For the month of January, Talent manager Bolu Bello is the creative in the spotlight.

In this exclusive sit down with IndustryMe, she talks the realities of navigating the creative industry, her work as a talent manager and more.

Could you give a brief background as to how you started and what exactly a freelance talent manager is?

I will always credit my journey so far to my year spend as ACS President at my University. After a particularly successful year, I was actually approached by a good friend of mine, to be their manager.

My friend detailed to me the frustrations they we having dealing with their customers. I mentioned so casually to them that they could definitely benefit from a manager to handle all the paperwork. My friend trusted in my general management abilities given the fact that I had just evidenced them, so guess what their next question was?

That’s honestly where it all started. From that moment, I drafted a booking contract on behalf of new ‘client’ and managed all their bookings. In a way, I started off with just contract management, then quite soon after moved on to artist management. Now I have settled on talent management, because of the breadth and depth of the support I want to be able to offer creatives and artists.

Defining what a talent manager is/does is both simple and complex. The best way in which I can put it is that a talent manager is someone who fights in your interests and helps develop you both personally, and in my case, creatively.

Now, there’s no degree you can take, nor is there a quick course online that you can do for it. It’s a role that you develop in over time as you become more experienced, and it relies heavily on a lot of interpersonal skills i.e. communication, teamwork and organisation. Majority of what I do comes down to planning and research. I provide my clients with the structure that they need in order to advance. When you work with me, there’s a lot of hard work involved, but trust me when I say that planning is the most important part of the process.

Why did you decide to go down the freelance route?

Well- simply put, I knew the type of service that I wanted to deliver, and I simply couldn’t find an organisation that has the type of model that I have built, specifically targeted at creatives. There are plenty of agencies for creatives, but such agencies are only interested in how many bookings their client gets- and are not so much invested in the development of their clients.

So, simply put, they help you get more work, but don’t necessarily care for the quality of the work. I’m the complete opposite. I don’t care how much money you’re making, I’m more interested in seeing my clients become the very best versions of themselves that they can be. So, I had no choice but to start off freelance. However, since starting off about 18 months ago, I just recently registered my talent management company called MUSTA, and so I’m no longer freelance as such.

What are your top 3 considerations before deciding to work with a client?

Great question. My top three would be communication, motivation and humility.

  1. Communication because the creative industry is a very fast paced one, one in which you have to be very responsive in order to make headway. Therefore, it’s frustrating when people take what seems like forever to respond to messages. It sends me the signal that they do not care for me, nor my time, and it causes huge delays in actually getting work done.
  2. Motivation because like i’ve said there’s a lot of work involved in getting to the top. I make it very clear to my clients that they can only get as much out of the service I provide that they want to. Why? Because I can throw all the plans, tools and information at them- but if they refuse to act, then they will remain exactly where they are. For me, I don’t work for my clients, I work with my clients. They need to have the vision first, then we will work towards it together.
  3. Humility is at the core of the relationship I have with my clients. Some people that get in touch with me initially, are very arrogant- they think their work is the best, and that’s that. They are inflexible in their approach, and don’t want to discuss anything with me. They assume that they know everything, but if they really did, then they wouldn’t need my help.
  • In terms of the working relationship between me and my clients, I seek a balance in the partnership.
  • I want them to listen to my opinion, but in turn I also listen to theirs and then we come to an amicable agreement. It is mainly for these reasons that I offer a free trial before I officially sign anyone on with me. I assess my clients on the above, and so it’s very easy to spot people who aren’t dedicated to the process; they are the people that just don’t make the cut.
  • What are 3 of the biggest mistakes you see creatives make in their careers and how can they avoid those pitfalls?

    Biggest mistake is to be a creative and not know who you are, nor what your vision is.

    I’m sure if you ask any of my clients, they’ll tell you that I ask a lot of questions. One of the very first sessions that they have with me has the ultimate aim of my clients being able to not only define their brand, but more importantly, their brand vision. I can only help people who know what they want to achieve. Avoid this mistake by being clear of what you want.

    Write it down simply, and develop it as you go. Second mistake is not investing into their knowledge of their chosen industry, whether this be art, photography or music etc. This is important for two reasons: analysing the competition, and actual creative development. How can you stay up to date with new trends in your industry, if you’re not actively engaging with it? It’s the knowledge that you have, that will give you the edge. Always be eager to learn- if you don’t know, then you won’t grow. A further mistake is the failure to network with ‘influential people’. This is why I cannot stress enough about the importance of networking sites such as LinkedIn. There is much to be gained from networking with great creative minds. I can certainly testify to this. As a creative, posting your work on social media is good, but getting your work in front of the right people is better. One key way in which you can do this is by going out of your way to network.

    What is the best way for a creative to get in touch with you?

    The best way would be via social media, namely Twitter (@bolu_bello) and Instagram (bolubello). I leave my direct messages open for this specific reason. However, I do love a good email, so they can also reach me on hello@withmusta.com as an alternative.

    What are some of the services you offer?

    Aside from representation, the number one service I offer is strategic goal management. Now, that’s just a fancy way of saying that I work in partnership with my clients to set realistic career targets, and offer practical tools and support to achieve them. I also offer a contracts management service whereby I do all of the to and fro between my clients and their customers (either for bookings, or commissions etc.), freeing up my clients to do the thing that they love the most- create! Furthermore, because I noticed that creatives actually hate dealing with email enquiries, I offer the provision of exceptional customer service, taking away the pressure from my clients.

    Finally, what are you currently working on?

    Another great question. I’m actually in the process of rebranding MUSTA, and finalising my packages so it’s clear to creatives what exactly it is that I can do for them. I have a good branding strategist on board which I’m extremely happy about, so I’m hoping to have something new to launch next year. In terms of my clients, I’m working on a visual campaign with a client so that they can re-introduce themselves and boost overall engagement. It’s something I’m very excited about, and that we’ve been planning for a while now. Also, I’m working on a few single and album releases with other clients; all whilst planning for the very busy year ahead! Although it’s discouraging and tedious at times, a very dear friend of mine said to me, “the world needs to know you”, and that’s been my tagline ever since. All I’ll say is watch out for MUSTA in 2019.

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