Have you noticed the sudden push to create online courses. Before that, it was en vogue to be an infopreneur. Blogging has been popular for over a decade. What’s also very common is the glut of people starting these projects and never competing them.
The reason is absolutely clear. The motivation for being a professional creative is broken for many people.
I can see the ones who will make it. They’re the people who love to create in their field. They either love to write, or make videos, or teach. It’s something they just need to do. They are the Reginas, Jessicas and Allisons.
The other people, the ones whose motivation doesn’t help them, they don’t have a lot of creative output. That’s because they don’t like creating. I can only assume that the reason they try is to make money.
The desire to make money through your creativity will never sustain you.
After working for over 15 years as a professional creative, here is what you need to know if you want that kind of life.
Professional Creatives are Lonely
With a few exceptions, creatives spend a lot of time alone, honing their craft. Sure there are a lot of people who work with teams, but most of the actual creative time is spent in your head.
This isn’t a surprise to most readers, but it’s a healthy reminder when you get into that rut. You know the rut, right? When the muse is hiding out somewhere and can’t be found. And then you’re stuck staring at the blank page.
In those times, you feel most alone. You aren’t in fact anymore alone than any other time, but you feel it. And it’s overwhelming.
This feeling is amplified when you get feedback, especially when it’s less than flattering. And that leads us to…
Professional Creatives Use Feedback
We all get feedback, even if it’s our own little voice whispering to us. Some of it’s welcome, like those, “Wow! That’s awesome!” moments. Other times, not so much.
But professional creatives use all feedback, even bad feedback.
Let me clarify. Not all critical feedback is bad. Sometimes you get feedback like I did when I was writing my book. “This sentence isn’t really clear.” That’s incredibly helpful if I want my readers to understand my writing. I can remember specific names and places of feedback I got that was so helpful.
Like when Victor Oliver corrected some copy I wrote and told me the difference between “lead’ and “led.” Or when one of my editors (Cathy Martin) told me that self when combined with any other word almost always has a hyphen in between them.
Sometimes we get “bad” criticism. It’s the pushback we get when someone just doesn’t like us or something we did. Even then, you can learn something about yourself and your audience.
The point is, the life of a creative is full of feedback, and most of it can be helpful.
Professional Creatives Work Hard
A lot of people dream of quitting their day job to they can work full time at their side-hustle. Then, when the time comes, they realize the life of a creative is actually just as much work as their former job.
I’ll never forget talking to a professional songwriter. Someone asked her how often she writes. Her response blew me away. She had written over 50 songs that week. 50 SONGS! That’s a lot of creative output.
The songwriter admitted that most the songs were really bad, but they were necessary in her process to get to the good songs.
Working as a professional creative is hard. It’s a constant push for content that’s never ending. But it’s part of the lifestyle. They know that they have to push themselves to create, even when they don’t feel like it.
Professional Creatives Keep A Schedule
One of the differences between someone who is creative and a professional creative is they have a schedule. The publish, post, broadcast or publicize their work regularly. A schedule is just helpful in making that happen.
I’ll tell you a little secret. When I knew I was serious about being a professional creative, that was when I started keeping a calendar of what I was going to create. It’s what keeps me going.
If it doesn’t go on the schedule, it probably won’t happen. That’s my biggest productivity hack. Put it on the calendar.
Most professional creatives have other people who are waiting for their content. They have deadlines. The schedule keeps them on track.
Even if you’re working alone, a schedule can force you to start and finish your work. Otherwise, you might end up in perfectionism hell. I don’t know who said it first, but creatives know it either way.
Perfectionism is just another way to procrastinate.
Professional Creatives Develop Systems
I’ve already told you one part of my system, the schedule, but there are multiple elements to my system. That help me create.
My system looks a little like this:
- Hydrate – I think I’m just better when I have something to drink on hand.
- Block off time – If I only have a couple of minutes, I don’t even bother. I’ll just edit or tweak something already created. I HATE getting into the creative groove and then get cut off.
- Gather everything – I can’t let myself start creating and then go hunting for something. I just won’t come back.
- Head off distractions – Like I just said, creativity is a discipline. If I give myself an excuse to wander, I will.
Professional Creatives Thrive In Community
Probably because the lifestyle is so lonely, creatives thrive in safe places to share ideas. It’s like a breeding ground for fresh perspectives, and it’s much different than getting inspiration.
You can visit a museum or cruise Dribbble for ideas, but nothing replaces the way creative community benefits a designer’s output. The interaction drives new ways of thinking.
Think of it like those movies where someone is being interrogated behind a two-way mirror. One person can see everything, but the other can only see themselves. It’s not a great precedent for communication. While one person may benefit, the other gets no new feedback. And the person observing the other is limited.
If you’re allowed free access to each other, communication opens up. you can talk about processes or challenges. And there’s another difference. A two-way mirror relationship is hostile and defensive.
Professional creatives are open. They share their work without being defensive because they are convinced of the unique nature of their work.
These are just a few of the ways professional creatives work. I could write a post ten times this size and still not hit all the differences. The point is, being a creative on a professional level is different than most people imagine. It’s not until you get in there and start working that you can understand it.
If you’re convinced you want to quit your day job and start creating content, that’s awesome. Welcome to the club. Just make sure you’re ready for one of the biggest challenges of your life.
And one more thing. Consider it a bonus. Professional creatives listen. They take advice, filter criticism and constantly adjust their work.
If I missed something you want to share, cruise over to my Facebook group and tell the Know-How Nation about it. We all learn more together.
Thanks for reading.