“I long for the ability to create without any thoughts of money…to create because I love it… to take real time off when I need it… to try new things and build in more hobby-time into my life.
Although everything I create is because I love it, I tend to always have that background question: ‘Will it make me money?’
I want to get to a place where I feel I can try things and fail and be totally fine with it…”
–a reader sent this to me.
Indeed, it’s a life that many of us heart-based people long for. It’s a worthy vision, and it’s absolutely possible – step by step. We can even do some of it now, without having to wait.
Let's first distinguish two activities:
Hobbies can be a creative and personal endeavor, with no pressure for anyone to buy, or even like, our work.
Business, however, has the need to sustain itself which requires enough people to buy into our work. There’s some pressure for meeting others’ wants.
As you continue building your audience, the pressure in business should decrease. There will come a time when you’ll finally have plenty of true fans -- those who are willing to buy just about anything you sell.
Through my content and courses, this is what I aim to help you do — create your own true fan audience — because that’s when you will have true creative freedom in your business.
Yet, building that kind of audience takes more time than you’ve probably been sold. It requires strategic actions, taken consistently, including content creation, audience research, collaborations…
It’s a journey, so let’s not expect overnight success. Maybe you have 2 or 3 clients who already buy much of what you create and sell. Maybe next year you’ll have 10 or 12 such clients. (With diligence and a bit of luck, you might be able to speed up the process and get to perhaps 20 next year, maybe even more.)
While we are on the journey toward financial sustainability, how can we relate to money-making without desperation?
For us to be creative, and to serve deeply, money needs to be an afterthought.
Basic financial security allows you to then focus on truly serving your customers, which then further expands your financial resources.
It’s like the sailboat metaphor by Scott Kaufman — if you haven’t secured the leaks in your boat (that are endangering your life) then it’s all you can think about. You need to get a secure income before you can really explore and serve freely, i.e. to build an authentic business.
Financial stability happens with one of these:
(1) Require less income – live more simply – which requires creativity and discipline.
(2) Make more income from one of these sources: getting a job, getting a promotion, or selling easier products in your business.
In the entrepreneurial world there’s been too much judgment about working in a job. No shame in it. Use the job to build a bridge toward entrepreneurship, by working bit by bit on your business in your spare time.
Or if you’re already full-time dedicated to your business, there’s no shame in selling what you know is easier to sell to make money. Create the stability that allows you to then experiment with things that might not make money.
A side note on selling what’s easier – it may be that you simply need to lower your hourly rate so that people have no qualms about signing up to try your service, then they’ll see how great you are and spread the word. For example, if you’re having a hard time getting enough clients at $100/hour, what if you temporarily lowered your rate to $50 or even $30 per hour? You’ll probably fill your client roster. Then, gradually increase your price again. See: the tapering strategy for getting clients.
Desperation happens when you require your security to come from a project you’ve never succeeded at before.
For any business project that is new or creative, be in the energy of curiosity and alignment.
This means you need to look at new business projects as experiments, not as certainties for income. It’s a chance to practice curiosity and alignment, but as is true with all practice: many so-called “mistakes” or “failures” are necessary before you get it right. If you can frame it all as learning experiences, you will benefit and grow.
Another apt analogy is breathing: if you’re barely breathing, you have no energy to be creative nor to give to others. Be gentle with yourself. Having a stable income is like having enough breath. Work on that first — get an easy job or sell what’s easy — before you try to be super creative in your business.
If you can’t stand your job, you need to either:
Whatever you choose, remember this:
Every single day, wherever you work, there is the opportunity for you to practice inner development (mindfulness, embodied virtues, etc) and at the same time, to make a positive difference in the lives of those you work with. No matter what work you do, the freedom to practice and grow is always available.
George Kao is a Marketing Coach for small business owners, especially solopreneurs such as Coaches and Mentors. He focuses on ethical & effective ways to grow one's platform and build true livelihood.
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