art of business artist entrepreneur Roisin O'Farrell

The Art of Business with Artist and Entrepreneur Roisin O’Farrell #032

Show Notes:

Róisín began her art career, from a standing start, over ten
years ago and now exhibits in established galleries in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US.

Her art business, now at multiple six figures, with a team of five, has grown to include prints sales in over 17 stores nationwide and a digital school for emerging artists who want to learn to paint or to learn to get their business mojo going.

From the simple joy of painting, to passing on the skills to make a living from your art, she is committed and passionate about teaching, sharing and living creativity.

I have to say I’ve known Roisin for many years, back in a previous life when I was an art dealer and is an old and dear friend. She is a unique mix of talented artist with a remarkable mind for business.

It’s an absolute pleasure to have Roisin on the show as there she has so many insights that can benefit people in nearly every area of business.

Topics explored:

  • The age old myths around artists in business
  • Art schools do very little to prepare students for business
  • Money is dirty
  • Artists need skills to make good decisions
  • A top chef doesn’t need to always be in the kitchen
  • The benefits of an unconventional route to your career
  • A first business, well ahead of its time
  • The first big lesson: it must be profitable
  • Is it a side hustle hobby or a day time job?
  • Get clear on your core values; opportunities change, but values are constant
  • Illuminating Questions: What does the other side stand for and what do they want?
  • Beware of being too far in the weeds and the detail
  • Don’t be a busy fool
  • Have a strategic overview
  • All business decisions spring from a place of integrity
  • Business know how plus integrity equals success
  • Planning into a process of habit
  • Feed that creative place so you’ve something meaningful to say
  • Look at outsiders who’ve become successful
  • The biggest jump; hiring one person
  • Sole trader, to team of seven
  • Down time and switching off is crucial
  • Work less, step back, make more money
  • Make it routine: Present yourself to the canvas
  • Lean in to the discomfort, it’s meant to be that uncomfortable!
  • Don’t chase the sale, chase the process and the quality
  • Whether this sells or not is none of your business
  • Be two people; vulnerable creative child and then hard nosed business person
  • Got to act as if, put on a persona




Al McBride 0:22
Welcome to the dealing with Goliath podcasts. The mission of dealing with Goliath is to sharpen the psychological edge in business leaders with skin in the game, who want to be more effective under pressure, uncover hidden value, and increase profitability. With expert guests across the business spectrum.

Al McBride 0:38
We deliver gems of wisdom delving into their methods, their thinking and approach to business life and problem solving. This is the grand a cup of insight. So long form podcast interview format here, where we take the time to delve a little bit deeper into our guests experiences, stories and to get that those priceless nuggets for you. So I’m your host, Al McBride.

Al McBride 1:00
My guest today is Roisin O’Farrell. Roisin began her career from a standing start over 10 years ago, and now exhibits in established galleries in Ireland, the UK, Europe, and the United States. Herr art business now at multiple six figures, with a team of five has grown to include print sales in over 17 stores nationwide, and a digital school for emerging artists who want to learn to paint or to learn to get their business Mojo going.

Al McBride 1:31
So from the simple Joy of Painting, to passing on the skills to make a living from your art, she’s committed and passionate about teaching, sharing, and living creativity. And I have to say on a personal note, I’ve known Roisin for many years, since back in a previous life when I was an art dealer, Roisin is a very old and dear friend. But um, the business and the business side of things, Roisin is a uniquely talented artist. But combined with that is a remarkable mind for business. And so it is an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today. Oh,

Roisin O’Farrell 2:04
hi. Well, I’m delighted to be here.

Al McBride 2:07
Very good to have you very good to have you. So let’s dive straight in because it is a little bit unusual. When you think business person, a lot of people wouldn’t normally think, artist painter, printmaker. So let’s deal with that straightaway.

Al McBride 2:22
What are some of those common myths about your industry or common myths about artists that you might want to set set the record straight?

Roisin O’Farrell 2:31
Well, of course, the big myth is that artists can’t make money. That’s you know that that’s going back to the starving artists in the garet. You know, and of course, back in the, in the medieval times, artists survive by having a patron.

Roisin O’Farrell 2:47
And in more recent times, artists were separated from the business of making money and making a living by kind of outsourcing all of that to a gallery. So the gallery system became the Yin to the creative Yang of the artist, they did the selling and the dealing with the business side of things.

Roisin O’Farrell 3:09
However, it’s not true to say that all artists can’t make money for sure. There’s lots of creative people who don’t enjoy that part of it. But there are as many who are, and who can learn to be good business people with good sound business sense.

Roisin O’Farrell 3:26
And to some degree by putting that stereotype out there, and particularly in our colleges, in art schools, where, you know, to be honest, there is very little in terms of preparing young artists to make a living from their art.

Roisin O’Farrell 3:43
And in fact, I’d go further than that, I would say that, for many artists who go through art schools, they are actually taught that making money is kind of dirty. Okay, now, it makes you commercial, which is the death knell to the creative purpose.

Roisin O’Farrell 4:01
Instead of teaching artists how to protect the creative process, how to make good decisions about how much of the business side they want to engage in, and how to get the best representation, the best deals the best help and support or to take on which parts of it yourself, that’s really necessary, I think, for artists today.

