No one has to tell me I have creative work many people envy. I set my own hours, I can move with my creative flow, choose what projects I work on every day and have a great deal more independence and flexibility than I would ever have if I had a typical nine-to-five job.
So when people tell me they could never possibly do what I do, I often I wonder why. I’m told it’s too scary, too hard, too expensive—or they could never pay the bills let, alone turn a profit from being self-employed. I understand their concerns. We all need to pay the bills, have health insurance, and keep food on the table.
But getting to where I am didn’t come easy and I am still not where I want to be. There were barriers for me, too. I had to reinvent myself and focus on what I could do instead of what I couldn’t.
This makes me believe that the difference between those who pursue a creative career and those who don’t seems to lie mostly in attitude and anyone can break through a fear of starting a business by remaining open to the wisdom and advice of others who have done it.
Certainly not having enough money is a valid enough reason for not quitting a day job and not one many people would argue. But no one says you should abandon your cubicle and paint the next Warhol or write the next great American novel. Often the secret to taking a creative plunge is in what SARK calls, MicroMOVEments:
Here are some of my own microMOVEments for fledgling creatives who think doing creative work they love is nothing more than empty, wishful thinking:
Listen to your heart. Do you want to write full-time? Do you want to build websites or blog for extra money? Do you want to stay at home with the kids and write? Doing what you love doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do it full-time. Assess your skills and talents and consider taking a few courses at your local art center or community college to brush up if you want or need to.
Create a support community. Creating a community of supportive friends and family is important, especially when you are embarking on a new path. I’m not talking about a group of “yes-people” but surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you and can be honest with you, even when you might not like it. If you can find a mentor who can show you the ropes and share insight with you as you are starting out so much the better.
Know your industry. Creating a business is different from weekend painting or creative writing at night after you tuck your kids in bed. It’s a good idea to build a solid foundation—and a creative career often means starting a small business. If you are a writer, do you want to go into copywriting, editing, or essay and short-story writing? If you are an artist, are you interested in painting, sculpting, ceramics or textiles? Decide on your focus and study it. Research the Internet and read about latest trends and what other people are doing in your area of expertise. Join local and online discussion group, or volunteer at a local art center to learn more about your industry community.
Don’t quit your day job. You can build a fruitful career in a creative field while you are still doing the nine-to-five thing. Start small but think big. Create a solid, but personable clientele and you’ll still have steady income and while you are working toward your goal.
Get out. Don’t rely on a few clients or word of mouth—constantly market yourself. Be prepared, especially in corporate markets, to meet with clients face to face. Network and connect with others outside your social sphere. Build a website and/or a blog and market your business like any other. Make use of social media like Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed and Social Median to connect to others in your industry around the world and learn about what is new, exciting and profitable. Work will not come to you in the beginning. You have to create it.
Good businesses take time to build—as in years. Don’t look to get top dollar right away but you can earn a good second income and eventually a living. Build a strong base by knowing your industry, practicing your craft, keeping your mind open to new things and fresh perspectives. Remember start small, think big.
Life is wide, grab a swizzle stick.
* Orginally posted on Active Gray Matter Blog.