Survival Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur
September 27, 2017

Survival Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur

Napa Valley Photographer | Amanda Mathson Photography

I want to give a little love to my fellow creative entrepreneurs who might be ready to throw in the towel.

Everyone knows that being any sort of small business owner is hard work. But as a creative business owner, you not only have to manage the full gamut of responsibilities that comes along with a small business, but you also have to be able to tap into your creative juices on a consistent basis.

Maybe you’re struggling with staying inspired. Maybe you’re questioning whether you should just give up the never-ending hustle of working for yourself. Maybe you’re feeling especially hard on yourself and your work, because – well, you’re a creative, and that’s just what we do.

I totally get it. And while I’m certainly no expert, and I still feel like I’m figuring things out as I go when it comes to running a creative business, I do want to share a few tips that I try to keep in mind whenever I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Some “survival tips for the creative entrepreneur,” if you will. I hope they might be of some help to you, too.

Beware the comparison trap

I do it. You do it. We all do it, and I don’t just mean creative types.

Every single one of us measures our success in life according to those around us. We can’t help it – as humans, we’re social creatures and we’re continually observing and learning from one another. So it makes sense that as creative entrepreneurs we would compare our work with that of others in the same field and use that as a barometer for our own success.

I’m not going to tell you to stop comparing yourself to others. That would be pointless, of course. And really, comparing yourself to others isn’t even all bad, as long as it’s helping to drive you in a positive direction of growth as an artist.

What I will tell you is this: Do not fall into the “comparison trap” of trying to recreate the same path someone else has taken, with the hopes of achieving the same results. It can completely murder your creative momentum and diminish your own sense of worth as a unique artist.

Your journey is your own, and the work you produce is going to reflect that.

Your success as a creative entrepreneur is not determined by anyone else (and that goes for all areas of life, really). Your journey is your own, and the work you produce is going to reflect that. Trust in that and focus first on your own trajectory of growth, because that’s the only one that really matters.

Take it easy on yourself (and each other)

My husband loves to tell this joke:

How many photographers does it take to change a light bulb?

Fifty. One to change it and 49 to say they could have done it better.

I chuckle at this, but seriously – photographers (and artists in general) can be pretty hard on each other. Not only that, but I think we’re naturally inclined to be hard on ourselves, too.

no one else know what they're doing eitherThe upside to kicking our own asses as creatives is it can be a great motivator to improve our skills. The downside? Well, obviously, it’s emotionally exhausting, and we can end up feeling stuck and dissatisfied with our work. Hello, burnout.

Consider this your friendly reminder to take it easy on yourself and accept you’re going to fail and make mistakes. A lot of ’em. That’s just part of the process.

And because the nature of our work as creative entrepreneurs puts us all in a particularly vulnerable position, remember to be nice to your fellow creatives, too.

That entrepreneur over on Instagram or Etsy or wherever who is seemingly a natural-born creative genius has actually had to work really freaking hard to get to her current level of success and recognition. So rather than secretly hating her, take a moment to give her some props, and let her accomplishments inspire you to keep steaming ahead on your own path.

You are not an island (so don’t try to go it alone)

I think of myself as an ‘extroverted introvert‘ (I’m not making that term up – it’s really a thing). This basically means that as much as I truly love being social, I really love, love, love  my alone time. And if I don’t get enough alone time, I start to feel a little wonky.

As someone who works primarily out of her home with two lovely dogs as her coworkers, I’d say my innate ability to spend so much time alone has worked in my favor over the last five years or so. But it also means I sometimes have to force myself to reach out to others for support.

As creative entrepreneurs, we really must seek out external support to help lift us up, whether that’s online or within our local communities, especially because this type of work can really wear you down.

Connecting with other local business owners through organizations like Rising Tide Society, joining industry-related Facebook groups, and subscribing to podcasts for creative entrepreneurs has been such a saving grace to me over the years.

In short, hang in there

I’m so inspired by those of you who continue to hustle like ballers and create amazing work, even as others ruthlessly pick it apart and often resent or criticize you for your successes. Unfortunately, some people are just assholes, especially when hiding behind the veil of the wonderful worldwide web, and that’s just a fact of life. Keep in mind this is a product of their own insecurities and not a reflection of your worth as a creative entrepreneur – or a human being, for that matter.

The best I can tell you, my friends, is to continue to live your passion, focus on being kind to yourself and others, and good things will happen. I promise.

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