Al McBride 4:26
Okay. Yeah, that’s a very different perspective. I mean, when I was an art dealer, you know, I’ve worked in a gallery that it was at my own. And the was very much that opinion that artists should focus all their energy on creating the art and if they’re trying to do marketing or trying to do any of the other business functions that that’s draining, what should be the focus on the art, I mean, it must be a careful balance that you have to get right.

Roisin O’Farrell 4:52
It’s a character balance, and I think that there isn’t a one size fits all situation here. So for some artists who are are creating work that takes all of their energy or they’re the kind of person who needs to completely focus on that to do important work, then I think we as a society need to support that because that work is important to us as a humanity.

Roisin O’Farrell 5:16
And so that’s where you get supports for the arts grants for arts and bursaries and organizations. And, and that’s important, but not every artist is the same. And some artists are well capable. And by treating them all like children and sort of saying, now now now, we’ll all look after the money is not good for everybody.

Roisin O’Farrell 5:38
It is a support that sometimes, in some circumstances, in some ways, is necessary and important, as you know, as a system as an industry as a society. But I think that we need to give artists to skills early on in order to make good decisions for themselves. And I think that that would really enrich the work as well, in the long term, you’d have more of abreast of what’s available to us, if I think we took that approach.

Al McBride 6:07
Very interesting point. I mean, you’re reminding me of, you know, the E-Myth on this idea of the technician entrepreneur, so whether they’re, in your example of painter or a sculptor, or a chef, you know, it’s more common for the chef to bring in someone to manage from the house and to manage, so they can manage all their, their where their expertise is, but equally, there are plenty of chefs, thinking of Gordon Ramsay who have an amazing head for business, you know, he’s opened one more Michelin star restaurants than anyone else in the world, this kind of thing. So it can go both ways content.

Roisin O’Farrell 6:43
In this sort of, example, that you lay out there with a chef, you know, just because you have a top class chef who is creating innovative and progressive recipes, doesn’t mean he has to be in the, in the kitchen every single night, seven days a week.

Roisin O’Farrell 7:00
And so similarly, I mean, look at Damien Hirst, in terms of how he was running his studio, where it was almost like going back to that medieval School, where he had students actually working on his pieces. And that, of course, was really controversial at the time. So I think that as we go forward with art, and this, and this industry, we need to, in the same way that religion and science are beginning to have more of a dialogue, I think that our business needs to have more of a dialogue.

Al McBride 7:32
It’s a various appointment. How did you? Did you? I mean, I know some of the answer here. But it’d be interesting to have it take your, your fresh take on how you got to where you are now in the sense that I know you have a history, both with art, but also with different business projects. So did you get a very circuitous route to where you are in it?

Roisin O’Farrell 7:54
Absolutely. Oh, Hurley Worley route, I think. And I think that at a certain point in my progression in my career, I almost felt ashamed of that route of, you know, starting here and kind of going all around and ending up somewhere else.

Roisin O’Farrell 8:10
Now, I don’t have any shame about that. And I look at so many entrepreneurs, and you see that aren’t entrepreneurs who maybe didn’t fit the corporate route women entrepreneurs who didn’t fit that sort of gender based way of doing things, and decided just to go ahead and do it their own way.

Roisin O’Farrell 8:29
I was recently at an award ceremony, and the Every Woman ceremony award ceremony, and so many women who, who just, I would either were laughed at for their ideas or couldn’t progress for all sorts of reasons and who just decided to do it their way, their own way.

Roisin O’Farrell 8:46
They just just took a left turn. And I did that. And I didn’t go to art college. And even though I came from a family of artists and members osdana and successful artists, I decided not to do that at the time. And my first business failed. Well, it failed. I ended up but it never made any money. had a blast. But I learned so much from that first experience

Al McBride 9:15
was just to

Roisin O’Farrell 9:17
Well, when I left school, I became a veterinary nurse. That was my second passion was animals and I went to London, I went to college over there. And then I decided, you know, I’ve kind of got to a stage of working in London as a practice manager for some of the veterinary surgeons and veterinary clinics over there. And I really enjoyed that.

Roisin O’Farrell 9:39
But there was nowhere to go with that again, it’s that sort of dollars for hours idea I was working for someone else. And I decided to come back to Ireland and missed Ireland and my first business was called patent property care. It was basically where I managed people who pet did pet walking housesitting, for pets. And also a system of people who would take a dog into their home when the owner would go on holidays. And so that was in the, what was that the very early 90s. And it wasn’t really ready we

Al McBride 10:15
well ahead of your time there.

Roisin O’Farrell 10:18
It was, it was it just was sort of before my time. And so I had a really great lifestyle, I loved working for myself, I was busy, it was fulfilling, but I never really made any money. That was my first big lesson as an entrepreneur, that you can do something that gives you significance. And it’s easier to do that when you’re young, I was very young.

Roisin O’Farrell 10:40
But ultimately, where are you going to get to, if you don’t, don’t late, learn to kind of look at things in the cold light of day and say, I’m spending a lot of time here. But really, I’m kind of paying this because there’s no progression towards it doesn’t make a profit.

Roisin O’Farrell 10:57
And that was hard, because I really favored the significance part. And it really, it took me a few years to learn that lesson. And I learned and I never kind of went back and that I think I look back in the time when I felt Oh, dear, you know, that failed.

