Don't Double Dip!
I had a conversation with a desperate artist. You might call him a "starving artist" but it was more than a sandwich would fix.
This artist wanted to know the "silver bullet" answers to establishing himself as a business. He wanted to work more, earn more, and be successful by his own definition. I could have been offended as his lack of worth ethic. I could have simply moved on to another task. I suppose I couldn't blame him for wanting to know the "secrets" but there was something he needed to understand more....
We're celebrating our 21st year in business. We're involved in hundreds of events each year - NOW. We're making ends meet and keeping the "wolves away from the door" - NOW. We're even enjoying a certain quality of life - NOW. Do we have goals and a plan for growth? Sure we do - NOW.
It's not hard for me to cast my mind to many a painful, "trial-by-fire", "dodge-a-bullet" experience. We've learned a LOT and we continue to learn a LOT. Truly, are there any "guidance counselors" for what we do? Lots of mistakes of ignorance... The point I'm trying to make is, it takes time. It's said that the first 5 years in business are make-or-break. In our world, I'd estimate it's more like 10 - possibly 15.
Relationship building, skills development, diversification, brand awareness, etc. All these things are marathons, not sprints. Who you see as the "flash in the pan" paid their dues. I've also never met anyone in our creative fields who didn't have a "paying their bills" job - sometimes never making it solely on talent. There's simply a pattern (and a somewhat seasonal pattern at that) to entertaining.
This is not to say that I didn't offer this young man an option - a choice I didn't really have:
Be a part of the team or be on your own - you can't have both. You can't "double dip!"
If you work for someone, you entrust a certain level of success to them. You need to let them do their job so you can thrive at what you do best. They're all ready "eating the vegetables" of day-to-day office work, the grind, the hustle, the chores and so on. They're absorbing the heavy costs for insurance, accounting, legal, and so on.
If you're on your own, be prepared to absorb all of those costs. You're the boss, but you're also accounts payable and receivable. You're also CEO, CFO, XYZ and PDQ. Networking is a big component of success. Did I mention it takes time? An agent might help you, outsourcing might help you, but ultimately you're responsible for everything.
Working for someone - Do you give up some control? Yes! But more often than not, isn't it nice to "pass the buck?" Working for yourself, you have no cushion - you get to hear ALL feedback (good AND bad!)
It's a unique ethical crossroads. Everyone must answer for themselves, just as everyone must define success themselves. Along the journey, there are other questions one should ask:
What's the most important thing? Being your best or being the boss?
How badly do you want it? Is it a better deal now or is it all you think about?
What are you willing to give up for it? A good night's sleep or will you let it wear you out completely?
Once you have it, how will it change you? Will you truly be satisfied or will you not have peace?
Time will tell.