Many Roles, Part
1 of our series, we covered the
roles you have to play to run your own
business as a creative professional. In
Part 2, we'll talk about two distinct
classes of products and how you use them
to grow and maintain your business.
First and most importantly: what comes off
the Artist's desk is not a product. A new
painting is not a product. A new story is
not a product. These things are turned into
products by the Marketer, who targets an
audience, packages it to appeal to them and
then finds ways to sell it to them.
So, the new painting is not a product. But
the prints that the Marketer sells to people
with budgets for fine art reproductions are.
The original, which the Marketer targets at
people who are looking to become fine art
collectors is. The downloadable wallpaper
that the Marketer posts for free "but tip if
you feel inclined!" is. A short story is not
a product, but the story sold to a magazine
to reach its audience is. The short story
repackaged as a serial for blog readers is.
The same short story offered as an
incentive, included in an omnibus as new
The Artist produces stuff. But that stuff is
not a product until the Marketer decides how
best to sell something based on it. Your
Artist should never be thinking about how to
sell her stuff because she's bad at it.
Not only that, but if she starts fretting
about how to sell something before she's
done it, one of two things will usually
happen: 1. She'll stop up completely and be
incapable of working, because she doesn't
actually want to do things she thinks are
"sellable;' or 2. She'll start producing
drek she doesn't really believe in and then
pitch a fit when nobody wants it, because
nobody wants to buy art from someone who's
Don't let your inner Marketer tell your
Artist what to do, either: her job is not to
force the Artist to produce something to
meet existing demand, but to create demand
for the Artist. If you're doing what
everyone else is doing, you are replaceable.
If you make it clear to people why what
you're doing is cool and special, then
people will come to you for your kind of
cool and special. They might choose to spend
money elsewhere one day, but it won't be
because they can get what you make anywhere,
it will be because something else will have
become more valuable to them.
That's a pretty short summary of the
business of productizing your work; we could
probably spend several entries discussing
some of these topics (and if you have
questions, please ask!). But for now let's
move on to the two major categories of
. o O o .
What is it?
I define new work as art
that neither the Artist nor the audience has
seen: the Artist because she hasn't made it
yet and the audience because it doesn't
Why do it?
I'll let the Three Micahs
In short, you need new art to keep your
Artist happy: she needs to improve her craft
and work on things that are exciting her,
because chances are if it excites her it
will excite her audience. Audiences like to
see an artist creating new work because they
like to feel invested in artists they like,
and they don't want to dump energy into an
artist they feel is winding down in their
New work gives your Marketer potential new
products to package on a regular basis,
which allows you to grow your audience
through frequent (and predictable)
you say. The Artist isn't
producing work predictably!
Of course she's not. But the Marketer isn't
selling your art, she's selling the products
she bases on your art. So staggered releases
(original first, prints next, wallpapers a
month later) give the Marketer something to
sell at predictable intervals even if your
Artist isn't producing regularly. We'll
handle what to do if your Artist isn't
producing regularly enough for even the most
creative inner Marketer in our next section.
Meanwhile, the Business Manager is happy
because new work = new opportunities to make
money. You can't make money without
something to sell. People are more likely to
spring for new work because they haven't
seen it before, and because new car smell is
very exciting. We all like to feel like
we're in on something at the ground floor.
Plus, if we're an existing fan of an artist,
we've already consumed their existing
products... we want the next thing.
Putting a new painting for sale
in a gallery.
Releasing a new short story
as a serial online.
Offering a new song for
Stringing a new necklace and
offering it for sale on Etsy.
. o O o .
What is it?
I define existing/old
work as work that the Artist has seen:
they've already produced it; and that your
audience may or may not have seen. Some of
your older fans will have. The new fans
won't. Some old fans will have seen it but
won't remember it.
Why do it?
The Three Micahs return!
I mentioned above that there will be times
the Artist just isn't producing enough new
work for the Marketer to sell at regular
intervals... or for the Business Manager to
pay the bills. In that case, it's time to
haul out work the Artist has already
completed and were never productized, in
which case the Marketer gets to work
figuring out how to package them for sale.
Or, it's time to haul out work the Artist
has already completed, the Marketer has
already sold a few times... and
recontextualize it, packaging it either to
market to new fans or to interest old ones.
you say. Isn't that
dishonest? Trying to get people to pay twice
for something they've already bought once?
Maybe if that's what you're actually doing.
But remember, your art is not the product.
How the Marketer sells the art is your
product. If you package the same piece of
art in a new way, a way that adds new value,
then you're not being dishonest, you're just
offering a different option to people who've
already seen it (and a new option to people
who haven't). They can choose whether that
new version is worth more money to them.
The Business Manager likes selling old work
because half the work (the Artist creating
it) has already been done, and she can make
money on something for only half the effort
(the Marketer re-packaging it). The Marketer
likes it because she can fill in the gaps of
her product line schedule, plus she can get
new fans to pay for work that was new before
they came on board. But inevitably
revisiting old work bores the Artist, who
longs to be working on something that has
set her on fire. Even if the Artist is
currently without inspiration, she's going
to resent returning to stuff she feels she's
grown out of or past... something we'll
address in the last section. But first, some
Cutting up old prints that
haven't sold into bookmarks or pieces for
sale to scrapbookers.