Roisin O’Farrell 11:14
But actually, the lesson was really worth it. And so from there, I and I also I also came out of that experiencing, I’ll never work for myself again. You know, the pressure of having to pay the bills at the end of the month and having no one that you can share that with and and sort of know that even if you’re having a bad month, your your salary check will be there that I found after a couple of years was tough. And but I think for different reasons.

Roisin O’Farrell 11:44
It wasn’t because I was self employed. It was because I hadn’t learned how to be profitable. So I went from there into working for other people mostly in customer service and marketing, a little bit of PR and loved that. And then when I had young kids, I was still working.

Roisin O’Farrell 12:03
And I got to a point where I was still painting, still harboring it never really left me, you know, that grow for painting for being an artist and wanting that significance from that. And then I in the last big recession, and my company went bust. And so I was made redundant.

Roisin O’Farrell 12:23
And at that point, I said, Okay, I’m going to give this a year, I’m going to paint every day like it was a job, I’m going to apply what I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, I’m going to follow my creativity, but I’m going to not take any excuses with myself. And so I painted almost every day, for the best part of a year, I didn’t worry about style, I didn’t worry about voice, I just experimented I tried this, I tried that I played with this I but the whole thing was that I needed to paint four or five paintings a week.

Roisin O’Farrell 12:56
And in that way, my technique grew, my, my voice grew, I had to know what it was I wanted to do creative creatively. And within the first year, I was discovered by a reputable gallery. And they asked me to come down and meet with them, which I did.

Roisin O’Farrell 13:15
That was traumatic in itself, because I had, you know, very little kind of confidence at that stage. And that gallery owner asked me to do a solo show. And I did I did the first solo show of my career, it’s sold out, and I never looked back. And that was that was it.

Al McBride 13:32
You touch on something there that talks, just so many things. But one thing in particular, which always struck me is you were never the artist who sort of sits around in coffee shops and just ponders things all the time. You know, you do that a little bit as well, usually with me. But what have a tremendous work ethic, but almost a scheduled work ethic. Are you demanding?

Roisin O’Farrell 14:00
I grew up around a lot of artists, and I know a lot of artists, and I’ve heard that, you know, I would meet somebody and they would say, you know, I’m working on a new show. And I would meet them two years later, and they would talk about this new show that they’re working on.

Roisin O’Farrell 14:17
And I’d meet them a year later. And they’d be talking about the progression. And, you know, it’s like, well, when is this new show coming out? You know, so I think I didn’t want to be like that I wanted to and also at that stage, I was a single mom responsible for two kids. And so I didn’t have the luxury of playing at art. It wasn’t a hobby.

Roisin O’Farrell 14:42
If I couldn’t make a living from art at that point in my career, which was early on after the first year. I had to go back into the office. That was it. And that’s the reality for most people if you are an entrepreneur and you know there Is that point at which it’s a side hustle. And you, you haven’t staked everything on it, maybe you’ve got a daytime job.

Roisin O’Farrell 15:09
And, and the danger is that it really is a hobby. If it is not moving forward, you don’t have a goal. It’s not profitable, or it’s not likely to be, then it’s a hobby, you know, and I learned that with my first business, but when I came to being an artist, I was very clear.

Roisin O’Farrell 15:26
So it needed whatever I did needed to work with my values, the the art that I was creating, I myself needed to feel happy about it, not that it had to be perfect. If I was waiting for that, I never would have gone anywhere. If needed, I needed to feel that this was art that I really did want to I was okay with it.

Roisin O’Farrell 15:49
I had a couple of people and still do in my life who I felt that they needed to be okay with what I was producing, okay, in my case, it was art. And if they were okay with if they weren’t put it this way, if they weren’t okay with it, and even if they weren’t, okay, with a new opportunity, or product or thing that I was involved in now, I would pause and listen to them.

Roisin O’Farrell 16:12
And the third thing was that nuts kind of mostly about creativity, and authenticity, and, and value around those kinds of things. But the third thing is that it has to make a living, because I have to pay the mortgage, you know, I have to make the payments and to look after my girls.

Roisin O’Farrell 16:27
So I think that does clarify the mind, those three things, for me have remained my core values from the day I started in 2009, or there abouts. Today, you know, the projects have changed, the opportunities have changed, but those values haven’t changed.

Al McBride 16:46
And that’s very much covering a lot of the question I was going to ask you about, you know, what do you feel are red flags, and I very much get the idea of being clear on your values. And as you said, What’s in alignment with that authenticity?

Al McBride 17:01
But when, for example, because I know various different opportunities come your way? Do you have any sort of interpersonal red flags with a dealer or with a company that wants to work with you? Or is there anything there that sort of makes you think, yes, this is good to go ahead? I mean, do you do very much trust your intuition? Or is it more explicit or not?

Roisin O’Farrell 17:27
Um, I suppose it depends on who we’re, we’re dealing with, who the opportunity is going to be with and who I’m going to partner with. But I think the key element is trust in the gallery, industry, Trust is everything. And because essentially, you are handing over very potentially valuable paintings, and you’re not paid until they are sold.

