“Your art might not work and your career might not work either. If it doesn’t work today, it might not work tomorrow either-but our practice is to persist until it does”- Seth Godin, The Icarus Deception
I’ve just finished my fourth week of “business school”. I’m taking an online business class. I’m now obsessively listening to podcasts like Solopreneur Hour and Entrepreneur On Fire. I’m listening to a stack of business books suggested by the online course and the podcast hosts. Needless to say my brain is like the East River on the Fourth of July! Fireworks are going off in all directions.
One of the most surprising things about this whole experience is that one of the overall messages of the online class, the books and the podcasts is that you need to think like an artist when you are creating a business. There is an undeniable amount of convincing going on in these “lessons” for the entrepreneur that they need to see themselves as artists when creating their businesses. It’s incredible, because here I am with no problem in recognizing myself as an artist. I can’t help but think like an artist. I’m trying to convince the world and myself that as artists we need to think like and become entrepreneurs!! Boom! My “ah ha” moment happens.
Entrepreneurs are taught not only to be creative in producing their product but also to be creative in how that product can generate income to sustain their dream lifestyles. Both are equally important and valid. The whole thing is seen as a creative endeavor. They are artists because it takes that kind of vision and imagination to create a business that actually might survive and they are entrepreneurs because they have the guts to take the risk, to start and fail and to start again.
As artists/performers that create our own work, we are taught to perfect our craft and to have a strong premise and to play actions and to have a beginning, middle and end and all that it takes to have a fully developed show to present. But then, how do I make a living out of this “brilliant” thing that I couldn’t help but create? Somehow being officially taught how to market and sell our product is left out of our education. It’s just not validated in the same way that it is for the entrepreneur. It’s like the entrepreneur gets the full body workout and we as artists are over here doing one-armed push ups. With just the right arm.
I also have come to realize that as performing artists we seem to separate ourselves from the rest of the world. As if we are “other” when it comes to being able to sustain ourselves from our art alone. We are supposed to work behind the bar or shuffle plates until we find the golden ticket and get picked to audition for our 15 minutes of fame. It’s like it’s been ingrained in our psyche that we have to struggle and be “starving artists”. There’s this underlining feeling that if you are making a profit as an artist you must be a sell out and that’s a negative thing. Where did that come from? I want to change that now. I’m a SELL OUT! I’m claiming it as a positive thing now. That’s right it’s all good. I’m going to SELL OUT every damn show that I create! I am a SELL OUT, just like that!
I’m more certain than ever that as the entrepreneur needs to become an artist, the artist needs to become an entrepreneur. The reality is that we are all artists.
So, after 4 weeks of “business school” and 20 years of being an IPA, here are my top 3 business techniques that every IPA will have to practice in order to achieve a thriving career. Please understand that I’m writing and developing this with the assumption that you are already honing your craft as a performer. This is the stuff that you will never learn in acting school but you will need if you want to pay off all those student loans doing what you love. I’m calling this the foundation.
1. DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND– Your brand is really just your purpose. What is your purpose? Why do you do what you do as an artist? I think it is important to answer this question as an artist and then also to be sure that each of your projects has a defined purpose too. By the way, your brand is not your logo. Your brand should be reflected in your social media, website and blogs.
2. CREATE A DREAM SCHEME– A Dream Scheme is really just a plan. In most cases trying to write a traditional business plan as an independent performing artist does not work . I also think that when artists hear the words business and plan put together it triggers a brain malfunction. Plus it’s just boring. The business plan for the business man is really just a business guess anyway. Like a business plan, your dream scheme will change and evolve. Your dream scheme can be a board/notebook/poster/journal or anything that reflects your desires and visions for your projects and the type of lifestyle that you want to lead as a thriving artist. One of the most important elements in the design of your dream scheme is that your financial dreams must be just as visible and clear as your artistic and lifestyle dreams.
3. BUILD YOUR AUDIENCE– Your audience is really just your potential customers. If you don’t have an email list, start to grow one now. If you stopped growing your email list because you have 1 billion friends on Facebook, you better hurry up and start getting those emails again. You don’t own your contacts on Facebook. Facebook owns your contacts. From what I understand, before we know it, we will have to pay to make announcements that will reach all of our “friends” on our social networks. That’s where we are headed. Take control of your connections and start building your own email list now. Emails are yours and they are valuable to the future of your business. (Will you please sign my email list, future audience member?)
Over my next three posts I will go deep into these three super important business practices for the thriving artist and why I think each one is a building block for a super powerful foundation in your business. I will lay out some simple definitions and easy actions that you can take right away to get you started on creating a strong foundation for your investment in YOU! Let’s get to work!
Meanwhile, if you have not already picked a book from my bookstore, go ahead and pick up Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. Click Survival Market to explore everything you need to become a thriving artists. It’s all right there waiting for you to discover .
Leave a comment. What do you think about all of this. Or send me an email at Matlock@thrivingipa.com.
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