EJ and JB are archetypes of a digital bohemian. EJ collaborates with start-up partners around the world while doing research on co-creative entrepreneurship. JB is a DSLR-armed cycling creative producer, pushing the boundaries of participatory storytelling; a living example of EJ’s research focus. Here’s a playful but critical conversation about what they make of creative entrepreneurship.
MOBILITY / FLUIDITY
EJ: Since all essential tech to set up office anywhere became so ubiquitous, lifestyles are incredibly mobile. Creative entrepreneurs work in cafes, warehouses, friends’ apartments or shared office-space. The code is casual. It’s not just tech but often urban indie cultures that foster creative entrepreneurship. Digital bohemians embrace instability, enjoy frequent change and many diverse experiences. Since so few institutions reflect this mindset, freelancing offers great creative freedom.
JB: Generation Flux. Yep. That’s us. I want to be able to move in and around groups I’m interested in rather than being tied to a specific target group. One week I could be working with inmates and the next week with elderly people in a nursing home. I like the pressure and pace of having to create my own opportunities, I enjoy approaching people and organizations with ideas for engaging their clients. I enjoy networking, communicating, talking to new people all the time. I wouldn’t earn an income, if I didn’t like socializing. I enjoy the thrill of possibility. Even though it means living on the edge without much stability.
EJ: It’s such a paradox. The liberty to choose comes with financial constraints and it takes creativity to come up with alternative ways to sustain financially. I recommend two things: multiple revenue streams and personal branding slash visibility. They overlap. Learning to diversify revenue streams is one of the most important lessons. Gaining visibility becomes a fun but straining exercise. Once that works out though, you can license models, sell tickets, consult for ad agencies or brands, get listed as a speaker, apply for grants, get crowdfunding.
JB: Yeah crowdfunding is great but it’s hard work. I recently ran a campaign to set up a design school in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum. It was a challenge to build a personal connection between audiences/funders here and people in need in Dharavi. People easily hit a like button, but hesitate to share their money, time or credit card details. People respond to emotions not statistics, that’s why I try to attract money through storytelling. It helps making both my audience and my funders feel personally connected to the issue. I use digital creativity for social work but making money by doing social good is stigmatized. It’s a new concept but we have to make money to be sustainable.
EJ: I like what you said about addressing needs. Leveraging mutual benefit might also help you to reduce costs. An indirect way to fund oneself is unpaid collaboration with fellow entrepreneurs (co-entrepreneurship). For a single entrepreneur, working with a community of creatives is a business model that is based on both monetary compensation as well as other currencies, such as learning, a unique experience, recognition, access or fun. It brings valuable knowledge and helps reducing costs. Collaboration can be understood as a way to pay forward, meaning that exchange is not always direct, it can’t be. Instead creative co-entrepreneurs have to trust in circular exchange, which is why a strong moral code is so vital to make the system work.
JB: Yes! Skill sharing is like a trade. I help others on their projects because I get free help or use of their equipment for my projects, too. I also spend a lot of time working for free generating opportunities to make money. Like with the slum project in Mumbai, I was passionate about the cause but also knew it would increase my visibility, then of course it was an adventure. Experience is one of my most valued returns of collaborations; even more so than money. The other is working with friends. When I’m not bound by a paycheck I can choose who I work with and I choose friends! So often my work really is play. Am I a hedonist? Yes! Do I work my ass off? Yes! Am I loving being a creative and social entrepreneur? YES!
Jordan is an award-winning filmmaker, specializing in documentary shorts that highlight people at the periphery. The 30-year-old created Jordan’s participatory projects are cross-platform and include a mini-series with orphans in Uganda, a cross-platform production interweaving theatre and documentary with elderly people in nursing homes, and a multimedia installation in an abandoned house. She has worked with historical public housing community in The Rocks, women living in Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, people with schizophrenia, inmates, children from violent backgrounds, and now, TURF and Vibewire. Follow @jordan_bryon or visit www.wiredawake.com.au
As a media anthropologist Ele explores life for the new generation of creative entrepreneurs at the cross-section of collaboration, speculative design and storytelling. Fusing her PhD with her R&D at Reboot Stories resulted in www.learndoshare.net, which harnesses pitfalls and successes of social innovation, and uses diy days as a testing ground for open designs. Follow @elejansen or visit www.elejansen.com