JUNO Award-winning Claire Elise Boucher, better known by her stage name Grimes, wrote a pretty great essay detailing her 13 tips on how to be an entrepreneur. You can find it in Rookie Yearbook Three (a wonderful series of articles and stories I spent an hour or two going through it while at the bookstore and ended up buying it for Hannah.) The book is brought to you by the fine Rookiemag.com website, created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager.
Something I didn’t realize when I started making music was that any entrepreneurial endeavor involves hiring people, creating a company, and becoming a businessperson. So, while you may know me as a musician, in practice I am also a boss. I’m the CEO of two companies, Grimes Creative Corp and Fairy Tour Corp, and I just started Roco-Prime Productions with my brother. This is simultaneously very cool and very stressful. I’m definitely not the best or most experienced boss. I’m also a young, female boss, which can present a very particular set of practical and emotional challenges. Here, I’ve compiled a list of things that have been useful to me while I’ve been figuring out how to be in charge, in the hope that some of them might help any of you who are doing what I’m doing (aka learning as you go).
• You will never hear more people tell you that you’re wrong than when you’re succeeding. After my album Visions came out, I spent a really long time freaking out because people were telling me that in order to take “the next step” in my career, I would have to become a much better “musician,” that I’d need a backing band, etc. I now realize that (a) none of those people have music careers, and (b) I wasted a lot of time trying to do things I was told were “important for every professional musician” to do, without realizing that as a fan, I am far more interested in things that I’ve never seen before. The point is, listening to haters is pointless. People are judgmental about everything—often because they feel threatened. Ignore them. I think this applies to any business or creative thing, because tomorrow’s world will not look like today’s. Doing something different is probably better than doing the same things that other people do.
• Jump rope. It is the most efficient way to get cardiovascular exercise in any kind of weather, without going to a gym. Exercise is very important if you’re dealing with depression or anger issues—and any job in the entertainment industry will cause both.
• Stop working when you’re tired—but don’t get lazy. I sometimes boomerang between working for 22 hours in a row, and then collapsing and realizing that I don’t have to adhere to a fixed schedule and watching every episode of The Sopranos. I would not suggest this system. Schedules are amazing: eight hours of work, eight hours of sleep. The other eight hours are fair game. (I have not mastered this one, but when I can get it going I’m a lot more productive.)
• Hold on to your work. Once upon a time, Elvis Presley wanted to record a cover of Dolly Parton’s song “I Will Always Love You,” but on the condition that she sign over half of the publishing royalties—money the songwriter gets whenever someone plays or performs their song in public—to him. Dolly said no, and many years later Whitney Houston sang “I Will Always Love You” in a movie, and it became probably one of the most memorable (and lucrative) songs of all time. So it’s very important to maintain ownership of your intellectual property. Copyright everything. DO NOT FORGET TO DO THIS. There are so many ways you can get screwed if you don’t copyright your work. Conversely, treat your collaborators with respect and give credit where it is due.
• Be nice to the people you work with. It is of utmost importance to treat people with kindness, because you want them to work hard and care about the thing you are building together. However, in order to get things done, sometimes you need to be mean. I’m really bad at this, but you absolutely need to let people know when something is unacceptable, or they’ll keep doing it and you’ll resent them and it creates bad vibes.
• Read/watch biographies of people you admire. I’ve learned more from this one practice than from anything else, really. Also, if you’re around someone who does what you want to do, ask them questions and watch them work.
• Bette Midler once said, “I firmly believe that with the right footwear, one can rule the world.” I used to try to wear heels, and it was a disaster. Now I always prioritize comfortable shoes. Also, avoid wearing white: Busy people don’t have time to change clothes very often, and white gets dirty fast (unless you are Olivia Pope). Just find one or two things that look cool that you can also sleep in.
• Avoid dating someone who does the same job as you. If you do end up doing that, make sure they don’t resent your success and that you don’t resent theirs.
• Try to date someone who is good at cooking. It will save time.
• If you are tired and you need to be peppy, drinking a bit of straight hot sauce really works.
• Keep a pen and paper beside your bedside table. Good ideas often come as you’re falling asleep, and you won’t remember them in the morning.
• Just because someone has more qualifications than you doesn’t mean they’re better than you. We live in the age of technology, so you can Google anything you don’t know how to do. The only thing you can’t Google is how to be creative and unique. Your thoughts have more value than a degree or a parent in the same field or whatever. I always think about my grandfather, who became an engineer with only a seventh grade education. It’s a very cliché thing to say, but nearly anything is possible if you set your mind to it.
• Really, the most important thing is eliminating self-doubt. This is basically impossible for me, but I’ve found that if I act like a boss, I can convince myself that I am a boss when I need to be one. I copy things that I’ve seen politicians and actors do; I make eye contact with people; I try to keep my shoulders back and my head high; I gesticulate wildly and sometimes take long pauses (silence can be very intimidating). I try to act like I’m powerful, onstage and off. I am often treated with disrespect, but I respond as respectfully as I can, because it makes trolls look stupid when you don’t stumble. As time has gone by, I’ve noticed that the crappy people have been phasing out and I’m surrounded more and more by people I trust, and with whom I share mutual respect—which, by the way, breeds real confidence.