Fairfield attorney Cliff Ennico is the author of "The eBay Marketing Bible" and "Small Business Survival Guide," as well as the the acclaimed host of PBS' "Moneyhunt."
On Tuesday, Jan. 22, he'll be teaching a legal and business class for creative entrepreneurs at the Stratford Arts Guild: "Legal and Tax Issues for Artists, Musicians, Photographers, and Other Creative Types." The workshop will answer questions about copyright, intellectual property, taxes, and e-commerce. It is open to the public.
SAG: Cliff, so many people (artists especially) have dreams of owning their own little shop or business. Seems like, with online retailers like eBay and etsy.com, that should be even EASIER than ever. Or is it?
Ennico: Absolutely. The eCommerce option is tailor made for artists, photographers and other "creative types" who want to showcase their work. The cost is relatively inexpensive (for example, less than $20/month for a basic eBay Store template), and these online platforms usually have excellent search engine optimization (SEO) capability so your work reaches an extremely broad audience in almost no time. Have you ever searched for something online and an eBay Store popped up on page 1 of the search results? Enough said.
Having said that, however, one must be careful when listing artwork online -- the easy availability of the Web can make it easier for copycats to rip off your work, and easier for other artists to accuse you of ripping off THEIR work, while some websites (such as Facebook) can claim ownership of anything you post on their pages. It always pays to consult a lawyer before making your intellectual property available to the public, whether online or offline.
SAG: Is there still room in online markets? Are online retailers like etsy.com oversaturated for artists?
Ennico: I do believe there is still room in online markets for artists and other "creatives," but it's more important than ever to create a distinctive "brand" that people will recognize at sight and search for. For example, we all know a Thomas Kinkade when we see one, or a Margaret Keane. Sometimes it's best to specialize in a certain genre (suburban landscapes or nudes, for example) that people are likely to search for who aren't familiar with your work as yet.
SAG: What is one crucial first step that artists -- or any small business owner -- needs to take to create a solid foundation in establishing their business?
Ennico: Remember that it's a business: the most famous artists, photographers, musicians, etc. were almost always great business people as well as great artists, with a flair for marketing themselves and their work.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart hardly ever set pen to parchment unless some rich nobleperson put a few gold coins in his hands and told him what was wanted. Just because Mozart was a good business person doesn't take anything away from his genius as a composer.
Find out what your customers want and are willing/able to pay for, then give it to them, putting your entire artistic ability to the task. Hey, it's a lot better than starving in a garret :-).
The workshop "Legal and Tax Issues for Artists, Musicians, Photographers, and Other Creative Types" is Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 7 to 9 p.m. at Roger Salls Studio, 80 Ferry Blvd.
Cost is $50; discount for SAG members. The public is warmly invited. A few spaces are left. Sign up now. To learn more about Cliff Ennico, visit his website.