Creative entrepreneurs are driven by a passion to create remarkable things and meaningful relationships. They come in various types:
- Artists and creatives who make a living from their artwork
- Entrepreneurs who take a creative approach to their business
- Independent-minded individuals who want to create a unique lifestyle for themselves and their families.
Creative entrepreneurs don’t necessarily follow the traditional entrepreneurial path – like Marla, many of them eschew VC funding and have no interest in scaling their business beyond themselves and a few co-conspirators (although they are very open to scaling it in terms of profitability and impact).
By definition, creative entrepreneurs think and act differently to most folks around them. They were the odd one out at school or when they had a day job. But there’s only so much you can achieve on your own. And the great thing about the Internet is that it allows you to connect with like-minded creators, who you instinctively recognise as members of your tribe. Over time, certain bloggers emerge as thought leaders for the creative entrepreneur tribe, providing education, inspiration and a hub for conversation and community.
Here, in alphabetical order, are 10 blogs that are essential reading for creative entrepreneurs – they will fuel your creativity, sharpen your business skills, connect you with others on the same path, and sustain you through the ups and downs of your entrepreneurial journey.
1. The Art of Nonconformity
As the name The Art of Nonconformity suggests, Chris Guillebeau marches to a different drum. He’s on a mission to “help people live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world”. In his own life, this has involved spending several years working as a volunteer for a medical charity in West Africa, and setting himself the challenge of visiting every country in the world by the time he reaches 35. He supports himself by running a Very Small Business, selling Unconventional Guides on topics such as making a living as an artist, working for yourself and becoming a travel ninja.
On his blog Chris writes about personal development, life design, entrepreneurship and international travel. One of the themes of the blog is that less can often equal more, if you take a creative approach and focus on your true priorities. So Chris is able to maintain a mind-boggling travel schedule, partly by running a successful online business, partly through conscious frugality in other areas of his life (e.g. he doesn’t own a car), and partly by making creative use of airline’s frequent flyer schemes to earn himself thousands of free air miles every year. He’ll show you how to take a similarly creative approach to your life and work.
Subscribe to The Art of Nonconformity to learn how to start a very small business and take over the world (in a good way).
2. Awake at the Wheel
Jonathan Fields stands out from many ‘Internet entrepreneurs’, as someone with a track record of building bricks-and-mortar businesses – health clubs and yoga centres – long before he got involved in online publishing. Via his blog Awake at the Wheel and his book Career Renegade, he shows how timeless entrepreneurial principles can be applied and amplified via social media and digitally enabled supply chains.
Field’s central insight is that in order to create an outstanding business, you need to be doing something you’re passionate about, otherwise you will lack the necessary commitment and persistence to make it happen. Not to mention making yourself unhappy in the process. This means Awake at the Wheel is as much about personal development as it is about effective business practices. For more on Fields’ approach to life and business, read the interview he gave us at Lateral Action.
Subscribe to Career Renegade to learn how to make a great living doing what you love.
3. Chris Brogan
Conversation, community, communication – as a creative entrepreneur, these are the building blocks of your marketing strategy (and a healthy chunk of your innovation process), and there’s no better place to learn about them and see them in action than Chris Brogan’s Blog. Whenever somebody tells me they think it’s antisocial to spend lots of time on the computer, I point them to Chris’s blog (and Trust Agents, which he co-authored with Julien Smith), to show them the human face of online communication. Chris keeps up a phenomenal workrate, pumping out advice on social media, marketing, online etiquette, motivation, success and authenticity. And check out the comments section as well as his interactions on Twitter to see what a buzzing online community looks like.
Do you need to write as much as Chris, and to interact with so many people on Twitter, in forums and live conferences? Maybe not. But as well is delivering solid advice, he will challenge you to be more open, more engaged, more generous in your online interactions every day. A great starting point is his Lateral Action interview.
Subscribe to Chris Brogan’s blog to learn how to build relationships and influence.
I swear Brian didn’t twist my arm to include this one. 🙂 As many of you know, Brian Clark is not only a partner here at Lateral Action, but the founder of Copyblogger and the online business empire that radiates out from the blog.
