Written by Onicia Muller
First published 3/16/2016 on oniciamuller.com
How do you turn your art into money? My experience is that this can be done if you have a name (i.e. you are popular) or if you have money. If you are popular, companies will want to sponsor you. If you are rich, you can force feed your generic pop tunes on the masses until we love you. But what if you have neither? This month, Cynthia Xerogianes (Actress/Stylist), Stephanie Seweryn (Writer/Producer), and I share negotiation and business skills.
REALITY CHECK from Angela Bourassa (LA Screenwriter.com)
“When will I make money? ... each year half the professional writers who are Writers’ Guild of America members report no income from writing. Even if you “make it,” you may only get a sale or a writing gig once every two years. The rest of the time you’ll have to supplement your income with teaching, appearances, or a regular day job.”
Don’t despair. It might not be time to get paid, but it’s always time to ask. Here are our 5 ways to be paid for your art
1. Be Proactive
People don’t buy products – they buy personalities and brands. Cynthia says, “They really do. You have to start somewhere. Get somebody on your team who can say, ‘yeah, I worked with her.’ Those people know people. Once you get that first person in and you start talking to them and they have a great experience with you then you can ask them for referrals directly. Tell this person your goals. People want to help, but you have to ask for it."
Organize your friends into groups and focus on about 10 – 20 of them. BE GENUINE when reaching out and reconnecting. Seriously, if you don’t like someone’s professional character, you probably won’t like the people they do business with.
2. Value What You Bring
Stephanie agrees. “All too often, I hear people downgrading their abilities or ignoring their accomplishments because they don't like to brag. There's a time and a place to be humble, but don't let humility undermine your abilities.”
According to Slate Negotiation Academy, women have two main inhibitors: we fail to see negotiation opportunities and our fear of being perceived negatively hinders us from asking. Slate advises you imagine you are an agent negotiating for a client. This is not greed, you want your client to be paid what they deserve. You’ve provided a reasonable valuation of your talent.
Remember: the other party can only read your words – not see your fear – when negotiating via email or text. When closing the deal in person or over the phone, realize that people can’t feel the heat rising in your body, your trembling limbs, or other reactions to feelings of nervousness.
3. Set The Right Price
“Show producers will always go for the least bottom line. You have to either inflate yourself – or your price – a little bit and then come down to where you are. You can also go into it saying, ‘listen, this is what I need. If I don’t get it, I have to wait until the next job comes up’ and that’s what’s hard.
As a lesser known artists or creative with less experience, putting a high number out there could backfire. Someone may look at the number and say, ‘I can’t afford that’ … you have to find a place in the middle. A price where you can negotiate a little bit and still feel like you are putting your value out there. If you put yourself too low people question that too, because humans are fickle. You get what you pay for” says Cynthia.
How much am I worth? That answer is subjective. Because I’ve done way more volunteer work and internships, potential employers try to low ball me. I affirm my price by qualifying my experiences. I keep pretty good records of my accomplishments. Always be honest, but also use more than your degrees or 'in industry' work experience to validate your worth.
4. Build A Reputation
At this point, you have contacts and a product or marketable skills. Now, you need a name.
“Start with some smaller relations – people you’ve been talking to - before you grab the big fish. Get some type of referral network going. Referrals are really where it’s at because people do business with people” says Cynthia. (See tip #1)
“Keep the stakes low. They shouldn’t have to write anything formal or put their neck out there so much. Some people don’t want to. There are some people who are like ‘Yeah, here are ten names.’ You have to find that one person who works for you.
5. Be Patient
Stephanie says, “Procrastinating is not a special skill. The best way to make sure you're on a constant mission of marketable improvement is to set some realistic and timely goals. If there's something you want to learn, set aside some time to learn it! Photoshop, Garageband, Final Cut, and basic Italian can seem intimidating to try on your own. The time you waste looking for a teacher - waiting for someone to magically instill the knowledge in you – you could have already taught yourself a lot of things. Just set aside the time, set some goals and get ready for some enriching trial and error!
The hard truth about business is that it takes time to gain traction and the market is constantly changing. Right now may not be your season to ‘get money’. Your art may be seasonal. Supply and demand may not be on your side, and so you may never earn a livable wage.
Be patient and keep asking.
REALITY CHECK from Mike Jue (Photographer/Brand Developer)
“No business starts off by just making money. … There’s a lot of development, planning, it was some hiring and firing people. It was a lot of work. [Microsoft] probably invested millions of dollars before they made their first dollar. The average person doesn’t want to think that far down the line.”
Hear the full clip on Kellye Etc. Howard. Mike takes you to Entrepreneurship Church around 1:06:30.
How can you get paid for your art? Same as any other business. Be proactive about finding paying gigs, believe that you deserve to be compensated, set a reasonable price, build a reputation, and be patient. They say 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 5 years. You won't gain traction if you are inconsistent and quit every 6 months. Use this period of low demand to develop your craft, network, and enjoy living.
I want to hear from you. How did you land your first paid gig? (Doesn’t have to be related to your creative work)
Thanks, Cynthia Xerogianes and Stephanie Seweryn for being generous with your time and knowledge. I enjoy that we can be serious and silly. Thanks, Angela Bourassa and Mike Jue (via Kellye Howard), and Andy Bowers (Slate Negotiation Academy) for your podcasts and articles which have been very useful to me.
Next month: How did you get your act together and keep the ball rolling? Tell us by May 9, 2016. Read our ideas here on May 16, 2016, or have it emailed.
Stuck in the 9-5 life? Read 7 Ways to be Creative While Working a Full-time Job
A creative with type-a tendencies. I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs. While I wait for my big screenwriting break, I share my BA in Communication and work experiences to help fellow artists get organized and put more art into the world.
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I say funny AND serious things. I like internet strangers.