Over and over again writers and other creatives have asked me if it’s possible to earn a good living by following their heart and creating rather than getting a job.
My response is “of course, but only if you treat your part time or full time creations as a business!”
I’ve learned to expect the look of pain that crosses the questioner’s face, often accompanied with something like, “But I hate business!”
“Really,” I comment. “Tell me why?”
What follows is a rant I used to use myself. It usually boils down to something like this:
- I don’t know anything about business.
- Business is soul crushing.
First, what exactly is business?
When I got truthful with myself and realized I needed some sort of business approach, I had only the vaguest idea what business actually was. Over time I learned. The definition I like best now is:
The purpose of a business is to organize some sort of economic production of goods or services.
That’s a quote from Investopedia which is a good resource but don’t get lost there right now.
Really all it means in my opinion is getting organized so you can sell what you make, keep track of your costs and know if you’ve made a profit or not. It’s also a signal to you and the world that you’re taking your craft seriously.
Must you want to make money with your ability? No. The way our society is organized though, you will need money to eat, have shelter, etc. Making some money at least doing something you love might make a lot of sense.
Along the way our society chose profit as our main value. Yes it could have been otherwise, and it could change. I’d like to see that too, but right now this is where we’re at.
I like writing and coaching more than any other way I’ve earned money and helping other creatives make more money for themselves is the second purpose of this site. The first purpose is to create money for me. Over time I’ve learned to organize myself so I can do business and not hate it.
Part of the reason I don’t hate it is because I’ve taken what works for me and left a lot behind. To some degree we can all choose how we want to do business – but that sounds like another article.
Some truths about business
The list of why many people hate business could be a long one, but these are perhaps, the most likely, at least in the beginning. Let’s take these one at a time:
I don’t know much about business
None of us were born knowing anything about business, or our art either come to think of it. Fortunately, business is a learnable skill, just like whatever you create was and is. And you don’t need a fancy degree either. Nor does it hurt to have one.
There are lots of online places to learn business. Here are what I consider the top three:
- Udemy – probably the largest collection of courses on almost every conceivable topic. A few are free, most are under $15. Check under ‘business’ for sure. Also look under the name of your art; you may be pleasantly surprised. And if you ever decide you also want to teach your own art as an online class, this may very well be the place to start.
- Coursera – last I looked they had over 5,000 courses on business alone, including several aimed at entrepreneur – which is what you are if you sell even a tiny bit of your art. I’ve not yet taken any courses here, but their reviews are excellent. The cost is varied and can add up in a hurry, but still a bargain when compared to standard educational institutions. And in some situations they offer financial aid.
edx – The approach here is to connect students with high powered experts in the chosen field. Business is definitely one of their specialties. An ideal situation for people who want to become truly professional in their chosen field, its more than you need to get started doing business well. If you turn out to fall in love with the business side of craft this may be for you.
Maybe you’d prefer a book? Here are three from Amazon that will get you started:
Mind Your Business – written for creatives, my hunch is you won’t need all of this in the beginning, but will use it first to understand what you need to organize and when. Keep it for future reference. Available used, new, standard paperback or spiral binding.
Start Your Own Business – popular book written by entrepreneurs. Not glamorous but truly helpful. And you don’t have to do it all at once. Also available on Kindle.
Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur’s Handbook – Yes, that Harvard. I used to ignore books named after that university until someone handed me an article from The Harvard Business Review. My snobbery was cutting of my nose to spite my face as it were. An excellent book, and a keeper even if you only want a small business.
Business is soul crushing
Trying to live when you’re an artist or a creative of some sort is what’s soul crushing. Starting to understand business is actually the way to start making some money with your creativity. It gives you way more choices.
Take learning about the kind of business skills you need slowly. They will be different for each person, but usually contain both handling money and doing some sort of marketing.
Guard your time fiercely and you’ll find running your art as a business will soon actually help you free up some of your time. It probably won’t be straight forward at first, but I like many have found it both doable and brings good results.
Yes, getting organized a bit by treating yourself and your art as a business is more freeing than you might imagine.
Create well and often,
Feel free to comment.
Image by kalhh from Pixabay