Marketing Your Art the Right Way

Selling Art, Not Selling Out

Josh Rivedal on His One-Man Show, the Importance of Marketing, and Learning from Failure – Cracking Creativity Episode 40

Josh Rivedal is the founder and director of the I’mPossible Project. He is also the author of two books and the star of his own one-man show. In this episode, Josh talks about overcoming his near suicide, the importance of marketing for artists, and the lessons we can learn from failure.

Here are three things you can learn from Josh:

The Power of Storytelling

One thing Josh has learned from all his trials and tribulations is the power of story. Josh’s career jump started through the help of his one-man show. It helped spark the idea for his second book and the formation of his I’mPossible non-profit organization.

Stories are one of the most powerful things we have as humans. We are wired to tell stories. They are what allow us to connect with other people. Josh used the power of his own story to bring awareness to suicide prevention and social justice projects. They have become the foundation of his career.

Artists Need to Embrace Business and Marketing

Josh believes artists are against the idea of marketing because they are not good at it, but you can’t be good at something you don’t attempt. Instead of pushing against the idea of business and marketing, embrace them just like you embrace you art.

Art businesses, just like other businesses, are here to provide a solution to a problem. Art isn’t a luxury when it’s good. It’s a necessity. So embrace marketing and treat your art like a business. This will help you create and sell more of your work.

Learn From Your Failures

We need to get over failure. We have been taught to avoid failure at all costs, but it has hampered our ability to grow. When we try to avoid failure, we stop experimenting. We don’t try new things because we are afraid they won’t work.

Instead of avoiding failure, embrace it. That doesn’t mean we should try to fail. It just means we need to be willing to fail. The point is to learn from your failures.

Josh believes you have to be willing to fail to succeed. Failure is just part of the process. Thomas Edison attempted making the light bulb 10,000 times before finding the right solution. No one is above failure. Once you realize this, you will be able to use it as a spring board for success.


  • founder and director of I’mPossible Project
    • engage and entertain and educate on suicide prevention and mental health
    • The i’Mpossible Project book – debuted number one on Amazon
    • public speaker for project
    • has been doing one man theater show as part of project
    • dad committed suicide and he nearly attempted suicide as well
      • got help and used on man show to make it through it
      • 20 characters, ends with dad’s suicide at end
      • allows him to segway into helping others
    • show has been done in 105 locations in 12 countries
    • does diversity training
  • upbringing
    • has always been a creative person
    • was in choir from 6-19 yrs old and also did school plays
  • school
  • specific moment that showed him acting was his future
    • watching family reunion video and someone was shooting him
      • played for the camera every time he noticed it
    • sophomore in high school – second male lead
      • found it addictive
      • wanted to continue and figure it out
  • after leaving college
    • summer stock show (repertory theatre)
      • played Rolfe in the Sound of Music
      • Willard in Footloose
    • found it fun and exhilarating
    • spent time auditioning in-between work
    • spent five years doing theater
  • father’s suicide and other events
    • stopped working a kit in 2007, parents divorced in 2008, dad committed suicide in 2009
    • between 2007-08 he wrote plays because he wasn’t happy with the work he was getting
    • created one person show after his dad died
    • 2010 – he put it in NYC and it did well, then went to Philadelphia
    • 2011 – everything fell apart
    • I’mPossible Project came from all of this
  • moment he was thinking about suicide
    • six weeks of dark depression, was in emotional pain
    • was not in good relationship with mom
    • girlfriend of six years left him
    • all of this contributed to feeling that it was not worth living
    • was hanging out of a window and nearly jumped
      • voice inside told him to go back inside and get some help
      • sat on bedroom floor that told him to connect with positive people,thoughts, and experiences
      • called his mom despite negative relationship and he broke down
      • started by giving bad advice, but afterwards she changed tactics
      • she became sympathetic and listened to what he had to say
      • realized he had a purpose
    • recovering after the event
      • went to look for resources, started journaling, and made it a point to see good people
      • exercise, eating right, and therapy
      • changed to make himself in service of others
      • use one man show as tool to educate other people
  • one man show before and after
    • changes semi-frequently for pop culture references
    • one change was being less judgmental in portrayal as father
    • biggest change was adding keynote speech at the end as educational tool
  • keynote portion and merging two ideas
    • also a Q&A session afterwards
    • has them in auditoriums and lecture halls because it makes it more stripped down and real
    • takes a break and audience realizes show portion is over
    • starts talking about history of piece and his own history
    • goes into stats of suicide, signs and symptoms, how to help others, and resources
    • at the end he challenges them to be a friend, be the change they want to see, and to tell their story
    • gets to hear concerns and thoughts about the show
  • questions that stood out during Q&A
    • gets a lot of specific questions
      • there are no perfect answers
      • they should get help themselves if they take on too much
  • recommendations for people in these situations
    • listen without trying to give advice
    • validate what they are going through is real
    • tell them they are important and they matter
    • figure out what professional help exists
    • Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1 (800) 273-8255
      • get people talking about what they are going through, preferably with a professional

