If you’re a creative you’ve probably sold yourself short your whole life.
I know I did.
When I was a kid people assumed I’d be the one who’d write a bestseller before I’d learn to properly balance a checkbook.
My brother was the finance guy. The academic success. The one who could sit in a cubicle without fantasizing about arson.
I was the one that was supposed to wait tables until I got my big break. Until someone else validated my creativity because that’s how it goes for artists. We either commit to our passion and bartend, or we give up and commit ourselves to a “real job” and a 12 month supply of prozac.
Guys, that story is a bunch of horse sh*t.
And about 8 years ago I started to catch on to the funky smell in the room. After throwing an omelette back at a guest during the breakfast rush, I decided I had enough of waiting tables. It could be twenty years before I sold a script, wrote a book that got any attention or worse – got attention but made no money. Was I going to be broke and miserable because I bought into some BS tale that I’m too right brained for anything else?
It was time for the best of both worlds. Someone was going to buy my writing in the meantime. I wasn’t born with this talent (at the time it felt like a curse) and not see a single cent from it. Plus, I started to feel sorry for my creative work. Money is a terrible burden to stress your comedy writing with.
So I decided this was it. I was going to take the right-brained, get up at 11am, hot mess writer and turn her into a business owner – doing what I love and having more time to write the stuff I REALLY love – minus the sucky life in between.
I ended up with a six-figure freelance copywriting business.
If you’re wondering how you can parlay your creative passion into a freedom based profession – here are the first five major steps I took to start making the transition from starving artist to creative entrepreneur.
Pivot Your Skills to Where They’re Valued
The first thing I did when I decided that struggling playwright- waitress wasn’t going to work for me in the long run was start examining how my skill transfers over in the business world. I started paying attention to copy everywhere. I went from never noticing the words on anything to reading back of shampoo bottles like they were the lost parchment of a holy book. I started to notice how creative writing applied to business and what that writing would need to look like in order to hold value in that world. If I wanted someone to pay for my words then I needed to know how those words should be packaged.
Whether you have a way with words or you’re a visual genius behind a camera or editing desk – start paying attention. Start looking for your “role” in marketing campaigns. How can you package your abilities in a way that’s already a proven need in the business world? What do those changes look like?
If your passion is more product based than service based (i.e. you have an Etsy store you’d love to pay the rent from) take this time to study your colleagues and see how they’re marketing themselves. Work to understand with crystal clear precision who is it that you intend on serving with your store. What problem does your product/service solve or even better, with a few changes what solution COULD your product solve?
Remember, it’s all about “rubix cubing” the skill you already have, not reinventing the wheel.
Find Your Creative Professional Doppelganger
If every great artist steals, then every great business owner mimics someone else their first few months in business.
And not only is that A-OK, it’s the way to save your sanity.
Starting a business feels like you’ve been swept up into a tornado and all the things you need to do are swirling around you – but you don’t have the slightest idea where to start. Even though they keep hitting you square in the face.
This where finding your doppleganger keeps your from losing your shi*t.
Find the person who is doing exactly what you worry can’t be done. Someone who is almost like you – but knocking it so far out the park you have all kinds of great things to learn from them. Find them. Study them. And hold onto them like they’re your life preserver as you jump off the RMS Entrepreneur.
Launching a new business is hard for everyone. But for creatives we get an extra set of challenges – one being that we don’t think we belong in the “business” ring. Another being that we tend to feel like we’re “cheating” on our dream of becoming an Oscar winner because we decide to look at our skillset in a different light.
I promise it’s OK not to starve while you write your novel. It’s OK to sell the skill you were born with to support your bigger dreams (and you know, eat).
Anytime you feel like it can’t be done – look to your Doppelganger. They will help bring some big picture clarity to creative business ownership.
P.S. You already know this – but don’t steal, plagiarize etc. their stuff. Not only will you never get anywhere with inauthentic materials – it’s against everything we stand for. I believe in creative karma -so if you do go that route, prepare for someone to do it to you!
Partner with Creative Pals who Offer a Different Service
One of the best ways to start monetizing your creative skills is to partner up with other professional creatives who’ve already found a way to leverage their talent into a paid profession. The key here is to team up with creatives who work with your ideal client – but can’t provide them with the same service. Writers should buddy up with graphic designers and editors. Designers should have video editors in their back pocket – and everyone should be friends with a social media extraordinaire. Everyone.
You’ll be able to pitch larger scale “team” projects, pass referrals around left and right and get into the “room” without having to jump through as many hoops because you’ll be personally vetted by another creative who already has an “in” with the client. For a new business owner, especially us creative types – this is the BEST way to start pumping revenue into a brand new business.
Obsess Over The Craft
This is kind of a no-brainer, but any time you pivot what you do best into a new direction – it’s important to take it on as a completely different medium and to treat it like it’s own craft. You may be GREAT at writing novels and coming up with quick taglines, but that doesn’t mean you can skip out on learning everything and anything you can about copywriting. However you’re channeling your skill requires study. For me, study was reading and doing. I actively sought out great copy and obsessed about what made it great. I read it over and over again, broke it down in parts and copied it down. I wrote my own versions, created my own samples and practiced until my writing skill was now a copywriting skill. I didn’t wait to get paid either – I learned on the job, on smaller jobs and worked my way up. And since writing killer copy was priority number one – I was able to scale up fast!
Don’t Be Precious
Learn to take a note. When a client wants you to change or edit your work – they aren’t telling you that you suck. They aren’t telling you that they regret hiring you. And they sure as hell aren’t telling you to walk them through a 20 minute explanation of your “thought-process” as to why you wrote/designed/edited it that way.
Take the note. Apply it. Move on. THAT is the sign of a professional creative.
If they didn’t like your work. They wouldn’t have hired you.
Taking notes and re-doing things a hundred times over is just part of the job. That you get paid for. So if the client is happy paying for five rewrites – those should be HAPPY tears – not water droplets of insecurity. 😉
Nobody is going to blow smoke up your you-know-what and tell you it’s easy to start a business. But when done and done right – it’s the BEST gift a creative (or anyone) can give themselves. You don’t have to starve. You don’t have to give up hope. You can fund your own creativity and schedule, so when your first novel finally does get published or movie gets made you can call more shots, have more control and never make a compromise you didn’t want to make because you “needed” the cash.
Jenny Beres is a freelance copywriter, playwright and business coach who helps other creatives turn their passion into a kick-ass profession. Want to learn how you can use your talent to make 3K in your PJs (in just 30 days)? Check out her free class here.