When I was studying dance and creative writing in undergrad, I remember feeling like I was in utopia: able to work on creating my art uninterrupted and surrounded by incredibly talented teachers and genius artists. I was creating innovative performance art with phenomenal artistic leaders supporting me every step of the way, and was grateful beyond belief.
Every Wednesday I would have lunch on the Great Lawn next to a group of business majors who sat near me under the same tree. During that time I would wonder what I could have been missing in terms of understanding how to make business decisions for my art. Finance was something I was intimidated by, even though my uncle had been talking to me about the importance of understanding economics and the stock market from when I was six years old.
Then one day I was standing in my Monday morning Ballet technique class, when our professor, who had danced in some of the most renowned companies, said, “dancers are the happiest people in the world. You’re going to be broke for the rest of your life, but you’ll be really happy.” If you know me, you’ve heard this story before, as it was truly one of the most pivotal moments in my life. I stopped dead when she said that as my stomach dropped to the floor. I loved being a dancer, but I didn’t want to be broke for the rest of my life! That meant so many things- not being able to take care of myself, neglecting my health, limiting my choices in how I lived my life, where I chose to live, who I surrounded myself with. Basically, being broke to me meant giving up living my life to the fullest. She finished her thought by saying, “dancers are not made to make money. You’re meant to move and make other people feel good.” I knew, wholeheartedly, that was not the truth for me. I simply believed I was meant to do more through my art than just make people feel good.
Shortly after that class, David Parsons of Parsons Dance came to teach a Master Class. His company was extremely successful at that point and they were doing incredible things, touring the world and performing everywhere. One of the questions he was asked was how he built such a successful Dance Company in the midst of so much competition and limited resources. He said, “I learned to run it like a business. It wasn’t easy, and we work really, really hard. I suggest you all learn how to do that.” When some people groaned, he said, “aren’t you going to work really, really hard no matter what? You may as well know how to create a pay off for yourself in the process.” At that point, he looked at our accompanist sitting in the corner on the piano bench, eating an incredibly rich, decadent piece of chocolate cake. He laughed and said, “don’t you all see? If you do this right, you can have your cake and eat it too! Just ask André!”
Eureka! Yes, I thought to myself- I want that piece of decadent chocolate cake! I was going to work really, really hard, no matter what, as I always had. So if I just needed to learn how to approach my art like a business, couldn’t I then build the kind of business I wanted, just like David had? I remember talking with him afterwards, asking him how he began to put together a business plan for his company, what his mistakes were, what right moves he made. He spent time answering my questions until I had asked all that I needed. In the end, I saw that he had put some seriously hard hours into learning the skills he needed to build it, and then crafted it to meet the needs of his own life and his company members. I also saw that he was able to hold a space in his life for his art (he was one of the most successful dancers in the world) and for his business.
It took me several years, but I learned how to create a business that supports me and allows me the freedom to create the work I am meant to create. I enjoyed the process so much that I became a business consultant for small businesses and other artists as my “day job”- but it is, without a doubt, so much more than that to me- and have learned that no matter what you choose to do you can have a successful business plan in place to rock the vision you have for your life out of the park.
I wanted to be able to pursue my art without feeling like I needed to compromise my entire well being in the process, and I know you do too.
Speaking of building your business, The Profit Canvas course is now open for registration! And there are three SIMPLE ways to enroll right now. CLICK HERE to learn more, or simply visit https://alexisfedor.com/the-profit-canvas.
I believe artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world. Help me prove my belief by taking action and sharing a theme that is integral to your art in the comments below or share a visual on Instagram using #artistsinbusiness and tag me: @alexisfedorpics!