“If you’re trying to help somebody, the most important thing you can do for that person is to listen to them… I know we want to fix it and you want to tell them it’s going to be okay tomorrow… and maybe that comes from a good place and you’re well intentioned, but what people want is to be heard.”

“By listening to them, you’re just validating that what they are going through is real.”

“It’s not about giving advice, it’s more about active listening.”

  • deals with depression on daily basis
    • second depressive state he had tools to manage depression better
    • was care giving someone with cancer and also had a breakup
    • surround yourself with people who want to support you
    • you need to stay with the process and commit to it
  • I’mPossible derived from his story
    • was originally The Gospel According to Josh and turned into Kicking My Blue Jeans in the Butt
    • after each presentation he gives, someone tells him their story
    • they are powerful and help change his worldview
    • they want to share their world view
    • he wanted to share those stories with others
    • wants to affect positive change in many lives through stories

“Storytelling is one of the most powerful things. It’s probably the oldest art form we have as a human species.”

“When we tell a story, and it connects with people through metaphor or through simile or just through the experience itself, it fires synapses in a person’s brain and it lights up a person’s brain differently.”

“I wanted to tell stories that were going to move people’s feet to live positive, healthy, productive lives,”

  • well told stories
    • use descriptive language
    • knowing your audience
    • quotes are good
    • medium is also important  (public speaker, screen writer, ect.)
    • delivery (cadence, body language, gestures, etc.)
    • adopting your story to different audiences affects the way people receive it
    • importance of theme, message, and defining the purpose
  • main message of one man play
    • suicide is preventable
    • there’s hope and healing available
    • recovery is possible
    • they can be anything and do anything they want
  • finding people for the book
    • some were friends
    • some he met on tour
    • some were cold emails
    • some were acquaintances
    • used 50 stories, but had around 95
    • two year process to release the book
  • narrowing down the number of stories
    • lumped into categories
    • curated and edited them
    • using well told stories (the most powerful ones)
  • pitching to different groups so they wanted to share their stories
    • made sure to compliment them because everyone likes a compliment and wants to know they are doing good work
    • wanted to make sure people knew he appreciated what they did
    • compensated people for their time and their efforts
      • getting paid what you’re worth
      • Picasso story about getting paid what your art is worth
    • turning away business for a long term gain
    • artists provide a solution to a problem

“Artists are providing services, and they’re providing, in the right context and with the right work, they’re providing a solution to problem… and to me good art is less of a luxury, as some people will point out that  art is a luxury, I disagree. I think good art is a necessity when it’s good.”

“Good art is a necessity, so the practitioners need to really develop their business head.”

“If you’re not getting paid for your work and you’re not paying attention to marketing and the business side, you’re not going to be able to do your art.”

  • resistance to learning business
    • when you know you’re not good at something you resist it
    • you come up with excuses and say you’re never going to be good at it or create scripts that don’t make sense
    • the idea that a good artist doesn’t have to be a good business person is non-sense
    • you have to be good at a lot of different things
      • you see a big list and get intimidated instead of looking at it one thing at a time
      • become good at one thing at a time as you build up your artistic business and commit to it
      • learned everything himself to stay afloat

“I think there’s a few things there that prevent people from learning the business side but it’s totally achievable. I mean, I don’t have a business degree and I didn’t study business, but I learned it in an auto didactic way.”

