A lot of artists have problems shipping work, myself included. It’s scary. An artist’s work is the most intimate reflection of his own taste, views, and values. Putting work out into the world leaves an artist vulnerable to critique, criticism, indifference, or worst of all, the possibility that no one will even notice what he’s done. But real artists ship anyway.
Entrepreneurs often have similar fears: Is it done? Is it good enough? Should I tweak it? Should I fix this? Should this font be Helvetica instead of Ariel? Do I need to SEO the site before I launch it? But think about this aspect: unlike art, which is an intensely personal reflection of the artist, whatever an entrepreneur ships is a tool, with a distinct purpose. Whether it’s a wrench, or a washing machine, or a chocolate bar, or a logo design, the world isn’t judging your product strictly on how it strikes someone. I use products I don’t particularly like because those products work. They fill a need that needs filling. A product doesn’t have to be perfect, or pretty, or alluring, or fascinating to get sold. If artists can muster the balls to ship their intensely personal and mostly useless creations, so can you.
From this same lesson, artists can learn something too. Most entrepreneurs don’t try to serve the whole world. They find a problem that needs fixing, and they provide a solution. They seek out niches. Simple, but extremely effective.
Everybody wants to be liked. It hurts when someone doesn’t like you. Because art is a reflection of the person who created it, having someone dislike or be uninterested in your art hurts. But, any piece of art is never going to please all people. Name any masterpiece from history and I can find you eminent art historians and collectors who despise the work. An artist’s goal shouldn’t be to please all people. It doesn’t have to be. Struggling artists should act more like the entrepreneur: seek out a niche. You could make a very nice living selling 10 or 20 pieces per year at 5 or 10 grand a pop. That means you could be set for life if just a handful of collectors really like your work. A handful, out of the entirety of Earth’s population. So what if the almost the entirety of the Earth doesn’t know, care about, or like your work? You get to make a nice living doing what you love.