Roisin O’Farrell 17:52
And so you’re trusting the gallery to tell you when they have sold and to pay you correctly, to represent you well, to show your work well, to market it, well, all of those things are then out of your control. So, you know, it’s better to marry well than marry haste, I think that’s is that the expression?

Roisin O’Farrell 18:14
And I don’t think it is it’s a mixture of a couple of the big but I think so and it’s much harder to break up a relationship than it is to, you know, to become part of a relationship with a gallery. So trust is really, really important. So their reputation, their values, as a business person in the industry is really important in terms of the kind of values with other opportunities, for instance, working with people, retail people who would sell my fine art prints, for instance, again, it comes down to the values of the business. It’s important to me that it’s a high quality, retail operation, that they are trustworthy, that they will you know, all of those things work.

Al McBride 19:00
It’s a very, very interesting point because, you know, this is the, my course is dealing with dealing with Goliath, or the podcast that dealing with Goliath, you know, the course is all about the Goliath negotiation method. That’s, that’s what I cover, but it’s a very fundamental question to ask oneself whenever we’re getting into any kind of arrangement or deal of any kind is, what what did this other crowd actually stand for?

Roisin O’Farrell 19:28
And what do they want?

Al McBride 19:29
And what do they want?

Roisin O’Farrell 19:30
That’s really key because and the to flow together, don’t they? Because, you know, what they stand for and how they do business will influence what they want from you. And so, but I think it’s really useful in dealing with these people and in negotiation is to understand what that what they need and why they need it.

Roisin O’Farrell 19:53
If you understand that, you know, immediately whether you want to not go near them or run a miles or whatever. There, then you, you can get into that negotiation when you know what they need and they want. And that understanding allows you to say, Well, look, no, I’m not happy to do this, but I understand your need.

Roisin O’Farrell 20:13
And therefore, here’s another thing that might meet a different need for you that might make the whole package worthwhile for you. So that understanding I think, is really important,

Al McBride 20:23
it’s a fundamental is that it goes across different industries is, is understanding the need of the other side. How obvious in your experience is that is that need, I mean, because sometimes they’ll tell you, I, I’m aiming to do this, and this is why but other times, as you said, You nearly need to work it out very intuitive.

Roisin O’Farrell 20:44
I think you do have to work it out and intuit it to a large degree, because what somebody in another business, say to you I need this is sometimes sometimes it’s to do with a markup or a terms of condition, you know, whatever it is. And they may be asking for something, you know, shoot for the stars, and you’ll hit the trees, they may actually not need that thing.

Roisin O’Farrell 21:09
But they’re starting there. When you understand what their fundamental needs are, and their values, you don’t get swayed so much in trying to please them, especially when you’re the little guy. You know, when you’re the David’s, and you kind of feel and I think for artists starting out particularly they have issues with self confidence.

Roisin O’Farrell 21:31
They don’t know business, maybe so well. And so they’re so flattered that maybe a big gallery and established gallery come to them, that they’ll just say yes to anything, rather than actually saying, Okay, how does this relationship work for both of us? What am I actually happy to do or not to do? What happens if it goes wrong?

Roisin O’Farrell 21:50
And likewise, with working with the more retail side side of it? And how will this relationship affect my standing my values, my paintings, my original painting sales, and so saying yes to everything might be detrimental to another part of your business. So you really do need to have a good foundation, good understanding of your needs and their needs, I think we go into that negotiation.

Al McBride 22:17
And that’s, as I said, that that’s a that’s a principle that goes across industries, you know, it’s far from just in the art world. But as you said, All the more so when you’re essentially a sole trader, or a solo entrepreneur, it’s all the more important. So, you know, you’ve you’ve had a very interesting and diverse career so far Roisin, so just what failure was most instructive? Or what failure was most helpful? Or are you most proud of?

Roisin O’Farrell 22:47
Well, that the first business that I refer to, yeah, was very, it still colors me and my decisions and how I work. And, you know, as in being an artist, there has to be time for play, and there has to be time for creating new work for the sake of the process. You know, so it’s not all about just saying, Okay, this is gonna make money

Roisin O’Farrell 23:12
You know, that’s gonna kill your creativity, if that’s your only, you know, saying, but, um, I think what I learned from my first business is, if that’s all it is, if it’s all about that kind of play, and creativity, and just that, then the bills aren’t going to get paid, you know, and eventually, it’s going to end.

Roisin O’Farrell 23:30
And so the failure of that business really did. It helped me in terms of that. The other thing is, I did a business degree a little while ago, and the guy Blaise said something to me, that really stuck with me, which was that the worst thing that you can do is to be head down and arse up.

Roisin O’Farrell 23:53
And what he meant by that is, in the, in the weeds in the detail, you know, so if you’re an online course, creator, that you spend two years tinkering on your course, and trying to get this right, or trying to get that right, or, you know, if you’re trying to bring out a new product that you spend, you know, you get into the details, so much so that you’re not progressing.

Roisin O’Farrell 24:18
And you can’t see the bigger picture picture in your business, because we all have areas of our business that are comfortable for us to be in, maybe it’s working on the accounts, or maybe it’s working on the marketing or, but as entrepreneurs, we also need to lift the head up and make critical decisions about what are we spending our time on?

