When you set out to earn a living from your creative talent, you will inevitably encounter obstacles.
Over the past week, I’ve been hearing about plenty of these, from students in the process of signing up for the Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap. So I thought it would be helpful to share three of the most common roadblocks to success I’ve been hearing about, and offer solutions to them.
Roadblock #1. Technophobia
“I don’t get on with technology.”
“I’m not a geek.”
“The internet is like a foreign country to me.”
“It feels antisocial to spend all that time on the computer.”
I hear this kind of objection a lot, and to me it’s based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the internet and related technologies are really about.
Let’s start with the fundamentals:
- People are critical to the success of your creative business.
- Realising your ambitions means finding the right people – collaborators to co-create with you, and customers to buy the finished results.
- The more creative and original your business is, the more picky you have to be about the people you work with, and the people you sell to.
You have high standards, so when it comes to creative collaboration, you want to work with the very best people you can find.
And you are not creating your artworks, products or services for everyone. You are creating them for the discerning ones – the ones with the particular tastes you can satisfy, or the very specialist problems you solve.
So you are looking for a very special class of person. And the chances are these people are not all located in your home town. Even if you live in a big cosmopolitan city, where the odds are better of finding your ‘right people’, it can still be a struggle to find enough of them to keep your business afloat, let alone thriving.
And there has never been a better place, network or system for finding the right kind of people than the internet.
When I started coaching artists and creatives in London in the mid-nineties, in spite of the fact it’s a relatively Bohemian city, finding my ideal clients was like looking for a needle in a haystack. I found some, and they were a delight to work with – but I had to take on other work (psychotherapy, copywriting, corporate consulting) to keep the show on the road.
Today, my websites, courses and newsletters are read by people across the globe. And not just any people – interesting, creative, inspiring and motivated creative people. People like you.
You are my ideal audience, and it’s thanks to the magic of the internet that you are reading this now.
That same magic can help you find YOUR perfect readers, collaborators and customers – people you love to work with. People you love to help and inspire. People who LOVE what you do.
So please don’t be put off by the technology!
Fundamentally, the internet is about connecting people. Yes, we need technical tools to facilitate this, but don’t get hung up on the tools – focus on their purpose, which is basically social. And you’ve known how to be social for years now! 😉
And the tools are getting simpler year after year. When I started my own online adventure six years ago, the technical learning curve was steeper than it is now – I spent a lot of time on html and css forums, which I don’t need to bother with any more. If a poet and ‘people person’ like me can get my head around the technology, so can you. 😉
Roadblock #2. Assuming the Internet Is Only for Digital Entrepreneurs
“But I don’t have an online business.”
“I sell real products, not ebooks.”
“I’m a local business, what use is it to me to have an audience all over the world?”
Again, I hear this kind of statement a lot. But, surprisingly, in some ways online marketing is simpler and easier for people selling physical products or artworks than it is for those of us selling digital products and online consulting.
Firstly, remember what I just said about the internet – it’s an amazing tool to help you find the right customers and collaborators for your business. And people are just as important to bricks’n’mortar businesses as they are to purely online ones.
Secondly, if you’re creating information products and using content marketing to market them, then you face tricky decisions about what to charge for, and what to give away for free.
But if you’re selling stone sculptures, or ceramics, or running live classes in your studio, it’s fairly obvious you can’t make those available as a free download from your website. 🙂
So that frees you up to be generous and have fun creating digital marketing content to promote your physical products/artworks or face-to-face services.
Thirdly, you may have noticed that most local businesses are clueless about online marketing. Even if your customers are not the most web-savvy people, they probably at least use Google to search for products and services – and even a modestly popular and link-worthy website should make it relatively easy to outrank most of your competitors on local search.
And when customers land on your site, they will likely be impressed if, instead of the usual ‘brochure site’, they see original and engaging media content, as well as signs of live interaction with other readers, in the form of comments, subscriber count, and links to busy profiles on Twitter, Facebook etc.
Finally, you may be surprised what new opportunities open up for your business once you set out your virtual stall and plug in to worldwide creative networks.
When I started blogging back in 2006, I was simply looking for coaching and consulting clients in London. I’d never have dreamed it would lead to me delivering coaching sessions and courses to students scattered around the globe. Or to partnering and running a business with people I’d never met in person. Some days I still have to pinch myself.
This part is the hardest to picture in advance, since by definition you don’t know what unknown opportunities may be out there for you. But if you do take the plunge and start attracting an audience and growing your network online, be prepared for unexpected and magical things to happen…
As networked technology becomes ever more integrated into our daily lives, the boundaries between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ will continue to blur and fade away. So one of the best things you can do for your business – wherever it’s located – is to embrace social media tools as a means of getting yourself found (and recommended) by your ideal customers.
Roadblock #3. Letting the Pressure Get to You
Working for yourself is hard. Knowing that the buck stops with you brings a unique type of pressure. Responsibility is the price you pay for the freedom and opportunities you enjoy as a creative entrepreneur. But it doesn’t have to crush you.
It’s obviously important to take care of yourself for personal reasons. And when you’re running a creative enterprise, there is a compelling business case for doing so: you are your own biggest asset.
Unless you are grounded, happy and energized, you won’t be able to maintain the high-level creativity that is the true source of value for your business.
So how can you do that? Here are three ways that work together and reinforce each other.
Firstly, you need some kind of daily practice that keeps you grounded and in touch with your body, your feelings and the physical environment.
It could be a formal meditation practice, or a body-centred discipline like yoga or tai chi. It could be physical exercise, making something with your hands, or even just a quiet stroll in the fresh air.
And when I say ‘daily’ practice, I mean every single day. Skip a day, and you could easily find yourself not having done it for a month – and feeling more anxious and less grounded as a result.
Secondly, make sure you have several hours of ‘digital downtime’ – with no connection to the internet – every day. And yes, that includes the phone – I call this ‘put-the-phone-down-time’. 🙂
And thirdly, spend plenty of time with people who care about you, who are fun to be around, and have nothing to do with your business.
Do all three of these, regularly, and you’ll find yourself much better equipped to handle the ups and downs of running your own business. Not only that, you’ll retain that vital spark of creativity and enthusiasm that will bring you a constant source of great new ideas – and make you a remarkable person to do business with.