Whenever I tell people about making money online through my creative career,
they drool. With mouths wide open.And sparkling eyes.
(not all of them, but many)
I don’t know what they picture – maybe that I’m floating in a golden castle above the sky,
slurping Pina Coladas with my unicorn friends and ending the work day in my asian Harem ?
Something like that.
Seriously, it’s easy to get washed away by the alluring keywords :
Freedom / be your own boss / live wherever you want / do what you want and blah blah blah.
But that freedom comes with a dirty price, and most of you are not willing to pay it.
A creative career comes with maximum reward but also maximum risk.
If you want to know if you’re the type of person who can follow that path, read on.
I’ll reveal the top challenges and experiences from my last 4 years as a full-time creative.
The numbers speak against you.
Most of you will never make it. According to a Government study in my hometown Berlin,
only 3% of all artists here can make a living from their art.
Picture that number. 97% can’t make a full-time living. I bet it’s similar all over the world.
Ninety Seven fucking percent. That number either sets your soul on fire or flushes it down the toilet.
You forget work-life balance.
Remember weekends and holidays ? Yeah, me neither. My late grandfather talked about those crazy times where people stopped working on Friday only to resume it on Monday.
Truth is, as a creative, those lines become blurry. I almost always work on weekends unless a special event is taking place. Since you never know when business turns sour, you want to work your face off as long as you can.
You can accept solitude.
Better : you enjoy it.
It’s like Superman flying to his Fortress of Solitude which is in the Artic.
Except you can’t fly and you (probably) don’t possess a fortress.
Because truth is, a creative working online is a lonely soul. You get your clients online, you write online, you read online and you wheep online.
I often don’t talk to human meat packs for days. And worse, I start talking to myself to not turn mad.
Of course, you can also meet people in the offline world, but the work you do will almost always be in solitude.
Love it or leave it.
You change your comfort zone like a pissed pair of underwear.
Most people in 9to5 jobs don’t push themselves – because they don’t have to.
Their work day is one heck of a routine. But in the creative digital life ?
Constant change. You need to adapt, learn new skills, acquire clients, etc. and etc.
If you stand still, you are losing opportunity and oversleep the future.
Every day is a challenge to grow yourself – mentally and spiritually.
The only comfort zone that you’re entitled to is the sanctity of your bed.
You are willing to leave friends and family behind.
I hate quoting luminaries, but this old Brit called George Bernard Shaw said something smart :
“The true artist will let his wife starve, his children go barefoot, his mother drudge for his living at seventy, sooner than work at anything but his art.”
If that sounds too harsh, you’re a social family person, and not a creative following a calling.
There’s nothing wrong with creating a family, but you art comes first.
If it doesn’t, you better find a job and enjoy life with your fellow meat packs.
You aim for ze top (or you die trying)
With a lot of day jobs, you can be average and still survive.
But as a creative, average is really another word for RIP.
Rest in Piss (because you’re going to be homeless).
No, seriously. If you want to thrive in this career, you have to work on becoming supa doopa great. There’s almost no middle-ground, as people either pay for the cheapest or the best creative. Most creatives I know are in the middle and are still struggling, heck, I’m struggling at times, because we’re not in the top yet.
If you don’t have that ambition to become grrreat, you should go 9to5.
You need to be a businessman first.
Whether you want to be an artist, designer, author, writer, whatever, you need to become business-savvy.
You’re a little micro company, even if you’re the only one working.
Writing big-ass tax reports, keeping all your deductible receipts, writing invoices,
managing your money flow – all these things are requirements for the modern creative.
If you don’t want to do that stuff and only be creative, you better marry a rich person, win the lottery or inherit wealth. And some slave assistants.
You need to learn how to be socially intelligent.
You’re in the people biz, and you have to understand what makes them tick. A developer can be a social turd and still reap the financial rewards.
But a creative – any kind of creative – needs to be socially adept, because humans, in the form of clients, are your lifeblood. If you don’t know how to deal with them, e.g. how to bargain prices and deal with relationships, you’re not going to put Ramen on the table.
A member in my family is a social bombshell. He rubs people off the wrong way without knowing it. He can’t check if people are bored by what he says. He’d bomb as a creative.
Smart thing he didn’t follow that path.
You treat building connections like sucking breast milk.
Every day a little.
Someone wise said your network is your retirement fund.
I never understood that phrase in the beginning. I thought the person was just trying to sound smart. But s/he’s right. The bigger your network, the more money-making opportunities.
In the beginning, I had to market my work. Molest people, tell them left and right :
Here’s my work, please spread the news.
It’s no fun in the sun, and it isn’t sustainable. Try that approach for months or even years, and it
drains your energy. Instead, you build a meaningful network based on diverse people.
Authors, designers, online entrepreneurs, bloggers and coaches, whatever.
Go-getters that do stuff instead of talking about it.
You may not like it, but networking is essential to survive and thrive as a creative.
You can live with constant uncertainty.
Whenever a wannabe creative asks me if you can make money being a creative,
I wave them away faster than a tsunami wave. Woooosh.
Why ? Because they’re more focused on safety than creating (art)work, which proves they shouldn’t pursue this career in the first place. As a creative, nothing’s certain. You get work now, but maybe not next month. You’re flirting with danger, every single week. Everything is possible, even your downfall.
But if a creative career is not just a job to you, but a true calling, you find a way to make money, or else you die.
If you read all the statements above and you’re still up for it, high five the universe and clap yourself on the shoulder : you have the attitude of a bonafide digital creative.
But if you cringe at one or more of the above statements, you may not be cut out to live that life.
You may have the interest, but you lack the character.
If that’s the case, you mantra for life will be : go get a job.
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