Roisin O’Farrell 24:40
Where is the business going? What’s making the most money for us, and bringing it forward? Those kinds of things. So, and I remind myself of that, you know, you know, at least once a month

Al McBride 24:57
it’s putting on taking off the Do-er cap. Putting on the CEO or the executive cap, where you’re thinking in a bigger picture strategic type away, and you

Roisin O’Farrell 25:07
know, whatever it is, whether it’s that you just want to be in the studio painting, and that’s fine or but if you want to make money as a business person, you know, whatever it is the thing that you love doing you do as an entrepreneur, because entrepreneurs just love to be doing we love to be busy. And you know, we can be busy fools. So yeah, not being head down ourselves.

Al McBride 25:31
Very good piece of advice, very good piece of advice. I mean, is that in some ways, one of the things you’d attribute as to as to why you’re one of the very few in any country of ours is for creative people who make a very decent living from us.

Al McBride 25:49
And what I mean by that is, it’s the same I think Nassim Telab called it extremiststan, you know, where accountants are in, or lawyers, they all kind of have a fairly dependable income expectation.

Al McBride 26:04
Whereas when you’re more creative areas, like whether it’s, you’re an author, or an actor or an artist, you have a whole load of people at the bottom of not making anything, a few people doing okay, and then a few people doing extremely stellar really well.

Al McBride 26:18
So just what do you think? And we touched on a few things earlier with your work ethic. But just wondering, do you think there are other attributes? He mentioned getting out of the weeds? Are there other attributes to why you’re, you’ve been so successful and serially successful, I mean, it’s not just, they are able to sell paintings, you then you know, created the teaching course, and how to teaching people to paint, then you do the actual teaching, or helping and coaching other artists and have to do the business of art. So what are some of those key aspects that your other artists clients aren’t doing that you give them? I think that’s what I’m trying to get to. What is that secret? Oh,

Roisin O’Farrell 27:05
that’s really hard. As you know, me, I like to talk for Ireland was a hard one to answer, I think it is the ability to look from the top, you know, to, to look at as a, as a whole, because my business has changed over the last sort of 10 or 12 years, you know, I, my first thing was painting and making a living from painting. And that’s the foundation to everything is the painting.

Roisin O’Farrell 27:40
I mean, I can’t really, in all honesty, teach other people to paint or to be successful as business entrepreneurs who paint if I am not already doing that. So that’s the foundation of it all, you know, the prints, and the online courses have sort of each in their term kind of, you know, doubled my revenue as I’ve gone along. But the key is to remember, the foundation because everything that I do, I’m passionate about, it really does come from a place of I hate the word authenticity.

Roisin O’Farrell 28:14
Integrity, you

Roisin O’Farrell 28:14
say that,

Al McBride 28:16
I’m sorry, what

Roisin O’Farrell 28:17
was the word use integrity. So, you know, the painting is who I am, you know, the, as my originals have become more expensive, the fine art prints have become something that meet a need for the people who follow me. So, you know, the, the, you know, the paintings might be up to sort of 10 grand kind of things.

Roisin O’Farrell 28:40
So not everybody is going to be in that world. And so the challenge is to find another way of, of meeting that need without harming the integrity of the, the, the originals. And so very careful, my prints aren’t everywhere, you know, you don’t, you can’t get them in every store everywhere that it’s quite select.

Roisin O’Farrell 29:00
So there’s that part of the business that I’m cautious about and careful about and making decisions that work for me with it as well. Just because people want prints doesn’t mean I should have prints everywhere, and that every caught up with any shop and find a card of one of my prints or you know, you’re not going to get it on tea towels and table mats and things like that.

Roisin O’Farrell 29:23
And, and then the online courses again, is passionate to who I am. I’ve always loved teaching. I’ve always found that I have been teaching and every job that I’ve done along the way, and I’m not somebody who hides what I do. I’m not one of these people who doesn’t want to show the process or tell people so that that just kind of is right for me and my values. It comes from who I’m who I am.

Roisin O’Farrell 29:46
So every part of my business has is is true to who I am. It fits with who I am. I’d nearly be doing it for free. Except that I’ve learned not to do that. So I don’t know if that answers your question. And so I’m not sure it does completely. But yeah, I think, um, the integrity piece is really important in terms of just about making the money, it’s.

Roisin O’Farrell 30:18
So I think it’s that combination, the combination of the business, know how learning the lessons, and the integrity, which has allowed me to be successful, it’s allowed me to, to develop my revenue alongside actually doing something of worth. And I don’t think that either one on its own works. It’s, you know,

Al McBride 30:41
it’s exactly that. I can’t remember who said it, but you usually do better being able to hold two opposing ideas at the same time. As I said, One of those is that it has to make money. But the other is that you need the freedom, in some ways not to be completely money focused, just like you said that it I suppose, is the strategy and the integrity strategy in one direction, integrity that unites it from underneath.

Al McBride 31:09
It’s just more so I’m just continually curious, when artists who are obviously talented painters or sculptors or whatever their medium, come to, what is it there that they’re often missing? Is it a sense of business acumen? Is this trying too hard at businesses and not trying hard enough? or What is it you usually give them that then makes their their income or their their careers jump up to another level?

Roisin O’Farrell 31:38
I think that the most important thing that I give my students who are, who are wanting to make a living from their art is that that, from the top kind of vision, write, able to look at what they do and make because it’s there, I’m not wanting them to become mini me clones, because you know, everybody needs to have what’s right for them.

