Was this 15th / 16th century German artist a role model for the modern freelancer? In Portrait of the Artist as an Entrepreneur, the Economist discusses how Albrecht Dürer used the latest technology to invent a new business model.
It is clear from the article and the quotations from Dürer himself that he was well aware of the value of his talent and that he developed a strategy to leverage his limited time to yield greatest return. Of his “Madonna of the Rose Garlands”, he wrote: “My picture … is well finished and finely coloured [but] I have got … little profit by it. I could easily have earned 200 ducats in the time.”
To a customer, he wrote, “I shall stick to my engravings, and if I had done so before I should be a richer man by 1,000 florins.”
By investing in his own printing press, Dürer was able to produce copies of his works and leverage his creative work more effectively whilst also maintaining control by producing the prints himself.
More than that though, Brecht protected his independence, considering court painters to be “parasites”. He was – and seemed to consider himself – an independent businessman, “not even a member of a guild”. And, in recognising the value of his brand, Brecht made his monogram a prominent trademark in his works, and often an integral part of the image.
So: a strategic approach to utilising his talent, development of re-usable intellectual property and building his own brand. Today’s sovereign professional has much to learn from Dürer.