The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

When your artist and your marketing department are at odds (guest post by Alfred DePew) November 23, 2009

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Guest post,Success — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:14 am
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I’m a writer, a writer of fiction. Fiction contains dialogue. People talk to each other in stories. We all know that. What took me some time to realize is that the conversations going on in my head about my own life were holding me back—as a writer and in my business.

About 10 years ago, I began to transition out of college teaching jobs and into my own coaching and consulting business. And all too often in the last 10 years, the Writer in me has been in conflict with the Businessman.

Many artists are in a business directly related to the art they produce. My business has nothing to do with who I am as a writer. I love my business, and I love working on this new novella. And yet these two energies still sometimes work against one another.

I went from the academic world, which promised a marginally safe living for writers and artists, into what we call the Private Sector—a kind of free fall into the market economy. Many of my first coaching clients were in my tribe: writers, painters, actors …. I loved working with them. I still do. They understand coaching principles right away. They know they’re naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. They consistently make powerful changes in their lives and work in three to six months. And they can sustain these changes. They’re some of my favorite clients.

Again and again, I hear these artists describe the conflict between the part of them that created the work and the part of them that needs to “get the work out there.”

While still teaching English at the Maine College of Art, I began running seminars for visual artists about “marketing” but which were much more about tapping the energy of what most inspired them and speaking about what they did from that place. Here’s what I noticed. In my clients and then for myself. Or I should say selves. For there are a lot of aspects to me: painter, writer, executive leadership coach, organizational change facilitator, son, brother, lover, friend. It’s easiest to think of them as roles we play in the world and to ourselves. In every marketing seminar, I heard the lament: “But I’m an ARTIST! I hate marketing.” So I began to play THERE. How to enroll the artist in the marketing department? How to recognize the creativity in marketing? How to call it something else? Sort of like putting the castor oil in chocolate milk. It kept working—but not so well.

I began to realize that these were very different functions, needing, at times, a similar kind of energy. Marketers and sales folk ARE incredibly creative. I work with sales teams all the time, and they’re inventive beyond belief, willing to take all kinds of risks.  It’s the same kind of energy we need in the studio or the rehearsal hall. But the energy is expressed in two very different roles. So I had to hold the Writer in me as distinct from the Businessman (the guy who suits up for networking events and gets on planes and talks to other guys and women in suits)—people whom the Writer part of me sometimes mocks and disdains.

You get the picture.

And that’s how we often are with ourselves. The Artist won’t condescend to speak to anyone in the Marketing Department. The Marketers dismiss the Artist as a flake. And the Accountant isn’t even allowed in the room. The inside of our heads begins to sound like a terrible episode of the Office—without any jokes at all.

So I say invite them all onto an imaginary stage and see what they have to say to one another—see how they relate to each other or choose not to. Get curious about the unconscious agreements they seem to have made with one another. Actually have them engage in dialogue—with each other, and—most important—with you. You’ve the one in charge. What kind of agreements do you want to make with these aspects of yourself now? How might they begin to work as a team? What does the Artist need from the Marketer? And vice versa? What’s at stake? Why is it important for them to work together? What can they count on from each other and from you? And how do you want to hold each other accountable?

Take some time with this. Listen. Make some notes. And most important: follow through on the agreements you make with these figures. Do what you say you’re going to do. And see what happens when the Artist part of you and the Business part of you get the chance to collaborate.

Alfred DePew is a writer, painter, and a Life Coach. His weekly column in the Vancouver Observer is called  Just Between Us (Notes of a Migrant Cultural Worker).

Relationship Matters (Alfred’s blog)

And Twitters at:@alfreddepew

For information about facilitating inner collaborations, contact Alfred at or call (604) 568-3621.

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