Finding old stories
published in several different magazines or
anthologies and collecting them as a single
Licensing an existing song to
an author for use in their book trailer, or
to someone for their Youtube video.
Shortening necklaces that
haven't sold into bracelets that can be sold
. o O o .
Yes it is a word, and I'm not afraid to use
it! As I mentioned above, your Artist longs
to work on things that set her on fire...
and if she isn't currently on fire for
something, she kind of would rather not work
at all. Not on new things that have lost
that new-love luster, not on old things that
she secretly hates because what she can do
now is soooo much better.
At this point, you have to learn what
secondary motivations compel your inner
Artist. Most Artists have at least one
primary motivating force, the mysterious
drive responsible for them suddenly tearing
off for the nearest tool when an idea
strikes them. But when that fire dies, a lot
of Artists can be nudged by other forces,
none of which are as powerful but which can
at least keep the momentum going.
Common motivators include:
Reward. "If I finish this, I'll go
to the local sauna|get a fancy cup of
coffee|play a game for an hour."
This is the most basic form of motivation,
and while it works it's loaded with
pitfalls: for one, you might get so used to
working for rewards that if you don't have
them you might feel unmoved. Also, rewarding
yourself for every milestone can get very
expensive, eliciting dagger-glares from
Business Manager. If you want to reward
yourself for your efforts, try to keep the
rewards small, non-monetary and infrequent.
Audience Interaction. "If I finish
this, people will say nice things about my
art and that will make me feel warm and
This is a great artistic motivator! It's
cheap and it works, often when nothing else
will. The problem? It's almost completely
outside your control. You can create a
climate where people feel encouraged to
comment, you can remove obstacles that
prevent them from commenting, you can commit
yourself to responding to them so that
they'll feel more inclined to begin a
conversation in the future... but if the art
doesn't speak to people, if they're not
feeling up to it, if they just didn't happen
to be online or in the presence of your work
that day... no comments. And if you get too
used to comments or conversations with your
audience, when you don't get them you tend
to take it very personally, and what was a
source of warm-fuzzies becomes not just a
null, but an actual detriment: you might
become too discouraged to work.
Nevertheless, I think we're all moved by
that connection with our audience, so
whether we can get it as often as we want or
not, it's going to be an intrinsic part of
our lives as artists.
As an aside, helping inspire your audience
to interact with your work more is not as
simple as it sounds, and is probably a topic
for a different post. >.>
Money. "If I finish this, I will
make some money!"
In our current culture, we grow up soaked in
the belief that money = validation, so if
you're feeling really low you can use money
as a reason to keep working. But as with
Rewards, this can lead to real heartache
down the line. People don't buy artwork for
many reasons, not just because it doesn't
speak to them. If you train yourself to
believe that the only yardstick by which you
measure an artist's worth is how much she
makes, you are going to crash and burn
emotionally the first time you hit a lull in
receipts. You might be tempted to lower your
prices to lift your sales and your flagging
self-esteem, an act that will come back to
bite you later.
If you do use Money as a spur for your
efforts, be sure you keep your inner Artist
separate from your inner Business Manager.
Imagine your Business Manager telling your
Artist, "If you finish something, we might
have a better chance of buying more
chocolate," rather than having your inner
Artist adopt the mantra, "If people pay me,
it means I'm good."
Tools and Inspirations. "Maybe if
I get a new tool, go through some new
books, I will feel more inspired!"
For some people buying a new tool or
thumbing through other people's work or
reading a book or watching a show on
something exotic and unknown to them is
enough to get moving again. While this can
lead to spending too much money ("oooh, a
shiny new box of pastels!") or
procrastination ("just one more show on
ancient Egypt!"), it's still often healthier
than some of the other methods. Just enlist
the aid of your Business Manager ("How much
money am I allowed to spend?") and go for
The Chance to FIX THINGS. "Oh I
hated how that old picture came out, maybe
if I do it at my current skill level it
won't suck so much..."
Most Artists are secret perfectionists who
are never happy with the way something came
out... or if they were then, looking back at
it a year later makes them want to burn it
with fire. A great motivator for that inner
perfectionist is to give them the chance to
fix old mistakes: revisit old pieces and try
to improve them directly, or start from
scratch and try to do better justice to the
idea. This motivator costs nothing but time
you would have spent anyway... and it also
directly impacts skill level by encouraging
your Artist to work at the limit of her
You'll note a lot of these motivators are
riddled with pitfalls and problems! But all
of them are healthier than some of the other
ways Artists motivate themselves: guilt
("I'm not working hard enough."), jealousy
("That other artist is more successful than
me!"), envy ("That artist doesn't deserve
their success because I'm better than
them!"), anger ("I'll show those people who
think I suck!") and self-hatred ("I suck. I
need to work harder so I'll suck less.").
All these negative motivators lead to
corrosion of the spirit and often, a halt in
work altogether. Appall your inner Business
Manager with one mocha too many before you
give in to any of these voices. You might
never break even, but at least you'll save
. o O o .
This concludes Part 2! In
, we'll cover creating a
marketing strategy, time management and case
studies. If you missed Part 1, which covers
the three roles in more detail, you'll
find it here