No filter: the challenging world of creative entrepreneurship


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Do what you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. You might have heard this quote and its various iterations repeated all throughout your school years, or circulating on your social network feeds. When you think about it, it seems to make sense. How fun and awesome must it be to do your hobbies for a living, instead of being stuck in a cubicle for eight hours?

Creative jobs like game developer or photographer definitely seem like a more enjoyable alternative. But contrary to popular belief, they’re not always as peachy-keen as they seem.

During the Youth Entrepreneurship Summit held last March 8 at the World Trade Center, creative entrepreneurs discussed why creative work is still hard work, and how one can innovate in such a competitive industry.

(Not so) risky business

Choose a creative skill and make a business out of it: sounds pretty easy, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. While many creative entrepreneurs have “creative” down pat, they tend to forget the other half of the equation.

Dan Matutina, graphic designer and illustrator, realized this when he and his partners — all creatives — founded Plus63 Design Co., a design studio. “We thought, like what we all thought when we were young, that [if you have] passion and you’re doing what you love, that’s enough,” he said. “Then you realize that doing what you love is just one aspect of it. Having the skills and also the business know-how… are also important.”

This may be a familiar scenario for many creatives, eager to pursue their passion but lacking the entrepreneurial mindset to sustain it. But the good thing is that creatives aren’t alone. There are people out there who can fill in the business void so that creatives can focus on their work.

For Matutina, he found mentors among established designers from whom he could ask solid business advice. Shaira Luna, a professional photographer, hired an agent after almost a decade of handling the business on her own. “[I realized that] I needed an agent to help me not just with the accounting but also talking to clients and also heading the meetings,” she said. “So I finally caved in and said, ‘I just want to shoot and want someone to take care of the business side for me.”

True grit

The process of growing the business with new partners can get tough, and that’s not yet considering the different challenges that any business can face. Therefore, it’s important to steel one’s nerves and be proactive.

“[Creative entrepreneurship] is both left-brain and right-brain thinking,” said Niel Dagondon, chairman of CIIT College of Arts and Technology. “So I had to complement my team and partner with people who are good with what they do… You need to be a complete package in order to be successful in creative entrepreneurship.”

Some creatives may find the idea of on-boarding new people quite unnerving, especially those who have a different mindset from their own. But this is an essential step if they want to keep their business sustainable.

“Grit is very important, being able to see things through whether it’s a failure or a success,” said Erwan Heusaff, founder of digital media production company The Fat Kid Inside. “Because a lot of times in creativity, you’re wearing your heart on your sleeve, so you need to be ready for heartache. And you need to be smart enough to regroup after that and figure out what you did wrong and how to move forward from it.”

An education

But it’s not enough to just learn from one’s mistakes. The creative industry is fast-paced and ever-changing, so it’s vital to continue innovating so that you don’t get left behind. Fortunately, there are many ways to do so — and everyone has their own unique way. For instance, Matutina draws fresh inspiration from non-design-related media. Dagondon makes it a consistent habit to read books instead of wasting time on unimportant things.

Whatever the techniques, it’s listening and humility that will ultimately drive a creative entrepreneur to innovate. “I think there’s a misconception that the only voice a creative should listen to is himself. That’s not true,” said director, producer, and writer Pepe Diokno. “You have to listen to many people… Creative work is being able to manage that collaboration through listening.”

He adds, “The key to learning from failure and also listening is humility. You have to be humble enough to know that you don’t have all of the ideas, and that you will always have more to learn.”