Filed under: art, business | Tags: artists, business, marketing, Seth Godin
Through my Hamlet blog, an international organization found me and, after a few email exchanges, they hired me to help them “conquer America” with their Shakespeare project.
While technically I was hired to help them with some Shakespeare, I found myself coaching them on their business strategy, on their email writing, on website launching, on social media and several other things that are not on my resume. They hired me for my education/arts specialization and got a business coach.
Because the communication was nebulous and the job murky, I nearly quit a few weeks in. But I set boundaries and negotiated for clearer terms. I made a lot of suggestions which they were excited by but somehow couldn’t implement. Then it took them almost 2 months to pay me-with lots of back and forth with international banking difficulties and miscommunications. In the end, they fired me as easily as they hired me (and not insignificantly, they did the same for several other extremely accomplished people in the field.) The project, due to launch last April, is nowhere to be seen. I can’t help thinking that if they’d taken the advice of all the artists they’d brought in, they might have actually succeeded.
A few years ago, in the midst of trying to shift my day job life, I went to the Actors Work Program and was intrigued by the speeches they gave us about all the skills we have as artists that could give us an edge, outside of the arts. I felt that was probably very true, given what a wide variety of things we do to make an artist’s life work. But then we took a skills assessment test that just slotted us into the “Can you use Photoshop?” “Can you work in Excel?” world. It felt like the end result was that everyone was just well suited to become administrative assistants.
This international organization experience showed me how much deeper my skill set was than my ability to maintain a database. The fact is, I run several businesses. And they just happen to be in fields that don’t make a lot of money so I don’t see the returns that someone in another field would see. That’s art-making, I guess. And Education. And people like me have the ability to coach outside our field but other businesses don’t always recognize the ways we could help. And neither do we.
I’m not saying all us artists should go get business jobs (Good Lord, no!) but it’s often the case that artists are secretly embedded in businesses. They’re your temps. Your administrative assistants. (Thanks Actors Work Program!) They’re catering your company event. If you have an artist in your midst, it might be worth investigating how they can help you grow. They may have secret marketing skills. They may be great leaders. They may be untapped communication coaches. To say nothing of all the artistic skills they might be able to contribute.
A revolution is here, our revolution, and it is shining a light on what we’ve known deep down for a long time—you are capable of making a difference, of being bold, and of changing more than you are willing to admit. You are capable of making art. Why Make Art? Because you must. The new connected economy demands it and will reward you for nothing else. Because you can. Art is what it is to be human.
Artists are all around you and if you need help adapting to this new way of doing things, reach out. We can help. I know it from experience now.
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