Much Time Will It Take?
Time is the great mystery, which is why you must always err on the side of overestimating your time. Some experts suggest estimating your time and then doubling it for a more realistic view.
If all goes as planned, how much time will it take?
No, really. Be realistic, Self.
What are some of the unknowns that could take more time?
Do I want to give that amount of time to this project?
What Is the Potential for Profit?
If you need to earn a living, you can’t forget the money part of the equation.
What’s the profit potential? Yep, get out your pen and paper and start figuring out income, expenses, and the bottom line.
In a best-case scenario, how much money would I make?
Worst case, how much would I make (or lose)? Is it worth it? It might be worth it to make less if it leads to future opportunities that have bigger payoffs.
What Opportunities Could It Lead To?
A project is rarely fulfilling if the only reward is monetary. We’re likely to be even more thrilled with the results when it benefits our future.
What kind of recognition would I receive?
What’s the potential for media coverage?
What opportunities might come my way as a result of being involved with this project? This is the most critical question because a chance at future growth is the reason most of us take on more than we can handle.
If you can find good reason to start a project when you don’t really have time for it, you probably need to look at everything else you have going on and adjust your priorities. You're going to need the energy.
How do you make tough decisions like whether or not to involve yourself in a new project?
Have you ever taken on a project that you regretted? If so, were there any warning signs you should have seen?
This post was first published on March 10, 2016. It has been updated with original comments intact.