Artist as Entrepreneur
All Artists are Entrepreneurs.
Filmmakers may understand this mindset sooner than actors or painters or dancers, but make no mistake, YOU are your own business. The sooner you realize this the better. It is fine to think of yourself as an artist, but it is absolutely critical that you see yourself as an entrepreneur. You are “in business”, and you must think like a business woman or business man. If a career in the art world or the entertainment industry is your goal, the sooner you have an entrepreneurial mindset the better! You need to be an artist as entrepreneur.
You are creating content, art, shows, choreography—whatever genre of art you work in—to make a living. To get PAID. Unless you are independently wealthy and doing your art is a hobby, you are in this career path to fulfill your life’s calling and make a living at it.
You are adding value to people’s lives— and that is worth a fair wage. In 1 Timothy 5:18 it says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” This verse is specifically referring to pastors being paid fairly for their work but it is still reasonable to extrapolate this principle and apply it to others deserving to be paid fairly for their work.
Starving Artist Myth
Many artists and creative professionals buy into the starving artist narrative. This starving artist persona (many feel describes their plight as an artist nowadays) is ridiculous. Yep I said it, ridiculous. If you are in this business of art or entertainment for the long haul, you do what it takes to thrive, be seen and get your work valued and paid for. If that means, side hustles as waiters, nannies, tutors—whatever it is—you make your way. There is too much technology that is helpful— from websites to social media to YouTube and the like at your disposal to get you and your work out there like never before. Sorry no excuses. We even have a program especially designed for creatives to learn to be entrepreneurs. It’s called our Catalyst Program check it out. Also, if you want a good book to read on the myth of the starving artist see what blogger and author Jeff Goins has to say on the topic here.
How do you live and think like an Entrepreneur?
Think like a business owner
It’s called show business for a reason. It wasn’t started as a charity to bless people and enlighten them. It was created to make money. And making money isn’t a bad thing. You don’t have to be a sell out to be successful. As I mentioned, the opportunities we have today as creatives allows everyone with access to a computer and the internet to have a GLOBAL reach. You can find your tribe. You can find your audience. It just takes time, effort and creativity-things you should have if you want a career in the arts.
And it doesn’t matter if you are a visual artist selling in galleries and online, a musician selling through iTunes, or an actor getting picked up for a feature film. Be a student of the market and treat your art like a business.
Discover the value you add to the market and capitalize on your strengths. In the world of film and television their products are often broken down into genres and formats. This is where studios set out to make their mark and own a piece of the market. Just look at the channels- History Channel, The Food Network, or MTV (which doesn’t even play music anymore.) If you want to make a living, you must make products(your artwork) people want, and will pay for. That is the only way it will end up paying the bills.
Thinking like an artist as entrepreneur means you think about how the product you are producing will benefit the customer—does it entertain them? Enlighten them? Delight them? Teach them something? Expose an injustice? The possibilities are endless. Consider the market, find your audience and use your artistic ability and craftsmanship to meet the need.
Plan for the future
Too many people come to Los Angeles, or go to New York (or any other major market for art) each year without really taking the time to “count the cost” (Luke 14:28). It is expensive to live in either place (trust me I’ve lived in both, it is crazy expensive!) and the average time to become an overnight success is at least 10 years. You don’t need a 30 year business plan, but you really need to write down on paper, or maybe an Excel spreadsheet, your plan for how you are going to pay your bills while you are developing your craft, filling out your resume or putting together a great sizzle real. It is the fool who doesn’t plan for tomorrow.
Choose your projects wisely
I know your art professor at Yale, or your film professor at USC told you originality is important. It is. Nobody wants the same old stale ideas, but you must prove the market wants your new ideas before others will get behind you.
In school you can explore topics you find personally interesting, even if there is no profitable market for it. Once you are outside those lecture halls you need to create something people are willing to pay for. If you don’t, you will find that you cannot make a living because too few people want to buy your art, or hire you to create films, music and video games. Now this doesn’t mean you sell out and create artistic drivel. And this doesn’t mean you die on every creative hill.
Learn flexibility and realize the projects you want to do may not happen right away, it may take a few years to get them set up for success. So if you need to do some projects that aren’t fully in your wheelhouse but they pay the bills and set you up to tee up your pet project, they may be worth the investment.
Don’t always follow the herd
When you hear interviews of artists who found tremendous success, over and over you will discover most artists created their own opportunities to get in front of agents, gallerists, producers, whomever, to get noticed. God gave you your creativity for more than making art. He gave you creativity to solve problems and to find new ways to get your art and talent in front of the people who can help you.
This is the heart of the artist as entrepreneur – willing to take risks and forge a new way to get the attention of the audience. Today, this may include online videos, podcasts, webisodes, pop up galleries, etc. There are a thousand ways to stand apart from your competition. God gave you the mind of creativity to figure out how to do that. Think like an artist as entrepreneur and find a way to set yourself apart from your competition.
It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process
I know as an artist or creative professional all this seems overwhelming. Just creating your work is tough enough. You’re right it is. We live in a world where even if you have representation, —the advertisers, agents, or distributors are looking to you to prove your work is marketable- that you have a following. On some level every artist and creative professional must take their career and the future of their career in their own hands and be an active participant in the process of marketing.
I encourage you to check out our resources here at AEM and especially our Catalyst Program. We just launched our first Catalyst Group in Hollywood/Los Angeles where we specifically work through entrepreneurial issues for creatives. We hope to make this an online course for everyone globally. So if you need the help, email us to get put on the list for the next Hollywood/Los Angeles Catalyst course or the online version at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As an artist or creative professional, it is not enough to make good art or film or music or dance. You need to see yourself as an entrepreneur and have the mindset of an entrepreneur. You must understand you are your own brand, and you need to manage that brand and all the products (your art, film, music, etc.) it brings to market. For far too long we have all seen the stereotype of artists who focused merely on their own creativity and failed to have any business acumen. This is a dangerous stereotype because it leads us away from becoming the successful artists as entrepreneurs God designed us to be – wise and creative in our business as well as the art we create.
I’m constantly reminded of Bezalel in the Bible, one of my favorite people mentioned in Scripture. He was not just talented, but wise and filled with knowledge and understanding. In our Arts & Entertainment Institute we have four lectures devoted to him because the qualities he has as an artist are directly applicable to us today. He is the archetype of what it means to follow God and be an exceptional artist. Check him out in Exodus 31 and check out our Institute if you want to learn more.
AEM has more resources available to help you further your career and understand how to integrate your faith and your art. The Catalyst Program is all about helping you become the entrepreneur you need to be to make it as a creative. Check out the next group of classes here. The Arts & Entertainment Institute covers all integration of art and faith questions and lays out a Biblical and practical theology of the arts. Check out the next Institute here.
Copyright © 2019 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.