Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Writer as Creative Entrepreneur: A Guest Post by Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright
I am a creative entrepreneur. It’s not something I dreamed of being. When I was a little girl, when people asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I said, “I want to be a writer.” I never said, “I want to be a creative entrepreneur.” Yet a creative entrepreneur is exactly what I have become.

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never even heard the phrase creative entrepreneur let alone know that I was one. Recently I was asked by three different bloggers to write a post on the subject of the creative entrepreneur (CE for short). That’s when you know a topic is hot or on people’s minds.

My first question was, “What the heck is a creative entrepreneur?”

John Hawkins defines a CE as a person who “uses creativity to unlock wealth that lies within themselves rather than [through] external capital.” Wikipedia says that CEs “are investors in talent – either their own or other people’s.” Hawkins distinguishes CEs from freelancers. Freelancers, notes Hawkins, think in terms of finding more work. CEs think in terms of creating opportunities.

Harvard economist Richard E. Caves is oft quoted on the subject. Writing in past decades, he noted a distinction between “artists” and “gatekeepers” with gatekeepers deciding on the potential value of the artists work. Now writers are, increasingly, bypassing the gatekeepers and taking their work directly to readers. Now more than at any time in the recent past, writers are taking on the dual role of not only being the creative artist, but also becoming businesses to produce and sell their work.

Just so we’re clear, being a CE is nothing new. For as long as humans have been creating, there have been CEs. I recently spoke with a writing and publishing veteran, Dan Gutman. Dan, a children’s book author, had his first book published in the 1980’s and currently has over 100 books in print. When I spoke with him about writing, publishing and author marketing, it was clear that Dan’s isn’t an “artist” sitting in a coffee shop, typing passionately away while the nasty business of selling his work is taken care of by a benevolent publisher. Dan’s advice to me – and one that has become my mantra – was, “Bust your ass. Every single day.”

Early on in Dan’s career, he took marketing into his own hands and visited as many schools as he would have him. He gave school talks for free and met and befriended teaches and librarians, i.e. people who were in a direct position to influence his would-be audience. That one librarian/teacher/school/reader-at-a-time approach was a successful strategy.

Dan is a CE. He not only uses his creativity to produce a product (his books), but he uses his creative energy to think of ways to market (i.e. sell) his product as well. I don’t want to discount the help that his publishers may have given him. Dan noted to me that he has had more than one publisher and some of his books are out of print and others are not, and that that has more to do with the publisher than it does with Dan. But Dan used his creative entrepreneurial genius to create his own success. He took control of his own destiny and he did it before the surge in self-publishing or the existence of social media. Though Dan built his career by taking himself and his books on the road, he now leverages social media to maintain his readership just the way you’d expect a CE to do.

And that highlights another characteristic of the CE: adaptability. The publishing world is changing rapidly and true CEs see the change as opportunity rather than crying in their Malbec and bemoaning the loss of the “good old days.”

Being a creative entrepreneur means you don’t get stuck in one way of doing things. It’s about being open to try new things. It’s about collaborating with others who have talent and skills you can leverage to make your project a success. Being a CE means that you are willing and able to drop something (or someone) that isn’t working and move on. You are agile and you pursue new opportunities that are exciting to you or show promise.

I like this quote from Mark McGuinness. “The only real security lies in taking an entrepreneurial approach to our own careers, by taking responsibility for developing our skills, building our networks and reputation, and creating opportunities for ourselves.”

Perhaps for writers, this has never been a truer statement than it is today.

Action Item: Take five minutes and brainstorm 10 things you can do this year to increase the reach of your author brand. Use the same creativity you apply to your writing and think outside the box. Try some things you haven’t tried before.

Are you a creative entrepreneur? And if so, did you set out to be one or did you find yourself in the role by happenstance?

Natalie is the author of The Akasha Chronicles, a young adult paranormal fantasy trilogy. When not writing, blogging, Facebooking, Tweeting, Wattpadding or eating chocolate, Natalie nurtures her young daughter, plays with her two young cats, and feeds her dog too many treats.

Natalie enjoys walking in the high desert, snorkeling in warm waters, travel, and excellent food shared with family and friends. She was raised an Ohio farm girl, now lives in the desert Southwest, and dreams of living in a big city high rise.

Natalie enjoys chatting with readers, so stop by and say hi: