I no longer call myself an entrepreneur. At least not in the way I used to.
See, entrepreneurship has been a big part of my life. For nearly one-third of my life, I’ve been involved with entrepreneurship.
First, I helped start a PR firm and worked with tech and healthcare startups. And there’s a pretty clear idea of what entrepreneurship means in that world—‘disruption,’ (mostly male) young people with new perspectives, libertarianism, and idealization of tech as our savior.
Then I left and entered online entrepreneurship—specifically, the spiritual and wellness industries. And that was a different beast entirely. Suddenly we were non-stop talking about ideal clients and money blocks and opt-ins. The vast majority of the day was spent on Facebook. And everybody was hustling to hit those ‘success metrics’ of six- then seven- figures in record time.
And something about it felt off to me. If I were an entrepreneur, then I had customers or clients. And neither word felt totally accurate to me. They described a relationship that felt purely transactional. Where I was ‘proving my worth,’ or conversely ‘charging what I’m worth’ (as if money could ever capture my worth). Where I felt pressure to get results or to perform. Where I was so focused on what my audience wanted that I wasn’t just creating pure art.
But that wasn’t my experience of my business at all. Maybe it was in previous entrepreneurial ventures. But I was creating from my Soul. I was spending my days bowing down to the work and surrendering to what came through me.
It wasn’t entrepreneurship, it was art. And my clients weren’t just paying me and getting services. They were exchanging energy to be a part of it. Collaborators. Co-conspirators. Supporters.
If I’m an artist, then I don’t have clients. I have patrons.
Sherri first suggested the term to me, and it hit me both explosively and obviously. Yes, of course. They’re patrons.
I thought about weeks before when a ‘client’ had paid me a monthly payment for the Sacred Mastermind matching almost the exact cost of our new payment gateway—and on the same day, to boot. And I thought in my mind, “It’s almost like she’s sponsoring this gateway.” It was a throwaway thought at the time, and it wasn’t like I was putting a plaque anywhere or telling her that she funded it—but, when I heard the word patron, it sparked immense resonance there.
Because, in patronage, there’s not a one-to-one transaction. And it’s not quite charity either. Certainly, the things we’re patrons for are things we love. And things we want to take part in. But they’re also things we want to support and believe in.
Just this weekend, on one of the coldest nights in Boston’s history, I said to Garrett, “We should go to this restaurant we love because they’ll need our business tonight.”
It wasn’t just charity. I genuinely wanted their food. But why there at that exact moment? Because it’s patronage.
It’s not about the artist him(or her)self. It’s about the art. Supporting the art. And benefitting from having that art in the world. Because we believe that art like that makes this world a better place.
Because, as patrons, we’re not venture capitalists. We have no stake in the business. And we don’t for a second want to take over control. But we’re fans. We’re lovers. And we want the work to flourish.
I look to etymology, as I often do, to provide me with historical context. And, of course, Harry Potter had it right. Patron (from Latin ‘patronus’) means protector. Like our patron saint. Watching over the work. Supporting the work. Loving the work. Allowing it to grow.
It’s such an intimate relationship between artist and patron. Much more—complex—and multi-faceted than that between an entrepreneur and his/her client.
The patrons of my work believe in what I’m channeling down. And their investments of course sustain me to continue doing the work, but they also allow the work to re-invest in itself, to grow, and to flourish.
Patronage is a powerful, powerful thing. And thinking about it in those terms—which feel much more accurate to my experience of it—allows me to surrender deeper. It’s not about me. It’s not about charging what I’m worth or proving myself. It’s not about getting anybody specific results. It’s simply about pulling more of the work down.
It’s all about the work. The art.
That’s why I don’t call myself an entrepreneur anymore. I’m an artist. And the greatest gift of all is that I get to share my work with its patrons.