Today, we’re excited to introduce a new friend of Beautify, Sarah Conley Odenkirk.
Sarah is the founder of ArtConverge, and has practiced law in the area of fine art for more than 25 years. Her practice consists mostly advising clients in transactional matters related to the arts in the private and public realms. Through her years of practice in the fields of intellectual property, fine art, public art and cultural policy, she has developed experience to provide legal services as well as strategic planning to support artists, municipalities, innovative programs, institutions, collectors, and entrepreneurs.
We’re happy to have her in the Beautify community, and she’s agreed to answer a few questions about how to approach legal issues.
What is something you wish every artist knew?
It’s important to have some guiding principles for yourself and your professional practice. What are your values? Think about and articulate them, and you’ll have an easier time choosing projects, partners and goals because you’ll be clear about what’s important to you.
What is something important that artists might not want to hear?
You’re a business, so commit to using professional business practices! Rather than waiting for problems to come up and conflicts to develop, understand the business practice that makes sense for your artistic endeavors. This might include establishing a formal corporate structure, or determining how to best operate as a sole proprietor; developing your own form contracts or how to better understand the ones you receive; understanding how to protect your intellectual property and the limits of those protections.
How do I know what to charge for my work?
Yes, that’s always the big question, isn’t it? Be clear about your worth as an artist. This means not under or over valuing the work that you do. It is important to be compensated for both physical and intellectual efforts. One tip is to be open with colleagues, and they’ll be more likely to be open with you. This can go a long way to helping you determine what a reasonable fee to charge is for projects, invitations to speak, or providing creative input.
Any tricks for negotiating?
Well, it’s not a trick. When you start with guiding principles, it’s easier to be transparent and open. It is rarely a good strategy to share all information at the outset, but if you find yourself maneuvering to “hide the ball,” it is important for you to ask yourself “why?” In almost every situation, being very clear and articulate as to your goals and how you want to achieve them will be a strength in the negotiation process. By being up-front about your intentions and desires, it is almost always easier to elicit the same information from the other parties to a transaction. Once you know what the other parties want, you can better employ empathy to work together and achieve a mutually-agreeable structure within which to accomplish your respective goals.
Thank you, Sarah. This is great advice.
For those who’d like to learn more, Sarah has written a book called "A Surprisingly Interesting Book About Contracts for Artists and Other Creatives”. The purpose of this book is to demystify contract language and the contracting process. As the title would suggest, it is specifically written for artists and intended to be a friendly resource that can be referred to over and over again.
If you’d like to talk to Sarah, she has created The ArtConverge Office Hours program, which provides up to one hour of legal consultation at an affordable rate. It is also probable that the immediate priority may not be legal in nature, in which case Sarah connects artists to career coaches, art consultants, project managers, curators, or any number of other arts professionals who might be better suited to help guide and support.