What is a story from your childhood that influenced who you are today?
Based on the extroverted things I do as an adult, most people would never guess I was a shy, awkward child in grade school and even high school. I was also not very good at sports. That means I got picked on a bit. So I found other activities I could do without needing the approval of others. I naturally gravitated towards creative things like writing, music and art.
When I started playing the guitar and singing in bands in high school, suddenly I was more socially accepted, which energized me. I also used humor as a way to lighten the mood in social situations and have always loved to laugh and make others laugh.
It’s funny how all of those things are still part of who I am and what drives me.
Why did you choose to pursue your writing, music, art and comedy as a way of making a living rather than remaining an employee?
I realized early on I would never be happy working for someone else. I’ve had plenty of full-time and part-time jobs over the decades to make ends meet, but I never settled into accepting that as my fate.
I’ve often said I was “stubbornly determined” to find a way to make a living doing things that were a true expression of who I am. For many years I was doing everything (bands, plays, stand-up comedy, publishing a music magazine, visual art) but I was spreading myself too thin. No one thing got enough of my attention to gain traction.
In the 1990s my first book was published and I made a strategic decision to make that my focus. My topic was music marketing advice for independent musicians. It was something I was genuinely fascinated by and felt it held the most profit potential. It took several years, but it proved to be successful.
The last job I had working for someone else was 2004. And I didn’t get laid off. I left that job when I knew my book income could support me.
Which challenges are most dangerous to our success, the inner mindset related ones or external challenges through difficult circumstances?
Most of the obstacles to success that people face are self-imposed, for sure. Fear, uncertainty, pessimism, and tunnel-vision to name a few.
External obstacles can include debt, family obligations, health, etc. One of the toughest things you can do is pursue a creative or business calling when you are desperate to make it pay off right away. Putting that kind of pressure on yourself and your art can lead to a lot of frustration.
It would be far better to make sure your basic financial needs are met from some other source as you work on your passion project or new business on the side.
I’ll be the first to admit that not everyone is cut out for self-employment. There are a lot of skills to juggle and many people aren’t willing to embrace all that is required – talent, marketing, communication, discipline, positive attitude, determination, persistence, and more.
What are limiting beliefs that most business owners share, and what practical steps can we take to overcome them?
One thing that holds people back is their hesitation to step into their authentic power with the path they have chosen. They ask, “Who am I to think people will take me seriously as a … (musician, artist, consultant, app developer, etc.)?”
Another big hurdle is thinking that marketing is a “necessary evil” or it’s something only people who have a “sales personality” are good at.
The first step to overcoming these obstacles is realizing the value your talent, product or service brings to the people you serve. Pay attention to the comments and feedback you get from those who benefit from what you offer. That’s living proof that what you do is valuable, and you are the person uniquely qualified to deliver those goods.
Once you fully comprehend this benefit, you make it your mission to spread that goodness to more and more people. At the same time, know your client or fan base is not “everyone.” Your sole focus is to connect with that small sliver of the population that is predisposed to truly appreciate what you offer. And with more than seven billion people on the planet, I guarantee you, there are thousands of potential customers out there waiting for you!
How can a lifelong employee transition into a business showcasing their creative gifts? If you could break it down into five practical steps, what would they be?
As I said before, not everyone is cut out to go the self-employment route. Some people are best served by maintaining some type of “job” while pursuing their personal interests part-time.
However, if you feel a full-time creative career is your destiny, here are some steps to take:
- Continue to work your day job and do your best to save money that will later act as a cushion when you decide to make the leap to self-employment.
While you have a job that is covering your basic needs, spend time honing your skills and testing the waters of the path you want to pursue. Before you quit your traditional job, it helps a great deal to know there’s a demand for your music, book, art or other creative product or service.
You might think there’s a need for what you do, and friends may even tell you it’s a great idea, but the only way to know for sure is when the marketplace (meaning that little sliver of the population you serve) votes with their dollars.
Your sideline business should ideally bring in consistent part-time money before you consider going full-time with it.
Get on friendly terms with marketing and experiment with ways to create awareness about the what you offer. For some people, Facebook or Twitter will be their strongest tools. For others, it may be YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest. Still others will do best with paid ads or networking events or media exposure.
You have to find your own way when it comes to marketing. Where is the overlap between your communication strengths and where your ideal customers/fans are hanging out?
Focus on building a personal relationship with your fans. Your success with art or anything else will be determined by the number of people who know, like and trust you and then pay you with their time, attention and money.
Put a priority on nurturing these relationships. One powerful way to do that is to build an email list and communicate regularly with the good people on it.
Other ways: Speak to people at your live events and express your appreciation. Reply to fan emails and social media comments. Encourage interaction and engagement. Show your personality and give people peeks into your personal life. Share the stories behind your art and creative expression.
- Ask for the sale and gain confidence doing it. In the ideal world, you would just create cool stuff and people would line up to pay you for it. In reality, you have to take some extra steps. Those steps usually involve you making offers and asking for the sale.
This is a skill that can take time to develop. So start now by practicing how to describe your product or service in a way that appeals to your ideal fan. Also, get used to stating a price that represents the value you deliver. No matter how awkward it feels at first, keep taking action to authentically ask for the sale. The more you ask, and the more comfortable and confident you get doing it, the more prosperous you will become.
What special offers do you have for our sidepreneurs?
I would love to give Sidepreneur Magazine readers free access to an online course I created called 30 Ways to Become an Empowered Artist.
You’ll get more than three hours of online video training and worksheets that will reveal the best practices of the most success creative entrepreneurs.