I sometimes find myself working as a consultant generally helping start-ups move forward.
This particular start-up company that called me in is a mixture of freelancers and employees. They were working with a pretty high profile client on a project that seemed to take forever. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand or take into account the financial ramifications of what it would actually cost them to produce their art. So they ended up losing money. In essence, the small promising start-up company ended-up paying to work.
To add to the loss of money they endured, the client whose project they worked on for months, decided not to use their work and went with a rival company instead. That stung for sure.
When I was asked to help these creatives unravel their problem with finances I simply told them: “The issue you’re having is you don’t fully understand your own value as an artist. You don’t get the big picture.”
The room went uncomfortably silent. They seemed stunned. How dare I? And what could I possibly mean? The vibe I was getting felt like they were all secretly screaming – We’re designers and absolutely understood our own work, crazy lady. Eeeh, I kept on…
“Look, art is a beautiful thing. Being creative is magnificent and all of us have to find it within ourselves to express who we really are – – and some of us do that by designing, some by writing, and others by being teachers, actors or whatever. But being creatively brilliant isn’t enough. It is, if what you’re going for is being creative in your bedroom or basement and only showing your stuff to your family and friends. But if you’re going to put your art out there and expect people to buy it, then you’re going to have to learn the other part of being a creative person – and that involves ALSO understanding the business end of the spectrum. That’s what I mean by not understanding fully your value as an artist.”
Lightbulbs seemed to be going off above some heads. So I continued on:
“Look, I saw your boards. I saw how meticulous it was that you scheduled time for each frame, for each character, for each part of the story. I saw the schedule you put in place for each person’s time on each individual thing. But what I didn’t see was that same dedication into billing for that time, or any time frame for revisions and costs to those adjustments. I don’t see a budget anywhere that includes things like materials, overages and/or calendar changes. Basically, a client offered you money and you took it without a thought to any of that. Creating art as a business isn’t just about the design. It’s about something bigger than that. The technical stuff. The money stuff. The marketing stuff. Business is the umbrella, but under that umbrella is a lot of other “stuff” to understand and master to make it work and to make it profitable. ”
They got it.
“Let’s talk about what someone earlier called an ‘epic failure’. If you haven’t figured it out yet, mistakes are going to happen. Not just in business, but in life. It’s never an epic failure to make a mistake unless of course you make the mistake over and over and over again and never learn from it. If you learn from the mistake, then it was a valuable lesson and one that should be embraced and then let go. Period. Consider it a learning moment. That’s a good thing. It’s an education. And education is never free. Change your perspective to a positive about this particular project. It feels better and helps you move on…”
Well the vibe in the room seemed lighter. They got it. Applause. I felt good.
And then, just as quickly I realized I had to make a note to myself — so on my phone I quickly typed in a memo: You know what would be really great Carm? If you actually practiced what you preached and took some of your own medicine!
Ahhhh….a perfect example of a “Carmen-ism” for sure!