Copyblogger makes the list for three reasons:
- It provides a first-class education in online marketing, for free, via both the blog and the e-mail newsletter Internet Marketing for Smart People. Copyblogger is edited by the wonderful Sonia Simone, and features razor sharp marketing and copywriting advice from not only Brian and Sonia, but also a roster of great guest writers, including regulars James Chartrand, Jonathan Morrow, Johnny B. Truant, Dean Rieck, Sean Platt, Sean D’Souza and Roberta Rosenberg.
- It provides in-depth training and community support, as well as killer software tools, via the constellation of sites in orbit around it: Teaching Sells, Third Tribe, Thesis, Scribe – and, of course Lateral Action.
- It offers a model for other online entrepreneurs to emulate, based around offering free content to build trust, authority and community, and paid solutions to pressing problems faced by community members.
For a thorough introduction to the Copyblogger approach, read the free report Authority Rules: The 10 Rock Solid Elements of Effective Online Marketing.
Subscribe to Copyblogger to learn how to sell without selling out.
When I first encountered Gapingvoid several years ago, I wondered what the hell was going on. I found bitingly funny cartoons of the kind no magazine editor would dare to publish, mixed in with Hugh’s thoughts on marketing and creativity. He was giving away so much for free, it was hard to work out how he was making a living.
Several years and a bestselling book later, I’m starting to get a handle on what the hell is going on, on the blog, in Hugh’s mind, and in his unorthodox business, but there’s still an anarchic edge to Gapingvoid that means you’re never quite sure what’s coming next.
This is another blog that makes the list for multiple reasons:
- The cartoons. If Hugh published nothing but the cartoons, this would still be a must-read. They are painfully funny, gloriously ‘not safe for work’ and drawn for people like you.
- Hugh’s thoughts on how to be creative (the article that turned into a book), blogging, entrepreneurship, social objects, the global micro-brand, and marketing.
- Hugh’s eclectic and evolving business model. By giving away hundreds of cartoons for free, he’s built a platform that has marketed South African wine, a Scottish feature film, enterprise software, and last but not least, limited-edition prints of his own cartoons. It’s also landed him consulting gigs at places like Microsoft and Dell.
For more on Hugh’s idiosyncratic approach to art and life, read his Lateral Action interview.
Naomi Dunford’s writing at Ittybiz is as inimitable and unmistakable as Hugh MacLeod’s cartoons. With titles like ‘A Home Business Marketing Lesson for My Local Sex Shop’ and ‘Entrepreneurship: What to Do When You’re Scared Sh*tless’, you know you’re in for something different – and you probably know instantly whether or not you want in or out. That’s part of the genius of Naomi’s blog – she has said in interviews that probably 90% of people who see her blog hate it on site, but the 10% who ‘get it’ absolutely adore it. This is tribal marketing on steroids, where ‘shibboleth’ is a four letter word.
As the name suggests, Ittybiz is for people who run tiny weeny businesses from their kitchen/basement/local Starbucks. It’s for people who hate marketing but know they need to do it. People who want to be themselves, and who love the way Naomi is gloriously, outrageously, delightfully herself.
Do you need to swear as much as Naomi to succeed as an entrepreneur? Or to be so disarmingly candid? Or to reveal so much about your personal life? Probably not. But apart from her excellent business advice, Naomi’s blog will teach you two things: 1. you can probably be a lot more daring than you think; and 2. even when it’s about you, it’s not about you. Yes, Naomi expresses and reveals a lot of herself on the blog, but she’s no navel gazer – she keeps her eyes firmly on her audience, using her jokes and anecdotes to teach as well as entertain. So when she tells you about accidentally getting a semicolon tattooed on her back, you know there’s a business lesson in it for you, and you can’t wait to see how she’s going to ferret it out.
Subscribe to IttyBiz to learn how to build a tiny business that punches way above its weight.
7. Life Beyond Code
Rajesh Setty is a very bright guy – both mentally and emotionally. Not only does he bring razor-sharp thinking to everything writes, but he’s one of those rare people who seem to be perpetually glowing with positive energy, so that you feel more optimistic and energised whenever you have contact with them, even if it’s just a Tweet. On his blog Life Beyond Code Raj gives us the benefit of his considerable experience as an entrepreneur, investor, author and speaker – as well as his unfailing good humour.
