If you’re looking for a way to support your performing career, make additional income, and continue developing yourself as a musical theater artist along the way, entrepreneurship could be perfect for you. Starting a business usually comes easily to performers, since we're used to selling ourselves, thinking creatively, self-motivating, and creating job opportunities in out-of-the-box ways. Business ownership is usually a flexible type of work, especially if you've chosen an online business rather than a brick-and-mortar, because you'll be able to make your own hours around performing gigs and get work done whenever it's best for you.
How do I know if entrepreneurship is for me? Starting a business can be very challenging and is not for everyone. I recommend you ask yourself the following questions and consider your innate personality and work style: am I willing to work really hard? Am I determined, persistent, and won't give up easily? Am I able to be creative to come up with ideas that aren't already in the marketplace? Am I able to accept a few failures and keep trying? Am I able to "put myself out there," sell my ideas, and get others excited? If you can answer yes to these questions then you probably have an entrepreneur's mindset. You can also try taking an entrepreneurship personality quiz. *Warning*: most musical theater artists are good at what they do because they are very right-brained, spontaneous, and abstract thinkers. These traits, while wonderful for acting and wonderful for seeing the big picture of starting a venture, are not well suited to the daily grind of operating a business, where details are extremely important. If you are one of those lucky individuals who has the right-brain skills to be a successful theater performer while also possessing the left-brain skills of organization and detail management, then entrepreneurship could be a great path for you. I learned this lesson the hard way with my first business, and realized way too late in the game that when it came down to actually getting things done, covering all bases, and remembering details, I was a mess. Luckily at that time I had the budget to be able to hire a manager who had those skills. If you find that entrepreneurship is not going to be well suited for your personality, that's ok, there are many other things to do to earn addtional moeny. Check out my other post on the best supplemental jobs for musical theater performers.
Where do I start? Entrepreneurship starts with an idea, something that you are passionate about, know more than most people about (or could be considered an expert), and something that is filling a need or a gap in the marketplace. Your sweet spot is the intersection of your skills, your passion, and what people need enough that they will pay you to get it. As a musical theater artist I can guess that you are probably passionate about music and theater, so coming up with a business idea within the industry could be a good fit for you, plus it will be closely related to your performing gigs and will probably help you to network and get more acting gigs. On the other hand, some theater artists have completely unrelated skill sets that they are equally passionate about, and prefer to have an outlet outside of musical theater.
Brainstorming: it's time to get the creative juices flowing and come up with a few possibilities for a business venture. Using the Brainstorming Sheet to organize your thoughts, write all your ideas in the far left column and then truthfully answer a yes or no answer in the other columns. The only ideas you should pursue further are ones that have a yes in all three columns. The rest, no matter how passionate you are about them, are not worth your time.
Competitive analysis: after you've worked the brainstorming sheet and have decided on the one idea you want to pursue, you'll need to do a competitive analysis, which means surveying the current marketplace to see if there is space for you to capture some of it. The easiest way to do a competitive analysis is simply to do a Google search and see what comes up in the organic search, as well as the paid placements. If there are already a thousand other providers offering your same product or service, it will be very challenging for you to compete unless you hone the product into a smaller niche or geographical area. If there are a handful of existing competitors, that's a good sign because it means people are already seeking out your product or service, and you'll be able to enter that market and compete. If there are no other competitors listed in Google, it means one of two things: you have either come up with an idea that is extremely innovative and people don't know they need it yet (example: the iPod), or you've come up with an idea that no one needs. If you're falling into this third category, I recommend talking to a few friends about your idea to figure out whether it's innovative or not needed.
Pause: if your idea has passed the above tests and is still standing, congratulations! If it hasn't, that's ok. Go back to your brainstorming sheet and look at some of the other ideas you jotted down. Run them through the same tests and see if anything sticks. Let the process simmer for a few days or weeks, and let your creative juices keep flowing. If you're really meant to start a business, something will formulate eventually.
Business plan: the next step is to write out a full business plan, which is a more formal document that serves several purposes. First and foremost, it helps you to get extremely clear on your goals, strategies and tactics to make this venture happen. It is also the document you'll use to share you idea with others, whether that be a business partner, a funder, a bank if you're getting a loan, or any other outside party. Business plans can vary widely in terms of the level of detail required, so I suggest keeping it simple for now and using this Business plan template from SCORE, a non-profit organization that offers free business advice in collaboration with the Small Business Association of America. If you have trouble filling it out, SCORE has chapters all over the country with business advisors who will meet one on one with you for free.
From there, the sky is the limit. Your business plan has equipped you with everything you'll need to get started. If you're looking for additional one on one assistance, I would love to help you. Book me for a private business consulting session.
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