This is part 6 of our ongoing series on Art & Entrepreneurship. In the first half of this post, I interviewed Melanie Brummer – a very accomplished artist – about the artist as an entrepreneur. I’m glad to bring to you the second part of our interview. Let’s get right to it.
CN: Melanie, how does an artist make time both for creating stuff as well as running the business side of their work?
MB: This is the trap most artists fall into. Many of us do not enjoy paperwork and it is easy to say “I am too busy working on this project.”
I was lucky enough to be exposed to Michael Gerber and his E-Myth books along the way and I recommend that every creative entrepreneur should read some of his work. His books helped me to make huge shifts in my thinking.
Focusing on the Bigger Picture
CN: How have you implemented some of the ideas you learned in Gerber’s books?
MB: Over the years I ‘ve learned to link the small tasks to the Bigger Picture.
When I’m working on any repetitive job, I am also thinking “How does what I am doing now serve my Bigger Picture?” If it does not, I shouldn’t be doing it.
For example, when I print a sample of cloth, I take photographs of the process. I use these images for social networks and e-mail marketing. I also use them for my eBooks.
The fabrics become prizes in my competitions to engender a sharing culture with my network. I focus the energy to squeeze as much value out of my creative efforts as I possibly can.
And how does this serve my Bigger Picture?
Because the task serves both short term and long term goals, it is something I will spend time on.
CN: You talk about the “bigger picture.” How did you come to envision your long-term business goals?
MB: In the early years of my career, I found myself immersed in the Making. I made THOUSANDS of garments for Retail.
When I was exhausted by the long hours of slog, I eventually started to think “There must be another way?” and began to work on a larger long-term vision.
As I learned more about my business, I learned more about myself and what I REALLY want.
Building a creative business is sculpting the life that you WANT.
When I fully understood that, it became much easier to focus on my long term goals and easier to understand what I should be working on in the business and why.
What to Do When You’re Just Starting Out as An Entrepreneur
CN: Melanie, you do so many things. You’re writing and selling eBooks, you teach online and at workshops, you’ve accepted commissions, sold your original textile prints and engaged in many revenue generating ventures.
What would your advice be to someone who’s starting out? Which of these various ways of earning revenue should they start with?
MB: Start with the resources you have, and aim it at what you want to be.
Your future dream is grounded in what you have right now.
Trust that what you have is what you need to get there, even if you feel seriously under-resourced.
Find something to do, something to make. If you sell it, you’ll have more money to try your next idea, and if you do not sell it you will have learned about your market and its readiness for your products.
It is vital that you link your products to a market from the start.
Try to make things people want. The only way you’re going to get to do more of that thing you love to do is if you can find somebody to pay for the outcome of those creative efforts.
Many creatives are also people-shy. They dive into the making and hide there for as long as possible, without connecting to their buyers. I did this myself for many years. However, if you’re serious about making a living from your creative efforts, you cannot afford to ignore your buyers for a moment.
Long Hours and Burnout as Related to the Artist/ Entrepreneur
CN: I spend long hours- weekdays, weeknights, weekends – working on my craft. I’ve got less free time than my friends working “regular jobs”. And I know I’m not special. This is the same for many entrepreneurs. So, my question to you Mel is, what then is the attraction to entrepreneurship? Because it certainly can’t be working fewer hours!
When you are working those hours, you have elected to opt-in to them, and you understand why you are there. Your actions are driven by your own internal forces.
When you work for a boss, you opt in in a general way when you sign your contract, and then the mindset shifts when resentments kick in, and you only show up at the office every day because of external forces like your contract and your dependence on the cash flow/paycheck.
CN: What’s a good way for dealing with these long working hours an entrepreneur works?
MB: Those long hours will become pointless, no matter how much you love what you do if you cannot make it pay. It is important to balance doing what needs to be done with self-care.
Burnout is very real and counter-productive to long term goals. Work smart, even when you are working hard.
The Challenges the Artist/Entrepreneur Faces
CN: Mel, in your experience, what unique challenges do artist entrepreneurs face that other entrepreneurs don’t face?
Our only “unique challenge” is that we believe we have one.
I spent five years at a business incubator. I would sit in lessons with twenty other entrepreneurs in all industries. I learned there that the process is tough on everyone in every industry.
Entrepreneurial life is simply not for the faint-hearted.
Perhaps our biggest challenge is, understanding that we are entrepreneurs JUST LIKE the rest? Our success cannot be without struggle, just like the rest.
Many creative people who I meet who want to earn a living from what they make, view themselves as Artists.
When you speak about Entrepreneurship and Business they shrink away saying “This is not for me. I hate sales.”
If you want to earn money from your creative work, and enough to make a good financial living from it, you have to embrace Entrepreneurship fully as well as sales, because it is the only route to success.
If you cannot SELL your work, you do not have a business.
CN: What then is a winning mindset for an artist to have in order to be successful?
I’ve often thought about business liquidations and what they mean.
There have been times in my career when my business has been in such dire financial straits that it should no longer exist! Yet it does!
The ONLY thing that separates a going concern from a business that has ended, is that the entrepreneur has given up. It is not a financial state, it is a state of mind.
Success comes to those who get up, show up and deliver, again. And again, and again, and again.
You have to be ready to be resilient if you ever hope to achieve the dream of making a living from your art.
The Creative As An Individual
CN: Finally, what advice would you give to the artist entrepreneur? What do you know now as an entrepreneur, that you wish you’d known earlier?
Self-CARE is more important than self-SACRIFICE in the long term.
I grew up in a Calvinistic framework where my parents sacrificed their quality of life to provide for their children. My parents were hard-working and I grew up with the ethic that hard work is how you get it done.
I took this thinking and threw it into my business.
The long-term outcome of a strategy like this is not wonderful.
Over time I isolated myself from others because I was always working. Then, after a time, burn-out. I would crash from fatigue with no resources and no support. My network alienated by my obsession with my dreams.
These are some of the darkest nights of my Entrepreneurial journey.
And it is in moments like these that the real breakthroughs happen, when there is no longer a comfort zone to hide in, that we REALLY begin to look for new ways of doing things for ourselves.
It was here that I also realized the importance of SELF-CARE. The only one who can take that holiday that you so badly need is YOU.
If you expect to have any kind of longevity as an entrepreneur you have to make time for your life. Make time for the people who love you and support you when it all falls apart. You should make time for yourself to reflect on what you really want. Make time to rest. Take your rest.
Learn to balance self-sacrifice to a larger dream with self-care so that you live to see it come true.
And finally, always keep learning.
CN: Thanks, Mel, for taking the time to talk to us. I’m sure my readers do appreciate your unique thoughts on entrepreneurship as someone who has been in the trenches building a business from the ground up.
MB: Thank YOU for some great questions. I really had to dig deep for some of them. It was useful to me as a reflective process.
That’s a wrap on our series – Art and Entrepreneurship. To learn more about Melanie Brummer and her services visit her here.
What are your thoughts on this interview? Does anything jump out at you? What one thing in the interview spoke to you?
You may also be interested in the other parts of this series.
1: Making the Decision to Monetize Your Creative Work
2: The Truth About Art and Creative Passion
3. The Secret to Maintaining Your Creative Focus
4. Seven Practical Ways for Textile Artists to Make Money
5. Interview with Melanie Brummer (Part 1)
6. Interview with Melanie Brummer (Part 2)
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