Tech-ni-Fold MD Graham Harris looks at the distinction between artists and entrepreneurs
Did you know that Michelangelo, one of the world’s most famous artists, sculptors and architects of all time didn’t die poor as many proclaimed, and that instead, he amassed a fortune that would equal the tidy sum of £30 million today?
I just read a book written by Jeff Goins (Real Artists Don’t Starve) that set’s out clear arguments that may inspire those amongst us that see ourselves as creative individuals, and he is not just limiting it to artists, writers and architects, there is a message in it for all of us who feel we have a creative talent or something of value to offer the world.
Here’s one of the key points Jeff Goins has put forward in his book…
“The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make more art.”
This puts forward a notion that we all have been indoctrinated to believe that those who pursue arts as being a way to make a living are inclined to struggle. We see these artists as destitute, and committed to their passions despite their obvious financial constraints. It is like we all accept that that the typical artist strives more for a higher calling and a place in history as opposed to making the money they deserve from the fruits of their own labour. Further to this there is a belief, or there used to be, that to be a ‘real’ artist, you had to be poor, and that the moment any financial gain came from the work, the artistic value disappeared simultaneously.
I must confess, I am not qualified to put forward a review that will in any way do justice to the book itself, however, I am totally qualified to tell you what some of the messages in this book mean to me, and to give you my thoughts on how I feel the takeaways may inspire you.
Don’t be embarrassed or unwilling to profit from your own creativity
The world is changing, entrepreneurs, creative types from any area you care to think of can have, should have and deserve to have it both ways, that is, sharing their talent with the world and profiting from doing so. No one will respect your work if you don’t respect it first – you need to stop being embarrassed about attaching the correct value to your creation/service, because if it is worthy of that price, people will pay. We need to have confidence in our ability if we choose to make a living from our creative endeavours, and although it may take some kind of a risk to move forward, the book tells us that it doesn’t mean you have to give up your day job.
Before I developed the Tri-Creaser, I offered my services as a print finishing consultant after I clocked off work at 2pm, and knocked on doors to find customers. Although I was confident in my ability and in what unique service I could offer local print companies I played it down and avoided talking about being paid, often doing it for free, until someone offered to pay me. I had to learn fast if ever I was going to make my business successful, and thankfully I realised the value of my creativity when I developed my first product, it was a simple case of either sink or swim.
Cultivate patrons and collaborate with others
I loved reading the 2 chapters about cultivating patrons and collaborating with others, although following these disciplines through won’t naturally be the easiest part of starting to make a living out of your creativity, they are, however, vital components that can simply mean the difference between success and failure. If others are going to love what you do as much as you do, you’ve got to get out there and tell them about it – do this as a routine, on a regular basis, aiming to be in those circles of influence, and you will not only gather admirers who turn into customers, but also pick up flag bearer’s who will shout out for you.
When we developed our CreaseStream range of digital print finishing machines, we kept our heads low and focused too much on the technicalities of our new solutions, and didn’t connect with the rest of the world as much as we should have done. We had something special, and something that could do what competitive products couldn’t. Following a series of coaching sessions with an outside sales consultant, who helped us re-focus on the benefits of our solutions, we started to seek influencers who would help spread our story. Equally we looked for collaborations with the right types of organisations, her simple messages confirming the value of our offering to others, something we thought we knew already but had obviously buried deep away. As a consequence, our heads now hover high above the parapet and the machines are fulfilling their potential. “Real Artists Don’t Starve” is well written and doesn’t give you a strategy or system to follow, like so many “How to” books, instead I believe it was written to give creative types inspiration and permission to follow and fulfil their dreams without feeling any guilt.
Michelangelo had no such problem in knowing how to handle his creative talent, he moved in the right circles to get himself known and even demanded and received payment for his apprenticeship, something truly rare at the time, how many entrepreneurs could learn from such a great man?
In my field of invention I see so many incredible ideas go to waste simply because the inventor lives out a story the world gave them about such creative types. That inventors invent, marketing guys market and sales people sell. So the world’s answer to tens of thousands of problems will never get realised because too many inventors waited and are still waiting for someone to knock on their door and hand over a million pounds. The sooner we realise life doesn’t happen this way the better, in fact, you may be surprised to learn that only 1 in 5,000 inventors ever make back enough money to pay back their patent fees. The point is, if you are going to embark on a creative journey, creating is just one area, you have to learn how to do the rest, at least until you hit the big time.
If you have a creative talent that you feel needs to be unlocked and revealed to the world, “Real Artists Don’t Starve” will be a true inspiration, and who knows it might even change your life.