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The Your Ladders Blog

There are a lot of things to think about when you're navigating a performing arts path. These blog topics will help.

What Do You Tell Folks About Your Work?

Last week’s blog post was about “Why Are You Doing Your Work?", with an accompanying worksheet designed to help you drill down on that. Often a creative path requires a hustle that blurs your reason for doing the work in the first place, so figuring out your why is critical.

This week, let’s have a conversation about what you tell folks about your work. You “tell” folks in conversation. But you also tell folks by how you show up in the world.

I remember the first time I made a business card that said “writer” on it. I’d only begun my journey as a writer who wanted to be published. Up until then I loved writing, but didn’t take my talent seriously enough to pursue with intention. That changed almost twenty years ago, and I decided I was going to my first conference to meet other writers and learn. At the last minute I ran out and bought a sheet of business cards I could print out. I put my name and email on it, and added...

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Why are you doing your work?

Starting this week and going throughout March I am going to be offering a weekly opportunity for you to have a mind shift as an artist. This internal process will clarify your work and your path. It may reboot your passion. Or it may be an opportunity for you to explore shifts in your life to get you back to why you started your journey.

Listen, art work is real work. It takes effort, in unconstrained by 9-5 rules, requires a lot of hustle and the rewards are not always financial. In fact, for most folks I know, the financial aspects of doing the work cause anxiety. We also live in a society (and I'm talking to my US readers here) where art work is not valued.

All of this compounds to add to the suffering artist meme that is easy to buy into. 


Artists have a special lens that allows them to see live in technicolor and 3D, with all of the glory, the blemishes, and beauty and the angst in sharp focus. They got that lens by answering the call of the muse, by listening to...

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One Step at a Time

I've been reading about goals a lot lately, and listening to podcasts on the same subject. Here's the thing, it is one thing to set a goal, especially a large inspirational goal. But without action, those goals will only taunt you. The action doesn't have to be huge, but it does need to be consistent.

Let me give you an example. One of my objectives for 2019 is to take better care of myself. So I've set goals around that--sleep more, take a day off every week (or try to), lose 30 pounds.

Now, losing 30 pounds is a big goal. It will happen one step at a time. But here's the thing--I need to consistently take actions towards that goal every day if I want to pull it off. Make good food choices. Move. Drink water. Leaning forward and taking small actions will get me to my goal. Or not, but I'll be closer than if I didn't take those small, daily actions.

The same goes for your artistic path. You should set goals for yourself and your career that feel large and audacious. And every day...

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Why do I need a plan?

Are you an artist who is comfortable with creating the work, and you can imagine the applause, but the leap in between stymies you? There can be a few reasons for that. Fear of business. Fear of failure. Comfort with living in the "I've created this" zone, and fear of moving out of it. 

I get it, I really do. But here's what I know. There can be many reasons to not share your work, but fear of the business side can't be one of them. 

I created Your Ladders to help performing artists bridge that gap--build their own ladders with the tools that I provide and teach. I'm focusing on performing artists because I've worked in the performing arts for over 30 years as an arts administrator, and arts management classes for almost 15 years.

I've broken the process down into three steps:

  1. Creating a plan
  2. Figuring out the money
  3. Letting folks know about the plan

Why do you you need a plan? What am I talking about with the plan? The plan is the foundation--the beginning of a business...

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Your Marketing Story

When you think about marketing, think beyond the transactional “this will help me sell tickets” or “this will help me raise money” reasons for marketing. That is part of marketing, of course. But marketing encompasses many things, and today I’d like you to remind you how to use marketing to tell your story. The story of you as a producer, or as a company, which are as important as the work you are producing. Here are some of the areas where you should make sure you are telling a consistent story.

Do you have an “About Us” page on your website? On your Facebook page? What does your Instagram profile say? Take advantage of those opportunities to let folks know how to reach you, what your origin story is, and what they should expect of you.

Your unique value statement is what audiences expect of you. Here’s a link to a “5 Arts Thoughts” video I did about Unique Value Statements. This is different than a mission statement,...

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The Business of Preparing for Your Audition


Years ago one of my mentors taught me a great phrase. Instead of telling someone they weren't doing well, tell them that there was something getting in the way of their success, and it needed to be addressed. After years of sitting behind the desk, checking folks in for auditions, I saw enough things that got in folks way of having a good audition that I decided to address them.

My goal was to create a short video to help performers get ready for the administrative side of their auditions. But then the video got longer, and I realized I needed to create a checklist to help. Head over to the Audition Prep page to watch the video and download the free checklist.

I'm not dealing with the artistic side of auditions. I'm dealing with the business side. Make sure you don't have unnecessary obstacles in your path. Your work is too important.

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Be Right About Rights


Last week I read an article on Broadway News that made me think. Musical Theatre International, MTI, had sued a theater company last June because it had come to their attention that the theater company was doing musicals for their summer camp, but hadn’t been paying for the rights. Last week a judge ruled in favor of MTI and awarded them $450,000 in damages.

One of the themes of my teaching and learning is that once you know, you can’t unknow. Today, reading this blog, you know that getting rights to a work is an important part of your path. You may already know it, and have good practices around rights. Or you may be confused about rights, and decide not to deal with them. The second is not a good path.

What are rights? Rights are both the permission to do the work and a payment for that permission. At the core, the permission is crucial. Do you have permission to do the work you are doing? Have you paid for that permission?

Some of you may be thinking that you’re...

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Branding Yourself and Your Work


In addition to being an arts administrator and teacher, I am a published mystery writer. I write three different series, each of which are branded separately. But I realized early on I needed to brand myself as a mystery writer with three different names, so I created a "brand" for myself, JHAuthors

Branding is an important thing for artists to think about. How you approach it can be subtle. It's about managing expectations for folks. Making some branding choices helps folks think about you and your work easily and consistently when they follow you online. This is the beginning of a larger conversation, but a place to start.

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Valuing Your Work

This week's 5 Arts Thoughts is about valuing your work as an artist. So many artists are asked to work for free, for exposure. Money and the arts are a complicated conversation, but an important conversation to have. This video discusses how to place a number on your work, how to work with others to set a value, and what to think about when you're producing work.

Again, this is a complicated conversation, but one worth having.

BTW, this conversation ties into arts advocacy efforts, and how the arts and arts work is valued, or undervalued, in our culture. 

Here's the video:

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Think About Accessibility

When you are producing work, scheduling a rehearsal or audition, sending out casting notices, or looking at spaces, remember to think about accessibility. In this #5ArtsThoughts video I offer five ideas to consider.


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