tips for making the transition from artist to entrepreneur


A lot of creatives struggle with the idea of being a business person. They struggle with sales, marketing and charging appropriately for what they do, but the reality is every artist or creative is an entrepreneur. Every. Single. One.

We’ve all heard the term “starving artist”. According to Wikipedia, “A starving artist is an artist who sacrifices material well-being in order to focus on their artwork. They typically live on minimum expenses, either for a lack of business or because all their disposable income goes toward art projects.”

In all honesty, I used to be one of those. Aside from running SHIFTER, I was also a freelance photographer, videographer, and writer, and I was making very little money through my craft, and by “very little” I mean pretty much nothing. Zilch.

In recent months, I’ve been doing a lot of consultations with creatives and there are two things I’ve noticed. First, that there are a lot of creatives that need to make the transition to being entrepreneurs. I’m a huge proponent of creatives setting up businesses and companies to house their different creative products, services, projects and ventures. Many creatives that I sit down with have no business structure or entity in place; they just freelance in a very loose way. They have very few processes and procedures, if they have any at all. They don’t forecast or set projections.

This brings me to my second point. A lot of creatives want to make the transition to being business owners and entrepreneurs, but they don’t know how and are often times the very obstacle to their own business success. My takeaway from my many calls with creatives is that those who are considered “starving artists” are in that position because they lack the mindset and skills to profit from their talents. The good news is they can be learned.

Here are three tips for making the transition from artist to entrepreneur.

1. Automate your sales and marketing

Many creatives struggle with sales and marketing. While there’s a lot value in doing it the old fashion way, with today’s technology you can automate most of your sales and marketing process through digital and online tools so they do the work for you. Through targeted social media ads and marketing funnels you can attract the kinds of customers that want what you make, taking a lot of the stress out of selling and marketing your products and services.

2. Don’t price yourself cheap

Once upon a time, I used to love to get things either affordably or free. Even with SHIFTER Agency, we used to use cheaper subcontractors to cut costs. Even on a personal level, I’d always try to get things either free or at an affordable rate and would celebrate when I did.

Then things changed. As I got a mindset coach and as our company began to make more money, I started to see “free” and “cheap” as a bad thing. I now actually see affordable, aka cheap, as a red flag. If a subcontractor gives me a really low quote on their services, I won’t work with them. My realization was that people with money don’t mind spending money on quality; the want the best and they are willing to pay for it. Many people, including creatives, will price themselves low thinking it will attract more customers, but all you’ll do is attract frugal people with a poor money mindset and repel those who have money to afford what you do and truly appreciate its quality. Instead, price yourself in line with the quality of your work and repel people who are cheap.

3. Get comfortable with being visible

A lot of creatives I talk to don’t want to be visible; they want to remain in the shadows, enjoying their privacy. As a creative, your personal brand is tied to your craft and it’s hard to build your personal brand while still being in the shadows. This may seem like a contradiction from point #1, but if you rely solely on automating everything through digital and online tools you’ll be stunting your growth potential.

Wanting to not be seen is one of the primary ways creatives hinder and sabotage their success. You need to get out there and let people see you. You also need to become good at (and comfortable) with self-promotion, whether in your in-person conversations, on social media, or in your marketing.

As a formerly shy person I used to struggled with being seen and self-promoting; I preferred to sit in the back. Then one day, I had the realization that on the other side of these hang ups would be a whole new world for me, and that whole new world was success.

So those are my three tips for making the transition from creative to entrepreneur. I successfully made the transition and I know that with the hard work and dedication you can too.

If you’re an Ottawa-based creative looking make the transition to business owner and entrepreneur, click here to find out more about Invest Ottawa’s Digital Main St. program. The program includes an e-commerce website design, your own digital marketing team and other online support from Invest Ottawa, all for free.

Digital Main Street - Transforming Bricks-and-Mortar | Digital Main Street