Here’s How We Creatives Can Be Better at Business

Because the only thing stopping us is lack of structure.

Image by Krystasia Carter

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about my earning potential. I should say my creative earning potential, more specifically. No “broke artist” mindset over here. There’s a future out here for us creatives and we should all be excited about it.

Why? Has there ever been a time when creativity has been appreciated and accepted within so many facets of business? Companies are structuring and restructuring their brands to allow for creative space, creative people, and even adjusting how they operate to cater to our process.

And this is great because we creatives are no longer relegated to the margins of the abstract, the long-shots, the, “that might work but let’s focus on this proven model.” Now the gates are open for out of the box thinkers and creatives are being round up like binds of salmon.

And I think it’s great we can make money for small and large organizations. That we can leverage our talents as writers, photographers, graphic designers, YouTube and podcast hosts, or any other type of creative positions and turn that skill into real dollars.

We Can Do More

As great as things are getting and as excited as I am about the potential, I don’t think we’re there yet. It’s true that businesses have figured out our value and paying us to be part of their teams, but I don’t think we’ve quite figured out how to thrive on our own merits. And there’s a lot of practical reasons I can go into that probably makes sense. But I think the main barrier is still around getting our “business” right.

Business and creativity shouldn’t be competing words. Not in your mind and not in practice. The two today are more intertwined than ever, and the creatives who have been most successful are the ones who understand that business is part of the game.

If you’re not trying to eat off of being creative, then more power to you. There’s plenty of room for those of you who view your art as a hobby. But for those who really want to take it to the next level, then you need to get with it. The business matters.

Branding, consistency, leverage.

Which means your branding matters. Which means consistency matters, and finding ways to continually engage your audience matters, too. And then tracking that engagement to see what’s actually working. And then taking what’s working and producing more of that content. Then once you’ve nailed that “branding,” leveraging it into forming the connections and partnerships you need to expand your brand and make some serious dollars.

Simple right? LOL! Not at all. How many of you creatives study your analytics? If I ask you who your audience is, will you be able to give me a specific demographic? If you you said no to both of these questions, then you’re not serious about turning your art into profit. Either that, or you’ve found some other formula that works better. If so, please send me a message.

This Really Works

I’m thinking of Joe Budden right now. Talk about leveraging your position into something profitable. For those of you who don’t know, Joe Budden is an ex-rapper turned podcast host. He turned his gig as a podcast host into an online hip-hop show through Complex magazine.

That show is called Everyday Struggle, and in its roughly eight months of existence has become one of the more popular online shows, if not the most popular, on Complex. When his contract situation didn’t work out, Budden leveraged his success with Complex into a deal with Revolt for a reported $5 million over five years.

Now that’s how you make the best of your creativity. Joe knew his audience, created content at a consistent pace over the last couple years, and then connected with platforms that could take his brand to the next level. There are obviously other factors involved, but if you strip away the noise, it’s a perfect example of how we creatives can turn our passion into profit.

I Hope I Can Be an Example

I won’t ever suggest something that I’m not practicing myself. I’ve been freelancing since around 2010, probably even before that. I’ve learned a lot over the years, but branding, consistency, and leverage are three lessons that have brought me the most success.

I’ve become especially skilled at consistency and leveraging. That’s because I understand my audience and understand the value I can offer whoever I partner with. I’ll give you an example:

When I put out my first novella, Thoughts of a Fractured Soul, back in 2014, I knew I was essentially starting from scratch as an author. But I wasn’t starting from scratch as a blogger, so used the platforms I’d built to that point to start engaging my audience about my book.

I had to choose an angle, so I started writing regularly about the struggles of Millennials, which was actually a theme in my novella. One of my articles went viral which brought a lot of attention and opportunity. I leveraged that attention into paid speaking engagements, workshops, and partnerships with other platforms that expanded my brand.

Knowing my goal was always to sell books, I made sure that any opportunity I leveraged allowed me to do just that. For example, I took the majority of my speaking engagements with high schools and made them agree to order a certain number of books for their students. Some teachers took it a step further and added my novella to their curriculum. This was on top of getting paid for actually speaking.

That’s just one example, but that wouldn’t have happened without the right focus and structure. Structure is really just step one, guys. Be as creative as you want, but if you don’t figure out a system in which you can funnel all that creativity, then you’re just hoping to get lucky.

Listen, I’m not pretending it’s easy nor am I saying I have all of this figured out myself. I’m learning and trying to get better everyday. What I am saying is that if we can somehow find a way to give our creativity some structure through proper business practices, then we stand a much better chance of paying our rent, buying some groceries, and still having a few dollars left over to enjoy a show every now and then.