Roisin O’Farrell 32:00
But I think it’s that ability to think about, what is it that I have to give the world and want to give the world? And how can I then make money from that? How can I be ruthless about how I present it to the world, in order that I can make money while offering meaning. The other thing that I think that I really helped them with is a process for getting there.

Roisin O’Farrell 32:28
Right? Oh, a process. You know, most people have the ability to make lists and say, this is where I want to get to, but they get totally lost as soon as they start getting into that, and then they get overwhelmed. And then it all goes out, you know, the window. So I really in that in that course, in particular, it’s the process of teaching them how to start with an idea, a plan with integrity, and then break it down to actually getting that done.

Roisin O’Farrell 32:57
And, and that’s a process that we go over again, and again and again, over a number of weeks until it becomes a habit for them. And I and I mean, you know, talk about pride mama bear here, I have so many artists who are now I walk into a little gallery somewhere and I go, there she is, you know, there’s another one, you know, and that’s fantastic. And on the painting side of things.

Roisin O’Farrell 33:19
The people who come to me are either people who haven’t painted very much before, or they have painted in spots and dribs and drabs, you know, they might have done a course here, of course, there or they whatever. And again, with them, it’s sort of threefold, it’s teaching them how to feed that central creative place in order that they have something to say that’s unique and valuable and significant.

Roisin O’Farrell 33:44
Then learning the technique. Because, you know, you can call yourself a knitter if you like. But if you can’t actually knit, you know, so there’s a level of technique. And then finally, that they do the work. That was again, the process.

Roisin O’Farrell 34:00
So you can say you’re an artist, but if you only do five paintings in a year, you won’t have anything to present to the world. And so it’s process related as well. So it’s, there’s a, sort of a holistic look of what actually it means to be an artist. And that’s, that’s kind of really what I teach. That’s the central core of the message for them.

Al McBride 34:20
There’s an interesting parallel there for people in other industries, I think were often stepping out. I just said, it’s great to go incredibly deep into what you’re doing to to have that expertise, so that you can see things that maybe your your, your competition can’t.

Al McBride 34:42
But as you said, you need that balance of stepping up above the weeds and seeing the big picture. And part of that seeing the big picture, okay, you’re doing it in a strategic way. Seeing opportunities, making choices, value based choices, integrity based choices and so on. But it’s also then as I said, it’s seeing contrast From from outside of your industry.

Al McBride 35:03
And as that helps develop that, that unique point of view, which I think is quite important for people than nearly any industry, it’s like, well, why I used to say there’s two groups of lawyers and accountants and whatnot, where I said, Well, why should anyone go to you rather than your rivals down the road.

Al McBride 35:27
And often the reasons were very kind of oh we’re dependable, and were there some other things that are not normally expected, you know, there’s not actual differentiation. And it sounds like the, that’s what you’re helping people develop on top of the strategy and integrity mix.

Roisin O’Farrell 35:43
And I’m very interested in people who are successful entrepreneurs who are not, who have not taken the normal route. Yes, generally, entrepreneurs, by definition, are going to take their own route to wherever they’re going to get, they tend to be individualistic, they tend to be ideas, people, hard worker, self driven, self motivated people who, you know, want to follow the corporate sort of path and fit into that well, and enjoy that sense of order will often end up in bigger companies working for other people, and very contentedly doing so.

Roisin O’Farrell 36:20
But I’m always interested in looking at the outsiders that have become successful. women often have come fall of that corporate structure and and those that are entrepreneurial, have succeeded in doing it in their own way, people of color, people with disabilities, people with dyslexia, or ADHD, or those kinds of mental health challenges who have become entrepreneurs.

Roisin O’Farrell 36:46
Not despite their failings, but they, they’ve woven it into how they have made things work for them. And I’m always really interested to see how they do that. And, and I’m always really heartened to see it, because I recognize that in myself, and it gives me confidence to feel that I mean, I, I do believe that you need to grow outside of just yourself. I mean, I have a team now who support me in my work, but it’s on my terms, many of them are women, not all of them.

Roisin O’Farrell 37:18
And all over the world, we mostly working remotely, I don’t really want a big team and an office, I like the solitude in order to allow me to create and to paint, but I also have, understand that if I do everything myself, I’m limiting how my business can grow.

Roisin O’Farrell 37:35
So but finding and and I think for entrepreneurs, this, I think is something that I kind of did want to talk about is that, and when it’s just you, whether you’re an artist, or you know, an entrepreneur, doing anything, the jump between being on your own to one person working for you, I think is the biggest jump, and I don’t have an experience of having a huge team.

Roisin O’Farrell 37:58
So I don’t really have much experience by thought but and I think sometimes we take that look at it, which is the sort of corporate thing and we think we have to employ a person. And we don’t. And I think that the way forward for entrepreneurs is this whole idea of ours.

Roisin O’Farrell 38:17
So you have, you know, somebody who looks after your Facebook ads or your marketing, and you’ve got somebody who’s a VA who specializes in managing your website, or in dealing with orders, or maybe you have a team of those people under somebody else who’s an online business manager, that’s I find the way forward for those of us who are essentially sole traders, but who are growing and need support.

