YES Employment + Entrepreneurship - An Interview with Artist Coach Caroline Gauthier

YES Employment + Entrepreneurship is a Not-For-Profit-Organization that opened its doors more than 25 years ago and offers English-language services to Quebecers to help them find employment and start and grow their businesses.

YES Employment + Entrepreneurship - An Interview with Artist Coach Caroline Gauthier

YES Employment + Entrepreneurship is a Not-For-Profit-Organization that opened its doors more than 25 years ago and offers English-language services to Quebecers to help them find employment and start and grow their businesses.

Their Artist's Program, which is open to all ages and disciplines, offers a range of services to help artists develop entrepreneurial skills, strategies and tools to build sustainable and economically viable careers.

Their services encompass all the aspects related to owning one's craft like a business. This includes: one-on-one coaching, thematic workshops by industry professionals, consultations with certified professionals across an array of specializations such as accounting and law, and many others.

YES Employment + Entrepreneurship also offers their “Business Skills for Creative Souls: The Montreal Artist’s Handbook” a necessary guide for artists navigating their businesses as well as a one-of-a-kind Business Skills for Creative Souls Artists’ Conference, held annually, offers a day of inspiration, information, and networking for artists of all backgrounds.

In 2019-2020, YES Employment + Entrepreneurship's Artist program delivered 741 one-on-one coaching sessions to 559 clients. Today, we're taking the time to sit with Caroline Gauthier, artist business coach at YES Employment + Entrepreneurship.

Hi Caroline, thanks for joining us, today. Can we start with your background and what brought you to YES Employment + Entrepreneurship?

Yes, well I started off as a classically trained singer. I studied music, then I switched over and got into theatre and film, so I got into acting and I did that for a number of years, filmmaking as well. After spending about 12-15 years in the arts, I decided to go back to school and get a business degree because I wanted to have more options, more control over my direction in life and be more knowledgeable. So I got the degree, and when I came out of school I got this job as an artist business coach at YES Employment + Entrepreneurship which was a perfect combo for me because it combined my life as an artist with my business knowledge. It gave me the opportunity to help other people.

Amazing, so let's dig a little deeper into your academic background. Can you talk about some of the differences you experienced between your studies in the arts vs. in business, and were there any similarities?

Well, I don't think there are any similarities at all. Except they they both occur in a school building and that there are professors. An arts education would be much more similar to a humanities education. So the focus is really on, you know, learning the topic, and learning the background of the topic and understanding it and appreciating it. And then, a lot of the education is actual practical education. So, if you're in music school, you're learning to play music, and you're getting lessons, you know, you're doing that. So your life is completely focused around that activity.

A business education is a completely different kind of education. It's about business (haha)! It's about making things work, it's about how transactions work, how can you find the right way to make something sellable, how profits work. It really has nothing at all to do with a fine arts education or a liberal arts eduction. So, for me, I was getting a completely different set of tools and education and perspective on the world. What I would say helps me in terms of working with artists, is that, artists, based on what they want out of life and also based on what they learned in school,  they'll put the art first, which they should, but they won't get the training on how to think from an economic perspective, or how to think from another stakeholder's perspective, which is the kind of training you get in business,  "what's in it for them?" - that sort of logic. They're not trained in that because that's not the focus of artistic training. In my role, as a business coach, one of the things I try to bring is that outside perspective - yes focus on your art, absolutely, but if you want to live off of it, you must know that money is trading hands, and you have to develop the business mindset where you're thinking of other realities - such as marketing, how are they finding out about you, how are you setting expectations, how are you adding value to someone else, so all of these concepts which are not present in their own education.

It sounds like there is a lot that artists and musicians can learn from YES Employment + Entrepreneurship. Can we talk a bit about the artists you're currently working with and what their current situations are and why they came to you in the first place?

What YES Employment + Entrepreneurship offers is very, very attractive to artists because there isn't a lot of opportunities to get these services anywhere else. The arts program has two different aspects, we have workshops on different subjects and we also offer one-on-one coaching, which is most of what I do all day. So I meet with artists of all disciplines, so there's really no barrier to entry (laughs) like any artist can come and use our services. What they are working on in the moment will vary a lot, depending on, of course, their discipline, what their goal is, and what stage of their professional life they are in. It's hard to generalize, but if I tried to break it down into different aspects, I would say self-promotion is definitely one of the big topics, that's a very big point of focus with a lot of people, how do you get out there?  how do you run your social media?  how do you get into contact with, say if you're selling something, how do you get into contact with potential buyers? or grants, how do I find the right grants, how do I prepare a good grant application? a lot of discussions are also about time management, how do I practice my art profession when I have two part time jobs and I have a kid? how can I focus, how can I get to my next step? How do I manage making, for instance for more functional stuff, how do I commercialize these things with my more personal work, where do I define where that line is?

