Image by Khristich Yury via BigStock
Venturing out on your own to start a creative business can be a scary experience. There are so many things that could go wrong.
What if you fail?
What if you can’t make any money?
What if nobody likes what you do?
The good news is that you’re not alone in thinking like this. Every creative entrepreneur experiences fear. It’s perfectly normal and healthy to have fears. What’s not healthy is when our fear paralyses us into inaction.
Fear, worry and anxiety can often lead to procrastination, and if we don’t overcome them, we can end up abandoning our dream of creative entrepreneurship because the fear of potential pitfalls becomes overwhelming.
You are not alone
Several bloggers including myself recently conducted a survey of almost 1,000 members of the creative community, in which we asked the participants to specify some of the fears they face as artists (or writers, musicians etc.).
When we looked at the results, what we found was that a lot of the same fears came up over and over again. It seems that as creative entrepreneurs, not only do we all experience fear, but many of us have exactly the same fears.
This is a very important piece of knowledge to have. When you can recognise that almost everyone else in your situation shares your fears and worries, they begin to lose some of their power over you.
Let’s take a look at three of the most common fears cited by creative entrepreneurs, and steps you can take to overcome them.
1. Financial fear
I won’t be able to make enough money to support myself.
Understandably, a major fear for artists, and anyone starting to work for themselves, is that they might not be able to bring in enough income to pay for rent, bills, food etc.
Money is a huge source of anxiety for a lot of people. The uncertainty of an irregular income, and the fear that brings with it are enough to deter a lot of people from even considering taking the leap into creative entrepreneurship. And those who do take the plunge are often constantly worried about where the next paycheck is coming from.
How to overcome it
Many people connect money with a sense of security, and feel that if they don’t have that regular monthly income they will no longer be ‘safe’ and ‘secure’.
So it’s not so much a lack of money that we’re afraid of, but rather the loss of that sense of security we have attached to our money. Losing that perceived security is too emotionally demanding for a lot of people.
There’s no denying the need for money. We all need money to live on, but the key to overcoming the fear is to get rid of our emotional attachment to money and develop a more balanced perspective.
Change the way you think about money
You are not your money – Don’t associate your income with your self-worth. From an early age, we are conditioned to think that we should always try to accumulate as much money as possible, and more money equals more respect. Think about where your true sense of value comes from. Is it really your bank balance?
Money does not equal happiness – Yes, money can buy experiences that will contribute to your happiness, but to assume you won’t be happy until you have more money is a very unhealthy attitude. You can find ways to enjoy your life now, no matter how much money you have.
Money does not exist – What?? It’s true, money is an illusion. The pieces of paper and metal that we use as money actually have virtually no intrinsic value. There is no commodity to back up the currency that’s in circulation, it’s all based on faith in the economy! How can you be afraid of something that doesn’t even exist?
Money is not security – This goes against everything that we have been taught as children, but allow me to get a bit spiritual for a moment. Nothing in the world is secure, everything is impermanent and fragile. To really shift our perspective around money, we need to stop looking at money as a source of security, and realise that in fact the exact opposite is true. We need to start deriving our sense of security from within ourselves, from the value that we can offer to the world, and then we can turn that value into a source of income.
2. Fear of rejection
My work won’t make a difference in the world or no one will care.
Another common fear is that people might think what you’re doing is pointless and nobody will be interested in it.
Again, this is perfectly normal. Everyone craves attention, and everyone wants people to like the things they create (even the ones who insist that they couldn’t care less!).
How to overcome it
Consider how important it really is that people like your work. Are you doing what you do just for recognition and status, or are you doing it because you love to do it or out of a desire to help people?
If your creative work is genuine and true to yourself, then at least some people will connect with it. I’m sure you already know some people who love what you do. If they love it, then so will other people.
Remember, you can’t please all of the people all of the time. There will undoubtedly be people who don’t like what you do, but you should take that as a compliment. If your work attracts criticism, then it means you are doing something worthwhile.
Always focus on your core values when you do your creative work. Don’t worry about what people will think of it when you’re done. It’s when you start pandering to other people’s tastes that your work loses its value. Create what’s important to you, and people will appreciate your authenticity.
3. Fear of selling out
Selling out. Being stuck having to produce something over and over because it sells and that is what people want from me. Losing my integrity in order to mass produce.
‘Selling out’ is a common discussed issue in creative circles. Should an artist try to sell whatever it is they want to create, or should they create what they know people want to buy? Many creative folk think that they need to tend towards the latter, but they worry about getting stuck doing work they don’t really care about just so they can make some money.
How to overcome it
The good news here is that this one is entirely within your power to control. You can choose whether or not you ‘sell out’, and in fact, you are the only one who can define what selling out means for you.
Again it comes down to focusing on your values, and doing work that’s authentically you.
One piece of advice I read recently in Margaret Peot’s The Successful Artist’s Career Guide is to paint [or create] what you know and care about… and through this, you will start to get at what is important to you. Its resonance with you will make it important to others.
The point is that again, not everyone is going to want to buy what you create, but rather than trying to create something that will please everyone (an impossible task), focus on pleasing the people who do like your work, and you’ll never have to worry about losing your integrity.
So maybe you’ve read all the advice above, but you still find that you’re experiencing fear around creative entrepreneurship. That’s normal. If you’re really afraid of something, it’s likely that the fear will never go away completely.
What you can do is acknowledge your fear, and observe it. Think about why you feel afraid, accept that your fear is trying to protect you from something, and consider whether that thing is really a genuine threat. Once you analyse your fear in this way, you will find that it no longer controls you, and you will have the ability to feel the fear and do it anyway!
What are you afraid of?
What are your biggest fears as a creative entrepreneur? Are they the same as the ones mentioned here, or do you have other fears holding you back?
Has fear prevented you from living the life you want to live? What have you done to try and overcome it?
Please share your stories in the comments.
About the Author: Dan Johnson is an artist and blogger who helps inspire people to make a living from their creativity. You can catch up with his latest writing on Right Brain Rockstar, or follow him on Twitter.