Right Turn Here: Why there’s no map to creative success

We can find help in making choices as creatives, but ultimately reaching our destination is up to us

Does anyone remember using a map?

Not the handy GPS app on your phone that can instantly tell you where the nearest Starbucks is, or the traffic app that guides you with calming tones toward an address.

No, I’m referring to the folded paper maps that, when unfolded entirely, covered a kitchen table and filled many a glove compartment during family road trips. If you were born after 1990, it’s possible you’ve never seen one. Suffice it to say these maps were not the easiest to manage. You had to make sense of a bunch of squiggly lines that were supposed to be roads, and then keep track of those lines as you drove. My job as a pre-teen was to sit in the passenger seat (we called this position ‘the navigator’ and it was a high honor) and read the map to my dad – as if he didn’t already know where to go.

Plenty of times during our family vacations, we looked down at the map only to realize that we were in the wrong place. It wasn’t the map’s fault, of course. It was due to our inability to understand what the map was saying.

Now, we don’t have that problem. Our modern maps talk back. We wait for the directions, then we make the decisions.

I mention maps because, while I’m grateful for the new technology that helps us avoid traffic jams and such, I believe a creative career is more like reading a paper map than following a GPS.

The Compensation Question: Setting rates the right way

Artists must keep the right mindset when deciding how much to charge

Many artists dread one question more than any other.

Not “So what kind of [music, art, books] do you [play, draw, write]?”

Not, “Do you know anyone famous?”

Not, “What’s your real job?”

No, the question many of us dread the most is: “How much do you charge?”

While everyone works for a living, professional musicians, artists and creatives often live for their work. Therefore, because we creatives tend to see our work as an extension of ourselves, setting a rate can become a deeply personal decision. Some wish they didn’t have to charge at all. Others hate having to haggle and negotiate with people who balk at the costs they quote. In any case, rather than waiting to be asked about your fee for a gig, service or product, it’s best to have some things already thought out in advance.

Here’s some tips on how to maintain a proper mindset while setting your rates.

What you shouldn’t think about

1. Don’t think about what you need. The first mistake most musicians and creatives make when charging fees is becoming a prisoner of the moment. You might think about the car payment that is due, the groceries that you need, or the equipment you’ve been dying to purchase. However, all of your responses at this point are now tied to a temporary situation. Instead of thinking of what your services are worth, you’re thinking of what your current financial need is. This means you will adjust your rates higher or lower, and your pricing model will never be consistent. Instead, set your rates long in advance and don’t change them simply because of a momentary financial need or desire. You’ll avoid being swayed or influenced when you are presenting your rates to a potential client.

3 ways creatives can survive a slow season

When an artist sees opportunities diminish, it's time to do more, not less

It’s the saddest sound in the world. Actually because it’s not a sound at all.

It’s the sound of a creative’s phone that isn’t ringing.

Working as an entrepreneurial artist can take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. There are times when business is booming, clients are calling, and we can barely keep up with demand for our talents. Then, there’s the opposite – the times when days and weeks go by without a single text, email, or inquiry. Not only can this be emotionally depressing for the creative, it can be financially devastating if we haven’t set up reserves or an alternate source of income.

So, what should we do when our work flow slows down to a trickle?

Our July 2017 Spiritual Shed in Miami, FL

Photos from a wonderful ConEx event discussing money, music and how we handle the business of creativity.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Spiritual Shed event held in Miami, July 10, 2017 brought together musicians, artists, engineers, worship leaders and songwriters to discuss money and our approach to being compensated as professionals. Using resources like Jeff Goins’ “Real Artists Don’t Starve” and other materials, we unpacked ideas and challenged concepts that keep local and national musicians from achieving financial success. All told, our participants felt refreshed, inspired, and motivated to make the best of the gifts they’ve been given in order to develop a prosperous and rewarding career.

For more info on upcoming local events in your area, go to https://godandgigs.com/upcoming-events/.

Photo credit: Nicole Yarling 

Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017)

It’s the one question that people ask creatives and artists over and over again, and it’s the one that we loathe the most.

“What’s your real job?”

Even as our culture celebrates creative achievement in the form of blockbuster movies, chart-topping singers, music and dance reality-show competitions, and overnight Youtube sensations, most people still assume that every creative has to have a plan B.