Make Creativity Your Career: Six Exercises to Create a Successful Side Project | Andy J. Pizza | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Make Creativity Your Career: Six Exercises to Create a Successful Side Project

teacher avatar Andy J. Pizza, Illustrator, Designer & Podcaster

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Your Big Break


    • 3.

      Step One: Who Am I?


    • 4.

      Step Two: Set Your Goals


    • 5.

      Step Three: Mirror Your Goals


    • 6.

      Step Four: Start Your Side Project


    • 7.

      Step Five: Promote Your Side Project


    • 8.

      Step Six: Press On or Pivot


    • 9.

      Game Over!


    • 10.

      Bonus: Andy's Story


    • 11.

      Join Andy in Unmaking the Myth


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Unlock the unique creative career you’ve always imagined! Join creative star Andy J. Pizza as he leads you on a “creative side quest” to articulate your creative goals and craft a simple strategy for achieving them.

Andy J. Pizza always knew he didn’t want a “regular” job, but wasn’t sure what he should do instead. Through trial and error, Andy built a creative career he loves, doing a mix of illustration, writing and podcasting projects that are true to his unique strengths and keep him challenged every day. 

The key to his success? Creative side projects — the magical key to exploring your creativity on your own terms, getting noticed and crafting a creative career you love.

Now, Andy shares how you can do the same. In six straightforward steps, you will:

  • Define what a creative career means to you
  • Set goals to get you where you want to go
  • Establish small steps to get you started
  • Gain marketing and promotion strategies that work
  • Analyze your progress to ensure you’re on the right path

Plus, download Andy’s exclusive workbook so you can follow along throughout the class!

Whether you’re an illustrator, designer, filmmaker, photographer, or writer, all creatives are welcome in this fun and accessible class. When you’re done, you’ll have the tools and frameworks you need to break the mold, take a step in the right direction, and craft a sustainable creative career that’s unique and fulfilling for you!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Andy J. Pizza

Illustrator, Designer & Podcaster


Andy J. Pizza is an artist and designer creating work that is always evolving, but forever rooted in whimsical narrative and modern graphics.

Andy is the creator of the Indie Rock Coloring Book and the daily NOD drawing project, as well as a collaborator of the Color Me _______ Exhibition with Andrew Neyer.

He has worked on projects for Sony, Google, Smart Car, Urban Outfitters, Real Simple, Wired Magazine, Starburst Candy, Brisk Iced Tea, The Economist, Bloomberg, Converse, Yo Gabba Gabba, NYLON Magazine, Little White Lies, Shaun White, and Poketo.

Check out his work here on his website.


Watch the first episode of Unmaking the Myth with Andy below.


