Like many artists, I tend to have more ideas than money and some of my grander ambitions have needed a springboard to get them off the ground. Some have flown, while others have crash landed. In this article I'll be talking about the good, the bad and the ugly sides to funding.

You need dreams, yes, but you also need realistic expectations to be in with sporting chance of retaining your sense of humor (and self-worth). 

1. Apply for a grant with Arts Help and Talenthouse!

Of course, we have to highlight the fact that we are currently giving away funding from a pool of $3.5 million, to artists and creatives who want to produce work highlighting the impact of blockchain technology on climate change.

2. Crowdfunding 

Crowdfunding is the simplest and most accessible means of funding new work. It's also a great way of building your resumé if you are planning bigger projects in the future and considering applying for public funding (grants and the like - more below!). I've used Kickstarter many times, and successful campaigns demonstrate an ability to handle budgets, work to deadlines and raise capital – all things that give investors confidence in a creative's ability to manage projects effectively.

Courting Crows Kickstarter, image credit Drawing in Dark.jpg
An example page from Kickstarter

It's an ideal option for expanding your product range with minimal risk. I personally have found it very effective for launching new print collections, which have in turn allowed me to start selling on two wholesale platforms, thereby using one income stream to generate a second. I like Kickstarter because the funding is all or nothing - the project only goes ahead if you have met your target. If you have budgeted correctly you can try new things without worrying about spending money up front and of course you've established there is definitely an audience for what you are offering.

If you're not familiar with crowdfunding sites, the basic principle is that you set up a project page explaining what you want the funds for, people who like the idea can pitch in financially and in return get rewards, often in the form of exclusive or limited edition merchandise. It's a great model for artists as it's so well suited to prints etc and you can easily add value to your rewards by including behind the scenes information, work in progress video, and so on. To maximise the benefit to myself, I do a physical pop-up show with the whole collection to publicise the project to a wider audience before I send rewards out.     

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An example page from Patreon

It's a lot easier to start with a small target and raise more than it is to successfully hit a large target, unless you have a lot of time and connections to mount a major publicity campaign. Sometimes, starting small isn't an option because of the inherent cost of making something and it's not advisable to risk underfunding and not being able to deliver. However, if like me you're just looking for a little extra to get something moving, start at your baseline and then you've every chance of being officially funded early on which looks good to other backers.

3. Grants and dedicated arts funding

If you've come up with something completely preposterous and therefore expensive that you absolutely have to do, I'd look at dedicated arts funding. In my case, I've had two grants from Arts Council England and am currently trying to wrestle a third from somebody for an accessible arts project I'm working on with American author Sean Walter. This has been a herculean effort and an excellent example of when things don't go according to plan the first time, so I'm going to share that story because if nothing else, it will make you feel better about whatever has happened to your projects this week.  

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To get a grant from a funding body, you have to provide a lot of evidence to support your submission – a detailed budget, timeline, projected earnings, audience figures and so on. That sounds like a lot but it's essential for any large project in order to prove that you are prepared and can measure success. It is not, however, infallible. On Tales in Sombre Tones, one of our brilliant ideas required outsourcing some of the technical development of the material to someone with specialist skills. Months of searching on both sides of the Atlantic turned up a grand total of one person who could do it. Normally I get a minimum of 3 quotes but in this case, we had no choice but to go for it.

To our dismay, we had to proceed without a key element which impacted our promotional plan and while we were able to tour 3 locations with what we had, fulfilling our criteria for the grant, we had to then put everything on hold while we found a solution. We now have a new specialist who has turned out to be the perfect fit and so I've developed a revised plan for stage two, using the first round as proof of concept – again, getting the absolute maximum out of every outcome.

It's not an easy process - competition is incredibly high, especially in the current climate so you have to be determined, persistent and prepared for rejection, but the benefits can be enormous.

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There are a lot of grants available all over the world - including this offering from Talenthouse and Arts Help - so it's worth looking beyond your own country when considering which funds to apply for. Most importantly, don't be afraid to try – the only way you're definitely not getting funded is if you don't ask.

Further viewing/reading 

A comprehensive list of international arts funding https://www.artworkarchive.com/blog/complete-guide-to-2022-artist-grants-opportunities

Arts specific alternatives to Kickstarter https://thecrowdspace.com/directory/art-crowdfunding-platforms/ 

Author: Karen Ruffles of Drawing in Dark is a self employed artist working in the north of England. She specialises in gothic horror, landscapes and wildlife. See her work on her website and Instagram.

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