Survival Tips for the Creative Entrepreneur
I want to give a little love to my fellow creative entrepreneurs who might need it.
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 – you also have to be able to tap into your creative juices on a consistent basis.
If you’re struggling to keep up with the constant hustle of owning a creative business, I feel ya. And while I still feel like I’m learning as I go when it comes to running my own business, I want to share a few tips I try to keep in mind whenever I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Some “survival tips,” if you will. I hope they might be of some help to you, too.
Beware the comparison trap
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 constantly 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 and a business owner.
What I will tell you is this: Don’t 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. 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.
The 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. We’re all 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, we have to remember to be nice to our 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 natural tendency 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, rather than trying to do everything on my own.
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.