So you wanna be creative for money, huh? Ohh Lord, let’s talk.
I’m sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly around a creative career. This blog is all about my experience, but you might find some inspiration or warnings if you are considering a creative career. And if you are an entrepreneur (which to me is an inherently creative field because you are literally making a business from scratch), maybe you can relate.
My creative career start
So let’s start at the beginning with little old Lizzie. I grew up in a very creative family. There’s art running through my veins, and my dad is a virtuoso guitarist. He’s incredibly talented and so highly regarded in the industry by his peers. But he never really made a whole lot of money at it. So the lesson for me throughout my childhood was always, don’t try to be creative for money cause it won’t work out.
When I was in kindergarten, I always said I would want to be an artist, and it’s probably something I wanted my whole life. But, I felt that the “right” thing to do (whatever that means) was to pursue something more academic. So I was an excellent student; I went the very traditional path. In college, I was pre-med, and uh it just was not working for me when I started at UCLA. I just didn’t care enough to try that hard.
I always knew I’d been good at writing, and I decided to apply for a writing internship. And that changed my life. I got this internship, which turned into a job, which turned into a whole decade at a branding agency. At the time, I didn’t know what branding was. I didn’t even know marketing or branding or graphic design or design, in general, was even a thing. I had no idea. I was very, very lucky to fall into it. And it turned out to be one of the loves of my life. I’m very fortunate to find a career where I got paid to do that. But it’s not all good; it’s not all easy. And especially now that I have my own company, there’s a whole other set of trials and tribulations that come with it.
#1 People are paying you to do something you like doing
If you have a creative mind, especially if you have a particular discipline like painting, drawing, design, music, etc. This is probably something you would be doing anyway in your free time, you can lose track of time doing it, and you genuinely enjoy it. So to get paid for it is really cool! And it doesn’t always feel like work. Sometimes it feels fun; it feels like a creative puzzle. It can really fill you up.
#2 You get to help people
It can be super rewarding! This may not apply to every creative discipline in the same way, but for me, I get to serve a client and help their dreams come true. When I read someone their strategy for the first time, for example, they cry sometimes. They get really emotional and say things like, “I’ve never had someone capture, like all the stuff that was in my head that I always wanted to say, but I didn’t know how to say it.” It helps them see themselves more clearly. It helps them make their dreams come true in a small way. And that’s, like, really cool. That’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do that for someone. I don’t take that lightly – that’s a big deal.
I also get to connect with people like you who are watching this, and I get to use whatever tools and gifts I have to meet other people, help them, and teach them something. In general, creativity is a tool for connection, storytelling, bonding, and making someone feel something. That’s a really cool thing; you can use your mind, imagination, and talent to make someone feel something.
#3 Every day is different
This is definitely the case for business owners, especially in my experience working in a creative field. Whether that’s because there’s always some new client, a different industry, new challenge, new deliverable, they need a website, they need a brochure, they need a logo, they need a strategy. There are so many skills you can learn and develop. It’s so broad, and creativity is rewarded. So, it’s tough to get bored in that sense. There’s just always a new creative challenge.
Alright, let’s talk about the bad, y’all.
#1 You have to be creative all the time.
You are literally getting paid for this. Your livelihood depends on your creativity. Liz Gilbert, author of one of my favorite books, Big Magic, has a great talk on this. She talks about how you have a creative muse, and sometimes that muse doesn’t want to show up for you. You are constantly having on deadline to output, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, and be creative and have good ideas all the time. And that is a lot of pressure, and it can be really draining. Sometimes it feels like you’re giving SO much of yourself that you don’t have anything left for you. That’s been something I’ve been dealing with a lot lately. I haven’t posted a few videos in a while; I had to take a break because I was overwhelmed. Having to be creative all the time was wearing me down. It’s real, and people don’t talk about that a lot. Maybe it’s like a privilege problem because like “yeah, oh god, you have to get paid to do something you like all the time,” but it’s a real thing.
#2 You’re not the client or the customer
This isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s not like you’re just drawing or composing, or just creating a business for fun or to please your own needs. You have an audience, a client to please, or a customer you have to serve, and their wants and needs are more important than your own. That can be challenging at times. Often, your recommendation doesn’t get chosen or adhered to; it usually doesn’t go the way that you as an “artist” would want it to go, and that’s okay, like that’s just part of it because that’s the job. The job is to please a client or the customer. It’s not about you; you have to put your ego aside. But it can be challenging, and it’s not the same freeing, purely artistic experience as doing it for yourself. Sometimes letting go of your favorite option actually makes it better (obviously, sometimes it doesn’t). Either way, you have to be receptive to feedback. You have to be receptive to criticism because it’s not all about you. It’s about what other people want and need.
#3 It can really fuel perfectionism
If you’re not a perfectionist – you don’t have these tendencies – then you’re good. Don’t even worry about this! But I definitely do. Creating something for a client can really feed into that because design, art, music, etc., are subjective. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s good enough. If I’m creating a strategy for someone and I have all these different ideas, are they good enough? Are they going to like them? There’s not really a test for that other than just showing it to them. So if you’re a perfectionist or have those tendencies, sometimes it can be hard to know when to stop, and you can put a lot of pressure on yourself to make it better, overwork, and overthink, just so that it is good enough. And that can mean anxiety and unnecessary worry.
From an entrepreneur standpoint, it’s the same thing with your business; there’s always something to do. Always, always, always, always. And sometimes it feels like it’s never enough. Like, am, am I doing enough? When I first started, like the first six months of my business, I was constantly worried about whether or not I was doing “enough.” Like, whatever that means, it’s kind of ridiculous. But it’s fear, and it’s the worry that whatever you are doing won’t be liked or well-received, won’t put food on the table, or whatever it may be. So, it can feed those fears and anxieties if you’re not careful.
You know I’ll always be honest with you
Some people will say all of that and then be like, “oh, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.” I don’t feel that way all the time. Sometimes I do. And sometimes I’m like, “this shit is HARD.” But I do know that if I weren’t doing something creative and if I had a tedious, straightforward job, I’d probably lose my fucking mind, and I’d be wasting whatever little bit of talent I have.
Those are my key good and bad sides of having a creative career and being creative for money. Let me know what you think – I want to hear from you! Do you relate to this? Did I share something new? Are you considering a creative career? If you are, and you’re trying to get into the design, branding, copywriting, and strategy space – send me an email [email protected] because I’m always looking for new creatives to collaborate with, to bring onto my team, whatever it may be. And I’d love to meet you.
Until next time, stay badass!