Prioritize Your Creativity

Hello my fellow creators and faithful readers,

I have a confession to make. I have not been prioritizing my creativity. We’ve talked about how there is a growing creativity gap in our society. And in my last post, I explained why we are in a new age of creativity that we need to take advantage of and embrace as creative entrepreneurs.

There’s just one problem – I haven’t been taking my own advice.

Unleashed Creativity by John JunsonThrough this blog and my book, I’ve spent two years talking the talk. But now it’s time that I start focusing more on walking the walk. This new age of creativity is as much mine as it is yours, and I’m not going to let it pass me by. So as we approach the New Year and resolution time, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on this past year and where I’ve been spending my creative energy. And the truth is, I haven’t really given it a chance to take center stage and really shine.

And I strongly recommend you do the same!

Now is the perfect time. We are entering the insanity of the holiday season, and that means our schedules are bombarded with family gatherings and festive events. But at the same time, this is also a time to take a break from work, to reflect and relax, and be surrounded by loved ones. And above all, it’s a time to give our left-sided brains a much-needed break from the daily grind of the year past. So now is also the perfect time to take a step back, refocus and prioritize your creative mind.

Let your creativity out!

For myself, this will involve taking a break from the weekly task of blogging, and explore whether this is the best outlet for my creativity and impact on the world. That does mean you won’t have much to read from me here for a little while. But then I’m sure you’ll have plenty else to keep you busy this holiday season – so hopefully you won’t miss me too much! 🙂

For you, I hope this involves taking time from your own nitty gritty work routine to explore where your creativity best thrives, and where you find the greatest reward. So take a break, take pause and really listen to your creative voice – take a walk, let yourself daydream, doing a brain-dump writing exercise, put on your favorite music and dance around your room – whatever it takes to tap into the purest form of your creativity and its truest desires. You may be surprised with what you find and how much that hasn’t been reflected in what you’ve been spending most of your time and energy on this past year.

So go on, get in the holiday spirit this chilly season and light up a warming fire inside your own creative heart. Prioritize your time on some serious soul searching, and I promise you will come away a stronger and more focused creative entrepreneur – ready to take on the New Year with extra creative gusto!

Happy Holidays!

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Now Is The Age of Creative Business

The most successful people in the world are the ones that have a talent for creative problem solving. The ability to design products and campaigns that fit the marketplace is a hallmark of a good businessperson. So why are we facing such a huge creativity crisis in our economy? Why are we losing the global competition to stay ahead of the creative curve?

Keeping Creativity Alive

It’s a problem founded on many levels. From our childhood, we see how the creative arts are the first subjects to get cut when school funding falls short. (Which begs the question, how are we letting funding for our children’s education fall short at all?) It’s just baffling to me how little creative training is viewed as valuable in shaping the minds of our future leaders. Don’t they get how valuable it is to exercise the creative right side of a growing brain as much as the left? Creative thinking and an ability to innovate are essential skills for any profession in any field. I’ve been saying it and I will keep saying it until I’m blue in the face.

But that doesn’t seem to be enough. So why don’t we start putting our money where our mouths are? I’m talking about taking the economy back into our very capable, creative hands and proving our worth as creative business people – or as we’re becoming known, as “creative entrepreneurs”.

Be a Creative EntrepreneurI like this term, creative entrepreneur. And it’s not becoming a household phrase for no reason. These very creative entrepreneurs and freelancers are taking over the workforce in surprising numbers. A study recently released by Intuit revealed that by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce (or 60 million people) will be freelancers, contractors and temp workers. So it’s true – entrepreneurs and the self-employed are on the rise. That includes you and me, and that means that our time is now.

And let me tell you, the time is ripe for our creative offerings.

Global trade in creative products more than doubled from 2002 to 2011, at an average annual growth rate of 8.8%. In 2012, that global creative trade totaled $625 billion (source). And we’re not the only ones with their eye on the creative prize. The emerging economic giant of China invested $157 million of their government spend in culture and media in 2012. Clearly, this is a market with immense opportunity – enough for everyone to have a piece, and certainly enough to start proving the economic value of the creative arts and creative products.

But what do I mean by creative products? Well let’s look at the specific industries. In 2008, a select set of our more creative industries – including broadcasting, telecommunications, motion pictures, sound recording, performing arts, printing & publishing – generated $45 billion in export sales. This was more than total sales generated from the computer systems design, electrical equipment, air transportation, financial services, and American agriculture industries (source). So you can see how the economy is already shifting.

It’s a new age of technology and innovation, and that makes this the ideal time for you to join the creative crusade and make your mark as a creative entrepreneur.

