The Artist vs. The Engineer

Written in Nov 2015, updated for 2019. (Thanks to Lauchlan MacKinnon for the reminder to bring this idea back.)

There is an interesting dichotomy on the journey of entrepreneurship: the Artist versus the Engineer. I have some measure of both within me. You do as well.

The Artist is concerned with staying true to her inner experience. Singing the song she feels like singing, even if nobody listens. Expressing her truth, no matter if others agree. The Artist brings the emotion, the humanity, the spirituality, the Love.

On the other hand, the Engineer is concerned with outer results, creating something to draw a positive response. Tracking the metrics. Making tweaks based on market feedback. The Engineer brings the data, the logic, and creates the systems.

At the current stage of your business, which one interests you more?
(I'm using "Artist" and "Engineer" only as labels. In the real world, Engineers can create beauty without regard to results. An Artist can be in it for the money. I'm using these labels to show contrast. We could also use the terms Mystic vs. Scientist.)

Which archetype should you emphasize within yourself?

It depends on your priorities at this time.  

The less you need to make money or receive praise, the more you can take the Artist path. The more quickly you need money or encouragement, the more you’ll need to embody the Engineer.

The skill that the Artist/Mystic develops is the sensitivity to one's inner calling and spiritual promptings.

The skill that the Engineer/Scientist develops is the sensitivity to external patterns and how systems relate to worldly results. 

You can engineer viral marketing. Just look at BuzzFeed​, NowThisNews, Mashable​ as examples. You can engineer sales and money: just look at the 7-figure internet marketers that cleverly get you to buy from them, by using psychological persuasion tactics.  

...or as some marketers call it, "psychotactics".  It's remarkably easy to get people to do what you want, if you have no qualms about doing it.

The problem with the path of the Engineer, as you can imagine, is the potential loss of integrity, soul, a higher purpose… of only believing results you can see.

The Artist on the other hand, feels liberated in her creative pursuits. Doing whatever she feels called, within herself, to create in her business, no matter the current state of the market.

I’ve had many clients who walked the Artist path, then started to run out of money. Only if you are financially secure from other means, is it possible to simply follow your creative whims.  

Money comes from the market -- from other people agreeing that what you have is exciting and valuable to them, not just to you.  

If you need money now, you need more Engineer-thinking in your business now. If you need more reliable income, you need your Engineer to create a stable system. 

If however you feel that money-making is taking away from your soul, it's time to evoke the Artist within you.

You can also experiment with a balance: some days focus on the Artist, other days focus on the Engineer.

The Macro/Micro Perspective

To utilize the genius of both Engineer and Artist in your business, consider the following.

In the choices of niches, topics, offerings, be more of an Engineer. Choose to create what the market wants from you. In the specifics, however, in how you create, be the Artist.

For example, when I choose what online course to teach, I ask my audience. I decide based on their votes. This increases the likelihood that there will be a market. 

However, in the moments of creating the course itself, I am employing my Artist side, to make the course the way I want, being less concerned about others’ judgment. 

Sure, I create within the boundaries of the Topic they requested, and I try to keep within the promised Time constraints, and I do solicit and listen to feedback. But ultimately I must use my passion, intuition, and enjoyment to create the course, if it is to be uniquely valuable… and sustainable for my energy and interest.

Be an Artist about the Why (the purpose, the vision, the dream, the thing that moves you to do what you do.) 

Be an Engineer about the What (the niche you choose, the topics you create content about, the target audiences you reach.) 

Be an Artist again about the How (the details of your products/services, the way you speak in your articles or videos, how you approach the topics you choose.) 

Be an Engineer again about the When/Where (when/where will you work, when/where your content shows up, when/where will you launch your products and services... no matter how you feel.)

You have both within you. Each has its genius, importance, and right timing.