Crafting a business around your creative passion is no walk in the park. It takes a spectacular work ethic and significant entrepreneurial prowess but in 2017 there’s a path to creative freedom and specific steps you can take to earn income independently.
Here, self-starting professionals Banele Khoza, Kenny Morifi-Winslow, Lenny-Dee Doucha and Justice Rendani Mukheli share insights into how they built their creative businesses. One thing they share in common? Each self-identify as multi-hyphenates, juggling multiple career paths and interests with finesse.
Fashion anthropologist, writer and brand engagement specialist
Kenny writes for a variety of publications including her own IIIRD CITIZEN. Behind the scenes, she conceptualises brand engagement strategies for emerging designers, musicians and occasionally commercial set production.
What are the benefits of being a multihyphenate? “It’s important as a freelance content creator to take yourself seriously to the point where you imagine yourself as a business. Don’t rely on one income stream. Diversify your work to a point where you can disseminate on any platform. Have multiple gigs going at the same time; some short term, some long term, some labour intensive and some thought intensive. Keep producing. People can’t ignore consistency.
“Don’t wait for the opportunity to come to you. Go looking for it. Knock on doors, submit pitches, collaborate, do projects for fun and just keep putting them out. It may not happen today, tomorrow or even next year, but if you are consistent and persistent, it will happen eventually.” — Kenny
Justice Rendani Mukheli
Photographer and filmmaker
Justice Mukheli is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker based in Johannesburg. He is also one third of creative collective I See A Different You, which has amassed a giant fanbase through their photography and video work.
How do you know when to work for free and when to charge? “It’s important to work your way to a level of industry standard. I started out wanting to be a graphic designer. I would design flyers and t-shirt prints for people for free because I wanted the exposure and practice. I did that for over a year and through it met someone who got me into the advertising industry as an art director at Draft FCB. By then I had built a portfolio that proved I had a passion for it. So my advice is do whatever it takes to get you closer to your dream. This means putting in the work by all means necessary even if you are not getting paid.
“As soon as you have worked your way up you can charge industry rates. If you charge less, it is hard to get out of that box. Clients you get from then onward will want to pay the small fee you charged the previous person. It is in your best interest to know how much your work is worth.” — Justice
Musician, art director and stylist
Lenny-Dee is the lead singer and keyboardist of Johannesburg-based band Bye Beneco as well as a freelance stylist and art director with a roster of clients that include Vodaphone and MTN.
How do you make a steady income as a freelancer? “Try out different job roles because this will assist in the consistency of your work flow. For instance, if styling is something you enjoy, you might enjoy art direction too. It’s so important to start out by assisting well established people. You learn a lot about the ins and outs of the industry and about your capabilities. It’s an excellent way to network too.
“The main reason I freelance is so that I have time for my music, the thing I love the most. I can pick and choose what jobs I want to work on. Sometimes you’ve got to hit the grind to make that dosh but its mostly cool work with styling and art direction because your office is a different space everyday.” — Lenny
Contemporary artist and creative consultant
Banele Khoza is a Pretoria-based visual artist and recent winner of the 2017 SA Taxi Foundation Art Award and Absa L’Atelier’s 2017 Gerard Sekoto Award.
How can social media help users turn their creative hobby into a business? “It’s a free marketing space and artists need to utilise these platforms to generate traffic for their exhibitions. It also develops trust with clients and potential buyers. They can see that you believe in your brand and are aspiring to long term success.”
How do you develop a budget for your art business?
“I save between 70% to 80% of my earnings and this gives me the opportunity to create what I would like to put out and not what I think will be mass taste. This strengthens my brand I believe.” — Banele