Now is your time! Let your creativity shine! Subscribe to my email list, buy my book, and arm yourself with more tips and tactics on how to get your creative business built and thriving. Let’s turn this tide and show the world what we creators and innovators can do.

Happy creating!

Go On, Put Yourself Out There!

Even if it terrifies you.
Even if you think your art should speak for itself.
Yes, even if you’re an introvert!

To be honest, I actually identify as an extrovert. Although I do often desire some down time and process many things best by myself, I still find that what I need is the company of others (especially others I love) in order to recharge. But just because I’m an extrovert myself doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate introverts. In fact, I love them! They make up most of my closest friend circle, and are often the people I get along with the best. You know what they say – opposites attract.

And one thing I’ve heard repeatedly from my introverted creative friends is their fear of networking and schmoozing. Hell, you don’t have to be an introvert to fear that. I hate it too. I think all artists and creatively inclined people can relate to the icky feeling of trying to force connections and convince people to give you money for your work. It’s a hard thing to do and still feel like you’re being true to yourself as an artist.

But the problem is that, as a self-employed entrepreneur, you do have to put yourself out there so you can tell people about what you’re doing, build a community of customers and forge connections with potential clients and partners. You can’t make a name for yourself if no one ever even knows your name.

But that doesn’t mean you have to tell everyone about you. Networking doesn’t have to be a game of numbers. It’s not just about how many people you meet and how many business cards you collect. It’s about the quality of the connections you make, more than the quantity. Marie Forleo recently interviewed the very wise, best-selling author and TED Talk speaker Susan Cain, who said, “Don’t think of it as networking; think of it as seeking out kindred spirits.”

I love this! What you do as an artist and creative entrepreneur is always going to be original and innovative, and not everyone will resonate with it or understand it. But those aren’t the people you want to meet and talk to anyway. You can be a killer networker and make all these connections, but if none of them are people you’d actually want to collaborate with or talk to again, then all that effort was spent for nothing. If you only find one person at a party or networking event that you really connect with and want to keep in touch with, then that was a successful event and you should feel good about that! Give yourself permission to feel satisfied with that big (and genuine) accomplishment, and take the pressure off yourself to have to “work the room.”

Find your kindred spirits

In that vein, I recently stumbled upon a fantastic 15min networking solution on Daily Worth, which advocates for this very strategy. They recommend that you choose your networking events very carefully, prioritizing events that will be filled with your “high-profile targets – whatever that means to you. Pick the events you’ll attend strategically and then research the attendees ahead of time to decide a handful that you’ll actually want to meet.

Then go to the event for just the first 15 minutes.

Spend those 15 minutes engaging with each person you identified. Approach them with a provocative or interesting question, and see if anyone sparks as a kindred spirit. Then participate on a few key threads on Facebook or Twitter, and reach out the next day with an email saying something like, “Sorry we didn’t get to talk more last night at the event. I was hoping to have more time to discuss [fill in the subject or question you brought up] with you. Would you have 15 minutes by phone this week to finish that conversation?”

If they respond, you can keep the conversation going and turn that spark into a lasting connection for your business. Once you’ve found those special kindred-spirit connections, however many they are, you’ll feel more motivated to stay in touch and turn them into productive collaboration and progress for your business.

In fact, one of those connections may even prove to be a perfect partner, someone who compliments and completes you in your business. Maybe they’ll be a fellow introvert who understands the way you operate and can work at your speed with you. Or maybe they’ll be an extrovert who can cover the parts of the work that you don’t enjoy, such as the networking or communication with clients, and take those responsibilities off your shoulders.

Whoever they are, just make sure they are a kindred spirit for you and your creative business – that’s all you have to remember to be an awesome networker. So get out there, find those events and those key people you want to connect with, and then put in your 15min to make it happen! It can (and should) be a lot easier than you think.

Happy Networking!

Then comment below and tell me how it went! What worked and what didn’t? And how have you found success identifying kindred spirits and valuable networking practices? I already know you are one of my kindred spirits, so I want to keep the conversation going here too! So remember to subscribe to my email listbuy my book on building the business with your team, and stay tuned for more tips right here!

Being Liked AND Respected

Can you be liked AND respected as an artist?

In the arts world, many of us have found it common to face a lack of respect from others about what you do. I too understand what it’s like to face the discouraging words of family and friends who don’t think what you’re doing is a very smart or stable career path. Now not all of the Debbie Doubters in your life actually deserve to have your respect, or to have theirs earned. But as artists, it is our job to cultivate creativity and openness in as much of the world as we can.

Which of these have you earned?

And what’s more, as entrepreneurs and business owners, it is also important that you try and cultivate that respect and engender authority in your field. If you want to be successful as a creative entrepreneur, you will need to learn how to encourage people to respect what you do and have to say, beyond just liking you and your work.

