Recently my business partner (and husband) and I disagreed on the strategy behind a quote-related content series that we’re producing.
(We’re incorporating inspirational business sayings with accompanying imagery into our content marketing strategy.)
Immediately I had a vision of creating unique images highlighting these quotes, possibly even using some of my own hand-made textured backgrounds so that each quote would be a piece of my art in its own right.
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My partner, on the other hand, was envisioning that I would quickly curate quote pictures into a series that lacked my personal aesthetic.
You see, I studied fine art and graphic design while he earned his degree in business management economics. Our differing yet complimentary backgrounds are what lead us to start a digital marketing agency together.
Because of these differences, we don’t always agree on how to accomplish our goals.
Art versus business
I left our conversation feeling a familiar nagging inside my gut.
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The creative lurking inside me would never dream of regurgitating someone else’s work for the sake of social engagements. But the marketer persuaded me that it would be less time consuming and more resourceful than creating custom images.
Should you sell your creative soul to bring home the bacon and buy a name for yourself, or should you make art solely for the purpose of self-expression?
It can be very disconcerting for today’s creative professionals to come to the realization that to sell effectively, is to sell out. And if that is true, what does it mean for your creative psyche?
In essence, the question becomes, should you sell out…or starve?
(Share your thoughts in the comments!)
I’ve found the answer lies in the fact that every artist needs sustenance. Literally. It is a beautiful and powerful ideology: the concept of the “starving artist.”
But, in the end, even artists need to eat!
The lessons I learned from this experience brought me to these realizations:
1) Sometimes, we need to do things that go against our creative inner morality until we can afford to do otherwise.
Obey, obey, obey, and then do what you want.
Unless you are a prodigy (or an extremely lucky person), it’s highly unlikely that your intrinsic artistic talent is going to get you where you want to be without sacrificing any of your creative morals.
Realistically, life isn’t about doing what you want all the time.
The smart artist who struggles to break through the noise understands there needs to be a compromise.
My take on this circumstance?
- Rein in your artist and refine your marketer until you have sampled the delights of success. Only then can your artist afford to go crazy.
- Never forget that having an unlimited creative license is a privilege.
- You may have to work in ways that you didn’t anticipate when you started your journey of creative entrepreneurship, but when you get there, the sky’s the limit!
2) There are times when clients want things that don’t jive with your aesthetic.
Should you tell them no? Should you ignore them and do what you want instead?
Or should you bite the bullet and create something that you don’t want to because it’s what they want?
In my experience, taking the advice of others and doing things that I don’t necessarily want to do has actually led me to learning important lessons about my profession. It’s also given me valuable insight into the world of the “non-creatives” who are paying me for my talent.
Of course, don’t take jobs that are out of the scope of reason.
Just don’t limit yourself.
Stepping out of your comfort zone to do a project may completely alter your creative individuality for the better!
Trying something new? Check out this post on How to quote a project you’ve never tried before.
3) The key to success is finding the balance between your inner artist and your inner marketer.
We may be experts at our craft, but we are always learning and evolving.
And sometimes it is best for us to look at things like marketing in a different way. Marketing is an art within itself, and even if it sometimes feels superficial, that doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
The trick is to know when a project favors creativity over efficiency or vice versa.
And if you can make it happen both creatively and efficiently, you’ve got it all figured out!
Check out these creative ways to market your business:
- How I won Fortune 500 clients through simple outbound marketing
- 5 Super fun (and easy) marketing tips for your design business
- 6 Non-traditional ways designers can find new clients & stand out
- This client-getting tactic worked so well…I actually had to stop using it
4) The inner artist is an uncontrolled, undefined and unfocused energy…
…that creates for the sake of creating.
The marketer is an organized, goal-oriented, hyper-focused entity that works for the sake of moving forward.
They need each other to thrive, but if one over-powers the other, the equation becomes unbalanced and we run into trouble.
However, when the reconciliation is done well, the outcome is magnetic and everyone wins.
The iconic artist of centuries past has gone extinct, but in his place is today’s artist; a creative entrepreneur.
A hybrid mix of talents and skills, cultivated to uniquely and successfully express emotion while at the same time utilizing strategies that produce functional work.
The field of marketing is colliding with the creative field of design, where the artists of today are required to do more than bring an idea to life. Designers are meant to produce functional products that get someone from point A to point B.
Creative directors are meant to have a vision and execute smartly and proficiently.
Back to the project…
I began to admit to myself that my idea for our quote project was clearly derived from a selfish place, wholly based on personal expression:
- I wanted to do the project my way so that I could benefit from the satisfaction of producing a work of art.
- I wanted unlimited creative license without earning it first.
- I wanted to be the artist, but I forgot about my very important marketer!
- My idea did not solve any problems and it was not an efficient use of my time.
I realized then that selling out is not really a thing anymore.
It is built into the confines of our ever-changing industry and it no longer means that you have to sacrifice your moral, creative inner artist self. It is a way to measure your success as a creative entrepreneur because truth be told, if you are selling anything, you are winning.
Ultimately, we must embrace our inner marketer and our inner artist in order to avoid starvation. To do so is in fact, essential for our survival as creatives in this ever-shifting digital landscape.
The next time you feel the nagging sensation of your artist trying to break free from the confines of our industry, take that powerful energy and channel it into something different.
Harness that passion and use it to experiment with a different artistic medium or in a charity or volunteer setting.
Whatever you do, remember that while the reconciliation is important for creatives in a work environment to understand, it certainly doesn’t mean you’re limited in your life as a whole.
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