See full profile

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: I think it's Dolly Parton that said art is really about knowing who you are and doing it on purpose. Hey, I'm Andy J Pizza and I am an illustrator, podcaster and public speaker. Today we're going on a creative side quest to build a side project that will help you orchestrate your big break. There's nothing more essential than that big break moment. Everything becomes a snowball back to acrobat, but orchestrating that, making that happen is really tricky. So to me, the creative side quest is all about an active strategic approach to your creative career, where you can take it in your own hands, find out who you are, find your own value, and then build something that proves that to other people. These tactics, these ideas, has allowed me to take the reins of my own career, pick places on the map that I want to go, and then just actively advance in that direction. Anybody who wants to make a living out of there creativity can use this process. Whether you're just starting and you've never had a big break and you're waiting for that first one, or your later in your career and things are getting stale and it's time for our reinvention, please share your work and your progress along the way in the project gallery below. All right. Are you ready? Let's go on our creative side quest. Let's go, let's ride. Let the quest begin. There you go, one of those something. 2. Your Big Break: So why does anyone need a big break? It sounds maybe a little hokey or a little self serious. Do we really need that anymore? But essentially, I like that term because you see this as an inflection point and the great creative careers. The ones that I want to emulate, the ones I want to be like, have had some moment where they were let within the inner confines of their industry or market. Until you get some credible name that will let you in the door, you're stuck on the outside looking in and this process is hyper-focused on creating that inflection point. Creating that pivotal moment where everything changes. It won't change everything overnight, but it will create a sequence of events that will get you closer and closer to that elusive success mark and what I mean by success is finding that place where you're thriving financially, but you're not sacrificing your creative fulfillment at the same time. It's a tricky tightrope to walk, but this process is intended to help you pivot your way there. There are a lot of moving parts to this class. There's a lot of strategic thinking. It's easy to get bogged down in the weight, in the weeds of strategic planning and I found it really helpful to lighten it up and make it easier to digest by using an analogy. So I'm a huge fan of Zelda. Huge, I'm kind of obsessed with that and the newest Zelda is a masterpiece. It's a complete work of art and in that game, one of the things that makes it so brilliant is that it's open world and what that means is everything you do in the game is virtually a side quest. You don't have to complete any particular part other than one thing which happens to be breaking into the castle and defeating the ultimate bad guy, Ganon. You can rush straight to the castle, straight to the gate and attempt to slay Ganon and from the start of the game. You don't even have clothes on. You've got basically a pair of medieval underwear and a stick. As you approach the gate you know what happens, don't yeah? The gatekeepers arrive and they come up to you and they zap you with one laser and you're dead and what you have to do is go on all these side quests. You have to arm yourself with the weapons that will allow you to break into this castle and slay the bad guy and that to me is exactly my experience in my creative career. So defeating that final bad guy is the point of the game, but the fact of the matter is these side quests, these things that you do around the point of the game, those are the places where you're going to find everything you need to arm yourself for your big break into the castle slaying your dragon. So yes, we're going to get to the point where we talk about who your Ganon is? What's this dragon you're going to slay? What castle? What market are you trying to break into? But before we get carried away there, we've got to talk about what you're actually going to do. We're going to start by defining your industry market and niche that will give us a really good idea of what your goal should be. Your goal is essentially the benchmark of success within your industry market and niche. Once we have that goal, we're going to study it, we're going to pick apart all its particulars and that will give us everything we need for the constraints for our side project. Once we have the side project, we've started working on it, we're making the creative work. Then we'll talk about how do we get that work into the market, how do we orchestrate that break. Once we've done all that, we'll step back, we'll take a look and we'll say, "Do we need to press on or do we need to pivot?" Throughout each lesson, I'm going to be putting in examples from my career, all of the side quests that I've been on. If I was a real fantasy warrior, I'd have all of these badges of honor and badges of scars of shame from all the side quests I've went on. The ones that worked out and the ones that didn't and I'll tell you everything I learned throughout. Also we'll be working on exercises that help get these big ideas down into the work down on paper. So we can get down to brass tacks and get it done. 3. Step One: Who Am I?: We're going to start with a tiny question: Who are you? Why is this so important? It's important because you need to communicate who you are, what you do, and why you're different if you want to get the jobs that are perfectly suited to you. Yes, it's true. Like some people are lucky enough to find that one director or that one publisher who sees someone's true potential, but that's like one in a million. Most people get cast for the things that they start in, for the