Business Skills for Artists

Business skills are the skills of enterprise and making money

You realize that there is production and sales.

Then you realize that, like, production has always been distributed amongst many people. Rare is there an artisan that grows their own trees, mulches and makes their own paper, their own ink, and then creates their own art. And frames their own work.

They would focus on, well, on the art.

Occassionally, they might benefit from learning more about the qualities of paper, ink, and framing. But only insomuch as it serves the art and the creation of art.

One that is an artist would make art, rather than become a paper maker.

Now, the clarification is that I believe an artistic approach may be taken with "non-traditional" arts. Like you could have master paper maker and making paper is their art. Or a master ink maker. People that make food, that teach, can have an art(*).

Sales, similarly, has many stages, although less clear.
There are things like branding, marketing, sales, creating a funnel, and others. All of these things are different potential pieces, like how you can have different media and tools for making a painting, taking and processing a photograph, or playing a piece of music.

There is an expertise to each of these as well.

And similarly to what I said before, these things can be approached from an artistic perspective as well.

Now, a clarification. When I mention an 'artistic approach' it implies a 'non-artistic' approach. Not sure what to call it, but maybe like a mechanistic approach, though at this point in history it seems that machine learning is taking place, it does discredit machines. Capitalistic approach seems closer, but it does somehow try to separate capital from art, and this practice is not what we are talking about. It is more when maybe capitalism overtakes art in an endeavor. An artistic approach, to me, means something like focusing on the 'art itself'...which to me means like focusing on the communication of energy, experience, perspective and production of emotion in another person. Non-artistic is not just 'making money' focused, it is basically, anything except the art. These include 'just getting something done', 'low quality', 'uninspired' work. Basically a lack of effort towards quality.

Now a third clarification, restrictions are important though. An artist can take something like time constraints and use it. A time constraint, instead of being a path towards mediocrity, can be an inspiration. Although art takes time, sometimes playing with the variable of time (really fast, really slow) produces interesting artistic results or experiences. It may not be the best piece, but it may be a piece of a satisfying piece later on.

A step.

Which brings me back to money and business. The business of art is a sticky thing. One threatens to overtake the other. But they can also work in harmony. People that photography do personally fulfilling artistic projects, humanitarian projects, and commercial projects. Renaissance masters painted portraits, and produced stunning work, but also some of those portraits paid bills. Just because something makes money, does not mean that it is unartistic.

What is the answer then?

It depends on the focus. The intent. The balance.

Production of art depends on the artist. Production of paper depends on the paper maker. Sales depends on the seller.

An artist definintely can do both themselves, but artists are humans too. There is a capacity limit. Sales is another skill to learn, a valuable one to know an understand, and business is an encapsulation of that.

So, really, it is up to a person. It is not an all or nothing affair. It is a common partnership, but one that is based on choice. There are many sole proprietors that make it how they want and it is fantastic, there are failed partnerships, there are failed sole proprietorships, and there are beautiful partnerships. Being in partnership and having it be beautiful is more based on the execution and the alignment of vision and values, than it is on the nature of a partnership itself.

Admittedly, there are two different focuses. One on sales and one on art. There have to be. But they do not have to overshadow each other, they can add expertise to one another. For some reason, the idea of generosity comes to mind, as an antithesis to greed. Maybe that is a clearer definition of the spirit that I am describing with I talk about an 'artistic' approach, maybe what I mean is a more generous approach.

One that is not based on only ego and selfishness, but a greater good, increased positivity, and quality production of good in the world.

There is a person I read about who runs a popular website and they were asked about why they only monetize one portion of the website. They replied that they have more than enough money, and instead of accumulating wealth and then distributing it later like Bill Gates or any other capitalist, they would rather pay some of it out directly and now to people, by not monetizing things that they could. Kind of reminds me of the lady who sells papayas, who was selling super cheap fruit they would discard. Giving things away for free, while still looking out for the business, probably increases the positive interactions in the world and also increases the business.

I guess that is what I mean when I describe production and sales, art and business, enriching each other, harmoniously.

() There is even an art to racing and sport.
) The website is craigslist. They could monetize other aspects of the site and people would still use it, but chose not to. Kind of like how some businesses give discounts to schools or educational use...although those seem like weird programs too, so I don't want to endorse something I do not know too much about.

Life Metaphors: Business

Wrapped up in business is a secret for how to live life in relation to other people.

In giving, providing value, giving people what they want, and what they need. Fulfilling a logical and an emotional need.

