12 min read

The Three Personas Every Creative Business Needs

The Three Personas Every Creative Business Needs
Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN / Unsplash

This is the most important chapter that you've read so far, but will only have the desired impact if you've read the previous chapters in this book.

(Even better if you've done the work in the previous chapters!)

The reason I wrote this book is that I spent nearly a decade as a "five-figure creator".

I started my first company while in college, doing live and post-production sound for film and tv projects.

I made ~$35,000 that year between the summer of 2007 and 2008, which as a single college student was decent money! I was going to school and doing most of the projects at night or on weekends, so it worked out great.

It was also one of the worst economic times in the United States, but I got through unharmed.

Ten years later, however, in 2017, I found myself with a wife and three young boys, a business partner, and a failing video production company.

That year, with everything that happened in the business, I ended up paying myself about $36,000...

In ten years my financial situation objectively worsened. I was making less money (accounting for inflation) and had less of it to spend since my expenses had more than tripled.

I needed to figure this whole business thing out or else I wasn't going to be able to survive financially any longer.

This chapter outlines the most important mindset shift that every creative needs to make in order to have a successful, long-lasting career doing what they love at a professional level.

To be clear, I mean making six figures a year doing what you love, without getting burnt out, and having the freedom and independence to live life in the way you want, whether that means growing a family, living in a certain city or country, or however you define freedom and independence for yourself.

I define success this way because it's that freedom and independence that creatives want. They don't want to have the risk of a full-time job, where a boss or the economy could decide how secure your future is.

In the rest of this book, I will outline the systems and frameworks that you need to have in place for your business to have that kind of success. A clear road map that anyone reading this book can take and create a life of freedom and independence.

But those systems and frameworks are worthless if you don't first shift your mindset as directed in this first section.

And especially if you don't make this one, singular shift in this chapter.

The Three Personas Every Business Needs

In his book The E-Myth Revisited, author Michael Gerber outlines a few important mindsets that you need to apply to your creative business.

First, the fatal assumption:

That Fatal Assumption is: if you understand the technical work of a business, you understand a business that does that technical work.

Applying this to creatives, many make the fatal assumption that if they understand how to [create something], they understand a business that [creates that thing].

Yet, there are many filmmakers, writers, musicians, photographers, dancers, developers, freelancers, and more that are masters of their craft yet have struggling businesses.

Proving the point.


The problem is that everybody who goes into business is actually three-people-in-one: The Entrepreneur, The Manager, and The Technician.
And the problem is compounded by the fact that while each of these personalities wants to be the boss, none of them want to have a boss.
So they start a business together in order to get rid of the boss. And the conflict begins.

This is the big idea for this chapter. If you're struggling in your business and feel stuck or frustrated or depressed by the current state of your business, your current Life Conditions, then this is why.

You are trying to run your business as a "technician". Using more applicable terminology, you are trying to run your business as an artist.

And by doing so you are keeping the Entrepreneur and the Manager locked in the closet and have thrown away the key.

If you've ever said the words "I hate networking" or "I hate marketing" or "I suck at spreadsheets" or "I can't imagine having a schedule", then you have experienced this reality in your own business.

If you are a solo business owner, then you have to realize that in order to succeed, you have to be three people in one.

You have to, at strategic times, wear the hat of the Entrepreneur, the Manager, and the Artist.

The Mindset Shift That Matters Most -
From Creator To Business Owner

Most likely you spend 90% of your time in one of three "personas" as I'll refer to them for the rest of this chapter and book.

Creators get stuck in the $50-80k range because they only ever use one persona to try and build their business. They, falsely, believe that the way to grow their business is to do more or better work.

"If I could just get better at writing then I'd have a better business..."

Yet, there are plenty of below-average writers making six figures a year and have a thriving business.

So it can't be true, right?

If it isn't true, then what is true?

What's true is that these below-average writers have figured out how to step into those other two personas. They think and operate at times like an entrepreneur, and at other times like a manager.

And they have successful businesses.

Now that you know what's really going on here, let's dive deeper into these different personas, and then how to strategically step into them to finally grow your business from five to six figures through the rest of the book.

The Entrepreneur Persona

The Entrepreneur is the visionary, the creative person, the one who spends most of their time in the future. They are comfortable dealing with uncertainty and the unknown because dreams don't have to be feasible or have a plan! "We'll get there somehow!"

There are good and bad traits to each of these personas that we need to cover so that we consciously choose the good traits and avoid the bad.

Imagine a successful businessman. Slicked back hair, thousand dollar shoes, three-piece suit, getting out of his blacked-out Tesla.

No doubt he parked in a handicap stall because he can do whatever he wants, the consequences can come if they dare.

Inside the office he expects adoration from his "subordinates", and demands control and attention wherever he struts.

He uses that control to get what he wants from his company at all costs. The only direction that he accepts is "up and to the right", and if he knew what people said behind him when he's out golfing or traveling, he'd fire them in an instant.

He commands no real respect or influence other than what control he can hold in his grasp. But he knows that it's fleeting and will ultimately come to an end, so he must take as much as he can now.

Gross, right?

These aren't traits you want to embody, and there are plenty of examples of visionary success without all of the icky, slimy stuff.

Take our other Entrepreneur. She discovered how to create solar charging technology that can be used anywhere, costs little, and serves starving communities all over the world.

She leads with vision and inspires people to join her in her mission to bring clean electricity to 1 Billion people in her lifetime.

She's incredibly prolific and productive because every waking minute is spent on her mission, and people can see how authentic and inspiring she is by the way she lives her life. Her confidence isn't bravado, but a quiet confidence that inspires other women and girls to be like her.

Ahh. That feels much better, doesn't it?

The qualities we want from the Entrepreneur persona are vision, quiet confidence, influence, humility, integrity, and leadership.

For your business, the Entrepreneur persona will define the vision for your company and yourself. It will set big goals that feel in the moment inspiring, but to the artist and manager may feel impossible and unattainable.

You've already spent a little time as the Entrepreneur, in the chapter about creating your vision. You stepped into a different mindset and opened yourself up to possibility and potential, a vision that extends far beyond just yourself and your current circumstances.

How did it feel?

Every business owner needs to spend some amount of time as the Entrepreneur so that a vision can be created for the future and the day-to-day work can be measured as to getting closer to or further away from that goal.

The Entrepreneur will be the one to create new opportunities, new connections and partnerships, new growth, and new ideas.

Without those, your business will stay just how it is now, as mine did for more than 10 years.

The Manager Persona

The Manager persona is equally important to the growth and success of a creative business.

Remember this line from an earlier chapter, a goal without a plan is just a dream?

The Entrepreneur's goal, without the Manager's plan (and the Artist's execution), is just a dream, so spending 100% of your time as an Entrepreneur is just as limiting as spending 100% of your time as an Artist or Manager.

The Manager thrives with plans and systems and frameworks. Then they take those plans, systems, and frameworks and optimizes them to perform at a peak level.

They don't spend time thinking about big dreams and vision! No! They just want to make what they have now work as best as it possibly can.

If the Entrepreneur is the one who steps into a restaurant and starts chatting up the hostess, then the Manager is the one checking their watch because their reservation was for 6:00, they arrived at 5:50 and it's now 6:03, so this restaurant has a faulty system that someone needs to look at!

The Entrepreneur admires the ambiance, the Manager admires the efficiency, and the Artist admires the food.

Every business needs a manager because businesses grow by doing more of what works and less of what doesn't.

The Manager is the persona that determines, through observation and analysis, (two words you'll never hear an Entrepreneur or Artist use) what is and isn't working!

The Manager allows the Artist to focus more of their time on their craft and making the work that serves their clients and customers. They create systems and automation that do menial tasks more efficiently.

Every business, and especially every creative business, needs a Manager persona at times.

If you feel like "I'm just not a Manager!" I call B.S.

You've already done it! When you took your vision and started creating a plan and a mission and a goal in the previous chapters, you were working as that Manager persona!

You're more capable than you have allowed yourself to believe, and it's time to start realizing the incredible potential you have inside you.

The Artist Persona

The last of the three "personas" that Michael Gerber talks about in his book is the Technician, but for our purposes, we'll use Artist.