But it can be tough to balance both.

Being likable and respected is a delicate line to walk. As John Neffinger says, “You need to project a combination of strength and warmth, and it’s a trick to project both at once.” In fact, John Neffinger’s book “Compelling People: The Hidden Qualities that Make Us Influential” (co-written with Matthew Kohut) is so highly respected that it’s actually part of the current curriculum at Harvard, Columbia and Georgetown business schools. See what I mean? It’s a bit like “rubbing your stomach and patting your head at the same time. Definitely doable, not so easy.”

So I thought I’d offer 3 simple tips on how you can strike the right balance:

1. Build The Trust

Build Trust

According to a recent Princeton study, our brains make judgements about other people’s warmth and trustworthiness in the first tenth of a second. So if you don’t establish it right away at the start, you’ll have a harder time building that rapport later on. It’s easier to start by being liked, emphasize a willingness to listen, and build that foundation of trust. And then you can always slowly add in demonstrations of your strength and candor later as you feel is needed.

2. Roll Up Your Sleeves

If you are managing others, or in a position above other people you are trying to work with, it can be easy for them to start seeing you as out-of-touch and unapproachable. So be willing to get into the trenches with them and get your hands dirty. This will earn their respect like nothing else. As a film producer, I am always on set everyday of the shoot, working alongside my crew, helping unload and setup equipment, lending a hand where needed, and just generally hanging out and shooting the shit with them. Because I want them to know that I don’t think I am better or above them, or that my time is more valuable than theirs. As a result, I have never had a problem with any of my crew disrespecting me or not feeling like they could come to me with a problem. And at the same time, they all clearly understand what level of engagement and hard work I expect from all of them.

3. Acknowledge Others

In the same vein, it’s important to reward your colleagues and reports when they do well. This shows them that you care about the quality of work they do, and are just as open to giving them praise as you are to giving them constructive criticism. It’s important that they see both sides of that in order to both like and respect you in the workplace. At the end of every film project, I always like to give a special, personalized thank you note and reward to each member of my film team. A recent Daily Worth article on the subject also adds that these sorts of public recognition of your team members can provide incentives for the rest of the team to continue working hard and improving.

There are certainly other tips and tactics you can use besides these 3 to make a lasting, positive and professional impression on your coworkers. These are simply the ones I’ve found the most frequently valuable in my work. But I’d love to hear what you think and have found in yours!

Please comment below and tell me what you think works best, and how you’ve managed to strike the balance between being liked and respected in your creative work. Then remember to subscribe to my email list, buy my book on building your own respected business, and stay tuned for more tips right here!

Get Ahn With It! And Action!

I like to say that I’m action-oriented. I have a bias for action. I realize there’s a joke in there somewhere about how I also make action films.

But in every aspect of my life, this is a mantra I’ve always strived to embody. I’ve always been a get-shit-done kinda girl. I don’t waste time. Life’s too short. No reason to dilly dally or beat around the bush. I’m like Nike – I just do it.

Or, as I’ve been saying more often, I just get “Ahn” with it.

Get it? Coz “Ahn” is my last name! Haha, I’m so clever!

That’s why I’ve decided to give this and my life’s work a dose of re-branding, with a more catchy (and admittedly cheesy) name. Because everything I do, and everything I help other people do, is about getting on with it – on with the show, or the project, or whatever it is you’ve been dancing around, over-brainstorming, thinking too much about and not putting into productive action.

Ever since I made my own daring career shift 2 and a half years ago, leaving the cushy corporate world for the uncertainty of the arts and entrepreneurship, I’ve continued to learn that bold steps can be rewarded boldly. I’ve learned that sometimes the best therapy is just having the courage to put your shit out there, and share all that crap bottled up inside of you with people who care. And I’ve experienced (sometimes the hard way) how unhealthy it can be to keep it locked up inside, doing nothing but stewing and simmering dangerously.

You’ve got to get it out of you, out there in front of other people, and let them make up their own minds about it – it’s the only way to give it the chance it deserves to stand on its own feet and make a difference. This is true for relationships and personal health, but it’s also true for projects and businesses too.

Tina Fey wants you to take action!

It takes action to make any kind of progress. Every film, video, play, event or book I’ve produced has taught me that. Sharing with you all has taught me that. Living my life the way I have, and the way I intend to keep living, has taught me that. It’s made me a stronger and more reliable partner to work with. And I’ve found that I’m simply just stronger and happier when I’m being productive.

So it’s a win-win. What have you got to lose?

You’re more likely to regret the things you didn’t do, than those you tried and did poorly. Because even if you fail or make mistakes, you can learn from them, and improve because of them. But you’ll never know that growth if you never take the chance, and try something scary and new. And what is the point of living if you can’t keep growing and learning? What good is a life without challenge and adventure?