One time a girl asked me, if church or this religion is good, then why do they do bad things? People are imperfect, I said. And the system is what was created to spread and sustain a message. There are negative externalities.

For example, consider food.

Church is like the farm and equipment and to transport the food, you need trucks, and the highways they have to drive on, and the safety regulations, and the accidents, and malice, and the people involved therein.

Alternatively, walk through a jungle, smell fragrance, crushed pulp and soil, see a flash of bright color, and feel skin, firm and taste the sweetness.

They are both ways to get fruit.

Austin Kleon vs Jeff Goins

Go to their websites. Both writers. Both published.

Both want to and do help people write and be creative.
Both have online businesses.
Both making, if not a lot of money, enough to live, I'm assuming.
Both have their audience as writers. That seems like such a small niche. Both getting into writing about creativity.

The two websites have different vibes, that I understand with an insight from Goins. Goins has a fantastic article, insight, which I have not seen anywhere else which describes the different 'voices' of a blog author.

One is like an artist, a real person online and another is focused on his course and teaching aka professor or journalist.

In the following, when I say 'sell' I mean connect.

An artist 'sells' on creative expression, curation, poetry.
A professor 'sells' on insight, ability to help you solve a 'problem'. What is fascinating is that they are both, ostensibly, talking about the same topic: being a writer and creative online.

However, even if wrote a book on the same content, people would call one person's book a 'manifesto' and the other a 'in-depth guide' or 'course'.

One primarily says, here I am, here are things I see and think about, and the business model is oh by the way here are things I made.

The other primarily says, here I am, if you want to do this thing, let me help you, I can show you, here is how you can do it, and the business model is oh by the way, you can hire me to teach you.

They both are skilled writers, communicators, and have huge impact online.

I feel like I am forcing a distinction where there is no difference. They are both successful because they both provide both. "Knowledge entertainment" is a phrase that has been coming into my mind a lot. Neither is superior, but different and I am trying to figure out why. Like while they are both interesting, one comes across as a interesting conversation at a bar and another as a skilled business partner.

One I would go to for 'inspiration' and the other for 'nuts and bolts'.

Taken to a disingenuous extreme: one provides inspiration to people who are too boring to make anything interesting, and one provides structure to people who too disorganized to make anything interesting.

If art were creating a building, one focuses on raw materials and the other a building plan?

They both provide entertainment and knowledge.

How to be an artist? How to make it work as a business?
No, one provides inspiration and some insight on how to do it yourself, the other is providing how to do it yourself and inspiring people to do it.

I am not sure what I am talking about here, but I think it is important for me at this moment.

Edit: Wanted to add an insight here that I have not included above in order to preserve the original tone of the article (aka I do not know how to put this in there without destroying the original article, and I likely should rework the article, but I want to hit publish today and so anyway here it is in an admittedly obtrusive, but the least obtrusive way I could manage without making the original article incomprehensible in the meantime). The goal is to make interesting work. Some people are organized, but too boring so they only make work. And some people are interesting, but too disorganized so they only make interesting. One is a wild ranging conversation at a bar that does not get you anywhere, another is a business partner who does not get invited to the bar. To be clear, I am not talking about qualities of particular individuals, but to an idea of two extreme hypothetical versions. The particular individuals mentioned above both are fantastic creators and provide huge help to people online.

Edit 2: What is your mission? What do you need?
Structure to the interesting, but disorganized. Interesting to the structured, but boring.

What Gary Vaynerchuck has taught me about passion based life and business

Tell your truth.

Tell your honest actual truth.

What are you doing right now? I am figuring out life.

I have been working on it since I was a teenager (19) in college after my freshman year.

What can I do for people? I have no real idea. I am a writer. I know that. I can channel that into data analysis and am learning programming. Those are 'useful' but being a writer must be useful too.

I mean, we have had writers for hundreds of years.

What is the point of telling a story? I am not sure.

Writing helps me learn about myself; reading teaches me that other people have done/felt/thrived through the same.

I know that they have helped me, I know that hearing people go through the same things I have gone through has helped me. I know that through reading, I learn, I empathize, I sometimes get healing.

I know that through reading, I get motivated.

Video games, martial arts, sports teams, we do these things because of the love of the game, but to really win, we do these things also because of the community, because of the relationships, because by learning how our pitcher did in the last baseball game, it gives us something to talk about and a way to connect with other people.

Things are just things, a way we create an excuse to talk about stuff -> the real currency is connection.

The real currency is connection. The real thing that is happening is connection. The honest truth, the pulp, the marrow, the nugget of wisdom, the value is connection.