Roisin O’Farrell 38:46
And so in my business, I have an online business manager who under her then she’s in Germany and Leipzig. And under her she has a team of people who have different roles, who are offering hours into my business. So all of that work can be done in an organized efficient way.

Roisin O’Farrell 39:04
And then I would have other people working here in Ireland, but again, they’re working remotely, we meet up for meetings or whatever as need be, but I am essentially still working on my own from my studio and from my office and then just pulling in that support as I needed. And I think that that’s a really great i think that that has helped me hugely as a model to go from being a sole trader to a sole trader plus five or seven, or whatever it is, as it grows.

Al McBride 39:35
It’s very interesting point is that a lot of these things people are getting to grips with more, regardless of their situation with COVID last year, but these things are are at our fingertips. Now if we can use some use them well, just to flip it for a moment because I know you’re very hard working woman.

Al McBride 39:54
But what what kind of balance Do you give to, to relaxing or todown time or life outside work? And what would you again? Do you tell your your business or your students? The world or lack thereof,

Roisin O’Farrell 40:12
it’s absolutely incredibly important. And for many entrepreneurs, I think they, you know, it’s head down and no fun. You know, because they’re Workaholics. And it doesn’t, it isn’t. It’s a myth that that kind of work and work and work and work and work and work will get you closer to your goals.

Roisin O’Farrell 40:31
It’s actually the opposite. It’s when we step away, and we go, and you know, when I go to live music, I always like restaurant if I come out, and somehow My World Vision has just expanded by about 180 degrees, nothing to do with art, nothing to do with business, you know, reading, you know, going to meet friends for coffee or lunch, you know, Alan that you were hopefully going to do that tomorrow, we haven’t been able to with COVID but um,

Roisin O’Farrell 41:01
you know, like, you know that I do that we go into town, I go wander around the galleries or not, and meet somebody for lunch chat about stuff that isn’t on your to do list conversations that aren’t about, you know, all the stuff I have to do and how stressed I am but ideas and, you know, bigger thoughts and fun. And you know, that’s absolutely important too.

Roisin O’Farrell 41:26
Being able to shut the business. I mean, I found that difficult at the beginning, I think, you know, my kind of workaholic key field. But in my last business, my first business when I was only 21. I worked all the hours all the hours every day I worked holidays, and I never made any money. You don’t make money by doing that. That is not the key. That is the mess that if you work harder, you’ll make more money. to a large degree it is it seems Machiavellian, but to some degree, when you work less, you will make more because I suppose lack of that.

Al McBride 42:05
It’s such a good point. I was listening to a podcast with a mentor of mine interviewing a guy who was coaching contractors. And he actually said the same thing, this myth that, oh, you just work more hours is how you make more money or how you improve your business. And like that has a limit. You only have 24 hours a day. 24 hours. Yeah.

Al McBride 42:29
But and then you kind of remind me of the classic Tim Ferriss four hour workweek thing. I know, it’s it’s somewhat a myth, because it should be called the four hour grunt workweek. But the point was the same was he was in hospital or something of this. And he could only work a very limited number of hours in a week or in a day.

Al McBride 42:47
So it was that ruthless streamlining and efficiency that he managed to get out of it. So that’s the same idea. You actually remind me of something that I used to, to bring to a lot of my coaching clients, which is something you do and you were talking about process earlier. And that was a huge thing.

Al McBride 43:07
Basically, just getting this, this habit, this relentlessness momentum going. One thing he used to say to me was I don’t know when you do, I think you had to drop your kids to school and you do a few other things. And then I think it was a nine or 930. Every morning you’d be priming the canvas as he used to call it. And I used to use this metaphor with all sorts of business people that I would talk to this idea that you just at a certain time, you’re almost on autopilot, doing an activity, a process, which then leads you into the important work that you have to do.

Al McBride 43:42
And he used to say to me, you know whether you knew exactly what you were painting that day, or you didn’t really have a clue, you would start this process at the same time, five days a week, standing out the canvas doing your thing. And then by the time you’d prime to come this way you put primer on the rock house, then you’d be you’d have some ideas and you start playing or start working. So

Roisin O’Farrell 44:07
I what for me that’s about is those always something like the tyranny of the urgent, you know, there’s always something you have to do. There was always an email, there’s always somebody I have to get back to. There’s always something I need to answer. If I always follow that I’ll never get to the canvas we’ll never get and also there is a certain anxiety there’s a certain uncomfortableness with creating.

Roisin O’Farrell 44:28
There’s a reticence there’s a I mean, my mum who’s also an artist used to say to me, how’s it going today? Would it be working on a painting and I’d say it’s torture. And, and I’ve learned to live with the torture of creation. Now it isn’t always I think that I hate when my students tell I’ve just lost in my own world painting because I know then that they’re not conscious to it.

Roisin O’Farrell 44:51
They’re not present to it. They’re just fiddle, fiddle fiddle fiddling away. The the real, real strength of your work will Come when you are wrestling with it, you know, for good or for bad, you know, the good, the bad and the ugly, that doesn’t matter, the end game doesn’t matter if that’s the process, you being there and bringing this thing into life.

