As an artist, there is a hustle involved in selling work or getting hired for your work. This is implicit, and the main reason I believe artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world. There is no successful business that did not begin with an incredible amount of hustling, especially in the beginning when the work lies in marketing, finding your ideal clients and defining and redefining your point of view.
Defining your point of view is perhaps one of the most important parts of creating and growing a business that lasts over time, as there is no other factor that defines your business more than that. Having a strong point of view is what allows two businesses that sell the exact same products to stand side by side and sell the same products to two completely different groups of clients. The reason for this lies in the fact that we do not purchase based on logic. We make purchases based on our emotional connection to a product, whether it is art or clothing or household cleaners.
Your point of view matters not only to your current and potential clients, but also to your own ability to grow your business with enthusiasm. Nothing builds your personal confidence more than knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing, creating what you’re creating, and coming up with ways in which to present it to the world.
I remember when I met Paula Wagner, Tom Cruise’s former manager. She happens to be from my hometown, and I had a connection that allowed me to write to her and follow up consistently until her assistant called me one day and said she wanted to meet with me in person. She had just become president of United Artists, so I had flown down to LA to meet with her and get her advice on how to take my work as a writer and performer to the next level in NYC. As we were talking, she was so generously asking me questions about my work, but never once did she ask to see my work. She instead wanted to know more about why I was creating the work I did: why I wrote that play, where the title came from, why I wanted to work with Meredith Monk, why I liked Labyrinth Theater Company, why I chose NYU over The Art Institute of Chicago for my graduate program. In the end she looked at me and said, “here’s what you need to do. You need to create a solo show and premiere it at one of the best theater festivals in NYC. That’s your next move.” When I asked her why she thought that, she said, “because you love to create your own work, and there is nothing that will highlight your strengths in that more than a solo show. Play your strengths, always, or else you’re toast.”
Before I left she asked if I had any questions for her. I said, “yes, how do you feel you got to where you are today? What is the one thing you’ve done that has allowed you to achieve what you have?” She said, “I have a point of view, and as long as I have that I don’t care what people think. I just do what feels right to me. I’ve never had to worry about anything else- money, running a business, raising my family- in fact, it’s what has made me rich.”
I got chills when she said this, as I never had a deeper admiration for a female role model up to that point. She had just helped me understand the difference between running a business that lasts as an artist and one that is hoping they might make it. I knew I would never be the same once I left that room, as my confidence in what I believed in was going to serve as my guide in my journey in life, as an artist and business owner.
That year I premiered my new solo show at the Midtown International Theater Festival and had three agents approach me after about working with them, for both writing and acting. I knew I was on to something incredibly fulfilling, something that was going to pull me in the direction I wanted to go, rather than feeling like I was going to have to push to make things happen in an uphill battle. I was coming from the right place: my own unique place of creative freedom.
What is your point of view? What do you believe in and stand behind, as an artist? Please share in the comments below!