things that they've already done. As an illustrator starting out, I would think, I put a dog in my portfolio and to me, I'm communicating. I can draw dogs. I have a sense of anatomy. I've got all. I'm communicating all this stuff. But then I would just get jobs drawing dogs. Like no, it's a really rare thing that a director or an art director will seen something you did and think, "You know, I think if they can do that, they can do all of this other stuff." You really have to communicate who are you and to do that, you've got to known it. So first off, we're going to get into the nitty-gritty of what makes up who you are as a creative individual. We talk a lot about who we are as creative people in lots of vague ways. We say things like industry market and niche interchangeably. We'll use them to mean vaguely the same thing. But it's been really, really helpful to me to find what each of those terms actually means, and understand how our identity breaks down into those categories, and getting them all sorted in a very particular hierarchy. So we're going to make our creative identity bulls-eye. Now, you're probably already familiar with the big outer ring. We can think about these as like the different layers of the castle you're trying to break into. The outer ring is what's known as your industry. So you probably know what your industry is. It is determined by your most valuable gift. If you have a gift in music, you're in the music industry. If you're telling me die, how is that new information? We're going to get to the new information. But this one's probably pretty obvious. So the second inner ring of this castle, this creative identity bull's eye just to mix metaphors, is your market. It's the place within the industry that you fit. It's where people with the flavor of gifting that you have congregate and a very particular corner of your industry and make their living. So the idea is if you are an illustrator, your market might be the corner of the industry of magazine illustration. If you are a designer, your market might be logo design, and this is where you fit in. The last and final inner ring of this castle and of this bull's eyes is what we call your niche. So if the market is where you fit in, the niche is how you stand out. Seth Godin wrote a book called Purple Cow and he talks about this idea that silk milk, which is almond milk, couldn't sell enough product. Whatever changed everything for silk milk was even though it didn't need to be refrigerated, they put it in the refrigerator section along with the other milk. The thing that happen is it creates this focal point. So in design, one of the classic biggest design principles is the idea of focal point, where you create a pattern and then you break it. It created this thing that says milk, milk, not milk. That's when everything changed for that brand. So yes, the market is where you find your people, but the niche is the part of the industry that is just you. It's only you in there. Now, you might get bogged down in this idea of, "I'm not really that original," but yeah, everything about you, you might have in common with someone else in your market. What I would do is list your industry, list your market, and then list a handful of things that define your niche, and the sum of those things that will help you find your own particular place. I'll give you a few examples. I'll start with me, how this works out for my illustration practices. So my industry is illustration. Within illustration, my people, the people that I believe are making the tastiest work in the industry where I find I really fit in. My market is kids books, those are my people. But within that market, my niche is weird, humor, dreams, pizza, story ark. All of those things make up my niche, but we can pretty much do this for anybody that's consistently successful in creativity. Why don't we just, I don't know, talk about someone you might have herd of. Beyonce. Beyonce's industry, music industry, obvious. The market? Now, this was kind of a toss up for me and you're probably going to have a similar thing where you're thinking, "Is this my market or is that part of my niche?" But you got to think about it in terms of hierarchy. So if we're talking about we could say R&B or there's some hip hop roots, but ultimately, the music station that she's appearing on most is the pop station, and so that's a bigger circle where she fits, in. Those are who her peers are. So we're going to say pop for her market. But then her niche, it's maid up of being an icon. It's about self-empowerment. Every little particular thing that makes Beyonce who Beyonce is, that is her niche within that market. 4. Step Two: Set Your Goals: The next thing we got to do is come up with our goal. What a goal does is it allows us to bake in all these layers of strategy into our plan. Now, some creative people chafe a little bit at the word strategy, and I think I understand why. Strategy is defined by having an end in mind and then reverse engineering a plan. I understand that in a way strategy is the opposite of creativity. Creativity is starting without an end in mind. It's starting to find an end that you didn't expect. If we do the strategic stuff up front, then the creative work can be where the creativity happens instead of in your career. To be strategic, we have to have an end in mind. We have to have a goal. We have to want something. We have to know what we want, and when you know what you want, you can make a concerted effort to a very particular point and makes strategy to get there. You can pivot your way there. You can measure your success on how much further are you progressing towards that goal, and it's going to be your true north. So the exercise for this particular lesson is deceptively simple. It's going to sound like something you can do in like three seconds when in fact this might take you a week. What we're going to do is we're going to write down your goal on a little piece of paper that's not bigger than the paper that you find in a fortune cookie, and