Are You Staying Focused or Chasing Money?

by Carolyn Edlund

You are the only one who can determine the future of your creative business. Don’t allow others to distract you from your purpose.



A speaker at an art conference once addressed a group of nonprofit executives on the topic of applying for grants. She shared sage advice, saying, “Never compromise your mission for the purpose of getting grant money.” This experienced administrator had a good point. When you chase funding, and are willing to change your direction, your planning, or your activities to fit the requirements of a grant, you are thrown off course. Then your organization cannot be effective at what you do, or at reaching the people you want to serve. In the nonprofit world, this is called “mission creep.”

The same thing can happen to individual creatives and artists, You may be placed in a similar position when applying for funding which has certain parameters or a narrow focus. And like those nonprofits, it doesn’t make sense to compromise your artistic vision to conform to the requirements of a grant, either. It’s better to wait for a more perfect fit, one that aligns with your vision and allows you to make what matters to you. Chasing grant money can require you to change the direction of your work to meet the requirements of the grantmaker instead. That pulls you off track and wastes your time and efforts.

Have you been offered opportunities that don’t really make sense for you as an artist? Have you taken on a commission for work that doesn’t fit with your abilities or specialty? Or accepted a paid side job that may be art-related, but doesn’t really further your business goals? It’s not uncommon to see artists make a compromise for the sake of getting hired to do a project, or settle for less-than-desirable work simply for the paycheck. Making a practice of this can derail your entire career trajectory.

Creating a vision and setting specific goals for your business will help you stay on track. Staying focused on these will help you choose projects that match your abilities and interests. On the other hand, if you don’t have clear goals, you may end up being pulled this way and that, doing what comes along because you are chasing a job or income.

Have you turned down funding opportunities or projects because they don’t align with the vision you have for your own art business? 


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