Creatives as Entrepreneurs

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writer-1421099_1920You wrote a book. A complete 350 page manuscript. In your mind, it’s the cat’s pajamas. You show your immediate friends and family and they pat you on the back and say “Good job, tiger! That’s quite an achievement!”

You send it off to a publisher and…

Nothing happens.

You do a google search and read on Hucky Mcduff’s Super Dooper Writers’ blog that you’re supposed to send it to agencies. It worked for Hucky’s cousin’s uncle-in-law and it’ll work for you, too.

You buy a book filled with agencies and make a few hundred copies of your manuscript. You mail them all out. And…

Nothing happens.

At this point you pick up a book on “how to get published” and send out query letters and…

You get the idea.

While the example above is of the would-be author, most would-be independent creatives fall into a similar vortex and few find what they’re looking for.

Why?

Because most would-be creatives believe it to be taboo to think like a business. The romantic myth is of the eccentric weirdo scratching out something of inscrutable genius and professionals like editors, agents, managers, salespeople, PR experts, marketers, etc. lining up to pour this raw bucket of sweet magic all over an eager public, who will eat it up without question.

The reality is that successful self-employed creatives — I assume, you — have to think like a business. And succeeding as a start-up requires a ton of creativity.

You need to:

  • Objectively assess your abilities, things you could excel at with some study or training, things you can understand but would need others to do, and things that you believe you will always be terrible at. I say “believe” because most of those things could become strengths with a little work. Read Ryan Holiday’s excellent book The Obstacle is the Way.
  • Objectively assess your art/product. Is it really that good? Or are you being a special darling and refusing to see the mistakes, flaws, and weaknesses? If you find it hard to be objective, find someone who can be (i.e., not friends or family).
  • Assess your needs and build a strategy around achieving whatever you define “success” as — and accept that you will fail and encounter numerous setbacks. “Succeed or learn.”
  • Develop flexible plans that reflect your strategy, starting with the very first step.
  • Build — and cohesively manage — a team of people to work with to achieve your goals, which begins with people to, in the case of a would-be author, read your work and help polish, re-write, and edit it.
  • Find a way to successfully present yourself to an audience (marketing), reach that audience (PR), and actively sell your creation/product with enthusiasm (sales). “Find a way” means learn to do it yourself or hire (or otherwise convince) experts to work with you. Read Josh Kaufman’s unbelievably thorough and well-cited The Personal MBA. Better than business school.
  • Consistently develop yourself as a human being, as a creative, as a business person, and as a leader. Time spent on self-development pays all kinds of interest — and it compounds. Start by reading Steven Pressfield’s excellent book The War of Art.
  • Eliminate self-defeating myths from your mental framework. Losers love to embrace slogans that justify their failures: “Artists/Writers/Whatever aren’t business people.” “All business people are evil monsters and I don’t want to turn into an evil monster myself.” “Confident people are idiots; smart people are filled with doubt.” “The game is rigged.” “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” “You need money to succeed and you need success to get money.” “Life is a catch-22.” Et cetera. This kind of thinking is total bullshit. I’ll write a post about self-defeating myths in a few days.
  • Do the work. Most people fail because they don’t show up and do the work. If you want to “make it”, don’t forget that half the phrase is “make” and “making” is serious work. It takes time and effort. If you can get at least an inch toward your dream every single day, no matter what, you will reach it. Success is a game of inches (though some days you can get a lot more done — just don’t rely on fast, easy gains).
  • Enjoy yourself. Self-development starts to feel like superhero training once you start noticing tangible progress. Business can be incredible fun and involves a lot of creativity. It builds confidence by giving you concrete results, in place of the soul-crushing “waiting around for people to notice.” Enthusiasm is your greatest asset as a creative and in business. Enjoyment builds and breeds enthusiasm. It’s easy to be enthusiastic when you are getting results. It’s fun to be a superhero.

Now that we’ve smashed some of the gremlins holding you back, next I want to delve deeper into self-defeating myths. It’s easier to justify failure than it is to learn from it and our silly ape brains try to push us into the easier path. Let’s stomp some myths to death!

What ridiculous myths have you held onto that held you back?

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