Illustration by Ryan Garcia


How to Be Creative and Make Money

Get weird. Be selective. Don't wait.

By Scott Rollans, 'BA, 'MA

December 10, 2018 •

Zach Polis, '12 BA, is a videographer, photographer, writer, public speaker, musician and poet laureate of St. Albert, Alta. In other words, he makes a living through creativity, chutzpah and networking savvy. When we asked him how he does it, Polis quickly jotted down the following tips.

Ask yourself: What combination of skills makes you fiercely unique? "I'm a poet, but I also have a drama background. I'm funny and confident going up in front of people," says Polis. "That combination breaks the stereotype of what a poet is. As a result, people ask me to MC events."

Create the work now that you want to do in the future. Don't lament and moan if you're not getting the work you want. "Make something you're proud of, your own project, and share it with the right people," he says. Then, when you reach out for work, you've already shown what you can do.

Don't wait! Ask for the opportunity you want. Serendipity is a glorious thing. "I was browsing the internet and I came across this artist from Hong Kong [Alan Kwan] who was working on this really weird video-game-slash-art-installation project," he recalls. Polis, who studied electroacoustic composition, made a few demo pieces and sent them to him. "And he loved it. As a result, I got to be part of this cool project that was then exhibited internationally."

Get weird with personal projects. It's who you are. Sometimes when he's asked to speak at an event, he's told: Just do whatever you want. "So I'll come up with something that makes me laugh because I have the freedom to play," he says. Out of that, people have told him they heard him speak and want him at their event.

You don't need everyone as a client. You just need a few people who keep coming back. Lots of artists worry about becoming a superstar and think they need everyone to know who they are. But that's not the case, Polis says. "You just need a few solid relationships. You can build a business on five to 15 people."

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