Kathleen Shannon is a designer, a coach and with her sister, Tara Street, she founded Braid Creative & Consulting, which provides branding and business visioning to creative entrepreneurs. She also hosts the Being Boss podcast with Emily Thompson. At her personal blog AndKathleen.com, she shares her own journey as a working creative, tackling fears and taking risks. And on this episode of the culture dept., she helps you AND me consider our personal branding and being our OWN best clients.
All the world’s a story and all the media and writers merely plagiarists. Scratch that. All the world’s entrepreneurs have a story and they should learn how to tell it.
Here to remind us about the power of storytelling and how we can harness its power as creative entrepreneurs is producer, entrepreneur., storyteller, and possible Jedi, Lyn Graft.
For the past 13 years, Graft has filmed over 500 entrepreneurs share their stories – these include stories from the founders of Whole Foods, LinkedIn, Zappos, The USA Network, Trader Joes, Dropbox, Fast Company, Playboy, Baby Einstein, Clear Channel, BET Television, The Knot, TOMS Shoes and Pandora. The list goes on too. He’s also launched companies and sold companies, founded a nonprofit, and serves on advisory boards for Dell, SXSW and Empowering a Billion Women.
Dear James Joyce –
It being Bloomsday and all, I just wanted to apologize for not having finished reading Ulysses. Again. I know, I know, this is totally ridiculous, not least of which because my own mother named me for one of your major characters (you will be happy to know that I have read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, so part of my pseudo-Greco ass is covered).
Back during the Bloomsday centenary back in 2004, I bought a copy of Ulysses and hunkered down in fake Irish pub called Finn McCool’s somewhere in Santa Monica. This was sad. What was sadder was my intention to drink Guinness until I finished the damn book. Unfortunately, my page to pint ratio turned out to be about one to one. You’re as dense a writer as I’m a slow reader who also happens to be a quick drinker. This is what I remember: “Stately plump mulligan,” a tower, a shaving bowl and having to return the next day for my credit card.
That particular copy of Ulysses ended up on its own Bloomsday adventure, touring the concrete jungle of greater Los Angeles from the back of the cab where I left it. Fortunately, I’ve since acquired two additional unread copies of Ulysses, so I promise to you, Jimmy, I’ll read at least one. Someday. I will. Yes, yes I said yes I will Yes.
And, yes, yes, I skipped to the last page…
If you plan on making art your business then you need a business plan. Fortunately, Richard Andrews, who lectures on arts entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley, has generously loaned the Culture Dept. his expertise.
Andrews has over 15 years experience in arts management and specializes in fundraising, project management, marketing and organizational development. His research and teaching interests include the creation of modern cultural policies in the U.S. and France, the intersection of government arts policy and arts management/arts practice, and the impact of public/private support for the arts.
Andrews is also an Associate Director of the UC Berkeley Center for New Music and Audio Technologies, a leading research and training laboratory focused on the creative interaction between music and science.
So, I’ve seen an uptick of the so-called Exposure Buck phenomenon lately — you don’t know what those are? If you’re an artist or do any kind of creative work, you’ve heard the phrase — we can’t pay you but it will be great exposure . Hence the bullshit currency known as exposure bucks.
Basically, entrepreneurs, freelancers and others who make their living proffering talents that have taken lifetimes to develop are asked to work for free.
Exposure is crap.
Of course, no one ever ASKS you to “work for free,” it’s camouflaged in the chummy badinage of terms like “spec,” “trade” and “barter.” Fuck, barter.
Though all three of these concepts have their place in our recovering economy, the bank tends to frown upon massage gift certificates when you’re paying your rent.
After witnessing a friend routinely exploited by his own generosity, I was inspired to write my own credo as an act of clarification for would-be clients.
Cuz you gots to have the Money Conversation, people.
As I’ve gleaned from others who work independently, the money conversation is hard — harder than discussing the birds and bees with your kid. In fact, some creatives would rather go over the birds and bees with a client rather than money since I they’re getting screwed anyway.
This doesn’t happen to me. Not anymore. Here’s why – I wrote a brief screed, some rules, which I’ll post on CultureDept.com so that whomever needs them can use them – You can retrofit and use it for your personal business needs so long as you let others do the same with your improvements. Here goes..
Dear Prospective Client:
I do not work for free.
(But Wait, There’s More…)
I also don’t work on spec seeing as I have enough of my own speculative contributions to our culture in the works. If you have stock options to offer in a real company with secured funding and a future so bright that you gotta wear shades, we can talk. Otherwise, some arbitrary “percentage” of your personal pipedream, even at 50 percent, is either a pipe or a dream. I don’t smoke and the stuff my dreams are made of is clearly different than yours. Here’s my favorite quote from the Maltese Falcon.
Okay, The Bartering Question
On rare occasions, clients have bartered their wares and services for the license to an existing work. This can be negotiated on a per case basis (and when I say case, I don’t mean a bottle – I mean a case).
To that end, a beer, coffee or even lunch does not constitute payment for my time, which I must manage assiduously to stay afloat. If you want an actual consultation on your project (wherein, I’m not merely flattering you for picking up the tab) let’s do business. Otherwise, we’re just dating.
But the elephant in the room is this Exposure notion – it’s indecent — indecent exposure…
Under penalty of public humiliation, never ever ask me for a creative contribution based on the prospect of “great exposure.”
The fact that you believe this to be attractive to a working professional means I’m overexposed as is. And apparently to the wrong people – the kind of people who lack respect for the fact that I’ve got to buy food for my young son to wear.
Then there’s the Donor Groaner
If you represent a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that boasts an ethos in alignment with my admittedly recherche values, you may send a written proposal. Please don’t send a questionnaire regarding my recherche values.
If you cannot assess what they are from my work, then likely aren’t sufficiently familiar with my work and don’t want me at your event, OR in your anthology, OR speaking at your commencement anyway.
If, by some strange alignment of the stars we share a mutual ethos and the same gaping hole in our schedules – wonderful – I’ll see you at the prison ribbon cutting.
Finally there’s the Read Me vs. Feed Me situation
I will NOT read your script, epic poetry cycle, inspiring personal saga of overcoming graphophobia, etc. However, I will consult with you at my regular fee, which you can obtain by emailing [insert your email here]
When I’m not reading for pleasure, it’s work. And you can hire me. But remember: I do not work for free.
Your Name Here
…Does this work? Hell yeah. When you respect yourself and your work, you invite others to do the same. Your work has value — but perceived value begins with a number. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re worth — in fact, triple it, because you’re probably not considering all the training, education and practice and hard won victories you’ve endured wrestling your talent into the career your building.