Via a strange mixture of accident and design, I've ended up being a cultural producer. As previously discussed here, I'm 100% free-lance this year. One of the by-products of such a decision is my entrepreneurial forces have been kicked into high-gear. For artists who wish to sustain themselves, finding ways to enhance your business, production and management skills are integral. Without them, your work stagnates on a single level, and your finances will likely never get off the ground.
As such, it's important we help each other. I, as a cultural producer, will seek funding to employ a range of people on a project. Other cultural producers will do the same. I'm now working across a variety of projects. For some, I am the producer, and have simultaneously become a volunteer artist, production manager, human resources manager and publicity agent. For others, I am simply a 'writer', a blessedly relaxed position, but with limited control.
I'm amazed at the amount of artists who don't see every job as an opportunity to help other creatives enrich our cultural capacity overall. Many artists continue to operate fairly cluelessly, amazed and confused as to why they aren't 'bigger' or more popular. This is usually because they are waiting for their career to come to them, and not the other way around. Popularity and sustainable growth isn't like a storm, it doesn't just happen. It's rigorously and unglamorously designed from the inside out.
There are three simple ways that you can improve your reputation, increase your entrepreneurial awareness, and increase your chances of getting employed. These are things that you can do now. If you're already doing them, you're likely already reaping rewards. It may not feel like it, but trust me, you're lightyears ahead of a lot of the pack.
1. Respond to e-mails & pick up your phone
It's late afternoon and I've got a deadline. I've been working on an application to pay you more money for the past ten days. At the beginning of the week, I e-mailed you asking for some details so I can support the application. The application has to be in in one hour. I foolishly thought that one week would be enough for you to send me a 100-word paragraph about yourself. I was wrong. I wrote to you again 48 hours later after my initial e-mail. Still nothing. I know your e-mail works. I know you check it. I'm now sounding like a crazed ex-lover, and I don't enjoy it. I've done all I can. You haven't responded, and the application has to go in without your material. The project (and you) now stand less of a chance of being funded.
This is not that extreme of an example. As a producer I'm constantly e-mailing about dates, schedules, and asking for responses. If you don't respond within 72 hours, I e-mail you again. If I haven't heard from you after another 36 hours, I ring you. If I come to understand ringing you will give me a higher rate of success, I will now adopt the phone as the primary mode of contact. If, however, phone or e-mail doesn't work after three attempts (ie, it's four to five days later and I haven't heard from you), then I class the communication as failed. Three failed pieces of communications means I see you as unreliable. Your chances of being employed by me again are severely low. I begin to worry about your commitment to the project overall. If other producers ask me about you, one of the first things I will tell them is that you're difficult to communicate with.
On the opposite end, if you respond within 72 hours - even if it's with a 'just hold on I'm getting to it' response, I come to regard you as something like a God. You're a helpful companion on a long voyage. I see you as trustworthy and committed. You quickly become a favourite.
It's not hard to respond. Oftentimes, when I finally manage to get a hold of artists who have proved tricky, they simply remark that they saw the e-mail, meant to respond to it, and never got round to it. 'It's mental,' they often remark, 'I think [insert month we are currently in] is just stupidly busy for everyone.' Yes, yes it is. But there's a whole heap of people who manage to respond to their e-mails. Don't be fooled, chances are you've already got a reputation. I've asked about you around town, and people know if you're lousy with responses or not. I've been warned.
So. Write back.
2. Be nice. Be professional.
Manners. That's all I'm saying. Manners.
Please. Thank you. Turning up with a smile and ready to work with the team. Simple stuff, but you'd be surprised. Unless we're close, I'm sorry, I really don't care about whatever's bugging you. If something is bugging you to the point where it's impeding your work, for goodness sake talk to me. Otherwise, get on with the job.
Oh, and men. Look women in the eye when you're speaking. Be respectful. There are a few producers that, as an artist, I've gone completely cold on, purely for the way I see them treat others. I don't want to work with you if you're an arsehole. Basic year three manners are ideal.
3. Be humble. Be generous.
You will be put into the good books forever and come to achieve iconic status amongst your peers if you are simply generous and humble. If there's something you know that you could do, but you haven't been asked, and it takes you little effort or time to do it, do it. You will quickly become regarded as a legend.
Let your work speak for itself. You are not above or below anything. This career isn't a ladder, with better things awaiting you at the top. There's no such thing as going backwards, or forwards, there's just different gigs. You will almost certainly be miserable forever more if you see your life as a set of jobs that should come in a particular order. They won't. Once you're at peace with this fact, you become a lot less concerned with letting people know what you've done in the past. Don't worry, we've all got Google, we can find out for ourselves. If you're humble, funny, and down-to-earth we'll love you. If we then go on Google and find that you're actually an incredibly accomplished person, we'll ADORE you.
Silence is better than bullshit. Shut up and get on with it.