State of The Art

Being an artist and setting up shop for yourself requires far more experience and business savvy than I might've been led to believe. I got the idea to do so while living in Manhattan, but in order to afford to do so, I was going to need to take this show on the road - back to New Jersey. The premise was to combine my NY agency experience and its mixed bag portfolio with the brand new genre of Desktop Publishing, which Apple had only recently coined as a term for doing print production in-house. Hence the name of my studio - Inhouse Productions: 'An art department for companies that didn't have one,' but did have the need for quality graphics, advertising, and production. After converting an oversized storage room in the back of my father's real estate management firm, to which he charged me a fair monthly rent, I also borrowed $40,000 to invest in the very latest in Apple's Macintosh desktop hardware and software. Two Mac IIx's, each with 40 MB of RAM and 17" color monitors, a small scanner, and a black and white printer, plus two copies of Adobe's PageMaker and Illustrator 88, and I was in my own state-of-the-art business, and way over my head. All I thought I needed now were customers, but what I really needed was a basic education, at best, in what it meant to be IN business. Those classes I wasn't allowed to take at Syracuse would have probably come in handy when it came time to figure out, not only how and what to charge for my services, but even just the difference between gross and net is useful information to have BEFORE getting the work.

Making myself President and Creative Director, at twenty-six, was obnoxious, but in truth, I was solely responsible for payables and receivables - both words I learned on the fly - as well as all of the creative - design, copywriting, and production. Making cold-calls, meeting with customers, writing proposals and estimates, then briefing Danny, my only employee, on the work at hand, added Salesman and Boss to my repertoires. Presenting the work, selling it, producing it, and invoicing it was actually the easy part. Collecting the money was an entirely new reality that neither my landlord, bank, or associate really gave a shit about. They all wanted their money, in full and on time. Sure, the landlord was my father, Art himself, and my associate was Danny, who I knew from the bullpen days at Korey Kay, but this was business - not personal.

When it was all said and done, I usually found some net profits, in December, to be able to pay myself. Even with my limited math skills, it wasn't hard to figure out that if I divided the twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for an entire year that I'd been working - by the cash that was left, for me, well, let's just say I would've been making more money turning 'Cookie Puss' into 'Fudgie The Whale' at the local Carvel Ice Cream store. I wasn't making money, so much as paying dearly for a crash course in business acumen. All I wanted to do was everything, but I never expected to have to do it for nothing. But then nothing is all relative if in actuality you're learning something. My dividends - another big word I learned - paid me in experience, contacts, and lasting friendships that proved to be professionally priceless.

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