Confession: I can’t dance.
I’m terribly uncoordinated, actually. Almost dangerously (ask me how many times I’ve broken toes just walking around my home). Which makes me a weird addition to a dance-related company, right? Except, what I don’t know about dance, I do know about business. Sulé shared his introduction post; here’s mine.
I was born and raised in a small town in New York. That’s Cow-New-York, not The-City-New-York. My graduating class had 126 people, and we all knew each other. As a teenager, I spent a few years working on neighboring farms, my afternoons spent tossing hay bales, milking cows, and taking care of calves. My family also owned goats, horses, chickens, a llama, and just about anything else you might find on a small hobby farm.
I didn’t grow up with dreams of working in marketing. Who does, right? Boring. I wanted to be a singer. And then I wanted to be a history teacher, and then a forensic psychologist, child psychologist, chef, and finally elementary school teacher. I tried out five different majors during my first run at college; my transcript reads like a schizophrenic nightmare. I ended up taking a break from school because I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I’m passionately curious; the thought of trying to limit myself to just one area was terrifying.
The Road to Success
I was married in 2006, and when my first daughter was born the following year, I left work to become a stay-at-home mom. A few weeks after my daughter’s first birthday, I decided to go back to work, and started researching jobs I could do from home. I fell into freelance writing mostly by accident, but it was a perfect fit. I could spend my time researching and learning new things, and then share what I learned in a blog post or article. As someone who has always enjoyed writing (I was the one kid in class who didn’t shy away from longer writing assignments), I finally felt like I found a career worth pursuing.
What no one told me then was that being a writer was more than just sitting down and writing. Clients weren’t going to come to me. I taught myself how to market myself and my services. I learned basic web design and started blogging. I figured out how to use Twitter and Facebook. Everything was new to me, and I loved every minute of it. It wasn’t long before a few clients started asking my opinion on marketing their own businesses. I slowly added a few simple marketing services to my site. A year later, I went back to school to make it official, enrolling in a marketing and business management degree program through SUNY Empire State College.
In 2014, I made the jump from being a freelance writer with a few marketing services to being a marketing consultant with a few writing services. It’s still a work in progress, and change is scary. There were a lot of late nights spent pouring over various books and websites, learning as much as I could about marketing outside of the classroom. The gap between college-marketing and real-world-marketing is huge, as I discovered.
The Art and Business Connection
Late in 2013 (I’m backtracking a bit, I know), my college adviser emailed me about a few residency courses the college would be offering in the following spring. I had just registered a week earlier with a full credit load. I didn’t need, or have time for, another class. But there was a course detailing how to combine art and business. I’m a writer outside of work, too (I write historical time-slip fiction), and the course sounded like a great way to combine my business education with my part-time hobby. The first weekend of the semester, the whole class (five of us) met on campus. (That’s when I met Sulé.) By the end of the course, I went from thinking about how I could run my writing as a business to how I could help other creatives combine their art with marketing and business principles. It was an eye-opening experience. While I do still work with small businesses, I started reaching out to other authors, as well.
When Sulé approached me earlier this year, asking me to help with a website, and then later asking me to join the Whole Heart Productions creative team, I happily said yes. I’m here to not only help with WHP’s marketing, but also to help other artists who are trying to make the leap to treating their art as a business. This is what I love to do. Creative branding is my niche, and I’m so glad to be putting my experience to work as a member of such an inspiring, upbeat company.
If you’re an artist who wants making money with your talent, then you’re an entrepreneur. You’re a small business owner. And that can be terrifying. It’s easier to dance than it is to draw up a business plan or research marketing strategies. Where do you even start?
I learned by figuring out what I needed to know, and then going out and learning it. I’m encouraging you to do the same. Schedule 15 minutes a day, and study how to bridge the gap between business and art. You’ll be surprised at how quickly that small daily investment will add up, and how quickly you’ll start to feel more comfortable as an artist-entrepreneur. Everyone starts somewhere; it’s up to you to determine where you want to end up, and then put the work in to get there.