- The G Files
- The Business of Will Smith
The Business of Will Smith
Learn business lessons from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Will Smith is an American actor born and raised in West Philadelphia.
He came from humble beginnings, with his dad working as a refrigerator engineer.
This didn't stop him from becoming one of the richest actors in the world.
In this piece, we will break down how he built his $350 million net worth.
Let's dive in.
How Does Will Smith Make Money?
Will Smith has built his wealth from four main sources, all part of the entertainment industry.
While most people know Will Smith as an actor, he started out in the music industry.
In 1986, Russell Simmons from Def Jam Records signed Will and his friend Jeffrey Townes known as DJ Jazzy Jeff.
With Jazzy Jeff, he released five albums:
Rock the House.
He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper.
And in This Corner.
Will Smith also created music without Jazzy Jeff.
He has four solo albums in his musical career:
Big Willie Style.
Born to Reign.
Lost and Found.
According to Billboard, Will Smith has sold over 10 million albums just in the US.
An artist earns around 10-20% of each sale.
Each album costs around $10.
If he has over $100 million worth of album sales, he has probably made between $10-$20 million just from his records.
It's hard to calculate how much he has made from the record sales, given that he has to split the money with Jazzy Jeff and his management.
He also created the official song of the 2018 World Cup, alongside Nicky Jam, "Live It Up."
Will and Nicky Jam performed the song during the closing ceremony of the tournament.
His success in the music business has allowed his kids, Jaden Smith and Willow Smith, to also launch their music careers.
In the early 90s, Will transitioned from rapping to acting, and that's how he built his wealth.
Will Smith is a proven movie star who has been in a ton of successful films.
The black actor was a key part of action films like Independence Day and Men in Black.
When he started acting, Will Smith was already a successful rapper.
But he owed the IRS over $2.8 million, so he was broke by the time he took on the role of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
It took him three years to pay off his debts.
His run on the show, as the Fresh Prince helped him grow into the next stage of his career.
He played Muhammad Ali in the movie "Ali," earning over $20 million for that role.
Will got a similar amount for staring in the movie "Hitch," but his biggest box office success has to be "Men in Black" with Tommy Lee Jones.
In terms of critical acclaim, he got an Academy Award nomination for playing Chris Gardner in the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness."
He didn't win but got nominated again for playing Richard Williams in the movie "King Richard."
For that role, he won an Academy Award at the Dolby Theatre.
Will has made a ton of money as a star actor.
His paychecks include:
$20 million for the movie "Bright."
$20 million for Wild Wild West, making him the highest-paid actor at the time.
$40 million for King Richard.
$100 million for staring in "Men in Black 3."
So his total earnings from all his movie roles have to exceed $200 million.
But Will not only stars in movies, but he is also a film producer.
Producing Movies, TV Shows, and Music Projects
Will Smith has his own production company, Overbrook Entertainment.
He created it alongside his wife and fellow actress, Jada Pinkett Smith.
Overbrook Entertainment produces:
So far, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have produced movies like:
"The Karate Kid,"
All of the movies produced by Overbrook Entertainment have made over $3.9 billion at the box office.
Let's say that the production company gets 10-20% of that box office.
This would mean that Overbrook Entertainment has generated between $300-$600 million in its entire existence.
Not too shabby.
Venture Capital Fund
Will Smith has co-founded his own venture capital fund called Dreamers Fund.
Dreamers Fund has a total size of $55 million and 4 co-founders, so it's safe to say that Will has around 20-25% ownership.
The fund has invested in companies like:
Dreamers Fund has had 5 successful exits, which means that five of the companies they've invested in have been bought out.
It's safe to say that Dreamers Fund has generated tens of millions for Will and his co-founders.
That's more than impressive.
Now, let's discuss the lessons we can learn from Will Smith.
Business Lessons From Will Smith
Will Smith is a successful rapper, actor, businessman, and investor.
Here are the three main business lessons we can learn from him:
Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself
From a rapper to an actor to a producer and venture capitalist.
Time and time again, Will Smith has shown his willingness to adapt and reinvent himself.
That's especially true in the day and age of social media.
Most Hollywood stars stay away from the limelight but not Will Smith.
He focused on creating content for social media, allowing him to stay relevant decade after decade.
We should take the same approach to our businesses by asking ourselves, "How can I reinvent myself, so I can unlock the next level in my business?"
Embrace your vulnerability
A lot of what makes Will Smith so successful and likable is his ability to be vulnerable in front of the camera.
He has built strong relationships within Hollywood thanks to his ability to be honest and open.
This has allowed him to create a strong and loyal fanbase that goes across the globe.
In the age of social media, there's a lot of posturing and "flexing" online.
But Will took the opposite approach, and it has worked.
Think about that when it comes down to building your brand.
How can you show more vulnerability, so you can build trust with your audience?
A VC fund, a production company, and an acting career.
There are people who dedicate their lives to pursuing just one of these options but not Will.
He has built his empire by partnering up with the right people in the right industries.
If you want to grow as a businessperson and expand, you've to learn to delegate because you won't be the best at everything.
Will knows that, so he has focused on the things he enjoys, mainly creating cool stuff.
He has left the rest to other people and has worked.
His net worth is north of $350 million.
Take the same approach to your business.
Ask yourself, "What's your zone of genius?" "What are you best at?"
Then, find people who can work on the things you don't enjoy, so you can do your best work and expand your business.
That would be one of the easiest ways you and your business can grow.
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