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Pricing Your Art...Skill, Time, and Other Creative Endeavors

A few weeks back, I had the fortuitous opportunity to meet a fellow artist on a train ride leaving from New Jersey for New York. We waxed lyrical for a good while about our respective fields—for her it was digital art installations, and for me, theatre. Besides the creative side of things, each of us was equally curious about the business side of each other’s field. Her response to my question was basically, “I have no idea how to market or sell my work. Who is going to pay for it?”

To which I shot back, “It is totally possible to get paid to do what you love to do as an artist. I’m living proof”

And I thought to myself, I would love to teach artists (theatre, sales, dentistry) how to market and sell themselves and their work. Being a master in your field and yet struggling financially ain’t sexy, it’s painful (and pain isn’t a prerequisite for world-class art). Starving is not at all enticing and as an artist, you shouldn’t have to choose between eating and practicing your craft. 

So, in lieu of a class (in development for 2017), here’s part one of a brief overview on how to starve less and create more, while getting paid for it.

  1. Before you think of income, you must think of the outcome. What kind of feelings or results would you like to see from your audience as a result of your voice and your art entering the world? What you want to see happen and what actually happens can be two different things, but at least you’ll have a results oriented idea to (partially) guide you through this process.
  2. Build it before you need it. Most folks try to build an audience as soon as their project is finished and ready (in their estimation) to be released into the world. Find and build an audience before you need it. Feed them. Give to them. Give them a chance to reciprocate your kindness when it’s time for you to share the gift of your art. It’s generally easier to ask of someone who either knows you, trusts you, or knows someone who trusts you. 

I’m going to leave you here to ruminate over those ideas. And I’ll return in a week to build on the concept

Any questions, holler at me HERE. I’d be happy to help. 


You’ve Been Here Before...

Recently I was feeling a bit stuck, like I’ve been on the same plateau for too long with my wheels turning endlessly in the mud. Several months went by and I couldn’t shake this feeling. 

But I happened to have a day off when doing some work in Sydney, Australia. And I decided to do a bush walk at a national park north of the city.  I needed some clarity. And I got it.

My epiphany: You’ve been here before—the feeling of “not enough,” “it’s not working,” “what am I going to do,” and so on. 

And I worked myself through the thought process, and then through a plan of action. 

This isn’t something unique to my brain or my situation. 

You’ve actually been here before—not this same exact place, but quite similar in many ways—and you’ve done something to get yourself out of it. You’ve moved on, succeeded big, or failed hard. There was something that changed situation you were in. 

Stop for a moment. Breathe. 

Find the pattern.

What was it about the last time that was similar to this time?

What worked? Why? How can you use that as a tool this time?

What didn’t work? Why? How can you omit that from the toolbox this time?

What course of action can you take to move forward?

It’s taking the time to find the patterns then asking the right questions after that will: 1) get you where you need to go in the shortest amount of time, AND/OR 2) give you the answer to a difficult question or task with the least amount of pain

A Person Without a Goal is Like a Ship Without a Rudder

“A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder”

   ~ Thomas Carlyle, 19th century Scottish essayist and historian.

As an 18 year old freshman in college, I never really understood the phenomenal  and even life-altering power behind setting goals for myself. On a base level, I knew that I wanted to get a good grade in whatever class I was taking at the time and then make it through the day so I could either chill, do some community theatre (I’m a proud musical theatre nerd and challenge you to a Shipoopi sing-off), or just hang out with my friends. 

Whenever I heard the word “goal” it was either during a televised soccer match or from an overzealous parent or teacher who would ask me—“Where do you want to be in five years,” to which I’d think to myself, “Slow down chief, I’m just trying to get through the day. Let me worry about five years when it gets here.”

Anything I ever went for in life was more of a reactive move—something I did because I wanted to escape what I didn’t like or be included in the group—rather than a proactive move, or being someone who works to make something happen in their life by causing it to happen.  

Without the presence of goals in my life, I lacked a sense of self-worth and I’d become frustrated and stressed that life wasn’t going in the direction I wanted—whatever direction the wind was blowing that day.

...Fast forward nearly ten years and after dropping out of school and then returning, I discovered something called S.M.A.R.T. goals.

I want to look at the "S" the "R" and the "T." 

