Artists work for other people. Entrepreneurs work for themselves.

If you’re an artist, working for yourself through your own business or nonprofit organization, you’re a hybrid beast: the Artist Entrepreneur.

The Artist Entrepreneur is still selling their own art, or dance, or music to someone else, don’t get me wrong. The difference is they’ve cut out the middleman. They own the gallery, they run the music ensemble, they direct the dance company.

No longer in service to just one muse, the artist-entrepreneur serves two: their own artistic muse, and the muse of business.

Let’s call her Kairosia.

Kairosia is very boring. No one swoons over her beauty, or praises her talent, or hangs on every word. She likes spreadsheets, and workplans, and management systems. She wants to be primary. It can feel like she’s gotten in the way of the art.

Among the many artists I’ve served, it’s the ones that honored the muse of business who are still making art for themselves. The ones who insisted that they could not learn how to read a financial statement “because I’m an artist” might still be making art, but they’re doing it for someone else. If they’re lucky, they’re getting paid to do it, as teachers or orchestra librarians, (or nonprofit consultants). If they’re not, they’re in the insurance industry, or real estate, or retail. They might even be the box office manager. They might be going to sketch class on Saturday or getting greats part in the community theater.

What they aren’t is artists.

A vanishingly small number of artists are going to “make it” as the symphony conductor, or the Broadway actor, or the celebrity painter. A lot of young people right out of school recognize this; it’s primetime for starting your own nonprofit.

But now that you’ve started it, you’re on a different path. You’re an artist-entrpreneur and both goddesses must be served. You cannot neglect the Kairosia in favor of Calliope. She’s very very jealous. One phrase goes through my head when I hear an artist tell me, in one way or another, that they cannot be bothered to run their business:

“Don’t quit your day job.”

I get it. It’s hard. I don’t have an art career because I chose the tenth muse only, and let Euterpe drift away to someone more committed. I don’t have an art career because I chose to be the tenth muse to someone who couldn’t bother himself to learn how to run a business. He makes art for other people now.

The thing about Euterpe and her sisters is, they don’t really care if you starve. Legend has it they prefer it, in fact.

Kairosia, on the other hand, likes that American Express gold card. She wants you to succeed.

It’s the rare artist who can serve one muse and one only her whole life. At some point there’s a mortgage, or a child, or a car payment, or just the sheer weight of poverty that sickens the single muse, making her look elsewhere for adulation, elsewhere to inspire.

The artist who serves two, the business and the art, ends with something different.

Something called a career.

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