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My unconventional interview with Chris Guillebeau

All over the world wide web, there are conventional and unconventional sites that are worth exploring and worth your time. When I’m not creating art, I focus on marketing and yearn for books and information to help me cross to the next level of my career. Meet Chris Guillebeau. He’s the mastermind and writer of an unconventional blog called “The Art of Non-Conformity”. On his blog, Chris’s main goal is to provide unconventional strategies for life, work and travel. In addition, he’s very passionate about sharing information that will liberate you from the dreaded conventional life we were all brainwashed to believe in. There are alternatives now thanks to our digital age and Chris will show you how it’s done. As a world explorer of 140 countries and counting, he teaches others by his own life experiences. This man’s the real deal too. You can read about his mission, life and travels through his blog. He has built an empire of fans and has supported himself through his blog with his popular e-books covering various subjects of entrepreneurship.

I have recently purchased his e-book “The Unconventional Guide to Art & Money”, a guide that will “help you sell more of your art without selling out.” I’m an artist who wants to gain knowledge to get to that next level too. Stuff you won’t learn in college. And I think this beautifully-written book stands out for several reasons. Chris has a very respectable reputation in creating amazing, useful content that is easy to read and understand. Second, he also included some MP3 audio interviews along with PDF transcripts of the interviews of real successful working artists. And finally, there are continuing email updates of his guide. You will learn about why social media will help you sell your art, how to attract more viewers with a dynamic blog and a whole lot more.

What else is there? Plenty, and fortunately we have the opportunity to learn some more about the “Art & Money” book and about this unique, unconventional professor. Here’s the interview.

JL – Hi Chris, thank you for this interview first of all. Can you tell us about your blog and what inspires you to lead an amazing, unconventional life?

CG – Happy to do it. In 2006 I returned to the U.S. after four years as a volunteer in West Africa. I felt like I had a wide range of experiences, but no real convergence point among them. I started AONC as a way to help spread the message of non-conformity and connect with people who felt the same way.

I’m inspired by many things, but at the top of the list would be my readers, who continually encourage me to come up with things that are helpful and interesting.

JL – You have written 5 other books to lead an unconventional life. Why did you decide, or what inspired you to write “Art & Money”?

CG – The Art & Money project was inspired by the question of why so few artists fail to make a living with their art. Or rather, many fail but a few succeed – so what do the few do differently than the many? It was a fun investigation in talking to many successful artists all over the world.

JL – There are many “how-to” guides in becoming a successful artist. What makes the “Art & Money” book different, or stand out that other books might be lacking?

CG – Most of them don’t really focus on taking responsibility for your own career. They talk about how to get represented by a gallery – which is usually bad advice, since the vast majority of artists (even successful ones) aren’t gallery represented. So we try to take a step back and say “Isn’t there another way?” And in fact, there is.

JL – I love the fact you include the MP3 interviews, they really add a certain depth into the minds of specific, successful, working artists for your book. Why have you decided to include these audio interviews and were there any comments or experiences you would like to share that you learned yourself from these artists?

CG – Providing MP3 audio adds another layer to the guide and helps people who prefer to learn by audio. We also have transcripts of some of the interviews as well, for those who prefer to read.

JL – Here’s a few chosen excerpts of the transcripts with Chris’ permission:

Zoë Westhof: When you went independently, I’m sure although you were

still involved in the marketing and the PR before, it must have been even

more work. So do you ever feel like that takes away from your time doing


Hazel Dooney: To be honest, I feel that marketing completes the process

of making art. I don’t feel that I make art for part of the day and then I do

business for part of the day. What I do in terms of the Internet and the

business side of things is a facet of the art that I’m creating. It’s not

separate at all. Art is what I love to do, so I spend all of my time doing it. I

don’t feel it impinges on anything – or that anything else impinges on it. I

much prefer it this way.

Zoë Westhof: Do you feel like working for yourself has given you more artistic freedom?

Michael Nobbs: I think so, definitely, yes. Well, I do what I want. Day to

day I do exactly what I want, which is great.

Zoë Westhof: I think on your website you sell the prints yourself, or do

you use an outside service?

Leah Piken Kolidas: I do it myself. One of the first things I invested in

was a high-quality scanner, like a large-format scanner and printer, so that

I can do it at home. I started out – originally, I was hiring a photographer

to take pictures of my art and then do the prints.

But when he found out that I was selling the pieces from the digital files,

he kinda wanted a cut. So I had to figure out my own way of doing it. And

the scans are gorgeous, so that’s worked well for me.

JL – Social media can be a valuable component in broadening your audience (ex-blog, twitter, facebook). Though very popular, some people may not understand the significance of how social media can help their career. Has it helped in your own career?

CG – In some ways, social media is my career. I’m supported by readers who spread my work to other readers through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. I definitely recommend that artists take the time to establish a profile that connects their work with their personality.

JL – Do you think that traditional art avenues, such as art fairs, galleries, and co-ops are still relevant in the 21st century? Could artists still earn a living, in your opinion, without these traditional income routes?

CG – I think they are certainly relevant, yes. The thing is that they are no longer exclusive, which is good news for artists. The majority of successful artists will earn a living outside these traditional systems. But of course, if you have a chance to be represented, by all means go ahead as long as you can continue to build your own platform as well.

JL – Do artists have, or need to possess some unique, personal traits in order to be successful entrepreneurs in their own creative field?

CG – Yes, I think they need the unique traits of persistence and service. (In other words, anyone can obtain these traits, but unfortunately most people don’t.) You have to be willing to work to build a foundation over time. You have to maintain relationships with buyers and prospects.

The service part comes in as you look closely at the connection between you, your work, and buyers. Throughout history, many great works of art have made real differences in people’s lives. How can your art do that?

JL – You have traveled to at least 140 countries, which is astounding, especially that you’re still young. Have you noticed any differences or common qualities of artists’ attitudes in making a living in the USA compared to other countries? Is it easier/harder in certain geographical places to achieve their artistic dreams?

CG – I’m having fun. In many parts of the world, successful artists already understand that they have to take responsibility for their own career. In Ghana, for example, artists simultaneously pursue traditional venues like craft fairs while also trying to sell their work on an individual basis.

As to whether it’s harder or easier, well, that’s difficult to say. One positive thing about the U.S. is the culture of entrepreneurship and favorable small business laws. It’s very easy to start a business in the U.S. compared to elsewhere, so that certainly helps.