Specific. “Becoming a world famous jazz pianist,” or, “achieving world peace,” are two very vague and grandiose wants that are too general to be accomplished. And as Konstantin Stanislavsky, one of the fathers of modern acting, once said, “Generality is the enemy of all art.” We need to be specific in our actions and our goals.

A specific goal should answer: 

What you want to achieve—and this can be as simple as:
  • “I want to talk to five new people this week,” or as complex as, 
  • “I want to create a profitable ice cream truck business in Detroit, Michigan within the next two years, derived from my senior thesis project.”
Why you want to achieve this goal—clearly stating the purpose or benefits of accomplishment
  • “I want to talk to five new people this week, so I can make new friends on campus and not be bored and sitting in my dorm room every Friday night. 
  • “I want to create a profitable ice cream truck business in Detroit, Michigan within the next two years, derived from my senior thesis project; because I know I like working for myself and because in five years I want to have enough capital and experience to start my own national ice cream truck franchise.
Who will be on your team to achieve this goal?
  • “I’m going to enlist my best friend from back home, Sarah, and call her in the beginning of the week to give me support in talking to five new people.”
  • “I’m going to take on my Economics professor and my best friend Carl as business partners to help me start my profitable ice cream truck business in Detroit, Michigan within the next two years.
Where in the world will you achieve this goal—create a physical location.
  • I want to talk to five new people this week in the residence hall I live in at my college...”
  • “I want to start my profitable ice cream truck business in Detroit, Michigan...”
W...W...Alright I couldn’t get another “W” word in but you should identify what you need and what obstacles you might come up against in the pursuit of your goal.
  • “I know that this week is a holiday and there will be fewer people roaming the halls of my residence hall.
  • “I know I need some start up capital and I need an airtight legal agreement between me, Carl, and my Economics professor.

“One must be frank to be relevant.”
~ Corazon Aquino, former president of the Phillippines

Relevant. Your goals should be applicable to either where you are in your life or what you want out of life, or both. When your goals have relevance, then they matter and putting in the work toward achieving them becomes exciting.

Going back to the analogy of starting an ice cream truck business, you wouldn’t start this business by researching every known fact about the Model T; you would enlist your friends and family for support, talk to your Economics professor, and so on.

Achieving your goals is often a team sport—as you’ve already seen in the previous examples being touched upon, support is needed to complete a goal. Relevant goals will excite you and then others to help you complete your desired objective.

A relevant goal will have the following attributes:

It’s a valuable use of your time.
Eating ten pints of soft serve ice cream in a day is not a relevant use of your time whereas learning how to fix a soft serve ice cream machine is.
It can be coordinated with other efforts or goals already being worked toward.
If while on the road to starting your ice cream truck business, you wanted to sell t-shirts with your brand name on them to help raise awareness and profits for your company, that would be a well coordinated and relevant goal to set. 
It’s the right time in your life to work on this.
A very easy example to give would be a twenty-two year old college student trying to run for the office of U.S. president. It ain’t gonna happen. You have to  be thirty-five years old to run. However, you could make it a longer term goal  and in the present get a masters degree in public policy or intern with a local politician.
You are the right person to take on this task.
What happens if it’s not you who takes on this goal? What will your life be like? How will it affect other people if you don’t follow through? If the future world looks a little bleaker if you don’t complete your goal, that’d be a good sign you’re the right person for the job.

Time-sensitive. In short, your goals need to have a deadline. This helps bring a focus to the way you go about working toward completion and gets you to research and implement only the most efficient methods to get to your end point. Putting a due date on your goals ground them in reality. If your speech professor didn’t assign a date for your ten minute lecture, would it ever get done? 

A time-sensitive goal should tell you:
When you will complete the goal.
What will you be doing/have done in the time leading up to completion, i.e. in one year, six months, three months, next week.
If, when you get to the final date you set for yourself and you haven’t completed your goal don’t worry, you’re not a failure. It may be a sign that you: 

  • Need to be more efficient with your time-management, 
  • Have a lot to learn about what it is you’re trying to accomplish,
  • Need to go back and reevaluate to make sure the goal you set for yourself is S.M.A.R.T., or 
  • Need to hang it up, try something else, and apply the lessons you’ve learned from trying to reach this goal. 
There are no bad outcomes here but triple-check options a, b, and c before assuming you need to go to d.