The Difference Between Entrepreneurs and Artists

paletteMany people think of entrepreneurs as artists. And a lot of people view artists as entrepreneurs. Are these two terms interchangeable?

We don’t think so.



Now, before we go any further, let us qualify that statement. We are speaking in the purest since of the terms.

We define an artist as someone who creates works with aesthetic worth but not necessarily commercial value. And we define an entrepreneur as someone who creates net worth by adding value to society.

We also want to disclose that we are entrepreneurs, not artists. We value artists but we won’t pretend we can speak from their point-of-view.

Without question, there are similarities between the two:

Both artists and entrepreneurs have been seen as outcasts.
There have been times when artists and/or entrepreneurs were not viewed positively by the general public.

They were different because they chose to live their lives on their own terms. They were labeled as eccentric. These were the people no one would hire.

Both artists and entrepreneurs are viewed as heroes.
Right now, they both seem to enjoy a favorable opinion by most people in society.

Both artists and entrepreneurs make the intangible tangible.

In the beginning, they have nothing more than an idea. They use the resources and the tools of their craft to transform that idea into a finished product. So in the end, they have created something from nothing. 


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But there is an important difference between entrepreneurs and artists:

Artists value creation. Entrepreneurs create value.

Artists use their hearts, minds and souls to create their works. In the process, they explore new territory about themselves and the world. The primary audience for their work is themselves.

While artists value creation, the actions of entrepreneurs often lead to “creative destruction” – a term popularized by Joseph Schumpeter, one of the patriarchs of entrepreneurial theory.

In with the new sometimes means out with the old! Established competitors may be so vested in the old way of doing business that they can’t compete.

The primary audience for entrepreneurs is their customers. They find a need and design products or services to meet it. 

The art and science of entrepreneuring
Entrepreneurs know that change creates these opportunities. That’s why Schumpeter defined entrepreneurship as “the science of change, not continuity.”

People often say that entrepreneurship is part science and part art. Without a doubt, the art of entrepreneuring involves creativity. But intuition and judgment are just as important, if not more so.

Artists value creation. They are driven by their passions to create valuable works.

Entrepreneurs create value. They are driven by people who value the entrepreneur’s creation because it solves their problem.

It’s a move from right brain to left brain, from internal to external, from passion to product.

Artists can be entrepreneurial. Entrepreneurs can be artistic.

But it’s still important to understand the difference between the two roles even if you’re playing both parts!

At least that’s what we think. What do you think?

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(Image in today's post by banjOe)

8 replies
  1. Archan Mehta
    Archan Mehta says:

    This post is excellent and thanks for your input.

    Emily Dickinson created art for the sake of art and passed away in relative obscurity in New England.
    She did not create art to sell it nor for its commercial value. Many of her poems were actually discovered posthumously. Artists are not necessarily the best salespeople and may even lack any business acumen, but they tend to be creative.

    By contrast, Bill Gates was great at entrepreneurship and founded a multi-billion dollar company (Microsoft) after dropping out of the leading university in the world, Harvard. However, to expect the world’s greatest businessman to create a painting/poem/musical composition would be unrealistic. Thus, comparisons are odious, as the saying goes. Art and entrepreneurship require a different set of skills: it is like comparing apples and oranges.

  2. Jen
    Jen says:

    Interesting take on artists/entrepreneurs. I believe that yes there is a difference between the two. I also believe that they share a similar energy. Artists are all consumed with what they are doing just as entrepreneurs. That’s what makes both successful in their venues.

  3. Jamie
    Jamie says:

    good article. “artists value creation… Whereas entrepreneurs create value… I think it’s an important distinction to make, and a traditional mindset that artists have inherited traditionally… The interesting part is where we are in the progression of society and evolution… The opportunities brought by technology, and keen knowledge of successful business practices and what consumers value lead us to a meeting point where artistic talent and entrepreneurial skills must be simultaneously developed, and has never been so important to success in the modern age and new music business..

    • George & Mary-Lynn
      George & Mary-Lynn says:

      You’re absolutely right, Jamie. Artists have tremendous opportunities today if they do what you suggest – develop the entrepreneurial skills simultaneously with their craft. Thanks for sharing your insight.


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