Disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor or business expert and this article isn’t intended as a guide for your specific financial or business situation. It is a recounting of my experience and my opinions on the subject on what has worked for me. For advice about your financial or business decisions, please contact a qualified financial advisor or a trusted business mentor.
Let’s cut the fluff and get to it – I think business skills are super important for creatives. This article sets the stage for the rest of the articles I present. My manifesto if you will – the reason why I’m sharing my experiences.
In a perfect world, we would have all the food, money and shelter that we needed in order to be able to focus 100% on our creative work. Many people have reached that destination. However, if you are not one of those people, you’re probably like me. Somewhere in between hobbyist artist to full-time artist looking to focus solely on your art and not worry about those other things.
On our journey to that place, we need to make a living – you know, to fill that hole in your face with food to keep you operating day in, day out. I’ve found working as a freelance creative in various business environments to be very interesting, challenging, and fun. It’s an art in and of itself.
Who the F are you?
Who am I? I am a New York City based cinematographer who has run the gamut from hobbyist to amateur to professional. When I was a kid I thought I’d be an illustrator, shifting gears to a stint as a DJ, then a small time music producer, and now work as a full time cinematographer. In between I spent many years in corporate America, getting a feel for how businesses operate and how people work with each other in a hierarchical environment.
As a creative, each time I experienced the business side of things, I wanted to avoid it because it was uncomfortable. Art was supposed to be fun. However, the more I avoided thinking about art in terms of business, the less happened for me financially. I eventually embraced it and things started changing. After many years of hustling and learning, I’m now working with some of the largest brands in the world on creative content.
Just like your creative work, it’s a process that requires refinement and adjustment. So if you fear or suck at it now, trust me, I’ve been there. You can get good at it.
Compromising Artistic Vision?
It’s a rare gift that one can simply avoid business and get paid for being creative. Don’t get me wrong – you still need to be good at what you do and continually get better. There’s no way around skill and talent. Adding business skills like negotiation, facilitating meetings, and making people comfortable makes it easier for people to feel good about paying you for what you do.
I used to think that art and money should be separate so that there was no influence on the actual art itself. During my early years, there were times I was frustrated with clients “not getting” the artistic vision.
I’ve learned that for me, business and artistry do not have to conflict with each other. In fact, some of the most successful artists that I know are also great business people. It’s a given that these people are already talented at what they do. On the business side, they first and foremost are incredibly likable people. They know how to negotiate well, they know their worth, but they are also dedicated to refining their craft.
I’ve had the great fortune to be able to sit down with these artists from different industries, whether it’s over an interview I shot or simply over dinner and drinks and be able to pick their brains about what they’ve done to become successful. I took what advice applied to my particular situation. What I found is that a lot of advice that I received is very similar across different fields and industries.
Am I a sell out?
Many artists have this concept that adjusting your work to suit the palette for any paying client is “selling out”. If this is you, these series of articles may not offer any value. I do not prescribe to the starving artist mentality – even though there have been times where I’ve pared down to live a simpler life in order to try something creatively that doesn’t pay the bills, which I’ll cover in a later article. If you are a creative looking for another perspective on business so you can do what you love, offer your skills to help people achieve a goal, and make a living at the same time, I’d love to be able to share perspective with you, and generate further discussion around it.
The next step
I’ll wind down this article with one of my favorite quotes regarding business:
“In Business As in Life, You Don’t Get What You Deserve, You Get What You Negotiate”
-Chester L. Karrass
Now that we’ve touched on why I think developing business skills is really important for creatives, the next series of articles walk through being an artist in business situations.
Next Series: Winning the hearts of Clients – Available mid-December 2017. Receive a notification about the next post by signing up for my newsletter. You’ll receive an email asking to confirm your subscription. I’ll only send updates about new posts: