If you're a creative person who also holds down a noncreative or "businessy" job, then you're familiar with the constant balancing act required to get your (paid) work done while keeping the artistic fires stoked. You only have so much mental and spiritual energy to use up each day, so how do you keep a "regular" job while still honouring your creative soul?
For Shannon DeJong, integrating her business self as CEO of a branding agency with her artistic self as an actress/performer is all part of the journey, and the new podcast ArtistCEO is devoted to capturing her journey in the hopes of answering the question: can business and art live in harmony?
When asked about her best tips for anyone struggling to balance their professional working lives with their artistic passions, DeJong identified four main ways to blend these different aspects of ourselves. Check out the ArtistCEO podcast, and keep reading for DeJong's advice.
1. Find a Teacher, Mentor, or Coach You Love Outside of Work
"Have you been putting your creativity on the back burner? If you want to make progress both professionally and in your artsy or creative interests, consider finding or hiring a teacher, mentor, or coach that really inspires you. As my business grew, I knew I was not giving adequate time to my acting. I knew there would never be a 'good time' — I just had to make the time. I started the search and found a teacher, Tom Bentley-Fischer, who I felt challenged and invigorated by. He provided inspiration, lessons, and accountability. I committed to a weekly class on Saturday mornings and eventually he mentored me in a production of a two-person play that I was able to perform while simultaneously running my brand agency. (Not gonna lie though, it was pretty exhausting!)"
2. Create Systems
"Creating systems in my business largely means assigning roles and responsibilities to my team, mentoring them where there are gaps in knowledge, and then stepping away to see what they can do on their own. In order to be able to take on any larger artistic project outside of day-to-day work, I had to be confident that my team knew exactly what to do if I wasn't available. To really dive into the process of deep creation and artistic expression, you don't just need time, but also mental space and security. If you are an individual and not delegating to a team, this might mean streamlining other systems in your life — like food, laundry, cleaning your house, child care, your exercise routine. Can you find ways to make all the day-to-day decisions easier or done for you? Routine is a tool. Create one that works for you and stick to it. Find a couple ways you can give yourself more mental space and physical time so you can let loose in your creative life."
3. Use Your Creativity in Personal Branding Projects
"Even if you don't run your own business, you can still consider your personal brand. What do you uniquely bring to the table and how can you tell that story? Developing a project outside of work that uses your artistic skills and creativity but also becomes a career asset is a smart way to integrate. Starting a blog, a video show, a podcast, or other project might be the creative outlet you need to feel like your whole self is being nourished. Pro tip: keep coloured markers at your desk and doodle while on conference calls."
4. Make a List of How Your Skills Intersect
"One thing I didn't fully realize before claiming my identity as a creative person and a CEO is how much my two worlds influenced one another. My artistic skills allow me to enter the unknown with my clients and use the creative process to emerge with insights and brand positioning that can only come out of the experience. Trusting the process like an artist is a huge strength in my business. Conversely, my professional side influences my artist self. Theatre managers and collaborators appreciate how organized I am, strategically thinking ahead to marketing and production value, which is not something all artists are comfortable with. Seeing where your skills overlap, intersect, and shore up one another can help you feel like a more well-rounded being as you go from arena to arena. You don't need to leave your creativity (or soul!) at the door when you come to the office — and you don't need to lose all structure and 'left-brain thinking' when you are being creative."