‘Pay Your Bills with Your Skills’
“We don’t just want to fund these six creatives. We want to arm them for the road ahead … to share skills they’ll need to land that next job and the one after that.” Matt Olin, Charlotte Is Creative.
For creatives to survive and, hopefully, thrive in Charlotte, they must be seen and valued as small businesses. They need resources. And, they need training to best use available resources and to secure funds and support for future projects.
Those are two of five guiding principles identified earlier this year when a group of 40+ “gig economy” creatives and representatives of grassroots arts organizations shared their experiences and insights at a virtual session assembled by Charlotte Is Creative and Hue House led by the engagement team at EY wavespace, earlier this year.
The question asked of participants was, “What conditions need to be in place for creatives to have sustainable careers in the Queen City?” With changes to arts funding and the advent of a new arts officer appointed by the city manager to lead a three-year arts and culture master plan, this question seems particularly cogent.
As part of the overall suggestions collected by EY, the group felt strongly that the Charlotte community must:
Create and leverage resources and incentives that support the creative community in scaling their business offerings.
Create and champion mentorship and business training for creatives.
Taking these insights into account, Charlotte Is Creative (parent of The Biscuit) has launched a pilot program with financial support from Wells Fargo: the Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative.
Valuing Creatives as Small Businesses
“We’ve advocated for the need to provide artists and creatives with business and project management training along with funding for a long time,” said Matt Olin, co-founder of Charlotte Is Creative. “We had a strong feeling that training was a missing element for many creatives, but the feedback we heard in the EY meeting confirmed it for us. Thanks to Wells Fargo, we can act on it.”
Open for applications now, the Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative will reward six inaugural creatives with $4,000 in funding for a creative project or initiative developed between September and December of this year. It’s designed for creatives who have managed small, successful projects, but are looking to grow and take on larger work.
This program pairs money with project management training from local experts, as well as support and promotion. Classes will also be open to previous grantees of Charlotte Is Creative’s HUG Micro-Grant program at no cost. Topics include:
- Budgeting and Billing
- Goal Setting and Planning
- Contracts and Legal Documents
- Business Communication
- Marketing and Public Relations
- Available Charlotte Resources for Creatives
- Measuring Impact Against Goals
“We don’t just want to fund these six creatives. We want to arm them for the road ahead … to share skills they’ll need to land that next job and the one after that,” said Olin. “Creatives don’t always enjoy the business aspects of their work, but taking on best practices and managing for success are critical skills if you want to pay your bills with your skills.”
Those selected for the Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative will be paid for their participation in the training courses and interactive group exercises, something Olin feels strongly about.
“This was a lesson we had to learn when starting our organization: Your time is your most important asset,” he said. “We know that time spent in our courses, however important, is time these creatives aren’t taking on paid work. We want them to know we see that, so they see it, and remember it, too.”
More Than Just Training
In addition to training courses, Creative Entrepreneurs Initiative participants will receive:
- Business training sessions designed to assist participants with their chosen project and impart skills to apply to future work.
- Individual project management and public relations consultation to aid their project.
- Coverage on Charlotte Is Creative’s media channels to aid their project and brand reputation.
- Professional headshots/photos to use during and after their project.
- Prints of learning materials to use after the class.
- A Charlotte-based networking directory to use on future projects.
- A public event to present details on their project to local leaders/executives at the end of the program.
Who Should Apply?
“We’re looking for creatives with big ideas and a desire to help us establish and test a program that will provide creatives many of the skills they need to hone entrepreneurial proficiency and build sustainable creative businesses,” said Olin.
To be eligible, applicants must reside in Mecklenburg County and have a track record of previous work to share.
Dates and Deadlines
The application deadline for this program has passed.
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