Every Artist is a Storyteller

(You Just Might Not Know It Yet)


There are as many ways to be an artist as there are people in the world. It is one of the most beautiful facets of creativity and a key ingredient of innovation. When it comes to arts entrepreneurship, your uniqueness is what will lead you towards success – if you know how to identify and share your story.

Let’s break it down into two categories:

  1. Knowing Who You Are (Internal)
  2. Showing Who You Are (External)


Knowing Who You Are

There is a propensity in business to sell what we know has sold before. That makes sense from a financial and strategic standpoint. Follow the numbers to success, right? But here’s the thing… Is your definition of success the same as a tech business? Someone in hospitality? A restaurant? Of course not. It probably isn’t even the same as your rival!

We all want to keep a roof over our heads and maybe take a vacation once in a while – this is the business of art after all – but if it only came down to hard statistics, we’d all be rich by now. So how do you define success?

Mission, Vision, Values

It is really hard to pitch yourself and your creative products without actually knowing who you are, yourself. This is why arts organizations write missions, visions and values – it is important to make sure that everyone is working together on the same page and towards the same goals.

As an art entrepreneur, you may not have a very large team or even a team at all, but by defining your mission you can more accurately evaluate future projects and proposals based on how you have defined success for yourself. It will also help you identify key components of your business such as audience, financial goals and strategy.

Questions to consider:

  1. What are your core values?
  2. Why do you create?
  3. What do you create?
  4. What are your financial goals?
  5. What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)?
  6. Who are you creating for?

You should know the answers to all of these questions internally because without them, what are you doing? Why should your target market believe in you?

Your Creative Work

Once you have evaluated yourself and defined your mission, apply that mission to your creative work. Is your art fulfilling that mission? Does your mission stem from your art or vice versa? What story is your target audience seeing when they experience your work and does it match your intentions? All of these questions are determined by the way you frame yourself through communication and story.


Showing Who You Are

Ok, so you know your mission; your art is directly related to your strategy for success; and you’re ready to get back to creating. Now what?

Don’t let that story sit in a file drawer! With a clear vision of where you are headed, the next part of the process is to tell that story – to get your target market engaged and impassioned.

Networking – Elevator Story

The elevator story is often called an elevator pitch and is used all throughout the business world. It is a way of thinking about pitching yourself and your art within the frame of a thirty second elevator ride with the “big producer.” You don’t have time to talk, talk, talk your way through the idea before the executive steps back off that elevator which means you have to answer all of the key questions as succinctly as possible.

Forbes put out a great article of six alternative ways to think about the elevator pitch, even including the “Pixar pitch” which directly relates to the process of storytelling.

(Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/carminegallo/2013/03/26/six-simple-and-irresistible-alternatives-to-the-elevator-pitch/#599ca0e324d2)

Websites and Portfolios

The crux of the arts is that there are many ways of storytelling besides words. People experience these through their senses like hearing, sight and touch. Your website should be an extension of your mission that combines visual and written storytelling. As the main hub for your creative entrepreneurship – it will be the place that people head to find the answers about who you are and why what you do is important to them.

This is a great place to include your artist statement; a small bio; your mission, vision and values; any samples of work that you have; and definitely, how to contact you. It should all tie in together to create one consistent, authentic representation of the story behind your creative practice.

Social Media and Marketing

These days, people most often find their way to your website through social media. Vary rarely will they go directly from, say, a business card. This means that social media is both a tool for success and also a challenge to dive into. With so many platforms and potential audiences, this is another time to fall back to your mission. Who do you want to communicate with? What social media sites are they on?

So long as you evaluate why you are on a certain platform and utilize storytelling in your posts, you will see engagement and growth. It is less valuable to be on every platform without a story and consistency than to choose the sites that fit your mission the most.

People want to know who you are, where you came from and where you are going. It is human nature to be curious and seek out a connection. You’re already telling stories, now you know where to apply those skills in order to reach your own brand of creative success.

by Elisabeth Rose Astwood