Take Your Quirk To Work
Recently I joined a private Facebook group for a small number of online entrepreneurs. I was floored when I got into the group, because many of the other members were presenting themselves in a way that was bold, colorful, and highly unusual in business circles. Everyone had been asked to introduce themselves with a picture. The pictures were definitely not your boring business headshot. There were people covered in paint, women showing pregnancy bellies, guys standing in exotic locations. The introductions were replete with soulful visions of exciting projects, hilarious anecdotes about failures, secret desires, and even some curse words.
This was a group full of high achievers. They’re all doing quite well in their businesses, some of them generating millions in revenue.
Most entrepreneurs are not a business suit wearing automaton with no personality. Most entrepreneurs are just like you – they’re really skilled in one particular area, and they want to earn an income with that skill. They bring with them not only those skills, but also their personalities, quirks, and failings. Not only is this not a problem, but this package actually becomes the thing that attracts the entrepreneur’s first clients. Their vibe attracts their tribe. The entrepreneurs who are really good learn to lean into this and ignore all of the people telling them they’re too loud, too bossy, too unprofessional, or too … whatever it is that signals who they are.
Conformity in business is a terrifying thing to behold. Watching bankers and lawyers pour out of downtown New York City skyscrapers at lunch time is eery. This is the stock image that many creative people have in their minds, instead of the paint-covered women I saw in that Facebook group. Creative people like us are practically allergic to it.
Besides the terrifying automaton imagery, conformity in business means stagnation. It means far too many copycat businesses are born. Too many multilevel marketing diet pills, too many social networks, too many fitness instructors doing the same popular exercises. Things don’t change or improve because of conformity.
But difference and change is scary. The unfamiliar is rejected by our lizard brains, unless we consciously train our selves to embrace the unknown and explore it.
And that’s what artists do. Art, by its nature, is an exploration and communication of ideas. The artist goes deep inside of themselves, processing all of their life experiences, and they put forth something that is new and unfamiliar.
So, if you are an artist or creative person who is struggling with learning to get by in the business world, this is why.
It’s in your nature to make people uncomfortable. Sometimes that results in delight and wonder. Sometimes it results in fear and rejection. Hopefully it doesn’t result in apathy.
Because the world of business is so unfamiliar, people become afraid. When they become afraid, they start trying to conform. But the thing is, especially with creative businesses like art, design, music and more, nobody even expects you to conform. They expect you to break the rules and make people uncomfortable, and they’re almost disappointed when you don’t.
Here I want to give a few ideas on how you can lean in to your natural tendencies to stand out in the business world and make your ideal customers thrilled to find you.
Wear what you normally wear.
No, I’m not just being shallow. If you’re a tie-dye loving hippy, be that. If you’re a dressed to the nines every day kind of person, be that. Dress up your laptop. Dress up your keys and your purse. You don’t have to wear a suit to succeed.
Focus on the people who respond well.
Every creative person vibes with a certain kind of person. Artists who paint the ocean are admired by ocean enthusiasts. Most wave paintings won’t turn the head of urban street art enthusiasts. Find the people who love you, and focus exclusively on them. Serve them well. Make them happy. Eventually word will get out about how great you are. You’ll go from a hidden secret, to something only the cool kids know about, to the thing that everyone wants to have. That’s how nearly every small business starts, from the taco stand that becomes a national chain, to the garage based computer manufacturer that became the most valuable company in the world.
Learn the language.
Non-conformity is all well and good, but even within the framework of doing whatever you want, you need to be able to communicate with customers and with potential partners. Learn the vocabulary of business, of accounting. Knowing how to read the numbers will help you know where you can safely break the rules. If you market something and your sales, go up, keep doing that. If they go down, stop doing that. The same for your leads, website traffic, and other business indicators.
Bring the perspective.
Creativity is often the process of bringing two different ideas together to make something new. You’re probably pretty good at that. When a business person in a suit tells you that you are running your business the wrong way, ask them for specific reasons why, then take some time to think about how you can accomplish the goal they mentioned in a way that is true to who you are.
Business is built on relationships. Spend some time getting out of the studio or practice hall and make some friends. You might find that you have a lot in common with many entrepreneurs. Passion, enthusiasm, and a deep level of expertise are usually shared by creatives and entrepreneurs. Learning about other people’s interests will bring more ideas for your own business, and that connection will come in handy when you need help or when you’re looking for a collaborator.
My friend Luna Jaffe is an painter turned financial planner. Her successful book, Wild Money, melds these two seemingly disparate parts of her. It’s a financial planning book illustrated with her own drawings and sketches. It’s more about healing a person’s relationship with money than it is about picking the right 401k. Luna runs a pie shop in Portland, Oregon where people can go to get financial advice and see beautiful art, and she also works with high net worth clients to help them make good long term money decisions.
In a world of people who almost seem confined to their business suits, Luna is the epitome of what I’ve outlined above – but her success hasn’t come easily. In a recent, lengthy, Facebook post, Luna talked about the struggle of being a creative person in a buttoned down field.
“Yesterday was one of those days I wished I could walk away from being the CEO…I ask myself, Why do I care so much that others have access to financial tools? That the environment they walk into, whether it’s my financial planning office or the pie shop/studio, is gorgeous, soft, inviting and warm? Why couldn’t I be content just helping those with money make excellent decisions with their resources? I didn’t have to write books, teach, open a store front, provide employment for over 10 women, promote local artists and entrepreneurs– or did I?”
That last question really gets to the heart of why creatives are in business, I think. We do it because we feel called to do it, and then we learn how to make it work. And when it does work, it’s beautiful and glorious.
Cory Huff runs TheAbundantArtist.com, where he teaches artists how to sell their art online. His book, How to Sell Your Art Online, is available wherever books are sold.
The Quirk Invasion 7 Day Challenge
Join us for the 7 day Quirk Invasion to explore and celebrate being quirky!
Day 6 :: Workiness
~> What’s one way you could bring your quirk to work today?
Respond and share your thoughts below or via social media!
So we can find you, add the tags: #quirkinvasion and @livingquirky!
Not sure what this challenge is all about? Click HERE for more details!