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How to choose an advisory board as an independent creative.

One of the burdens of becoming a non-profit is forming a board. Yaaaawn. We've all heard about how annoying those can be. Who wants to be bossed around or somehow ousted from their own company?  Nobody. 
 
But...I have this feeling that boards can actually be... useful. Mad King Thomas formed a board, of sorts, which we call our court. We invited a handful of artists we love and admire and trust to be part of the King's Court. We put them down as references on grant applications and we call them when we're blue. We go to their shows and marvel. We ask them for feedback on works-in-progress. 
 
On website or branding projects, forming an informal board of this type can be invaluable. You are making big decisions that could affect your career for years to come, and there's no reason to go it alone. Not sure who to ask? 
 
Make a list of all the people who support your work.  This can range from superfans to producers.  Put down your friends and family, people you've collaborated with, people who have offered you help or support in anyway. Your support network is bigger than you realize.  You want to know who has your back. Some of these people may just come to your shows and call it a day.  Some of them come to shows and give money.  Some of them come to shows, give money and evangelize.  Find the people in your circle who WANT to help you, and find ways for them to help.  
 
Then, scour that list for your board members. 
 
Look for an artist in your field who is happy.  This might mean they are fulfilled by their arts career, or maybe they've managed to find a good work/life balance. 
 
Look for an artist in you field who has the kind of success you want. If you want to tour, who do you know who has done that? 
 
Look for someone with skills you know you lack: Not so good at finances? Find someone who is. 
 
Look far afield and closer to home than you'd expect. 
It's important that you feel close to these people, that you can be honest and expect the same in return.  You want people who can guide you toward your own light, not towards what they think would be best for you, or heaven forbid--what would be best for THEM.  
 
Be semi-formal about this:  Let them know they are taking an important advisory role in your career. More than buying them a coffee, but less than getting hitched (phew).  You could even limit the time frame--over the next year, for example.  So many of us advise each other ad hoc, between classes or when we bump into each other at the grocery store. This relationship should go deeper and acknowledging that will put both parties at ease.  
 
Got questions? Hit me up in the comments. 

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