I have been around many individuals who have launched, and failed to launch, successful creative enterprises over the last 25 years. Those who succeed the most quickly and easily usually have sought out support in the form of education and/or have hired a consultant to help them. The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship represents the best of both of these worlds by offering both education and one-on-one ongoing support for two years at a fraction of the cost of what others charge.
IAE students pay roughly $10.00 an hour to develop their entrepreneurial skills, mindset, vision and business. Most educational institutions who offer artistic entrepreneurial course work, if they do at all, cost at least 25,000 a year or $18.00 an hour (assuming 40 hours per week for 9 months of the year). Additionally, I am unaware of any that offer their students the opportunity to work alongside successful artistic entrepreneurs daily– let alone over a 2 year period of time which will dramatically increase the chance of success.
Of course, hiring a consultant, is a viable way of gaining this same kind of one-on-on kind support and insight. But the average consultant is at least $100.00 an hour, which for most artists is simply completely out of sight.
So if you are beginning to consider if you should go it on your own as an entrepreneur, consider first my list of the most deadly mistakes creative individuals make beginning their entrepreneurial venture alone.
#1 Falling in love with your first real entrepreneurial idea for your enterprise is deadly. Most first generation ideas, that we are willing to invest time and money into, wind up morphing several times into “variations on the theme” before being truly viable and valued in the marketplace. And most of those around us, who believe in us and love us, will not be telling us that our idea still needs to continue to be developed. Usually this is true because your family and friends either don’t know enough about the arts, let alone the market you are trying to reach, or because they love and care about you and want to believe that you will simply succeed.
Your objective in the first year of developing your entrepreneurial idea into a venture is to objectively learn how to access if your idea has a viable market to serve and if not find a way to shape it so it can.
#2 Committing your ideas to paper is a necessary evil. Learning to develop your gut instincts depends on being able to go back to previous “good assumptions” to learn later from those previous assumptions to gain insight into yourself. By committing your ideas and strategy to writing you now have a working road map of your past that can lead you into your future through self assessment and reflection. This also means a minimum of 3 years of financial projections that include not just your perceived costs of your creative start-up but also how you will support yourself.
#3 Who is your client? Can you paint me a picture of what they look like? Where do they work? What are they interested in? How old are they? How much disposable income do they have? Why do they need what you have to offer? Most unguided creative individuals focusing on a creative idea that appeals to their needs and create justifications for why their product or service should offer real value to their client. Your justification can make perfect sense to everyone you share it with too. But in the end the only perception that matter is that of your REAL client. Do THEY buy into what it is you are trying to deliver?
#4 Products must have features and benefits. Features attract us to the product and benefits emotionally attach us to them because they deliver value. Your product or service must offer both. Underestimating the value your customer must receive to want the product or service you deliver is extremely deadly. And once you are perceived in the market as offering little value it is next to impossible to change that perception.
#5 Assuming you know what will appeal to your target market and heavily investing in the wrong place, advertising campaign, products or people too early in your development, without incurring a significant period of incubating your idea and developing your entrepreneurial vision, is life threatening. The biggest financial mistakes in business, without guidance, are made at the beginning because your entrepreneurial vision is clouded by your personal needs and interests above all else.
#6 Deciding to start a business usually accompanies a life defining moment about who you are and what you want your life to become. While that moment is certainly important to reaching your decision to begin as an entrepreneur, you need to immediately be able and willing to allow others of influence to help you shape your vision as quickly as possible. If you are permeable in life, defining decision will be surrounded by fluidity and flexibility instead of rigid narrow resistant thinking.
#7 Criticism about your entrepreneurial venture or skills stings- take it and learn from it. And thank whoever gives it. Think of how rarely we are given criticism and how often it would help- on interviews for a job, an audition for a role, a first date with someone we hoped would call again. When someone is willing to tell you what they think, they are extending an olive branch to you that most are not willing to.
#8 When you begin your venture don’t think your friends and colleagues will be the first to support you. While they might be, most find they only superficially do in the beginning and usually will stop. Begin with those who are at least once removed from those closest to you if not all together perfect strangers. So how will you find these individuals? What will you say when reach out to them? How will you reach out to them and what result should you expect? Developing your entrepreneurial story is a critical part of bringing clients to your door. Delivering your elevator speech is an important way of quickly communicating to others your story. The story of why IAE is needed is quickly summed up the Starving Artist Not button I created. It took me writing a book and two years of using it in blog posts to realize how powerful it is in explaining my mission and work.
#9 You need to establish an advisory board of a minimum of 3 individuals you do not know but value. These advisors cannot be related to you and need to sincerely be interested in your growth and development. They might be a supplier and have a vested interest in your success. They might be someone you meet at a networking event who takes a special interest in you and a relationship forms. They might be someone you have known casually for a long time. You need 3 voices giving you feedback about every aspect of your development in your venture to ensure success. Most start-ups find this particularly difficult to find and sustain and yet this kind of support can be the deciding factor to success or failure.
#10 Money is energy. Where you spend your money will reflect back energy, or a lack of it, to your enterprise. Beginning a creative venture with little to no money is very possible. But beginning a creative venture with no support and the educational tools you will need to guide you is deadly.