The Starving Artist myth proliferates because it is often accompanied by that other myth: creative people aren't good at business. With these ideas circulating, it's easy to see how artists struggle to succeed professionally.
But I don't buy these myths. In fact, I believe that artists and creative people make the best business people. Here's why.
Artists are experts in seeing the big picture. They can hold an expansive point of view. This creative perspective, this ability to see what isn't there and to relish possibility, is key to business success.
Good artists are adept at pinpointing the details. A painter knows the difference between cobalt and azure, a writer uses specifics to describe a character, and a sculptor's strokes will make all the difference in the end expression on a sculpture.
Artists and business people are willing to risk. There is no guarantee in art, business, or life, but creative people take risks every time they go into the studio. In fact, any art worth its salt takes the artist and the viewer outside the realm of the known and shows them something new.
Artists are able to dwell in the unknown. Art making is the biggest adventure there is. If you do not know what you are creating, if it will appeal to anyone, or if you will make any money at all, you're in good company with both artists and business people.
Business and art are fueled by a high level of passion. Any advice on running a business will preach that you need to be passionate to fuel the long stretches of challenging times. Artists thrive on passion.
All of these characteristics give artists an edge over others in the business realm. It's great to be fueled by the knowledge that you do have what it takes to succeed, and you also need to operate in a business-like way to make it happen. Here are the keys to business success that I have used and enjoyed.
Vision. You have to want your creative success from a deep, deep place. What is this about for you, anyway? Have a vision for yourself and your business. Write a vision statement that springs from your values and passion for your art.
Commitment. In a business or art career, there will be plenty of ups and downs. It's important to have a solid commitment that you can return to when times are tough. You will question this commitment again and again, but if you have a clear sense of your commitment at the beginning, the dips will be navigable. Write a mission statement for how you will fulfill your vision.
Follow through. Most success can be attributed to those extra actions we take - sending a thank-you note, making a call, going the extra mile, or researching a tip. Follow through is a key factor in being able to maximize opportunities, build connections and deliver on your promises. It's also a key to being perceived as professional and on top of things.
Build authentic relationships. Do business with people that you want to be around. You want to be able to be yourself with your support team (accountant, banker, coach) and your clients (gallery owners, editors, clients). Connect with people who share similar values, interests and art forms. Some people say that building relationships is the key to success, so become a master at being a good human with others.
Maintain self-care practices. Making art and building a business is a lot of work. There can be a lot of stress involved with art and business, so having a stable personal life is key. Know your needs and do what you can to get them met. Know what helps you release stress. Make sure that you have play time, too, since it can be easy to work all the time at your art business.
Perspective. This is the secret weapon. Perspective is the most powerful tool we have. How you see the world, yourself, and your enterprise all have an enormous impact on how successful you will be. If you can shift your perspective easily, you'll have a much broader range of options available to you in your art and business. Practice noticing throughout the day what perspective you are operating from. Does it feel good? Bad? In between? How does the perspective of any moment contribute to your work?
Systems. And, of course, for business success, you'll want systems for operating your enterprise, for marketing your work, and for handling all the money that comes your way. Contact systems, marketing systems, bookkeeping systems, and ways to catalogue your art and record your sales are all essential for a thriving business.
If some of these essentials make the artist in you cringe, take that as an opportunity to see where you could grow. I can't think of any other work that challenges us to grow more than art and business. If you want to stay safe and unchanged, you'll want to choose another path. But why would you? Art and business are grand adventures!About the Author:
Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse helps writers and visionaries make their brilliant ideas a reality. Author of Create Your Writer's Life: A Guide to Writing with Joy and Ease, and Go For It! Leading Tours for Fun and Profit, Cynthia coaches from Boulder.