Entrepreneur: Justin Suds, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Ann Rea: Here we are with Justin Suds who is in Canada.
Justin Suds: Vancouver!
Ann Rea: Vancouver, which is that way and I’m here in San Francisco and I’m going to just, bear with me while I give you a little background on Justin. Justin and I met at Pioneer Nation in Oregon. It was an amazing event and he and I got to talking and we both work with artists, so I wanted to talk to him so that he could share with you what he knows about working with artists because he’s been doing it for about 15 years. He’s acted as a manager, an agent, a producer, a mentor, a coach for world class talent. He’s an entrepreneur at heart. He currently owns the artist management company: Stride Entertainment, a live touring production company called Right Angle Entertainment and a new adventure called CommissionAPainting.com. His clients have ranged from visual artists, performers, poets, authors, TV personalities, comedians and bloggers and the things they all have in common are incredible talent and a passion for their artistic endeavors and Justin’s passion lies and ensuring that all artists have the tools and the belief that they can not only live off their craft, they can actually thrive. So you can see how we got along.
Justin Suds: I think the scariest part of that pie was the 15 years. That’s scary.
Ann Rea: Yeah. Well, you’ve got 15 years of direct experience working with artists and helping them make money from their art.
QUESTION: Can you tell me, Justin, what are the three biggest, fattest mistakes or lies that you see artists living with? Just start with number one. What’s the Big One?
Justin Suds: Artists and their lies- I love it. I think by far, the biggest one, and it’s a little ironic. As an artist manager this one’s a little ironic, but the one thing that just kind of gets under my skin, because it’s the one I hear the most often is; everything that’s encompassed in relying on other people. So there’s always, “well, I can’t find a gallery who will represent me”, or “I can’t find a publisher who will publish my book”, or “I can’t I can’t get an agent”, “I can’t find a manager”. I have been an agent and a manager and I can tell you that 95% of the people who I hear from looking for representation are not at the point where they need it or where it would even be useful to them in their career.
Ann Rea: Thank you! They don’t need it right?
Justin Suds: Yeah, they don’t need it. Especially today, there no barriers to access the marketplace anymore. It’s literally become excuse number one for artists in kind of buying into this I need representation, but it’s also permission. I like your word, permission. It’s like validation. They need validation. That their art is good enough
Ann Rea: I need permission and I need someone’s help, or I need someone’s blessing, or I need to be discovered.
Justin Suds: Yeah, discovered. That’s my favorite one.
Ann Rea: That’s a great one.
Justin Suds: I worked in the music industry, or alongside the music industry, for a long time, and that word is just hilarious to me.
Ann Rea: Yes it is hilarious. I love that. Okay. So number one big fat lie or failure is thinking that you need permission or a blessing from someone outside of yourself to actually thrive as an artist. I love that.
Justin Suds: Let’s turn that and make it like the validation that artists need is to sell their art by whatever means necessary.
Ann Rea: Thank you!
Justin Suds: That’s all it needs to be.
Ann Rea: So, the validation is, people buy your art. Do you need any more than that? People buying your art, I guess it’s good enough, right? It’s great.
Justin Suds: That sounds like success to me. Selling art = Success.
Ann Rea: The number one failure can be to actually think that there’s power outside of themselves and that’s…
Justin Suds: As it relates to growing their business, there does not need to be an outside influencer.
QUESTION: Okay. What’s number two?
Justin Suds: Number two is over-estimating the difficulty that running an artistic business. There was probably a time 25 years ago where running an artistic business was extremely difficult, but it’s so simple today. I swear if you went to Fiverr, you could get everything you need to run an artistic business today.
Ann Rea: Yeah. The barriers to entry have been, those walls have been busted down.
Justin Suds: Yeah. Like Chris Guillebeau’s book $100 startup is awesome. It was written quite a while ago now and I think it’s even more true today, the points he brings up in there. $100? I think you could do it for less than a hundred dollars for an artistic business.
Ann Rea: I agree.
Justin Suds: When I launched CommissionAPainting.com, I purchased the domain, I built a very, very, very simple wordpress template and I immediately started getting inquiries, and so the barrier is not there. There is no barrier.
Ann Rea: The only barrier is in your mind.
Justin Suds: Exactly. I think that it’s a legitimate fear because artistic brains don’t have, and I’m generalizing, but it’s generally there’s a fear…
Ann Rea: Now watch it. (laughs)
Justin Suds: Yeah, yeah, fair enough. I’ll draw this for you. (laughs)
Justin Suds: Artistic brains, generally speaking, have a fear of anything that’s more business oriented or purely business oriented. I think that’s a legitimate fear. It’s different sides of the brain often, and I think until you’re into it and you get over those first few humps of, ‘Oh yeah, you know, what? I watched that youtube video on how to build a WordPress site and it really wasn’t that hard’.
QUESTION: Do you see or do you think that’s mistake number three then that they have an unreasonable or irrational fear of business? Because I believe that most really creative people that I’ve ever known are of above average intelligence.
Justin Suds: Yes.
Ann Rea: The skills that you need to learn to master, like how to build a WordPress site or how to build a Squarespace site or how to use MailChimp, I mean, these folks can figure this out. It’s actually tougher and requires much more focus and diligence and discipline and innate talent to be a good artist,
Justin Suds: To be a good artist of any kind. I think that the skill in getting over your fear of business, sorry getting over your fear of dedicating yourself to your craft is way, way harder than anything you need to do in business to create the infrastructure you need to thrive. And that infrastructure these days is so, so simple. A PayPal account, an Etsy account, a website, learn something about Facebook advertising or how to use Instagram properly. There’s endless resources out there on how to do all those things,
QUESTION: Right. So for the people who are listening, let’s just break down the list, right?
