This is part of an ongoing Maker Mentors guest blog series that features interviews with established makers. Join the updates or recommend a maker for the blog.
What does your business do? In addition to being a practicing artist I have an Arts Marketing business through which I teach other artists and craftspeople how to improve their self-promotion activities and create a marketing plan for their creative businesses.
When did you start your business? I began working with independent artists in 2002 and formalized my business, Burko Design, in 2003.
What kind of work were you doing before you started your business? Before starting Burko Design, and what inspired me to begin helping artists succeed, was working in university and private art galleries.
What was the biggest challenge in getting started? The biggest challenge for me was finding a balance between my Arts Marketing work and the other types of work that I do including independent curating and creating my own artwork.
How did you find your first few customers? I have never formally advertised my Arts Marketing business and I have been grateful that clients have found me through word of mouth and through workshops and speaking engagements that I lead at various museums, artist associations, and non-profit organizations throughout New England.
What marketing tactics have been most successful for you? As I advise all of the artists I work with, maintaining a high level of professionalism goes a long way. Create strong branding, have good graphics, and most of all follow through with what you say you will do. These techniques have worked well for me as I’ve built my business.
Who are three creatives that inspire you? A tremendous inspiration for me is Boston, MA photographer Henry Horenstein. I took a class of his in college called “Professional Practice” that was my first introduction into the world of running an art business. I find Lowell, MA craft artist Liz Smith extremely inspiring because of her dedication to her craft and her prolific creative drive. Another artist who inspires me is MaryJean Viano Crowe because of her talent and fearlessness in combining media and exploring new techniques.
What does a typical day look like for you? My workdays are limited in length by when I drop-off and pick-up my two small children to and from school. This means I must make the most of my time each day and maintain a solid structure. I alternate days in the office and in the studio depending on how much business work versus creative work I have on my plate. I meet with clients during the weekday, but all of my lectures and workshops happen in evenings and on weekends leaving most of the weekdays for me to make art, write, prepare classes and presentations, and market my upcoming art and educational events.
What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your business? One thing that would have made running both my art and my marketing business easier would have been taking a business class. Bookkeeping, taxes, copyrighting, and all the things that small business owners need to know are must learns for artists and freelancers as well, but we don’t get those classes in school so we need to seek them out.You can follow Jessica’s work here: Website // Twitter