The artist is the persona that creates the art, crafts the product, provides the service, and creates what the business delivers to its clients and customers.

Without the artist, there is no business.

Even if you have an amazing Entrepreneur and an equally amazing Manager, you'd have a lot of incredible plans but no action.

Who else has a parent or in-law who had an amazing idea decades ago that has since become somebody else's billion-dollar business?

(I have a relative who claims to have thought of the idea of pull-ups, the kid diapers that you pull up and down like underwear!)

To have a successful business, you need a great idea, a purpose-driven plan, and massive action! You need all three personas!

Without ever stepping into the Entrepreneur persona, you're stuck doing low-level work that never compounds and never grows beyond time for dollars.

That's the mode I was in as a freelance sound engineer and filmmaker. Our "big idea" was to have bigger ideas that cost more money so we would make more. One problem, however, is that no one wanted to give us that money, so our plan was unsound (no Manager) and we weren't ever able to execute as the talented artists that we were.

If you never step into the Manager persona, you have dreams but no systems, so you end up doing all the work yourself and burning out because there are no systems or optimization or automation or leverage. You don't know why you aren't making more money, or aren't getting more clients, or bigger projects, because you never spend any time analyzing what's working and what isn't.

And, of course, a business without an Artist persona that shows up every day is a business with no product or service. You can manage the details for years and never make a dollar. Many startup founders find themselves in this position because they marry a great idea with a good plan, but the manager in them keeps wanting to optimize and perfect the product before ever showing it to the public.

They can spend years and tens of thousands of dollars and never ship anything, so the business goes under.

Seth Godin has written often about "shipping". Reid Hoffman famously said, "If you aren't embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”

What they're saying, in effect, is that you have to let the Artist show up at some point, do the work, and put it out into the world.

But, if you spend all of your time as an Artist, you'll never grow your business. Without exception, the creators I know that have been stuck their entire careers making five-figure salaries are stuck because they never step into the Manager or Entrepreneur personas to grow their business.

Let's look at how to do just that in a practical way so that you can start doing this for your business today.

How To Operate As The Different Personas

The short version is that it comes down to scheduling.

Scheduling time in your calendar each day, each week, each month, each quarter, and each year, to ensure that you step into these different personas and do the work that these personas are best at.

Once a year and once a quarter, your Entrepreneur needs to take control of your business to think about the vision for the next period, the opportunities you want to create, the growth you want to experience, and the dreams you want to make a reality, just as you did in the Vision chapter.

Every month and every week your Manager needs to take control to go over financials, look at your sales and marketing systems, and observe what's working and what isn't.

And your Artist needs to show up every day to do the work as a professional, rather than as a hobbyist who plunks away a little here and a little there without ever building up a body of work, or showing your work with the world, or building momentum behind the work that you're creating.

So, step into your Manager persona for a minute now. Embrace the systems and the calendar scheduling and the optimization part of your brain!

Schedule into your calendar one day every year and every quarter for your Entrepreneur to show up and have a day where they are in control of your business.

Look at and adjust your vision. Set goals. Dream big dreams. Capture them in a way that your Manager can then create plans to hand off to the Artist.

Next, schedule one day per month (generally the first day or first Monday of each month) for your Manager to take the reins and outline the plan to achieve the goals set by the Entrepreneur for the quarter.

Lastly, clear some space for the Artist to do the work every day, uninterrupted, to create amazing work.

We'll do much more of this as we go through the book. But before we leave this section of mindset, I really want you to do yourself a favor and give yourself a gift.

Fully embrace these mindset shifts.

Believe in yourself and your potential. Realize how much more you can grow and contribute by letting these other personas that you're not using out from behind the locked door. Throw away the key and let them know you're not ever going to lock them up again.

Move forward with faith in the plan that is set out in this book, that if you combine your belief with massive action there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Stand up, take a deep breath, extend your arms as wide as possible, and smile! Smile as big as you can knowing that you're embarking on a journey to grow your business in a way that you've only dreamed of, and that your life and business are about to change.

Thank you for letting me be a part of this journey with you.

Write down your thoughts. Journal how you feel and what you want to do and accomplish with this new faith and this new belief and this new plan of action.

And when you're ready, let's take your business to the next level.

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