So what are you waiting for? The right moment? Having all the answers? A sense that it’s all going to work out beautifully? Because chances are it won’t, and that’s a good thing – otherwise it wouldn’t be worth tackling. No one ever made history, or changed the world, or found great success and fulfillment by playing it safe. (And if they did, they are definitely the exception and not the rule.)

As Paulo Coelho, one of my favorite authors, once said:

“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.”

So quit monkeying around, and just get on with it already. Buy my book, subscribe to my blog, and let me help you start putting your ideas into action. Comment below and tell me what you need to get started, what’s holding you back, or where you could use an extra push. I’d love to hear from you and learn how you think we can help each other power forward and get some more action.

So lights, camera, and “Ahn” with the show!

The Best Things in Life Should NOT Be Free

As The Flying Lizards song goes,

“The best things in life are free / But you can give them to the birds and bees / I want money.”

Don’t we all?

But being an “artist” in today’s economy (and pretty much every previous era’s economy) seems to come with an expectation that we do without it, and offer our creative contributions to society without appropriate compensation. And as a result, many of us have resigned ourselves to the life of the “starving artist,” and accepted that we either need to do our artistic work as a side gig, or simply not eat. I’m sorry to admit that I’ve been guilty of this myself.

But not anymore.

A recent NY Times article by acclaimed writer Tim Kreider brought the issue to light, and made an impassioned plea to all his fellow artists: “don’t give it away.” And it lit an equally bright fire in me. A lightbulb went on. Why am I giving it away?

Since I left my cushy corporate job back in March 2011, and set out on a fresh path of creative independence, I have been struggling from paycheck to small wad of cash to project backend points, desperately trying to keep my checking account afloat. And it’s made me a pretty miserable artist – a lot less creative and inspired than I know myself capable of, and probably much less fun to be around. Anyone who’s been on the verge of penniless, or buried in debt, can attest to this feeling – it’s a really scary thing to not be sure you can pay your bills this month, and that can really damage your attitude and ability to keep thriving.

We seem to be facing a prevalent attitude today (and pretty much all throughout history) that artists should give away their work. They may really admire your work, just not enough to pay one cent for it.

And for what? What’s the point?

Artists, as with any other profession, cannot survive on creativity and “exposure” alone. Clicks and retweets don’t pay the bills. Money does. Cold hard cash. There’s simply no replacement for it, as much as we wish, and hope, and are told there is. What we create and offer as artists is every bit of valuable and worthy of cash compensation as any other working professional.

Now there’s certainly something to be said for paying your dues. A great many different jobs and industries involve starting at the ground level with a low or unpaid internship-like position. In the film industry, this would be the PA (or Production Assistant), which is basically a gopher or errand runner job for any young newbies to the business who are just happy to learn.

But I’m no beginner. I’ve been doing this for long enough, headed enough projects, produced full feature films – that I shouldn’t still be paying my dues. I should be earning them. I’ve been on this path of no recompense for too long and it’s finally starting to wear on me, ruining relationships and killing the creative buzz. It’s time to shift my own mindset, and give myself permission to value my work and my time for what it’s actually worth.

I even wrote a book about how other artists and creative entrepreneurs can do this for themselves, and build a profitable business around their art. But I’ve yet to really take my own advice, and that should have been the first step.

So I’m taking that step now, and I’m not apologizing for it. It’s time to start really valuing myself and my work, and start making an actual living. No more unconditional favors or pointless giveaways! No more taking lower pay than I deserve! It’s time to take ownership over my career, so I can realize my full potential and actually achieve all that I say I want to.

So who’s with me?!

Are you in the same boat? Do you struggle with making a living from your career as an artist or creative entrepreneur? Well, then join me on my journey and start valuing your worth!

And if you want some guidance on that front, feel free to check out my book on Amazon for a step-by-step guide to building the business and life you deserve.

Listen to the Dark Beauty of The Productive Artist

We’ve done it again! The Productive Artist has been featured on another podcast!

Topher Adam, of Dark Beauty Magazine and Dark Beauty PulseCast, recently interviews yours truly and asked me to explain why I created The Productive Artist, how I got here, and how I want to inspire the next generation of Artists with my new book, The Productive Artist’s Business Plan.

Topher and I connect on a lot of similar points about our goals and mission for our businesses, and what change we want to inspire in the global arts community. Give it a listen, and see if you agree with us!

Dark Beauty PulseCast

If you do agree with what we have to say, and what to hear more – remember to subscribe to my email list and YouTube Channel, and stay tuned for more coming soon. And don’t forget to get your copy of my new book, The Productive Artist’s Business Plan!