"You might love sex, but that doesn't mean you would make a good prostitute." or the cost of #DoingWhatYouLove

I was looking through my Facebook messages and found this exchange with one of my clients, a bright young writer named Chance Calloway. It felt so much like an interview when I read it that I decided to share this excerpt with you. It got me thinking about how pimping and prostitution work as metaphors for the ups and downs of business, jobs, and entrepreneurship as they apply to artists. 
I promise it will not be TOO graphic!

  • Chance Calloway

    When did you first know that drawing was your passion?
  • Samax Amen

    Aw man... Always. Before I even knew what to call it. The problem was learning what I COULD do, and how to get into the position to get PAID to do it. That was hard to figure out.
  • Samax Amen

    My problem now is I love it so much, I sometimes get caught up in the joy of doing it, and forget it is my "job". There's a discipline to it.
    Like, you might love sex, but that doesn't mean you would make a good prostitute. Being a prostitute is not about getting off, it's about getting money helping other people get off.
    Totally different.
  • Chance Calloway

    Absolutely. Great metaphor. It's difficult to strike the balance of making the customer happy and still feeling fulfilled in what you did.
    The first time I wrote for someone else and they wanted me to change things, I had to remind myself that this wasn't about me, it was about them. Good lesson.
  • Samax Amen

    I have to remember that often. Also, I fall in love with characters I draw. But I have to let you have your characters back, even if you mistreat them.
    In Four Brothers, Chiwetel Ejiofor's character says "You don't pay a hooker to sleep with you. You pay her to leave."

    Chew on that.
Let's unpack that last bit. Let's say you're a freelancer, or you sell sculptures to corporate clients, or you make and sell comics, or have paintings for sale, etc.

The client/customer isn't paying you to draw (or paint, or design, or whatever), they are paying you to finish and go away.

Of course, before you can finish, you have to start. Then you find and solve a bunch of problems. Then you finish, and hand over the results. Starting can be hard, but lots of artists really struggle with finishing and letting go. 

Know how I know?

At least 50% of the people who approach me to work for them come with a complaint in hand about the previous artist. 

Everything was going fine, and then the artist "disappeared". The would-be client is usually very angry. They feel betrayed and I have to spend more time than I would like convincing them that I'm not gonna do the same thing.

This used to really irk me until I put myself in the client's shoes. I mean, I would be pretty upset if I hired a hooker someone to... do stuff for me, and they bailed before the... job was done.

Most artists reading this are bristling at being compared to a whore.

Get over it, you judgmental little diva.

Whether you are a freelancer, or you make and sell comics, write novels, do gallery shows, or create giant murals or sculptures for public works projects, you fit in the same category:

You work what your mama gave ya for cash. Most of you have no problem with that, and why should you? You gotta eat. So get out there and get it how you live.

You need a pimp.

The problem is that while our hypothetical streetwalker has a pimp out there ready to put a four finger ring across her grill if she fails to get out there and bring home that dough, you are a sole proprietor.

You don't have a boss with a stick and/or a carrot to shake in your face.

Some of you might think the client is your boss, at least temporarily, but no. 

Your client is not your pimp, he's your John. He might be telling you how he likes it (so to speak), but you don't REALLY work for him. You work WITH him.

After all, you got into (insert hustle here. Ex- freelancing, touring, gallery exhibiting, etc)  to be FREE, right? Well, freedom is a form of power, and as Peter Parker will tell you, that comes with responsibility.

Now, some artists run into this dynamic and conclude that they need a pimp to choose/ discover/ hire them. In other words, they need a job.

I am not advocating that. If you have a job, you probably know that like most pimps, most jobs are not in it for you. Sure, they have some rewards and benefits (carrots), but they don't love you.

If you think they give you stuff cause you are swell, just stop doing your job for a while and see what happens. The stick will come out in the form of a stern talking to, write-ups, and other punishments, "up to and including termination."

Pimps that find you (aka jobs) are in it for themselves, not for you.

Anything they do for you is a means to an end. That's fine, as long as you know what's up. Take that blue pill and LIKE IT!

If that doesn't work for you, you need to advance to the next level:

Pimp Yourself.

Hopefully, you can get away from pimps that are not in it for you, and learn how to pimp yourself. Assume responsibility for your career, by taking on the mentality of a business. Be your own pimp.

Here's a few valuable things pimps do to keep their hoes productive that you need to learn to do for yourself:
  1. A pimp knows his hoes- Before a pimp runs game on you, he/she already knows all your pertinent business. The better to manipulate you with, my dear. So, you need to know yourself. Your strengths and weaknesses, sure, but most of all, you need to know WHY you are doing what you're doing. What fuels you? What ideals mean something to you? What do you want to gain, and who do you want to help? What are you afraid of? How did you come to be afraid? What limiting beliefs might you have that could be holding you back? Write these questions down and think through them regularly, until you know the answers. 
  2. Set goals, and measures results- Everyday, a "good" pimp lets his hoes know how much money he expects each them to bring back, how many services they would need to provide to reach that goal, and what constitutes even an acceptable failure. To put it another way, whatever you measure you can manage. Set some goals for yourself. Start with what you want to achieve, and break it down into bite size chunks. Keep it real and measurable. Set daily, weekly, and monthly goals, as well as long-term goals. Measure what you do (and the results you get) as closely as you can, so you can see what's working for you, and what isn't
  3. Problem solver- A pimp is a fixer. With the knowledge of what his hoes want, and what they fear, a pimp can provide the right solutions and motivation to overcome his/her personal issues. Best-selling author Michael Port (Book Yourself Solid) once said "Most of our business problems are simply personal problems in disguise."  For each business problem you uncover, figure out the corresponding personal issue you need to service to better your situation.
  4. Provide focus and clarity of vision- A pimp is about his business. He doesn't let his hoes lose focus and forget who they are, and WHOSE they are. They might see other people doing other things and living other lifestyles, but a pimp will keep a hoe on task! Likewise, you need to know what you are trying to do and why. You need to say to yourself "how will this help me reach my goals (or not)?" and then govern yourself accordingly. Unlike a bad job/pimp, you should think not just of what you can get out of yourself in the short term, but also how your daily decisions and habits effect you long-term.
  5. Protection- Pimps are possessive. Yes, they let people... enjoy the use of their hoes, but only in approved ways and only when the price is right. A pimp is the friendliest and most gentlemanly dude you want to meet... until you mess with his most valuable asset. Then the claws come out. You must be just as vigilant. You have to keep yourself out there so people are aware of your products and/or services, but you have to be fierce about protecting your rights and standing up for yourself!

Outsource your pimping tasks

You may feel like you couldn't POSSIBLY do the things you saw in that list! And yet, I insist that they must be done, and you are better off staying in charge of them... but that doesn't mean you have to do them yourself.

You can usually draft a good friend, buy a boxed service or hire a professional to help. 

Build a team to help you.

Over time, you will find people who respect your art and your goals that can help. In other cases you will just hire someone, like a lawyer or accountant to cover tasks. Maybe you will get therapy or join a support group to unearth how business problems are just a manifestation of deeper issues.

You're not a business man. You're a business, man!

I know all this talk of pimping and prostitution probably made you cringe, but I believe it is our unfair association of business to the naked greed and exploitation exemplified in prostitution that lays the foundation to the limiting mentality that plagues so many so-called Starving Artists

If you read this far, I hope it's because you are starting to see that there are valuable principles as well as deplorable exploitation mixed into our view of business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. 

I encourage you to take the good lessons that will help you prosper where ever you find them, and throw away the rest!

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