  • learning about business improves your art
    • getting paid to create during the Renaissance
      • artists having patrons
    • Patreon  – taking the idea of patronage and spreading it out among the many
      • get paid per project or per month

“There’s a huge creative element to doing these extra things like learning how to market, like learning marketing and marketing copy, that’s creative. Learning how to talk about your art and how to get people to pay attention to your art, that’s a creativity… and it could, and it should, and it will inform the rest of your art for sure, and it will give you ideas.”

“If you don’t make money in this world, you’re not going to be able to survive and you’re not going to be able to do what you love so you might as well figure out how to make money from your art and figure out a creative way to do it on some level,or you’re just not going to be able to do it.”

  • what he learned from creating the first book and second book
    • most of what he learned was in marketing and making money beyond a book sale
    • first book took 1.5-2 years to use as a tool
    • second book he created a pre-sale and marketing plan
    • found out what was working and what wasn’t and how to create buzz
    • created partnerships, went on podcasts, etc.
  • biggest lesson from creating books
    • he made second book about other people and giving proceeds to charity
    • offered more than making requests
    • people were willing to give without him asking

“When you put other people as a priority above yourself. If you give people what they want before you make a request, you’re going to get so much in return so you really want to give with your art and make it about the outcome instead of the income.”

“I think it’s really about the gift and giving rather than the receiving end of it.”

  • creating art for yourself vs. creating for others
    • there’s no wrong way to create art
    • you have to create art that you like but if you want to sell it, you have to have an audience in mind
    • you always have to keep people in mind when creating your art
    • benefiting others in a meaningful way
    • don’t call yourself a professional if you don’t have other people in mind when creating your art
  • the future of the I’mPossible Project
    • create it into a series and have themed books
    • foundation – increase awareness and get more funding to offer to communities who can’t afford it
    • getting into juvenile detention and children’s homes
    • developing curriculum for social work that integrates story telling
    • speakers bureau and college clubs
      • create social justice projects on campuses
  • taking on and accomplishing new projects
    • talks it over with his wife to get ideas
    • puts timelines into place, when you don’t hit them, you re-evaluate them
    • testing ideas and getting other people involved in what you’re doing
      • start with a small group, then move on to bigger group
      • no one knows what it going to work so don’t be worry about failing
      • failure is part of the process
      • Thomas Edison failing 10,000 times before creating the modern light bulb
    • successful people have gone through failures too
      • failure spawns ideas
      • sharing failure prevents people from making the same mistakes
      • failure is not good in itself, it just teaches you lessons

“You gotta be willing to fail to succeed. It’s just literally part of the process… and the fact that people don’t talk about failure more often, it kinda blows my mind. I mean, I want to hear about failure, I want to hear about what people did to get to where they are because it lets me know and it lets other people know that there’s no perfect process, and it’s kinda unfair to expect people to hit it on the first try anyways .”

“Failure, when in the right context, it’s a lesson learned on the way to success, that’s really what the opportunity is when failing at something.”

  • favorite quote
    • “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Ghandi
    • why not be the spark for change yourself?
    • not everything you have to do has to be a brand new idea
    • you can make things as an improvement or another way of looking at it
    • there are very few original ideas, it’s about speaking to people in a new way that gets them moving
  • morning routine
    • eat breakfast, practice French/Spanish
    • run, shower, play piano
    • then start work day
  • books, podcast, documentaries, resources, etc.
  • creative people
    • his wife always thinks of new ideas
      • was with non-profit since the beginning and has helped it grow
    • John Leguizamo
      • one man shows and effort he puts into characters and writing
  • definition of creativity

“I think it’s just doing something that speaks to you that is problem solving, whether that’s how to create a knitting pattern or how to shoot a free throw or how to sell your marketing practice or whatever… I think it’s about problem solving in an arena that you care about.”

  • being more creative
    • listen and watch and read the things that inspire your creativity or things that you enjoy

“Set the time aside. Clear your schedule. We make time for everything… We need to make time for creativity. ”

“We all need creativity in our lives. It’s part of the holistic human experience.”

Challenge for the Audience

  • tell your story and be vulnerable
  • speak about what you want and who you are
  • don’t be afraid to tap into your true self and what you want  |  |  Facebook  |  Twitter

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