People go to see GaryVee to get motivated and learn about how to start their own business, but they stay because of the high context connection.

I am most impacted about the stories that come through that are more relevant to me. His experience to me. He talks about what his truth is and how he lived his life.

And it makes me feel like I can do it too. Like I can start my own business, like I can live my life with passion, like I can do that and be successful in the traditional sense.

There is some bullshit out there that you need to choose: passion or traditionally successful and the other people are just, well, they are once in a lifetime, out of your control, completely random occurences. Or they are because they had money.

You can pursue passion and be traditionally successful. The internet has opened it up.

You have to work for it though. And you have to use your skills on it. You have to work and work effectively and be smart about it and be able to continue doing it.

Work on it, or watch other people. Give yourself the chance to make youtube videos in front of your own two eyes.

I have been watching Gary for the past 11 years...since he was a scary gremlin looking guy talking about how the internet has taken over radio, newspaper, and is getting into television and it is just getting started.

He makes things that seem like unreal predictions, but I think it comes from knowing his area.

He is working and I am working.

a beautiful relationship: customers and sellers

Sellers, ideally, are people. And they anticipate your needs, fulfill your needs, and do it in a way that meets the requirements so the relationship can continue (provide value, make money).

Customers wants something, and then deciding how to get that thing. Sometimes customers know what they want, and sometimes they do not.

Buyers are basically trained in knowing the market (sellers and customers).

They should know fundamentals and technicals of products.

Further Insight

Some people actually do buy just for the emotion of being in a beautiful store environment, surrounded by nice and doting people. That is great. There is nothing wrong with that. And if you can provide that, by all means do it. The connection though, requires time and attention, and therefore more cost. If you try to do that without factoring in a price that works, then you end up not being able to sustain business.

Additionally, some people do not want the above experience, but actually want the opposite: withholding and judgemental people.

If you are buying to sell, you include 'sellability' in the mind of what you are buying.

Ideally, when you are selling, you connect with people that are good customers.

When it all aligns, good customers and good sellers, my that can be a really emotionally engaging and beautiful relationship for everyone involved. There is a reason that friendships can spawn and go for years to come.

Artist entrepreneurs should satisfy three factors, but most books only cover two

I need to clarify this project for myself:

There are plenty of potential ideas which I have come up with, but one breakthrough I had was that I am working with a multifactorial problem, whereas all of the material I am reading online only deals with two factors.

Three Factors

When reading about a succesful businesses, you can read a lot about finding product and market fit. How Gobble tweaked their offerings until they found a meal combination that their clients loved.

You can also read about start up investors talking about team and fit, like how ycombinator judges potential investments.

But I want to read an article that explains how to get all three right.

The three factors are :

  • founder
  • product
  • market

Steven Pressfield deals with issues of being an artist and that fits for me, maybe it is different for you. For me it is more like:

  • artist
  • product
  • market


My hypothesis is that there is a delightful overlap of these three where we are all very happy and have all our needs met.

This hypothesis is based on my first principle that the world has everything that we need, and it is possible to get everything we need. Additionally, it is even possible to get almost anything you want, if you pick only one thing.

Define Success

If you find and work this overlap, well, that is where I am hoping to find a next level for myself.

Success to me would be a sustainable, passive business that resonates with me. It creates a ton of value for people, throws off a sizeable income, and does it in a good way (legal, ethical, moral). Bonuses might include meeting cool people, gear, and access to experiences. I want to have a few fundamentals filled.


The issue is that, most online articles (and off line books) deal with only one, or at most two, factors. All three are important to balance. How do you integrate all three factors?

Issue Examples
  • missing artist - there might be a great product and market, but if the artist does not want to do it, then it will not work. for example, there is great money for full time management consultants, but most people do not want to get that long path to get there. or put in the hours once they get there. for some, it is a great fit. or like if there was a magazine that paid a ton of money and i had to write about some boring aspect of cats.

  • missing product - people love a topic, artist loves doing it, but could not figure out how to make it work financially. i do not know of anyone in particular, but there are those small town bands that people love, but cannot support a full time living. if people love them, well, maybe the band really does have something, but how sustainable is it as a business. how long can they maintain that output, to those fans? or keep it going.

  • missing market - someone loves to do something, but no one really cares about it. they are writing or building for not a market or the market does not know about them.