the reason we're going to do this is that it requires so much clarity to write out a goal in that small format so that it's just very clear to your whole brain. To the conscious part of your brain, that's the hero in the story that wants something and the subconscious part of your brain. The subconscious party of brain is the audience, and we loved that. The subconscious is back there saying, "We'd love to help you if you would just tell us what you want." What are you trying to do? Milton Glaser has this activity that Debbie Millman adapted. They both have developed this practice of the five-year plan, and one of the things I talk about is once you write out this five-year plan, you can write it down. You might even completely forget about it stuff at it in a drawer and then five years from now, you find that plan and your mind will be blown by how much of this stuff has manifested into reality without you even meaning to, that's the power of your subconscious. Early on in my career, I saw this happen in a really obvious way. I was interviewed for a magazine and they said, "Is there anything you'd like to do in the next couple of years? I said, "I don't know publish a book, makes them t-shirt designs with a cool company and dadada. Then I found that book a few years later, I was like, oh, I did all of those things within the next year. Writing your goal builds off the last lesson. Remember you're a creative, identity bull's eye. Basically, your goal should be a summary of everything you learned in that practice. So your industry, your market, your niche, you're looking for the benchmarks of success within that bullseye. What's the perfect client? What's the perfect customer within that bullseye? You need to take that lead. So for me, this has looked like a bunch of different things. Like I said, I've been on a bunch of different side quests and each one had their own particular goal based on my industry market and niche. So one of my early ones was going to work for the New York Times, I wanted to do big esoteric questions in the world of psychology and science, and they do a lot of great articles for that, and it's a great benchmark of success for that niche. So one of my early ones was that illustration industry, the editorial market and within that market, those types of topics that are covered in the New York Times. Boom, my fortune was made. A more recent goal from one of my side quest was to have a picture book on wide release by Chronicle Books. The reason Why I chose that publisher is because they perfectly mirrored my niche. My niche, the types of picture books that I wanted to make were riskier, more adventurous, unorthodox, and Chronicle Books is the publisher that puts out those books. I also do side quests, again, it doesn't just apply to visual art. I do side quest for every part of my career. So when I wanted to get into public speaking, I wanted to book a keynote talk at the big illustration conference, Icon illustration. So there we go. Now, it's time for you to write your own goal, to tally your own fortune. What you do after that, what I do is I put it in my wallet or you can put it in your purse or wherever, you can put it in in your phone case, but someplace where over the next six months to two years, you're going to accidentally come in contact with this a bunch of times, and it's going to help you to redirect your energy and get you back pivoting towards that creative side quest tower. 5. Step Three: Mirror Your Goals: You have your goal now, it gets really juicy. We're actually going to get to work. We're going to create our side quest side project. What we're going to do is we're going to reverse engineer the specifics of this project from our goal directly. Here's why that is really important. The reason is, like I said earlier, there's only a few directors out there. A few people hiring for something they're not seeing in your work. That is way the exception, that's winning the lottery might never happen in your career. What almost always happens is, you get hired to do something that you've already proved that you could do. So the more clearly you can show that you can do exactly what this person is looking for, the more likely you're going to be hired for that thing. So I work with creative people from time to time and one person I worked with had a particularly good version of this process, was he wanted to work for Patagonia. That was his goal. He was in the industry of design, he was in the market of brand design, and the niche was virtually outdoor, ethically sourced, creative work. So for him, Patagonia was everything. So he had to create a project that mirrored what he wanted to get hired for by that brand. So essentially, the project he came up with was a outdoor Xen, that was basically to the specifications of their catalog, with one secret special caveat which we'll get to in a second. To give you another example, let's talk about Billy Eichner, from Billy on The Street. I'm a huge fan of his comedy. I heard him on Mark Marilyn's podcasts intuitively, recount this entire process almost verbatim, from finding what industry he's in. He's in the comedy industry. He's in the market of comedy acting. He didn't want to do stand up. He wanted to do improv comedy acting and the niche of angry gay comic. That's his words not mine. Then he wanted to have his own show, his goal was to be the angry gay comic version of Kathie Lee Gifford. That's what he said. He wanted his own talk show. So he created a show called Creation Nation for a local bar, I think it was, it was just like a random place and that turned into that show being put on at UCB and that show eventually, became Belly on The Street. So he did it point for point exactly what we're doing right here. So whether these people knew it or not, the people that have had this consistent success where they're taking the reins of their own career, making stuff happen, most likely, they are following these steps. It's time to get to work. Let's actually put some stuff down onto paper. When I was in college, my last project was actually to write our own dream creative brief. That started my first big creative side quest. So what we're going to do is, we're going to take the brief that you would get from this dream opportunity, from your goal and basically, just replicate that. All of the answers are in that brief. It's amazing because again, we're saving the creativity, all those creative juices for the actual creative work and not for building the project. Everything you need to know is in the project scope that they would be sending to you. So the first thing that's going to be on that creative brief is the problem that they're trying to solve. Now, in the next lesson, we're going to go deep into defining this problem and what the key ideas are around this. But one thing I do want to mention here is, the only difference between what this goal has been in the past and what you're going to create is that, the problem you're going to solve is going to be how to improve upon what they've already done. If you're just going to replicate what they've done, they don't need you. This is your chance to prove to them why they have to hire you. So you're not just remaking a Patagonia catalog to the exact specifications, you're also saying, you're using your own taste to say what's missing. I like to think about it like cooking in literal taste. If you go eat a dish from your favorite restaurant, if you want to get hired there, you have to think, okay, this dish is amazing but what I can really use is a little turmeric. That's your creativity. You're adding to the dish, you're re-inventing it, somewhat. So when we think about problem that's going to be one of the things you think about, is yeah, exact specifications but how do we elevate it? How do we push it to the next level? That's why they would hire you. The second thing you got to think about is scope. So this is just what are all the specification of this project? A lot of them are going to be obvious. They probably already exist. You might want to change some things here and there just push it a little bit further but essentially, that's we're going to write down the exact specification with a little tweak that we're going to get to in a few videos. The final pieces deliverables and that's essentially, what is this thing we're making? Where's it going to live? We'll get to the specifics of that in video further on in the class. Let's go back to one of my earlier examples where I was going in the illustration industry, the editorial market, and the big idea publications and I was setting my sights for working with the New York Times. If that was my goal, the ideal project would be, if you want to work for a newspaper, create a newspaper. It doesn't have to be huge, it doesn't have to be the same huge thing, but just a version of it that mirrors it enough, that you paint the picture in the people and the deal makers and the gatekeepers minds that you are the perfect ideal candidate for their thing. So what you might do is create a newspaper either write your own articles and illustrate them, or source articles, collaborate with friends or go find raw material. But essentially, your job, if you want to work for a newspaper is to create a newspaper. 6. Step Four: Start Your Side Project: There's a secret in each of these categories that's going to maximize your strategy for this project. Let's write the brief. Now, for you, you're going to actually put specifics into the problem's scope and deliverables. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to give you a key idea for each one, that's going to allow you to bake in different layers of strategy to get the most from this project. First, we have the problem. What's the value of your work? Why would they hire you? What's it doing for their brand? Let's go back to this example with the guy from Patagonia. Why are they making these catalogs? To sell products. How do you sell products? Hopefully, great photography, great design, great illustration, and what does it mean? How do you get someone to engage? What are the targets that you're trying to hit? You need to get in touch with, why would they hire you to do this creative work? The secret layer of strategy that you want to bake into this section is, be generous. What does that mean? It means, for your project, you're going to be giving away the value that your work would serve for that client, customer, or brand. So the idea here is, what would they be getting from this particular piece of work that you're providing? How do you just go straight to market and give that thing away in a generous fashion. So for instance, if you want to work for a Science magazine, what's the value of a Science magazine? Why do people trade their money for that value? How can you just show up in places like Instagram, places like podcasting, places like your own magazine, maybe free giveaway magazines, and give away that value in this thing. If you give away value, word will spread. Next, we're going to go to scope. Now, most of this is going to be obvious for you, but there is one part of the scope that might not be obvious, that you can take advantage of and really get the marks out of your project, and that is to make sure that your project connects and collaborates with other creative people in your market. Here's what I mean by connects and collaborate. The idea is, that you're not just some lone island out in the ether floating, expecting someone to just stumble upon your work. It's a lot easier if you use the power of influencer marketing. So you want to bake in collaboration into the project, into the scope of the work. How can you reach out and make others a part of your project? Look around at your peers, people with the same level of followers as you, the same situation, same goals, people in that market, and reach out to those people and bring them into the project. Gary Vaynerchuck says that, influencer marketing is virtually word of mouth at scale. Essentially, there's a trust that these people create with their