The Artist’s Achilles’ Heel
As artists and creative professionals, we have killer instincts in the creative process but often have the artist’s Achilles’ heel. Most of us creatives are really quite disciplined, and some would say aggressive when it comes to creating, iterating, and finishing our creations, regardless of what they are: paintings, sculptures, choreography, films, scripts, books, design, the like. When it comes to the creative process we rock.
Artist’s Achilles’ Heel
But there is certainly an Achilles heel for many artists. It is often the “business” side of our art. Whether we work in the art world or show business, the intuition we have so naturally for our craft doesn’t always translate to the business side of things.
Ever wonder why?
Artists and creative professionals are brilliant problem solvers, obviously creative and ‘outside of the box’ thinkers, but I’ll tell you many a night my husband and I have sat and given basic 101 business advice to ridiculously smart thinkers and creatives.
So why the disconnect?
Why do so many have an Achilles’ heel for business and making money on their art? Over the years we see the same issues rear their ugly heads over and over again! Now for the sake of this article we will touch on only a few.
Here They Are:
1. Lack of Self Awareness:
It may seem harsh to say lack of self awareness, but before you get yourself in a twist over this one, hear me out. Some say it is hard for creatives to be business people because there is a huge difference between being right brained and left brained. And of course there is some truth in that. But I have worked with too many seemingly right brained artists who can’t possibly conceive of accounting and marketing, and watched them turn into highly capable, administrative business people.
I, personally, am living proof it can happen. I grew up performing in theatre completely unaware of all of the admin skills I was learning— as I went to art school, not just acting but producing and directing shows, learning how to build sets, fill the seats of our theatre and organize warm ups for the cast before the show. I had to find an agent and market myself for acting jobs. I was shocked when I got married and my husband(a trained business man) and I started our first business– and I had MAJOR skills. It never occurred to me how much of what I knew translated to the business world.
So the reality is— you probably aren’t even aware of all the skills you have that will be utilized in the business side of your art business. You simply don’t have the self-awareness of your inner smarty pants. And for those reading this saying out loud—you have no idea how hopeless I really am. I don’t have a left brained cell in my body. No worries, it can and needs to be learned.
We live in a world where you can have DIRECT access to your audience through the internet. There are no excuses to be without an audience anymore. No one stands in your way. We can’t blame gatekeepers anymore. And you don’t need to own that starving artist mentality anymore. It simply isn’t true unless you want it to be.
Mindset trips us all up in many ways. For instance, how we view the business side of our art BUSINESS or show BUSINESS really matters. Do we find it drudgery? Boring? Not us? Or do we see opportunity where we can use our gifts of creativity and problem solving abilities?
The discipline we have for our creative work can directly be utilized in our business affairs. And we can make the process of business work fun and unique and exciting—just like us.
We can also struggle with not feeling worthy of success. We believe the lies that great artists are never successful in their lifetime. Or we believe God simply isn’t on our side and won’t bless our work and let is prosper. Or we don’t realize it’s better to be a craftsmen than an artiste (said with a snotty French accent).
3. Craftsman Versus Artiste:
Surprisingly this notion is alive and well and a real problem. I would say a HUGE problem. It’s not good when you think you are better than the work you must do to succeed. Because guess what? The work isn’t going anywhere, no matter how you FEEL about it. Whether you are above it or not, really doesn’t matter and it still has to be done. The bills have to be paid, the marketing must get done. The audience still has to be found, nurtured and has to see your work.
For most of us, we HAVE to do it ourselves. There are a few independently wealthy creatives who can pay for help—if that’s you-awesome! Some artists solve the business work by connecting with and bartering for people to help them. And then the rest of us do it ourselves. And you know what? You CAN do it!
Do not underestimate yourself. I don’t. Time and time again, artists and creatives that go through our Catalyst Program, shock themselves at their new found business acumen. You see, they learn how to translate all those skills, discipline and qualities that make them a great artist into a great business person. They learn helpful strategies to take their careers to the next level AND they learn to finally see themselves in a more holistic way- as a craftsman or artisan, not an artiste.
What’s the difference you ask? Craftsmen or artisans realize their whole job isn’t just to create art but instead they are the whole package—an artist AND a business person. They are always learning and honing both their craft, and their business strategies. An artiste on the other hand, thinks they are a prima donna, and for them creating their art is ALL that matters whether anyone sees it or buys it or not.
4. Working Hard Doesn’t Always Equal Success:
Don’t you just hate that? I do. I wish we could all guarantee results for the work we put into our art and our business. But welcome to the fall friends. In this uncertain, fallen world, we can’t control our destiny. It’s actually not even our job to control our destiny. Isn’t that a relief?
But that doesn’t mean we give up working hard because we can’t guarantee results. You see even though we live in a fallen world, Proverbs 14:23 tells us our hard work reaps reward. The problem is we think the reward is always a successful career. It may not be. Perhaps it’s an opportunity to care for others, or illuminate truth. It may not be how we define success, but it doesn’t mean it is not successful in God’s economy.
There is a deeper and more mysterious purpose in what we do than just being successful, or rich, or famous. As artists of faith, we must recognize God is doing a deeper work in us. Because guess what? He didn’t put us on this earth to be rich or famous. He put us on this earth because God wants a relationship with us. God wants to be with us. He wants us to enjoy Him and know Him. And all the difficulties, pain and trouble we experience here is for a reason. A purpose. Our pain and suffering is meaningful. But I digress. Let’s jump back to success.
Success is a funny thing. And a thing which must be defined. For some, success is financial gain, for others it is commercial success, for others it is the approval of the critics and so on. How do you define success? And an even better question is how does God define success for you? These are important questions to wrestle with and have answers.
Now just because I bring these points up don’t assume I negate commercial, critical or financial success. I want all three for you! And sometimes the answer isn’t working harder it’s working smarter. We can work hard but the work is in the wrong area. Or the wrong part of our business and we wonder why things aren’t working. Knowing where and how to put the work in can make all the difference.
And sometimes success is defined through iteration. Trying over and over and perfecting our skills at marketing, building an audience and all the other business skills we need in today’s world. So even though we live and work in an imperfect world, keep your nose to the grindstone, open your eyes to your opportunities and remember there is more to life than your art or your business. The greater goal is fellowship with our creator.
So what’s the takeaway? As you pursue your career, know His love for you and know you are so much more than you realize. You have so many more skills, talents, ability and knowledge waiting to be unleashed.
Keep at the good work you do. Do work hard and work smart and always love God in your journey as an artist of faith.
Finally, what is your Achilles’ heel? I’d love to pray for you! Let me know in the comments below.
If you want to join in on the next Catalyst Program or Attend our upcoming FREE Art & Entrepreneurship Summit HERE
Copyright © 2020 Joel & Michelle Pelsue. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission.