All over the world wide web, there are conventional and unconventional sites that are worth exploring. When I’m not creating art, I focus on marketing and yearn for information that will help me progress into the next level of my career.
Meet Chris Guillebeau. He’s the mastermind and writer of an unconventional blog called “The Art of Non-Conformity” where provides unconventional strategies for life, work and travel. In addition, he’s very passionate about sharing information that will liberate you from the dreaded conventional life we were all brainwashed to believe in.
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As a world explorer of 140 countries and counting, Chris teaches others by his own life experiences. This man’s the real deal. You can read about his mission, life and travels through his blog. He has built an empire of fans and has supported himself through his blog with his popular ebooks covering various subjects of entrepreneurship.
I recently purchased one of his ebooks, The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money, which is a guide that will “help you sell more of your art without selling out” (it’s also been reviewed here on EE). It has all sorts of stuff that you won’t learn in college, but this beautifully-written book stands out for several other reasons too.
First, Chris has a very respectable reputation in creating amazing, useful content that is easy to read and understand. Second, he includes MP3 audio interviews along with PDF interview transcripts of real successful working artists. Finally, there are continuing email updates of his guide. You will learn why social media will help you sell your art, how to attract more viewers with a dynamic blog and much more.
What else is there? A lot! Fortunately I had the great opportunity to go straight to the source and interview Chris about the “Art & Money” ebook and his own path in life:
Josh: Hi Chris, thank you for this interview first of all. Can you tell us about your blog and what inspires you to lead an amazing, unconventional life?
Chris: Happy to do it. In 2006 I returned to the U.S. after four years as a volunteer in West Africa. I felt like I had a wide range of experiences, but no real convergence point among them. I started AONC as a way to help spread the message of non-conformity and connect with people who felt the same way.
I’m inspired by many things, but at the top of the list would be my readers, who continually encourage me to come up with things that are helpful and interesting.
Josh: You have written 5 other books about leading an unconventional life. Why did you decide, or what inspired you to write “Art & Money”?
Chris: The Art & Money project was inspired by the question of why so few artists fail to make a living with their art. Or rather, many fail but a few succeed—so what do the few do differently than the many? It was a fun investigation in talking to many successful artists all over the world.
Josh: There are many “how-to” guides in becoming a successful artist. What makes the “Art & Money” book different, or stand out that other books might be lacking?
Chris: Most of them don’t really focus on taking responsibility for your own career. They talk about how to get represented by a gallery—which is usually bad advice, since the vast majority of artists, even successful ones, aren’t gallery represented. So we try to take a step back and say, “Isn’t there another way?” And in fact, there is.
Josh: I love the fact you include the MP3 interviews; they really add a certain depth into the minds of specific, successful, working artists for your book. Why have you decided to include these audio interviews and were there any comments or experiences you would like to share that you learned yourself from these artists?
Chris: Providing MP3 audio adds another layer to the guide and helps people who prefer to learn by audio. We also have transcripts of some of the interviews as well, for those who prefer to read.
Josh:In your ebook you talk a fair amount about social media. Social media can be a valuable component in broadening your audience (i.e., through a blog, twitter or facebook) but some people may not understand the significance of how social media can help their career. Has it helped in your own career?
Chris: In some ways, social media is my career. I’m supported by readers who spread my work to other readers through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. I definitely recommend that artists take the time to establish a profile that connects their work with their personality.
Josh: Do you think that traditional art avenues, such as art fairs, galleries, and co-ops are still relevant in the 21st century? Could artists still earn a living, in your opinion, without these traditional income routes?
Chris: I think they are certainly relevant, yes. The thing is that they are no longer exclusive, which is good news for artists. The majority of successful artists will earn a living outside these traditional systems. But of course, if you have a chance to be represented, by all means go ahead as long as you can continue to build your own platform as well.
Josh: Do artists have, or need to possess, some unique, personal traits in order to be successful entrepreneurs in their own creative field?
Chris: Yes, I think they need the unique traits of persistence and service. In other words, anyone can obtain these traits, but unfortunately most people don’t. You have to be willing to work to build a foundation over time. You have to maintain relationships with buyers and prospects.
The service part comes in as you look closely at the connection between you, your work, and buyers. Throughout history, many great works of art have made real differences in people’s lives. How can your art do that?
Josh: You have traveled to at least 140 countries, which is astounding, especially because you’re still young. Have you noticed any differences or common qualities of artists’ attitudes in making a living in the USA compared to other countries? Is it easier/harder in certain geographical places to achieve their artistic dreams?
Chris: I’m having fun. In many parts of the world, successful artists already understand that they have to take responsibility for their own career. In Ghana, for example, artists simultaneously pursue traditional venues like craft fairs while also trying to sell their work on an individual basis.
As to whether it’s harder or easier, well, that’s difficult to say. One positive thing about the U.S. is the culture of entrepreneurship and favorable small business laws. It’s very easy to start a business in the U.S. compared to elsewhere, so that certainly helps.