Artist, Architect, or Craftsperson?

Most of the work I do fits into one of three categories.

I’m either doing the work of an artist, architect, or craftsperson.

The Artist

Artists design and build stuff without a business goal in mind.

They enjoy the process of doing stuff.

For an artist, motivation comes from a deep desire to go through the artistic process.

The output of their efforts, or lack thereof, is inconsequential.

What’s important is that they express their heart’s desires in whatever medium they are working.

For an artist, the work is never done – it’s just pushed out the door, usually too soon, to free up headspace or to placate a customer.

The Architect

Architects have vision and build beautiful things that serve a clear purpose.

They work with deadlines and budgets.

They do whatever it takes to get the job done, cutting corners in places that are inconsequential to the overall goals.

Beauty is function (usually minimalist).

Because of their desire to build usable and functional things that require buy-in from funders, architects are great listeners and great communicators.

Figuring out how their creations will be used is first priority in their planning process.

Architects don’t hang around after launch.

They cut ribbons, take photos, and move on to the next thing.

The Craftsperson

The Craftsperson has a deep understanding of their technology.

A great desire for learning accompanies their recognition that they are often wrong.

If you’ve ever wondered why something works a certain way, a craftsperson has the answer.

Why Is This Important?

In life and business (and especially in sales!), it’s important to recognize the truth in situations.

You might be selling the work of an architect, but the buyer wants an artist.

Or you might have the skills of a craftsperson and are trying to be an artist.

A lot of contractors and freelancers accidentally put themselves into positions that they are ill-suited for.

When you understand what you are, you can find people who want to hire you for what you are.

A Quick Story About Me

For the first five years of my contractor life, I was trying to be a craftsperson.

But I wasn’t a craftsperson.  I was an architect.

My customers and me were constantly feeling that friction.

They’d say things like, “Do it this way!”

I would do it exactly how they’d ask, and they’d be happy.

But I’d hate the process I just put myself through (usually staying up all night to get the work done to spec).

When I realized I didn’t have to be a craftsperson, whole worlds opened for me.

Today, I am happily an architect.

Today, I only say “yes” to a craftsperson project if I plan on outsourcing it to a craftsperson.

The work that is important to me is helping people meet their goals.

The technology we use to meet the customer’s goals is largely irrelevant to me, and the craftsperson I hire loves defining the specifics of her part of the project.

For example, most of my professional life has been writing WordPress code and managing WordPress projects.

But when a retailer came to me and asked me to build them a quick-to-checkout e-commerce platform, I chose Shopify.

The fact is that WordPress could have done the work.  It would have required a bunch of plugins to pull off, the checkout experience would have been slower, and I would have made a boatload of money on the project.

But I recommended Shopify instead, because it solved the primary goal: a quick checkout experience.  (For the record, Shopify sucks at virtually everything except the clicktime-to-checkout speed.)

Honestly, I hated working with Shopify.

But it was the right solution, and at the end of the day, it was an elegant solution for customers.

Like I said, I’m an architect.

How To Choose Which To Hire

  • When something specific breaks, hire a craftsperson.
  • When nothing makes sense, hire an architect.
  • When you are uninspired, hire an artist.

Who’s Who?

Here’s a rough guide to get you started:

The Writer

  • If you love writing articles that go deep into a specific subject, you are a craftsperson.
  • If you write daily articles for a newspaper or blog, you are an architect.
  • If you have been writing a book for a year and don’t have a rough draft completed, you are an artist.

The Coder

  • If you pride yourself on writing beautiful code, you are a craftsperson.
  • If you hack your way through WordPress themes and plugins to get things done on-time and on-budget, you are an architect.
  • If you have been working on your website for more than a few months, and it hasn’t launched yet, you are an artist.

The Politician

  • If you read the legislation before voting on it, you are a craftsperson.
  • If you actively craft legislation that passes, you are an architect.
  • If you wrote a bill but can’t get it passed, then you are an artist.

The Coffee Shop Owner

  • If you travel to where the coffee beans you buy are grown, you are a craftsperson.
  • If you try a bunch of coffees before selecting the right blends to sell to your customers, you are an architect.
  • If you push select brews on people without concern for whether or not they’ll like it, you are an artist.


So what do you think?  Are you a Craftsperson, Architect, or Artist?  (I’d love to here!  Email me.)

Toby Cryns

Toby Cryns is a freelance CTO and WordPress Guru. He also writes for