followers, and if you can get them to cosine what you do, you've just gained a bunch of trust from a whole new group of people, and that's essential to breaking in. One of my recent, probably arguably most successful side quest, is my podcast, the creative peptide podcast. For the first like 50 episodes or so, it was purely just me, just monologues, and it was gaining traction slowly. But what I found was really explosive, is when I started having guests. When I started incorporating peers and friends, and I started interviewing them, and then also being on other people's podcasts. So you can't really miss this, it might be one of the toughest nut to crack of this whole process, but you will not regret putting in the time. On this last section, we're going to talk about deliverables. Now, you're probably going to give yourself a timeline, a deadline for when this thing needs to be done. When I started my podcast, I didn't really know how it was going to go. But before I got started, I decided I'm going to do 100 episodes of this thing. The prime to decide your timeline and deadline, is not in the middle of the marathon. That's when your head is not right, and so I knew five episodes into making my podcast that I was going to be like, maybe I should just give up. But before I've done it, I decided I'm going to do a 100 episodes. So that's where you're going to define some of that in this section. But let me tell you the layer of strategy that you need to bake into this part, location. What do I mean by it? This is super essential, and I don't see a lot of creative people taking this as seriously as they need to. Where you're putting this project out into the world really matters. You can think about it like, if you're opening a coffee shop in a new city, you're not going to go to the place where it's overdeveloped, there's 15 coffee shops, and you're just going to be white noise. You're going to go find, where's the place where there's extra underpriced attention? Where's the place where there's no good coffee? This is an up-and-coming area, that's where you're going to open your shop. There was a time where YouTube had all this extra attention. There was tons of people just try, they couldn't get enough. For a while, it was podcasting, I happened to get lucky in terms of location. I started my podcast the same week that serial came out, which is what put podcasts on the map, but I was lucky enough and strategic enough to see that podcasts were up and coming. The best place to find your location and find where that underpriced attention is, is just to pay attention to where you pay attention. Where is your attention right now? That it wasn't six months ago. What are you looking into? What's exciting you? Where are those avenues? That personal taste is going to be your true north. So pay attention to your attention. That's where you're going to find that answer. Now, it's time for you to get to work, download the blank brief in the class resources, and start filling this out. But remember, each point on this brief has extra layers of strategy that you don't want to forget to bake into the specifics of your project. Go get started. 7. Step Five: Promote Your Side Project: You have your brief and now basically, this is where we're going to speed up time, this is where you're living your '80s montage, bluffed in those creative way, it's putting in the time, making the work. You're going start working on your project. That's the creative part, that's the fun part, that's the part I can't do for you. But once you get to the point where you're ready to share this with some potential clients or gatekeepers, that's where we get to the marketing. Let's go back to Zelda. So if you've made the brief and you've started working on the projects, that is your pencil in the stone, sword in the stone moment. That work is your Master Sword, that's going to allow you to slay your dragon, but what you don't want to do is waste all of your energy getting in the castle, right? You want to save some energy for when that brief comes over through your inbox, right? So here's how we're going to do that. Even if you have all of the heart containers, all the way fall, all the armor and all the weapons you need to get in the castle, there's still a more strategic way than just walking up to the front gate. In the game, there's actually a backdoor to the castle where there's no gatekeepers and enemies. That's what we need to find. Where are there no gatekeepers and I have a strategic exercise that's going to help you find that back door. So here's what I want you to do. We're going to write backwards, 10 to one. Actually, you can even list more than this hopefully, but for the purposes of this we're just going to start here and that'll make sense why we're doing this in just a second. To explain this exercise, I'm going to use my side quest of The Indie Rock Coloring Book, so let's go back and explain how The Indie Rock Coloring Book worked up into this point in the process. So it was in when I wanted to be in that industry of illustration, working in the market of music, the illustration for the music world, within the niche of screen printed gig posters for indie bands. I had that goal, I really wanted to work with Modest Mouse and I set my targets on doing posters for the band Modest Mouse and I reversed engineering in a project where I did The Indie Rock Coloring Book that ended up being published by Chronicle Books and when I was ready to send that out, I couldn't just send it to Modest Mouse, right? Modest Mouse was at the top of my list, but the truth is, they were a big band on a major record label. No contact information on their website and even their manager that I could email, never replied to any emails, there were lots of those guardian spider robots with their lasers, set on all of that incoming traffic. There was tons of people trying to get in that front door and so I had to figure out how do I get into the back. So here's what I did. I listed out my top 10 favorite bands. They have to