by Rob Fortier, Ninja and Creativity Coach
I’ve worked with lots of talented people who just weren’t having the careers they wanted, struggling with money and frustrated by their situations. Many of them, however, felt their only responsibility was to paint their hearts out, write amazing stories, or practice singing a song until it was perfect. Most of them were spending very little time doing anything else but working on their craft. While creating is a big part of the work involved in having a creative career, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only part of the work. There are so many factors that creatives can’t control. The art buyers or publishers or casting directors are usually the ones that decide who’s going to get the paycheck, and that can be extremely frustrating if you’re the one waiting around to find out if you’ll be able to eat and cover your rent this month.
So WTF is a creative person to do?
Focus their energy on what they CAN control.
In order to succeed, I believe creatives need to adopt the mindset that they are running a business. And they are the CEOs. They are the CEOs of a company of one.
Imagine you owned a cupcake store. You are passionate about cupcakes—you love baking them, decorating them, and coming up with fun flavor combinations. But if you want to have a successful business making cupcakes, you can’t solely focus on just the cupcakes. What about ordering supplies and managing your staff and marketing your store? These are all important elements to your success. So if you are running a creative business, why would you just focus on the creating? Are there other elements beyond creating that you might need to focus on? Stop for a second and ask yourself, “Am I truly doing everything I can to obtain the career I want? Am I creating success or am I waiting for it to happen to me?”
The time is now to become the CEO of You. Here are 5 tips to get you started.
1. Decide What You Want
Do you know what you want from your creative career? This might seem like a silly question, but have you really ever defined it? If your goal has always been to be a successful actor, what exactly does that look like? Do you want to be on Broadway? Act in films for $1 million a picture? Perform on a cruise ship? Star in a successful TV show?
Get specific about what it is you want. Really specific! Then break it down into smaller pieces and make a plan of action. Start by writing down all the steps required to accomplish each piece, and make the steps as small as you need to in order to make them manageable. You can always adjust your plan later if you find it’s not working. It is so much easier to stay focused when you know where you are headed. You wouldn’t get in your car and just drive around aimlessly without knowing where you were going, right? So why would you do that with your creative career or business?
Once you decide, declare it to the Universe. Create a vision board. Shout it from the rooftops. Write out all the details of what your life will look like when you make your dreams a reality. You bet your sweet unicorn ass that successful cupcake store had a detailed plan written down before they ever opened their doors! Specific goals get achieved. Vague goals just get you a big mess. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
2. Show Up Consistently
If you are not already working in your creative field full time, let me ask you: How often are you showing up?
Maybe you have a full-time “survival” job. Maybe you have six part-time jobs. Maybe you have kids or pets or 3,000 other things that need your attention. That’s called life, and that’s okay. But if you are truly serious about getting your creative work out into the world, or making more money through your creative endeavors, just like building any successful business, you need to show up and put in the work. That could be 8 hours a week—or that could be 50—that’s for you to determine. Schedule it out. Put it in your calendar. Make it clear to your family and friends that you are working during these times and are not to be disturbed. Set consistent times, if possible. Even if there is no impending project coming down the pike, there is ALWAYS something you can be doing, such as reaching out to prospective clients, updating your website, or working on new audition material. Working only when you feel like it will get you nowhere fast.
You can build a business working part time, but you can’t build a business working only part of the time. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
3. Take Responsibility
It’s easy to blame others when things go wrong: You flubbed the audition because the accompanist made some serious mistakes; you arrived late to a design meeting because there was traffic. Blah blah blah. Instead of making excuses and displacing blame—take responsibility. Accept the fact that shit happens sometimes. Was your music clearly marked and in the correct key? Did you discuss the song beforehand? Were the pages of music easy to turn? Of course, there can be so many variables that are out of your control when pursuing a creative endeavor. Your job—as CEO of you—is to take responsibility for the ones you CAN control. Do everything in your power to show up polished and prepared. Leave 20 minutes early. Go to bed on time and get enough sleep. Successful people accept responsibility for the successes and the failures. (TWEET THAT SHIT!)
4. Send Notes
When was the last time you sent someone a note? I’m not talking about an email or a “THNX!” text. I mean a honest-to-goodness, dragged-my-ass-to-the-store-and-bought-a-card-made-out-of-paper-and-then-used-a-real-stamp note? If “never” is your answer, it’s time to change that.
No matter where you go, you are constantly meeting new people that may be able to help you at some point in your career (or that you may be able to help as well). After an audition, send that casting director a thank you note for calling you in. Were you at a cocktail party and met a musician you’d like to collaborate with? Send them a note expressing that you’re glad you had the chance to meet. Developing the habit of sending notes on paper does two things. First, it makes you look like a superstar because most people will either do nothing or send a note via email. Emails get deleted quickly, and may never be opened. A piece of mail that is not a bill or a solicitation will stand a much higher chance of being opened and read. Second, it keeps you at the top of their minds. All things being equal, people like to do business with their friends. And although you’re not going to become besties by sending notes, keeping in regular contact puts you way higher up on the list than those who don’t bother.
Be sure to keep track of these contacts in your address book and send out notes regularly. You don’t have to become pen pals, but you can send holiday cards, birthday cards, announcements about upcoming projects, or just a note to say hi. These cards should contain a hand-written message, nothing fancy. Chances are, even if these people never respond, if they have an opportunity for you, they will reach out!
5. Embrace Your Whole Business
If you’re an artist, a performer, writer, or other creative, chances are pretty high you’re doing all the work yourself. You’re amazing at creating, but you may not like the rest of your business: putting yourself out there, selling your product, dealing with money, or figuring out marketing.
Reality Check: It takes a lot of work to run a business, and if it’s just you, you are forced to wear all the hats, even the ones you don’t like. Start shifting your mindset and embracing all the aspects of your business and not just the pretty/fun parts. Maybe there’s a way to turn these dreaded tasks into a game. Set a timer and work on them for 30 minutes at a time (and give yourself a reward for focusing during that time). You need to be willing to do what it takes in order to get what you want.
It’s time to revisit the notion that you are not just a creative; you are a business person as well. And although the business part may not be your first love, you need to find a way to embrace it. Running a business does not have to be contrary to living a happy, artistic life. You need to have systems in place so you can do the parts you don’t love quickly and efficiently, and get back to what you really love—creating!
So my challenge to you: How will you adopt the CEO mindset? What’s one action step you can take today to improve your creative career? Drop me a comment and let’s talk about it. Success can sometimes come easily, but more often than not, we need to work for it. The choice is yours. And remember, as John Greenleaf Whitter wrote, “For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”
What are you doing to make your creative career a successful business? Leave a comment and let’s discuss!
Rob Fortier, Creative Talent Wrangler, is a certified Creativity Coach. His motto: “Run your Art like a Business, Run your Business like an Art.” He can be reached via his website at www.RobFortier.com.