Many thanks to Gwen Bell, who sent this article link along to me last night. The question of whether or not to make your most delightful passion take on the burden of earning you all your money is a tricky one. Especially now, with the economy all over the map and people more fearful to spend on new and exciting artwork and other creative options than they were even a few weeks ago.
I think the crucial question here is: why do we love the creative pursuits we throw ourselves into so much? Why do we keep at them until after midnight and not feel at all tired? Perhaps this is actually because they take us AWAY from work we are doing, and to put the burden of primary earner on these pursuits actually not only sucks the joy out of them, it even defeats their entire purpose. What actually happens when business meets art, as it does in the image above?
I'm not sure that the answer is simple or clearly cut, but I do think it brings up issue we need to consider as creative people...
image: deadlyicon via flickr.
I think the question about making a living as an artist is one that needs to be answered in a systematic fashion. The following questions are ones to consider if you want to switch from your job to working full time at a creative pursuit that you previously only did on the side...
- Have you ever made money on this pursuit? If so, how much? Is the natural progression of giving this activity more attention that you will be able to expand these earnings? Seeing this progression laying itself out is a good reason to go for it, as the fears about money that will creep in as soon as the paycheck goes away will more likely be replaced by increasd earnings and success.
- When have you traditionally done the work/project that you want to turn into your new line of work? If it's on vacation, think twice. What is more likely to happen is that your vacations will end up feeling like work rather than the opposite. Better to think about shifting your work to something you would enjoy doing while at work, as Godin suggests, rather than make your peaceful pursuit a new source of stress and pressure. Be protective of the time that feels free and relaxing- that is a rare commodity in this world now.
- Can you talk about your project in a coherent fashion to people outside your creative circle? More importantly, can you explain your plan to someone who works in business? I use my dad, a career businessman, as my benchmark. If I think I can explain it to him in a way that makes sense, I know I am headed in the right direction. If I only want to tell other creative people about it, I'm still in the development phase. If your idea is going to be a business, it has to also follow the logic of that world and those who work in it.
- Was this something you always wanted to do for a living? This is another good question to ask. If you always wanted to be a professional at the work you are hoping to do now, it will be easier to deal with the transition than if you had always done this for fun and now want to make it a job. To put it in a dating context, if you suddenly think you've found Prince or Princess Charming by making this your work, you're more likely to be disappointed.
- Are there ways you can add the elements you enjoy to your current or a new job to bridge the gap? Make a list of everything you enjoy about your proposed creative work. And I mean everything. Take knitting- if you enjoy selecting patters, choosing color palettes for projects, trading tips with other knitters, teaching, or simply being able to work in quiet uninterrupted, these elements are all significant. See if there are ways to incorporate these tasks into daily work, or if you can transition into work that does incorporate these elements. Often we use things as shorthand for other ideas, and we don't even realize it's happening. In this example, "I'd like to be more involved in the design and color choices in my advertising work" starts to look like "I'd be much happier if I could just knit full time." Unpack your assumptions and then see if you still feel the same way.
- Don't assume that a creative job or working for yourself or from home is an easier or less stressful option. It can feel like a dream that would keep on giving, but unless you can stay focused without a manager's direction, enjoy making decisions alone, and like that the buck stops with you every time, there is a chance that this change would elevate your stress rather than lower it. However, if you already work from home on projects you hate, you might be headed in the right direction.
Every situation is different, and there are many people who make a joyful and successful living from creative work. I work with these people regularly, and am inspired by all they do. If you are toying with the idea of making a creative pursuit a business, working with a coach is an important step to get clear about your goals, expectations, and to lay out a plan that is realistic and orients you for success.
I offer 30 min consults free of charge for this reason. If you've got an idea that fits this profile, contact me, and we can talk about it further. I look forward to exploring your exciting ideas soon!