still be within the confines of that market, that music industry market and just naturally as I'm going down, they're getting slightly more obscure, but the credibility sometimes goes up, which is a real key factor. Here's what ends up happening, I take all of my marketing efforts and I do a disproportionate amount of effort to the people here at the bottom of the list. Here's the thing, up here all of these bands have big gatekeepers, big scary guardians blocking entry into that gate, but as you go down, more and more of these bands have their contact information, personal email addresses, published to their site. It might not be true anymore, but at the time, at least these bottom two, [inaudible] , both had their e-mail address on their website, I sent them my work and they were my first two gig poster jobs. So remember, this was for my Indie Rock Coloring Books side quest, but this applies to any creative project that you can be working on. Back to my goal of working with The New York Times, that might have been at that top of the list, but as I walked down, I find The Portland Mercury, which is very credible, but also a lot easier to get in the door. Once you're in the door, once you're working with credible people within that market, that's all you need to up your reputation. There's a lot of people at the top of this list, that their biggest inspirations are here, down at the bottom and they're more obscure references. If you're working with their favorite bands, they're much more likely to hire you. When you're making your list, you're going to want to hold these two things in your mind the entire time: you want to be thinking about visibility. Each thing on here needs to have a legitimate amount of visibility, but hopefully the ones at the top have more visibility than the ones at the bottom. The visibility should be going down as you get further down. But in an inverse way, as you go down, you might see an increase credibility and what you're trying to find is, where's the perfect sliver of those two things? That's where you're going to put a disproportionate amount of marketing towards this point of entry. If you spend extra amounts of energy in those weak points of entry, where the visibility is low but the credibility as high, that's where you're going to have it. That's where you're going to have your big break. It's what all this has been for. This is the moment, where you break through and everything changes forever. So this is your list. Now, the deeper you go, the longer you make that list, the more you can find that tension between visibility and credibility. The more research you can do, that is the game changer. When you do a process like this, it's not research if you don't surprise yourself. There's no reason to make this list if you already have those 10 bands in your head or those publishers, or those record labels. What you need to do is really go do some extra research, go get into the nitty-gritty, build out that list as fast as possible and when you've done that, we'll move on to the last piece. 8. Step Six: Press On or Pivot: If you're still with us, congratulations. You did it. You just completed your first side quest. Round of applause, huge congrats. This is a huge moment. But we're not quite done. Like I said earlier, the worst time to analyze your side quest is while you're in the middle of it. It's not the time in the middle of the marathon to be saying, "Should I have done this race? Should I have set my course on this path?" That I told you don't think about that. Once you're in the project doing it, put all that to the side. But when you're finished, you've done each step, you've sent it out there in the world, it's time to step back and look at the data. Look what happens. See if you were successful or not. It's time to either press on in this direction or to pivot. Next up, we're going to go through this little flow chart, nothing fancy. But you can find it in the class resources of this class. It's just going to give you a little tool for assessing how each part of the process went and where something might have gone wrong, if it didn't turn out exactly how you wanted to. If you did it, strike that elusive balance between art and business. All right. We're just going to go through this flow chart. We'll start at the beginning. Did this process feel you? Did it feel like this is right within my wheel house. This is my gift. This is the right industry market and imagine it all felt right in that way? If the answer is yes, you're going to keep going to the next thing. If the answer is no, you need to go back to that bullseye activity. For me, I had an example of a side quest like this early on. I did a side quest where I took books from the public domain, I redesigned their book cover and turn those book covers into screen prints. Now that failed on several levels. The first being, it didn't feel that me'sh. I don't read very much fiction. If I do, it's like randomly on vacation, so I'm not really the right person to be just constantly churning out new book covers when I don't actually read. I do read. I just read non-fiction, okay? Get off my back. So if this project felt you, you can move past the bullseye, get down to this question. Yes, it felt me. Was it the right target? Did it feel like the right goal? Sometimes as you get deeper into a side quest, you get new vantage points. So as you get closer and you got into the thick of your side quest, you probably found new targets that the true benchmark of success. If you said no, you can pick a new goal. If you say yes, then you go down to this next question. I didn't do that right. That doesn't make any sense. I didn't do it right. Damn it. I've failed big time on this, but it doesn't have to be an end game. It's just a set back and we're making progress. Every failure is just new data on how to pivot. So we're going to pivot in our pivot flowchart down to here and say, was your project strategic enough? If it was strategic enough, you say "Yes, it was strategic enough. It mirrored