You’re a creative entrepreneur, whether you like it or not

Creators today are also entrepreneurs. You’re a creative entrepreneur. There’s no choice in this matter. Even if your ultimate goal is to get a job, you’ll still have to think like an entrepreneur to get that paycheck. 

Being an entrepreneur may be stressful, but it’s necessary. And with a bit of knowledge and a good mindset, it doesn’t have to suck. Wouldn’t you be happier if you could make a living doing what you love?

We all know that’s a rhetorical question, so let that goal guide you.

I’m finally focusing on being a creative entrepreneur – and I want to share what I’ve learned. 

That doesn’t mean that I’m right, or that I know everything. Or that my suggestions or beliefs are guaranteed to work for everybody. It just means that I’m willing to share what I know and the connections that I’ve made. And I’m willing to keep trying different things and share the results.

(By the way, this ‘finally focusing’ thing is another way of saying that I half-assed it for years. I’ve decided to full-ass it instead.)

creative entrepreneur
On second thought, this stock photo is kinda boring. But I’m too lazy to look for another one now.

A big part of full-assing it is engaging with more creators online. 

Whether it’s writers, illustrators, or other creative entrepreneurs, I keep seeing many of the same questions pop up over and over again:

  • How can I grow a following?
  • How can I make money from my art?
  • How do I get people to my website?
  • Do I need a website?
  • How can I make money if I hate marketing?
  • Do I have to use [insert social network here]?
  • Should I table at a convention?
  • How can I promote myself without being a smarmy asshole?
  • And on and on.

I’ve learned a LOT about how to run a business online. 

My day job for nearly 20 years (yikes) is building websites and marketing businesses online. But I haven’t applied my knowledge to my creative career up to this point. That’s because the entrepreneur is really strong in me. I’ve spent plenty of time trying to grow various online businesses. But at the end of the day, when I switch focus to creative endeavors, I really don’t want to think about marketing. Or do for myself what I’ve spent hours doing for others. I just want to create and get lost in the process. So I’ve a been a creator and an entrepreneur – just not a creative entrepreneur until now.

Some creative entrepreneurs end up here.
When I was 4 I wanted to be a garbageman. It looked fun.

But this year has been different. Very different. 

I started a 100 Day Comic-Making Challenge in January and my life changed. In the previous eight years I drew 4 comic strips (is that half-assed or what?). This year I’ve written, drawn and published 15 pages – even with a two month break.

In all honesty, 15 pages isn’t a lot. Many webcomic creators are pumping out 2-4 pages every week. I’m not even sure I can bang out one per week based on my available time – but that’s the next goal. I just recognize that I have something to show for the time I’ve put in. And that I’ve improved a lot in the process. Celebrating little milestones is a good thing 🙂

(And I’ve also mastered the creator’s skill of being aware that there are others out there who are way better than me, in some way or another.)

The truth is that every creative entrepreneur has an obstacle challenge to overcome.

It could be a day job, school, outlook, inexperience, or something else. My challenge is that I’m a 40-something in the middle of my career/life. I have a family to provide for; I’m not going to drop everything and focus on ‘my dream’.  But I am going to take the slow and steady route and chip away Every Single Day. 

This was a really long-winded way of saying I know shit and I’m not that different from you

But I don’t want to write articles that are just vehicles for some bullet points. Truth is, I’d much rather have a conversation with you – so I decided to write like I talk. And that means that I might will meander a bit. Hopefully the headers and text decorations will help you skip around as needed.

So how are artists like entrepreneurs? 

Let’s start with some definitions:

entrepreneur: A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.​

venture: An undertaking that is dangerous, daring, or of uncertain outcome. 

(thefreedictionary.com)

If you’re a creator who wants to making a living from your creations, that describes you to a T. 

You have to do everything with no guarantee that you’ll make money regularly.

  • You have to get your supplies, and learn/refine the requisite skills. 
  • You have to put the supplies & skills to use. 
  • You need to find customers for your creations, either virtually or physically (but most likely both).  This is marketing.
  • You have to convince people to open their wallets. You have to take payments, provide change, deliver the goods. This is sales.
  • You have to take care of accounting and taxes. It’s especially important to be on the up & up with your money – and learn the tax breaks and such that you can take advantage of. 

And you have to do it all with no guarantees that you’ll make any consistent income.

It’s risky, just like a store, restaurant or startup. But unlike those capital-heavy businesses, the creative entrepreneur can take a slower, steadier and less risky route to solvency. 

If you’re looking for a job then you’re like a startup looking for investors.

You still have to create, create, create while continually getting better at it. You have to market your creations – and also market yourself. You have to communicate with people. You have to convince them that you are worth paying for every week or month. You have to negotiate to get paid what you are worth. Once you get a job, you have to deliver your creations consistently, in both time and quality. Whether your goal is a job or not, you’re still a creative entrepreneur.

All creative entrepreneurs are subject to the Owl of Judgement.
Do not upset the Owl of Judgement.

You are a creative entrepreneur and you must think like one.

The first thing is pure mindset: you’re not just a creator – you run a business. You have responsibilities beyond just making stuff. You’ll need to set aside time for this non-creative work.

The next thing is to learn how to run a business – and that is going to look different for everybody. While you have to engage in marketing, sales, etc., how you do it will be specific to you, your location and your audience. Where you live and who you can/do know  means  your opportunities will be different from someone else.

How to run a business is a pretty broad topic that I’ll tackle bit by bit in future posts. But I hope that I’ve given you some things to consider. Other topics that I’ll be writing about are:

  • Why you need your own website (or why putting all your eggs in someone else’s basket is a bad, bad idea)
  • How to make money online
  • How to get better at art
  • How to take care of yourself (aka self care)
  • How to build a following on social media
  • How to get better at marketing
  • How to get and stay inspired (or, why inspiration is bullshit)
  • How to shift your focus from half-assing it to full-assing it
  • How to learn from people better than you
  • H ow to make the most of your time (aka personal productivity)
  • WTF is SEO and does it matter or not?
  • How to roll your own Patreon
  • Do you need a blog?

What do you think? Speak your mind in the comments.

Like I said before, I’d like to have a conversation with you! Everyone has different experiences and different points of view – and it can only help others to share your experience with them. Please leave a comment sharing your opinions & experiences

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