With musicians, there are a few different things that we focus on, but there is a really strong aspect of navigating the industry because there's a lot of players in the music industry. If you're a recording artist, how do you navigate bookers, labels - all these different people that kind of want something from you. There's a lot of abuse in the industry as well, and so knowing how to navigate that and how to negotiate adequately, how to watch out and get contracts. A lot of them [musicians] are recording their stuff, so how to get their music out there, how to SELL some music, albums, which is very very difficult - making any money at all off of original music is extremely hard. So yes, those are a lot of the things that I look at with musicians.

Can you talk a little bit more about those one-on-one sessions. When you have a new artist that comes in, such as a sculptor or a singer, do they know exactly what path they want to go down because they have  one specific goal in mind? or do you often brainstorm with artists to create that structure with them?

To answer your question, yes, there are a lot of those discussions as well - what the objectives are, what they should focus on first, what would be a good plan to set up. That happens a lot, too.

I do try to get goals set up right away with someone, even if they change, it's better to have something we're working towards, otherwise the practice is less useful. So they should have at least some one thing that they want to accomplish. Usually we can establish that to a certain level in the first meeting.

Amazing. So is everything online at the moment, or at any point is it going to be back in person, how are you guys navigating that?

Yeah, everything is still online, the plan is, for the fall, business coaches will start going back to the office part-time so we're gonna be doing a hybrid model. The workshops will continue to be online during the fall semester and that is until further notice. We will be following the evolution of the virus and depending on that, the goal is to eventually have the workshops back in person again, or a hybrid model, but for now, everything will be online.

Does YES Employment + Entrepreneurship also take charge in creating a community for artists and musicians?

A lot of the artist clients who I have spoken with mention that the community aspect is something they appreciate - being connected to artists at workshops or events. A specific example is the artists from CCY (Connecting Creative Youth through the Arts) or WTP (What the Pop) in previous years - they [artists] created support networks online where they would share resources and chat on Insta in DMs or cross-promote each other's work. I know some artists who connected through YES have partnered together in the past to work on projects as well. We used a special platform to host the Artist Conference this year specifically for its networking capabilities. I think highlighting the opportunities to connect with other artists is important.

I myself have been organizing things such as group coaching by discipline where people can meet and discuss things but it's all virtual for now. For instance, this afternoon, I'm going to be meeting with illustrators and writers and we're going to have a guided discussion together. This gives them an opportunity to create connections and deepen these relationships through events like What the Pop or through workshops. It's harder with the online, for sure, but we make it as easy as possible.

I do find it super interesting that you just mentioned how you are taking initiative to help artists network with these group workshops because it is not explicitly mentioned on the YES Employment + Entrepreneurship website. It's good to know that artists who sign up will be networking with people in their sphere of work and creating together.

Can you tell us about any upcoming events from YES Employment + Entrepreneurship?

The next big event that we are planning is the Annual Artist Conference in March of next year. This is our largest-scale event where we bring together members of the arts community, guest speakers, and connected organizations to help each other through insights and knowledge sharing. Last year we held the event virtually, for the first time, using a new paltform called Remo. Using this platform, we were able to set-up discussion round-tables and have guests move from one room to the next. So despite being online, we were still very much able to retain the networking aspect of the event. We also allow for participants to book one-on-one consultations with representatives from arts councils and other similar organizations. This gives artists a chance to learn more about funding and grants, government programs and initiatives, and discover new and exciting opportunities.

You can find out more information about YES Employment + Entrepreneurship's services for artists, employment and businesses at their website here or by calling them at: 514-878-9788 or email:

Be sure to look out for their virtual workshop Jump Start Your Art, which is held on select Mondays from 1:30pm-3:30pm.

This article was published by GigLinked, a Montreal-based startup aiming to help musicians sustain meaningful careers through its online platform of tools. To find out more, follow us on instagram @GigLinked or become a BETA tester by signing-up here.