Treating Your Creative Career as a Business

So you’ve realised you’ve got a talent. Whether it’s creating music or making people laugh, people seem to like what you’re doing and you decide that you want to make a career out of your hobby.

The first thing you’ve got to do is make that distinction. Hobbies are what you do for fun, what give you an escape and, in some respects, shape who you are. At some point you might see one of the people that influenced your passion for artistic expression and decide you want to be in their shoes; they could be a film maker, writer or rock star, but, at that point, you decide that your hobby is the thing that you want to make your life’s work.

The difference between a hobby and a career? Put simply, your career pays the bills. Before you decide to make the transition you need to make an honest evaluation of your skills, determination and the resources you’ll need to make it work. Sadly, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to achieve it, but if you can make a career out of doing the thing you love then it will be endlessly rewarding.

So how do you take that step and make your passion a reality?

You’ve got to accept that doing something you enjoy and being good at it doesn’t mean a career comes neatly wrapped in a bow (sadly). Making the commitment to treating your artistic self as a business and nurturing your talent cleverly is the way to get there.

Figure out your attributes, what makes you different and where you can fit in.

Well, oxymoron springs to mind with that sentence, but hear me out… standing out is what art is about, but what makes it appealing to others is the relatability. Do you think there’s a place in the market for your art? Yes? Perfect. No? Find some common ground and adapt. This doesn’t mean sacrificing your integrity, just finding a way in that people will find interesting.

Do your homework.

You’ve already looked at yourself and decided how your creativity will appeal to people, now it’s time to swot up on broader horizons. Ideally, artists would become successful just on the merit of their talent, but realistically, without using marketing and promotional techniques, and being able to hold your own in a sometimes murky world of negotiations and jargon, your art won’t get to the right people and you may end up being taken for a ride. You’re not going to be able to master the whole industry in a day but learning about how to effectively build connections, selling tactics, and a general overview of what’s going on behind the scenes is going to get you suitably ready to create an intelligent plan to achieve your goals.

The point to take from this is not to start your journey all guns blazing but bide your time and learn. There’s less chance of harming your reputation this way – you’ll always make mistakes but good planning helps minimise these and gives you an arsenal to deal with any bumps in the road that come along.

Build your brand

Building well branded promotional materials will show people that you take yourself seriously. It makes you memorable, helps you identify with a common group and helps a common group identify with you. Perhaps most importantly though, it’s another way to express your creativity.

No matter where you are in a creative process you should set measureable and achievable goals that are relevant to your position – putting “play Wembley” in your first year plan probably isn’t that realistic. Instead, think “how many gigs are you going to do this year?” Are you going to release an EP? If so, when’s the deadline? This will help you keep on track and gauge your capabilities.

Network and gain respect

A daunting step for some, but ultimately a rewarding one. Spending time making friends in your industry will help you no end as it is likely you will learn more valuable lessons from them than from reading books or blogs (except this one!): the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is less cliché and more home truth than you might imagine. Also, treating people with respect, being punctual and generally being professional when the time’s right will never let you down.

Doing well in creative industries requires more than producing great quality products, half of it is promotion through every aspect of yourself. Make people want to buy your product and want to buy you; with that, more opportunities to grow should come your way.

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