The majority of screenwriting courses focus on the craft, with very little focus on the business aspects of being an artist. Sure, you can read the trades to see who optioned what or which project has recently been greenlit, but there is precious little information on being a sole trader/ sole business.
Consider some key questions screenwriters face. Do you do the same thing all the time and expect a different result? Do you feel overwhelmed and lost trying to navigate your career? Are you dissipating your energy and spreading yourself too thin?
Running your screenwriting business is hard work. You are a product, but too often, too emotionally invested to isolate a clear reason, purpose and strategy to navigate your career. Present yourself with a level of consistency (e.g teen comedy screenwriter) and don’t try to be all things to all people.
Ultimately, success depends on your belief system. What’s important to you? Let’s take a look at the fundamentals of business.
1) BE AN ENTREPRENEUR
The key components which many successful business folk cite as the key to success is their spirit, passion and drive. Do what you MUST to achieve your goals, rather than what you SHOULD. Work your goals from a position of authenticity, clarity and honesty. The entertainment business is difficult, unpredictable and downright infuriating, but you can’t be in another industry. Think about longevity.
2) BE A PROJECT MANAGER
Since most artists are too right braincentric, logic often fails us. We lack a plan of action, we can’t define our goals, organize our time and plan a strategy. We try to cram too many activities into our days and burn out. Focus on 3-5 goals at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself, comprising 2 career goals, 1 life goal (we need to stay balanced), 1 financial goal (bills must be paid) and 1 year long goal. Think about your mobile office. How do you communicate via email, SMS etc? Learn to define your goals and quantify them. How else will you know what works and what doesn’t? Be proactive, not reactive in your career.
3) BE A BRAND SPECIALIST
Marketing folk define a brand as the essence, or core, of your product (you, the screenwriter). A brand is a promise, perception and expectation to the consumer. Your brand is your identity and how others see you. Keep refining it as your career priorities change. Holistic marketing refers to projecting a 3D image of yourself from the inside out. It’s a representation of your values, concerns and beliefs. Empower yourself to ensure the marketplace “gets you”. Be yourself and understand what you are offering the marketplace. Is it a period drama feature or a teen comedy web series. In the old days, people talked about range to get yourself noticed. Write a TV spec and a feature film in every genre so producers think you have a diverse repertoire. Not anymore. They’ll think you lack direction.
4) BE A MARKETING DIRECTOR
Don’t you love all these titles on your job description? Marketing can be defined as informing consumers of your product in a profitable way. The artistic definition is the process of sharing and promoting your essence, creative relationships and successes (own them no matter how small). Take control of your career since it’s your business. No-one else will take care of it. Embrace social networks. Facebook, Twitter and blogs will exponentially increase your reach.
5) BE A COMMUNITY AMBASSADOR
The next step up from your marketing strategy. Network like you’ve never networked before. Enrich your support system. This doesn’t mean assault every producer you meet with your latest script, but rather, be prepared to tell them about yourself. The best writer may not always get the job, but rather the one easiest to work with. Since the entertainment industry is virtually entirely relationships based, you cannot go it alone, so plug and be heard. Reach out to your fan base.
6) FINANCIAL STRATEGIST
This is simply a matter of taking care of business. All the writers I know work crazy long hours, but rarely get paid for all of them. You may need to take another job for a few months or a part-time survival job. Be careful to not let it control you. It is a means to an end.
Now that you are balanced screenwriter with knowledge of craft, industry intelligence and business and marketing skills, there’s no stopping you.
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