everything. It was generous. I had all those layers of that strategy cake that you're looking for in that project. " Then you ask yourself, did you find a way in? did you get those first clients? If the answer's no, you need to go back and find a weaker point of entry. If the answer was yes, then congrats. You get to press on. You can just keep going if you're finding that elusive balance of business and art, you can make another side quests that just pushes you further towards those goals or reinvent those goals. Now, you should know that 1 in 10 of my side quests have resulted in a press on. That's totally fine and even if it is a press on, you're going to find a point where that project goes stale, that side quest goes stale, that path runs dry. What used to be a good location gets overrun and gentrified and you got to go find some other thing to do. But no matter where you're going, even if you do find that press on moment, one day it's going to come, you're going to have to pivot and walk through this from the start all over again. It's really great that you never finished this process. Why? It means that the game never ends. Here's the thing. When I was playing Zelda and after you fight your first side quest, you might try to go get into the castle and you don't even get in the door. You go on another side quests and this time you get in the door, but Gannan slays your ass instead of you slaying hers. So you got to go back. But eventually, someday you're going to do enough side quests. You're going to get to that press on moment. You're going to get in the castle, and you're going to kick Gannan's butt. Amazing. You've hit your goal. Wrong because guess what happens, the game is over. I think that's a great reminder that it's not about the destination. The fact that this is a cyclical process that you're going to do over and over again, just means that you're staying in the game. The longer I do this process, the more I've realized that ultimately, the fun isn't in slaying those dragons, the fun is in putting in the time and doing the work. I tip my cap to you and I've done my sword, I night you. It's time for your creative side quest. Godspeed. 9. Game Over!: The class is over. You did it. You made it through. Congratulations. This is where it gets really fun, making the work. But don't keep the fun to yourself. Please share in the project gallery. If you do, you might even find some of those collaborators. You're going to find some cheerleaders that are going to cheer you on through the process. Please share your work here below. I can't wait to see where this process takes you and what it does for you. Thank you so much for participating, and good luck. 10. Bonus: Andy's Story: I have ADHD, and I always have. When I was really little, all of my family members would tell me that I was just like my mom, and nothing made me happier because she's a creative weirdo, a chaos kind of individual, and I just worshiped her. I thought she was the coolest person on the planet, and so when they would say, "You're just like your mom." I was like, "Yes." What I didn't know was that means that, "You also have ADHD, and you're our chaos person, and you're going to have to find a different path in life." As I grew up and I watched my mom try to do the traditional career path, have the conventional success, that American dream or what have you, and repress how different she was that it equaled failure after failure, it was actually pretty tragic, and so that term, '"You're just like your mom" went from being this amazing praise to being this curse, because I watched her life devolve into tragedy, and I'm looking forward in my life and seeing I'm basically on the same path. So there came a paradigm shift that happened in my early adulthood when I realized that I wasn't even going to try to have conventional success, because I'd watched someone just like me try harder and harder, and just tried to change themselves, and try to be what everybody else was and what everybody else wanted them to be, and end in just tremendous failure. So people would say, "What job are you going to have after college?" I'd be like, "I'm not." I'm not going to have a job. I'm not going to go work up a corporate ladder. I know that's not going to work for me. So I had to go out there and find what was going to work for me. So I started obsessively studying my creative heroes, not the people that had a one-hit wonder or one really brilliant movie, but who were the people that could have a long arch of a career where they had maybe some ups and downs, but overall, they were trending upward both creatively and in terms of financial success. So I just started every time I came across an interview or a biography or a spotlight on an artist that seem to get it, I just kind of obsessively studied it. On an intuitive level, that brought me to a lot of the ideas of this class. But it wasn't until I had to teach it to other people, I taught a class in art school on self-promotion, and everyday, I would start the class with a little video of one of these artists that to me really got it, that balance of art and business. At some point, these kids were just complaining. They were like, "We don't want to watch these stupid videos anymore. Why are you making us watch these videos?" They kept pushing me to explain myself, and it was in that pressure cooker of a situation that I started to notice really specific patterns, and those patterns are what I call the creative side quests. Those patterns are what became the unconventional creative approach to a career path. 11. Join Andy in Unmaking the Myth: Hey, come here, come a little closer. Do you want to know the secret of the creative universe? I thought so. Join me for a new video series launching today. Over the next four weeks, we are going to explore and interrogate and debunk and demyth all of the ideas, that keep us from creating. Welcome to unmaking the math with me, Andy J. Pizza. Head to my teacher profile and check out the first episode. I will see you there.