Raj will need no introduction to regular Lateral Action readers – he is our most prolific guest columnist, and several of the articles he’s written for us, such as 9 Ways People Respond to Your Content Online, are among the most popular pieces that have appeared on this site. And there’s plenty more where that came from over on Life beyond Code, at the intersection of entrepreneurship, technology and personal development.
Subscribe to Life Beyond Code to learn how to be upbeat and effective, even when the going gets tough.
8. Presentation Zen
You need to read Presentation Zen (and the book of the same name) even if you never make a presentation. It’s important because it teaches the art of clear, powerful communication – something you will need to master if you are to succeed as an entrepreneur. Garr Reynolds is on a mission to rid the world of ‘death by PowerPoint’ – the proliferation of tedious presentations, where creativity and emotion are stifled by slide after slide of detailed bullet points and corporate jargon. The alternative he offers is powerful storytelling accompanied by clear, powerful images and minimal text. It raises PowerPoint to the level of an art (yes, really), and encourages each of us to bring creativity and passion to public speaking.
Whether or not you’re a public speaker, Garr’s ideas will help you simplify your thinking and make you a better communicator, whatever medium you work in. ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is merely one of the most obvious symptoms of woolly thinking and cluttered communication. You can take a Presentation Zen approach to writing an article, an e-mail, a proposal or a video script. Telling an authentic, powerful, persuasive story about your company, product or service is critical to your success as an entrepreneur. Garr will teach you how to do this, and how to have fun in the process.
Subscribe to Presentation Zen to learn how to communicate with clarity and passion.
9. Seth Godin
Yes, this is an obvious choice – but it’s obvious for a reason. If you want to stay in touch with the latest thinking in online marketing, you need to know what Seth Godin is saying. Seth’s blog is updated daily and is consistently sharp and stimulating. Every so often work pressures mean I get behind on reading blogs – this is one of the very few where I’ll go back and read every single word the author has written in the past few weeks.
As well as the blog, Seth is the author of a string of books that should be on the shelves of any self-respecting creative entrepreneur, covering a range of essential topics: audience and list building (Permission Marketing), getting your ideas to spread (The Ideavirus), positioning (Purple Cow), persuasive storytelling, (All Marketers Are
Liars Storytellers) persistence vs quitting (The Dip), leadership and community (Tribes), and creating a remarkable career for yourself (Linchpin).
Subscribe to Seth’s Blog to keep your finger on the pulse of the new economy.
10. Steven Pressfield
These days, lots of people (including us at Lateral Action) are drawing parallels between artists and entrepreneurs, but bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield did it over a decade ago, in his classic book on getting creative work done, The War of Art. If you haven’t read the book, you must. Seriously. And if you have read it, you’ll be delighted to know Steven is now writing a killer blog about, creativity, writing, entrepreneurship and related matters.
Steven’s Writing Wednesdays offers more uncompromising inspiration in the vein of The War of Art. He’s also in the middle of an in-depth investigation into the conflict in Afghanistan, It’s the Tribes Stupid. ‘Tribes’ is a popular social media buzz word at the moment, thanks to Mr Godin; Pressfield gets to the heart of the matter by looking at the reality of tribalism in Afghanistan, as encountered by modern-day coalition troops and the army of Alexander the great. Reading Pressfield makes most other blogs look flimsy and trivial by comparison.
Subscribe to Steven Pressfield’s blog to overcome Resistance to tackling your biggest creative challenges.
Which Blogs Do You Consider Essential Reading for Creative Entrepreneurs?
I know. I’ve left out some terrific blogs. If one of them is your favourite, please leave a comment explaining why you consider it essential reading for creative entrepreneurs.
And if I’ve included your favourite in my list, let me know what you like about it, and what difference it has made to your business.
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About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a Coach for Artists, Creatives and Entrepreneurs. For a free 25-week guide to success as a creative professional, sign up for Mark’s course The Creative Pathfinder.