Integrate all Three Factors

Walk before you run -> Get two factors working.
  • Run multiple experiments to get the system going.
  • You can have multiple experiments running at the same time.
    • a music gig - fulfills artist
    • a part time job - fulfills product and market
    • a skill education (like marketing, coding, analysis) - fulfills artist or does not fulfill artist but fulfills market
  • Maybe some aspects of those could be combined. Maybe not. But once you get two factors working, then consider how you could get a third in there. Or what it would take. Maybe it does not actually just because you drive for Lyft, and like teaching, and other people want to make money driving for Lyft, does not mean that you create e-courses on driving for Lyft.
    • Or maybe it does. Creating an e-course on driving for Lyft could be a start, then now you know how to create e-courses that help people a lot and sell really well.
    • Well now you have a skill, and can make e-courses on a compelling topic. Or take the skills from making the e-course and make compelling videos. Now you have a market, product, and artist fit.
  • Or maybe you realize that you just like meeting people, and that is why you like Lyft, so start exploring that aspect, meeting and interviewing people and maximize that, have fun with it, then share it.
    • Like Humans of New York. It came on. This guy was taking portraits of people in New York and putting them up online for a long time, and getting small amounts of traction. He then started interviewing people and posting content about their stories. Maybe he did not like interviewing peope at first, but man the stories really struck a nerve, and his amount of work and output, well that skyrocketed the content.

[Sidenote: I am realizing there is something like getting on with making a hit.]

Two Factor Potential Solutions

If you have two of the factors working, consider potential solutions:

1. Missing artist

Potential solution?

Artist takes the skills they have, applies self awareness on what they find fulfilling, and rebuild with a business in mind.

Leverage the contacts and experience.

One person I think of is les stroud. i loved that fucking guy\'s show called survivorman. he was and is the only person to have actually done a survivor show. what set him apart was that he was out there, with little or NO tools, and just had to stay alive for 3-5 days. and he had no support, no snacks, no CREW. he filmed himself, like he had to walk, set up a camera, walk back, then film himself walking up, then get the camera, check the footage, then set up another shot. all while trying to survive. you can look into it, but other people, well they had canned situations where they were pointed to water sources, had people build their shelters for them, and given help from the crew. still good shows, but not the authentic, brutality of survivorman. anyway, he did not want to keep doing it, so he went to playing blues music. i sincerely hope he is happy and has enough money. and if you like blues music, check it out or support him.

2. Missing product

Potential solution?

Keep it as a hobby, love it, minimize the harm. or take value out in other ways (non-monetary) like it helps build your legacy, it lets you meet cool people.

But if you want money out of it, those might all be about iterating different business models.

Tweak. Experiment. Be patient. Work.

Figure out a business structure, maybe that is learning on your own, maybe that is partnering with someone that you really love. educate yourself on business models, read small giants, blue ocean, personal MBA. experiment and tweak.

Missing market

Potential solution?

Keep it as a hobby and just make sure you have having fun with it. It serves you and does not harm.

Alternatively, improve, iterate, tweak aspects of your product (including marketing) as it finds fit.

Be patient. Be working.

Examples might be that singer who started as a country singer, then became a pop star (Taylor Swift). Or a christian singer, then a pop punk star (Avril Lavigne). Or a rapper, then a spanish american rapper (Someone else).

For me

Here is a list of my limitations and assets.

  • artist - i like writing. have analysis skills. curious. journalist approach, learn with me.
  • market -
    • not sure on scale (50-100k followers)
    • cool people that i want to be around.
    • something related to my something i am really fascinated by.
    • people willing and able to responsibly pay money.
  • product - ideally it is something passive. or that i do normally and enjoy so it is passive. that is the idea with the blog.
    i am writing all these articles normally. i have been for years. and they just live in notebooks and on my computer. so if someone else can benefit from them, then that would be great. empower other people.
    to make a product, i have so far learned how to purchase a domain, a host, compared different hosts and hosting options, installed wordpress, set up wordpress. my new stuff is tweaking the blog to be fast enough, and light enough. maybe i will learn SEO. the major focus right now is on learning the process of creating good content. content that is really helpful for people, and that resonates with me, and that fits things i am fascinated by.
    right now, business fascinates. business as a tool for lifestyle design. a big dream would be to learn AND DEPLOY enough about marketing, value creation, content, business form, web development, SEO, that i can have a subscription based blog that people pay for annually, love what they get out of it, and match what kinds of things i like to write about, investigate, and share. with that produce bigger things that deliver more value for people. monetize. and deploy money skills so that i can have a robust solution to the money problem.

in the meantime, i am already winning. i like writing, and organizing, and it is fun even if no one else is reading right now. and i feel like i am on a path, so that is cool too. and the pursuit, i can have a good life, now.