1) a discussion I had with Sian Prime – one of the lecturers in the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship at Goldsmiths College, University of London where I am doing my PhD.
I was saying to Sian how I sometimes felt I wasn’t really a creative entrepreneur, especially as an actor, since I wasn’t creating and marketing my own work. I was working within the existing framework of professional theatre. She helpfully suggested that maybe I should think of myself as a creative INTRAPRENEUR using many of the same skills I might use externally, but using them to negotiate my way within the industry.
2) I was sent this article in the EE Future Thinking Series titled: ‘Intrapreneurship’ and how business can harness the innovation of start-ups. The article talks about how companies are increasingly encouraging their staff to think and work in entrepreneurial ways, but within the organisation. They encourage them to look for new business opportunities, suggest new products or services to offer or ways to improve on existing offerings. Or how some companies are bring start-ups inside their organisations to work internally. It’s certainly a growing trend. And an exciting one. And one that speaks to the younger generation of workers who are very interested in the idea of starting their own businesses (as evidenced by massive start-up movements on all campuses) but maybe don’t have the resources to do it right out of university. This affords the workers the opportunity to develop new skills and the company the opportunity to benefit from creative thinking.
Inside the box or outside the box?
What does this have to do with artists, painters, poets, writers, actors, musicians, dancers, video game designers, architects, film-makers and other creative workers?
In my way of thinking, it comes down to whether you choose to work inside the existing framework or to work outside the existing framework.
Are you producing products or services that you are trying to market and sell directly to someone? Do you take your paintings to art fairs and sell them directly to clients? Or have you created your own one-person play that you are touring to fringe festivals or pitching to producing houses to include in their season? If so, then you are definitely a creative entrepreneur!
Are you producing goods or services, but are trying to market and sell them within existing frameworks where they become part of larger organisation, who then sell them to a marketplace? This is a model where the painter gets an art dealer or gallerist who looks after marketing and selling their work (for a percentage of the sales). Or the actor with an agent who goes to castings for commercials or theatre projects where someone else is putting together the package either on commission to an advertising agency, as part of a subscription theatre season, or to sell tickets individually for the production. You the artist are not necessarily engaging with the eventual market place, though you do have to market to, and manage relationships with, the intermediaries. You also have to continue to work those relationships to ensure they are satisfactory. If this sounds like you, then you are probably a creative intrapreneur.
Or possibly you are doing both – moving back and forth between these two roles.
B2B or B2C
In traditional marketing and sales there are distinctions made whether you are working ‘in B2B or B2C’. B2B stands for ‘Business to Business’ and B2C stands for ‘Business to Consumer.’ It answers who is the purchaser of your product or services? It also leads to assumptions about the volume of your sales.
If you sell B2B, you might sell 100 pencils to one business. If you sell B2C you might sell 100 pencils to 100 different users. So it impacts much of your marketing and sales decisions. Likewise a painter might agree to give 20 paintings to a gallery to sell. Or they might take 20 paintings to an art fair but sell them one at a time to individual customers.
These distinctions more or less work in our creative industries. The creative entrepreneur is probably engaging directly with the customer, so is in B2C sales. The artist who chooses to work within larger networks where they are not selling directly to the end consumer are in B2B. Actors doing the circuit and working in television, film, theatre could be seen to be working in B2B.
Those artists selling through agents or contracting their services to companies are not intrapreneurs as described in the EE article as they are not employees. They are still working on a freelance basis. But I would still use the term intrapreneur because they are working within an established business framework that treats them like employees. When I was on tour with Scrooge (for example) I was working for one employer for 12-16 weeks on one show. I wasn’t an employee in the way I would have been at Sony or some other corporate, but I was tied to that organisation on a freelance basis for a period of time. But I could still behave with entrepreneurial motivations – looking for new business opportunities, thinking how I could get myself cast in their next production, building positive relationships with all the people I worked with, taking advantage of any positive PR generated from the project. It could be argued these are a mix of intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial activities as they are focussed both internally and externally to the organisation.
Entrepreneurship is an attitude
I don’t want you to get too hung up in these definitions.
Ultimately I think Entrepreneurship is an attitude and it’s always consistent whether it’s used within an existing framework or without.
It’s an attitude that puts you the artist in the centre of your own business.
You are honouring your talents and ideas and looking for ways to utilise them and benefit from them.
Whether that is done strictly for yourself in an entrepreneurial model where you sell yourself directly to a paying audience, or whether you are working with similar motivations but within a larger body with someone else selling it to the paying audience (intrapreneurially), it doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that you are thinking with both your business hat and your artist hat on. Looking for opportunities. Building relationships. Keeping an eye on the money. Whether that’s done internally or externally is about your business model. Entrepreneurship starts in your heart and in believing that your work deserves an audience and that you have the right to be taken seriously as an artist. Then you look for markets…. which will lead you to either working entrepreneurially or intrapreneurially.
Either way it’s an exciting journey.
I’d love a straw poll – please use the comments below to say whether you see yourself as a creative entrepreneur or intrapreneur and why.