If your creative side is not nurturing your bank account, here’s how to make the two work together.
Don’t forget about this month’s Run-Around! Blog about one goal young professionals should have for 2012, and we’ll help you promote your post. Here are the details.
Let’s face it, creative people can sometimes be a bit precious about what we create. When we start a project, we like to connect with our work, to have it filled with meaning and sense, and to indulge our muse or inspiration — rather than follow the directions of someone else.
Ah, the wonderful dream! The harsh reality though, is that unless you’re Tracey Emin or Mario Testino – creative people who can afford to dictate how they will work — then to operate as a business (oh such a dirty word), you have to think like one. This means the preciousness must die.
It’s one of the hardest things to learn when turning your creative streak into your career. When I started out as a freelance writer more than seven years ago, I wanted to write about the things that I wanted to write about. Why wouldn’t I? Writing was what I loved to do.
And then I hurt my butt when I bumped firmly back down to earth. It seemed that writing what I wanted to write wasn’t going to earn me money because, guess what? The editors who were paying me had specific editorial plans that they wanted to follow. How dare they!
But starvation wasn’t an option, so I learned how to turn my creative penchant for the written word into a career, and to think in a business-minded way. If you feel your creative side is not nurturing your bank account, then read on for my tips on how to lose the preciousness.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and form the mind-set that you are providing a service. A good job done and positive client relationships will reward you with more juicy freelance work further down the line, whether from that same client or through word of mouth.
If you become known as “difficult to work with” because that creative temperament gets in the way, then you won’t get work going forward.
What the customer says, goes
Of course, you may tactfully advise your clients and question their briefs based on your experience, but if they’re paying, their word is final. The most difficult thing to learn as a freelancer is that you have to give your clients what they want, not what you want to produce.
Imagine if you were paying a decorator to paint your house and you’d asked for Ravishing Red, and they did it in Languishing Lilac because they thought it more fashionable? You’d not be a happy bunny.
Sell your work where you can
A painter that I know refuses to sell her work online or through sites such as Etsy, because she says that people can’t see and “feel it.” Does it really matter if they’re paying?
Unless you fully maximize the selling outlets available to you, then you’ll always play the role of struggling artist. Quite frankly, I’ll sell my ideas to whoever will accept, and have frequently “sold-out” by writing for newspapers that don’t match my political ideals (and I remember saying I’d never!).
Act like a business
If you’ve decide you want to turn your creativity into a career, then you have to behave like you’re earning your bread and butter. Get sensible business advice, be organized about your accounts, purchase quality business cards, attend networking events, and do all the other things that “proper” business people do. You might even consider wearing smart clothes at meetings.
Know you can still be unique
This is the bit you wanted to read isn’t it? The person commissioning your work has chosen you for a reason, and hopefully that isn’t just because you’re undercutting all your competitors and offering the cheapest price.
You’ve been commissioned because they like your work and your individual style and personality. While they want the work to meet their requirements, they still want your flair and talent to show though.
So, you get to be creative, after all.
Andrea Wren is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She blogs at Butterflyist.com, aiming to inspire people around the world to have the confidence to push their comfort zones. Find Andrea on Twitter via @thebutterflyist.