Ann Rea: You need an ecommerce site which if get a Squarespace site, you also need a way to receive money, but if you have a Squarespace site, you have you have both, you have a two for one. You can accept money and you can show your wares. You need a place to store and send emails. MailChimp is great and free in the beginning. You need to pick a social media channel and not all of them. One/two, like Facebook/Instagram.
Justin Suds: For visual artists Instagram is certainly thriving and Facebook. I actually love what Periscope is going to be able to do for artists. I think that’s going to be pretty meaningful.
Ann Rea: It could be, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just pick one and Periscope is not proven yet. I’d start with Facebook, go to Instagram and then…
Justin Suds: Yeah, well Facebook’s the easy one for sure. There’s a ton of resources.
Ann Rea: So number four, you need a way to keep track of your money, right? So there’s Freshbooks there’s Xero, there’s a good old fashioned spreadsheet.
Justin Suds: Yeah, of course. For CommissionAPainting I’m still just using a spreadsheet.
Ann Rea: You don’t have to make it complicated. So we’ve listed all the major pieces of technology where that’s it, you’re done, you’re in business.
Justin Suds: Nothing about it is hard. Committing to being an artist is far, far harder than the things we just described.
Ann Rea: That’s my point exactly. Thank you so much for saying that. Yes, exactly right.
Justin Suds: I think the last point I wanted to make is the third biggest thing I see is; artists tend to invest a tremendous amount of time in their craft and invest zero time in the business part of it. And I think that that’s natural because most of them don’t enjoy the business part of it or don’t think they will enjoy the business part of it.
Ann Rea: They do once they get started. Every artist I’ve worked with, they’re like; “Oh I like this”.
Justin Suds: Yeah, it always changes once there’s money rolling in. Sometimes it’s not about the money and it often shouldn’t be. A lot of the time it’s just about the idea that somebody out there has put a value on their art. And I think that has tremendous meaning, as an artist. I like to use, especially for people just starting, I like to use the 25% rule. If you were to clock all the time you’re using in a given week on your craft, whatever that number is, whether it’s 20 hours or 50 hours, and you took 25% of that and invested that time into business knowledge, just business learning, watching youtube videos, taking an online course, reading articles, reading an entrepreneur’s book, any of those things, it will dramatically change your life.
Ann Rea: Absolutely!
Justin Suds: As an entrepreneur who is not an artist, doing all those things, I had to do the same thing. I had to turn off the day to day technician part of my business, and invest time in the big picture and learning how to create an infrastructure.
Ann Rea: Right. So you make a fantastic point. We get so immersed in working in our business, but we need to take time to work on our business. And one of the things that I do as, I’ve been a subscriber to audible.com, so when I go for a run I listen to a book or if I’m stuck in a commute somewhere, I educate myself. I just listen because I start reading and get tired, so that works for me.
Justin Suds: Yeah. A lot of artists can never get through a nonfiction book to save their life.
Ann Rea: It’s just boring to me, and it sticks in my head better if I hear it. So Audible is great. They’re really good books. I’m glad you mentioned Chris Guillebeau’s book. I think that’s a fantastic first read. If you’re wondering about, “Oh yeah, this is so damn hard”. No, it’s not. Please don’t swallow this lie anymore.
Justin Suds: Chris does a good job of making it a step by step process to getting a startup done. So that tiny investment of time, frankly for a lot of artists just starting out at 10% of the time would be a major goal and then getting up to 25. But this is the reason, this tidbit of information is the exact reason why artists always are complaining that there’s a bunch of people with a lot less talent than them that are a lot more successful. Which is almost always true. Unfortunately success isn’t always driven entirely by talent. There has to be an entrepreneurial drive with it. The entrepreneurial drive luckily can be entirely learned and these days it’s not hard to learn.
Ann Rea: Exactly. I would like to leave with one of my favorite quotes from Andy Warhol, which punctuates your point, Justin, quite well. This idea that artists somehow are not wired for entrepreneurship couldn’t be farther from the truth because the fact is that some of the most successful and prolific entrepreneurs are in fact, predominantly creative individuals. Steve jobs comes to mind. Sir Richard Branson comes to mind. So actually you’re better suited than the average Joe bag of donuts to do well as an entrepreneur because you are creative.
Justin Suds: I’ve met very few successful CEOs or business owners who are just like a numbers thinker, logical like all of the best ones are creative thinking. I said earlier that I am not an artist, but I actually consider myself to be extremely creative. I value that as an entrepreneur and I totally agree with that Andy Warhol point. It’s so much easier for artists to become entrepreneurs than for an accountant to become an entrepreneur.
Ann Rea: I’ll leave you with Andy Warhol’s quote. It’s this, (it’s one of my favorites, I actually have it on MakingArtMakingMoney.com under my alumni features), and it’s this; “Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art”.
Justin Suds: I love it!
Ann Rea: Isn’t that fantastic?
Justin Suds: That one is going on my whiteboard.
Ann Rea: Justin, thank you so very much. This is a busy guy and he volunteered his precious time to talk to me and talk to all of you and he’s told you some deep truths that I’ve been trying to get across, but sometimes it’s good to hear it from another person and sometimes it lands better or it clicks in your head better. So thank you so much.
Justin Suds: I really appreciate it. This was fun.
Ann Rea: All right, cool. Well, we’ll be talking again soon, that’s for sure.
Justin Suds: Thanks Ann.
Making Art Making Money