How to rock at business without starving your creativity

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I recently had one of the best moments of my life.

My son (who’s currently 4 years old) randomly came up to me one day and said, “Dad, I’m going to be an artist when I grow up.”

Why was I so happy? Because when I was his age, I said the same thing. And I see so much of me in him–it’s crazy.

Everyday, he’s got dozens of new hand-drawn pictures for me. He writes his own little books on construction paper with crayons. And at night he reads them to me. And I melt.

Sidenote: Once you finish, read how 4 freelancers built recurring revenue models that changed their business. You'll love it.

His creativity and love for making things is so pure. It’s so innocent.

He loves it.

I think all of us (especially we creators) have that same spirit inside of us. Some of us have lost track of it more than others, but we all have it: an innate desire to make things that are beautiful; to be creative.

We could probably all benefit from connecting with our inner four-year-old every once in a while.

At some point, however, many of us realize our path requires that we not only make beautiful things, but that we also support ourselves and our families.

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So we either get a job or start building something of our own.

And either of these options threaten the very creativity that lit us up in the first place. If we don’t watch out, it can be easy to let our entrepreneurial endeavors, for example, swallow our creative inner-four-year-old.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

You may have remembered when we discussed the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur.

In this post, I want to discuss the difference between the artist and the entrepreneur. More importantly, I want to discuss ways you can rock as an entrepreneur without starving your creative side.

Here are a few ideas (please share yours too, in the comments)

Recognize the difference between your “artist” mode and “entrepreneur” mode

When you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur, your self-awareness has to be much higher than usual.

You have to recognize when is the right time to act as an artist and when is the right time to act like an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, your entrepreneurial self comes up with a “great” idea that could bring in a lot of revenue. But as you switch hats, that idea doesn’t seem so great after all. It makes your artistic side feel like a sell-out, for example.

It can also go the opposite direction. As an artist, you might think spending an extra two hours on a project–even though you can’t bill for the extra time–is a good idea. After all, it’s about the art, right?

Your entrepreneurial side should disagree.

The first key to rock as an entrepreneur without starving your creative side is to recognize the difference between the two different roles you have to play every day.

Stretch your entrepreneurship as much (or more than) your creativity

As a creative, you’re always pushing the limits. Always learning new techniques. Always asking questions and trying new approaches.

Are you doing the same as an entrepreneur?

Are you spending as much time on business blogs (hey, you’re here. That’s a good sign.) as you are on inspiration blogs?

Are you testing new business-building techniques as much as you’re trying new techniques in your art?

Being a successful creative entrepreneur means balancing your learning between art and business. If you’re too heavy on either side, you’ll find yourself struggling to make it all work.

Hire out tasks that kill your creativity

There are certain tasks that just bog you down and make you feel less creative.

Maybe balancing the books every month makes you want to curl up in a ball under your desk and cry. I can understand if managing client contracts wakes you up at night in a cold sweat.

But no one said you have to do everything in your business.

If something is bogging you down creatively, hire it out. There are people in this world who thrive on the very tasks that you hate. And many of them will do it for you at a reasonable price.

Plus, imagine: if you’re hiring out all of these tasks to other people, it’ll free you up to do two important things:

  1. Think strategically about your business.
  2. Do the daily work that most lights you up inside.

Both of these are absolutely critical to success.

Here are a few more articles to help you with the process of hiring out:

Work with people who “get” your creative side

Nothing’s worse than working with a client you just doesn’t “get it.” This idea is so misunderstood, in fact, I attribute the entire “clients from hell” movement to it(which, by the way, don’t get sucked in. It’s a black hole you’ll never escape).

Think about it.

What are the most common complaints creative people have about their clients?

Poor decisions in the creative process. (Think: “He wants the logo bigger,” “She says there’s too much white space,” or “They want to see the other side of the elephant.”)

And while part of the job description as a creative entrepreneur is to deal with the stresses of the creative process, it can be minimized.

You’ll need to perfect your client-finding strategy and ensure you only work with clients that “get” you and your creative process.

Here are a few ways to do that:

Don’t lose sight of the “why”

Finally, above all, don’t forget why you do the work you do.

While you’re probably interested in the money and business side of it all, you probably started down your path of creativity for the love of the art.

Don’t lose that.

Sometimes you’ll make decisions that your entrepreneurial side doesn’t understand. You’ll choose not to hire something difficult out to someone else, or you’ll spend more time on inspirational web sites than on business sites.

It’s ok.

In that moment, you’re connecting with your inner four-year-old. And, like I said, we all could use a little more of that once in a while.

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is an entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, and the founder of this blog. You can contact him via twitter at @prestondlee.

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