Roisin O’Farrell 45:12
So I find routine is really good there. So I, as I said, You know, I present myself to the canvas. Now, if I end up just cleaning my palette and organizing my stuff, I’m still in that place. I’m still thinking, maybe working on ideas, but I am there. I’m in front of the council in the studio, if if I allow myself to go into the office and answer that email and answer that, I’ll be there for hours.

Roisin O’Farrell 45:41
So the routine means that that’s what I do on a Tuesday morning, that happens nine, I present myself to the campus, that’s what I do. I don’t think about the outcome of that. That’s the that’s the bit that trips you up? Is it going to be good or bad? Is this not going to be a good painting? I’m no good.

Roisin O’Farrell 46:02
That’s the stuff that you have to let go of. But the part you are responsible for is are you present to it, are you standing in front of the canvas Are you there are you know, allowing that creativity to develop and, and to make that work, and not? You know, so many people, when they get to that part where it’s uncomfortable will go off and do whether it’s they’re putting a wash on and the washing machine or and have to go

Al McBride 46:30
love the way you’re talking about it, because you reminded me of, you know, being acutely aware of the difference between lead goals and lag goals, or lead activities and lag activities. So that kind of thing that we all want to make sales, but you don’t have very much control over whether you make a sale in the outcome, you do have, you know, increase the likelihood by making sure you have you know,

Al McBride 46:59
I don’t know a show booked in making sure you have the dates and the calendar with the gallery, then, you know, making sure you’re painting as many pictures as you need in whatever time to get it done. So it’s all of those other activities that lead up to increase the likelihood of getting the lag activity, which you don’t

Roisin O’Farrell 47:18
see my students said whether or not that painting is going to sell is none of your business. If you start to paint in order to create something that will sell in other words, you say you had a show, and six of the paintings that featured that blue kind of abstract thing sold.

Roisin O’Farrell 47:38
So then you go into the studio and you start trying to make more of those you chasing something, instead of concentrating on the process of what allowed you the problem, the question that whatever that allows you to create those in the first place, maybe they’ll end up being pink, maybe they’ll end up being something different.

Roisin O’Farrell 47:56
But because they have integrity, the good work, they will sell the selling bit is not, I know you have to make money. But if you chase that bit, you will end up you will lose the integrity of the work. And that’s where our schools get this notion of commercial work is bad. It’s that notion of chasing sales as a creative, it’s very harmful.

Roisin O’Farrell 48:19
So as I always say to them, whether this sells or not is none of your business, your business is to present yourself to the process to create work that you’re proud of, to improve your technique to put the raw materials of, of, of your sort of feeding the well of your creativity and finding that inspiration so that you have something to say, and then doing the work in a measured, controlled, consistent way.

Roisin O’Farrell 48:46
Then whether then you put on your business cap, it’s almost like I say to people in the in the love to sell course, that they need to be two people. There’s you the artist who’s almost like the inner child, you’re vulnerable. You’re you have your maybe some issues with self confidence is this work good.

Roisin O’Farrell 49:05
But that’s the part also that needs to be nurtured in order to do the real creating with integrity. Once the painting is created, it then becomes a product if you want it to be and then you market that and you have to let go of that inner child at that point and become a hard nosed business person and say, okay, is this the right, you know, are my prices too low?

Roisin O’Farrell 49:27
Are they higher? Am I putting in the right environments? Am I doing the right deals? am I leaving money on the table? You know, that’s a whole other side to you. And we can wear those two cups, but we do need to keep them a bit separate, I think.

Al McBride 49:40
Beautiful point. I mean, that’s one of the pieces of advice I used to give parallels with us where the easiest way to negotiate better, like noticeably better, particularly when it’s you’re selling or negotiating something that’s more of you, that you have more.

Al McBride 49:57
It’s more you feel more vulnerable. through it, is to do it in the third person. Yeah, to pretend that you’re negotiating on behalf of a friend rather for yourself. And then you get so much better. Let’s say

Roisin O’Farrell 50:11
to me, I could sell my friends work, no problem. But when it’s my work, and I’m standing in a, you know, on a stand or, you know, an exhibition or something, and someone comes over, I get all sawdust in my mouth. And you know, I can’t do it. And and that’s if you got to act as if you’ve got to put on a persona that and play that part. It’s your almost acting, you go into the room. Sorry. And, yeah, you’ve got to play the part.

Al McBride 50:42
Excellent stuff. Well, we’re just coming up on time. They’re literally by the bell. So thank you very much. Thank you very much Roisin. That’s great stuff.

Roisin O’Farrell 50:53
It’s so good to talk to you as ever.

Al McBride 50:55
It’s brilliant. See you soon. All right. So we’re just coming up on time there. Roisin. It’s been fantastic talking with you. If people want to learn a little bit more about you or potentially want to learn to paint or improve their art business, where can they learn more about you?

Roisin O’Farrell 51:16
Well, they can find me on, that’s my website and from there they can you know, look at my prints or my originals or the school so those that’s the gateway to my world,

Al McBride 51:27
the gateway to your world, to the paintings to the friends to all of the courses as well brilliant stuff in itself. I’ll Of course post those links below this video and below the podcast. So fantastic talking to you

Roisin O’Farrell 51:41
Thank you so much.

Al McBride 51:43
Oh, and Happy Birthday talk to ya soon.

Roisin O’Farrell 51:51

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