Are you cut out for a creative career ? Find out in this post.

Get hurt comic zombie character with broken limbs

by MarsDorian

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.

Yikes.

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.

Conclusion

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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  • http://www.clearmindedcreative.com/ Milo McLaughlin

    Agree with most of this Mars, from my experience so far. I’m getting a little better at the ‘connections’ side of things, though I’m still no way near as consistent as I’d like to be. I do think though that there’s a way round the ‘being alone’ aspect.

    I’ve been going into a client’s office part-time recently, and then working in cafe’s and meeting people for a coffee a couple of times a week which helps. Or there are co-working spaces etc. Cos I agree that being on your own too much isn’t good for your mental health!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      yeah, you have to recharge your batteries with social energy, at least once in every while ;)

      I always try to visit social places for work, but it never works out. I’m too distracted by all the chatter around me, plus I can’t turn up the music. I work best in a room, just with myself.

      Having said that, I do go out when I need a break. But lots of people don’t understand you can’t always hang out on a weekend because there are no real weekends for us ;)

  • RebeccaTracey

    Love this post. I find it funny how so many people are striving for a “lifestyle” career, and who end up getting sucked into a whole other kind of lifestyle than they expected – the lifestyle that comes along with having a “lifestyle career”…

    You have been warned! ha!

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      heh, exactly. They want to handle the green side of the grass and ignore the dirt below ;)
      Whenever I tell people the details, I often see their faces cringe.
      They believe I’m making it sound worse than it is, to deter them, when I’m just telling them what the creative life looks like.
      People only hear what they want to hear.

      • http://daviddoolin.com/ Dave Doolin

        I think it’s hard to explain just how bad it can be. As you say, people don’t want to believe the amount of work entailed.

        I’m in a good place myself at the moment, working for a startup in an ostensibly 9-5 position. But I don’t treat it as “9-5.” I treat it as an opportunity to provide business value to an important customer (the company), while mastering skills important to my future. Keeps me busy!

  • Kate Marolt

    Love this. It’s so true- people just see the glamorous side of everything, like “how many places have you traveled too” and “you can really make money from anywhere?” but it’s seen as an escape possibility rather than a way of life that has its own set of issues and crazy stuff. And taxes are way more complicated! :) Great post- sharing for sure.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Thanx for sharing Kate,

      yeah, I believe people get in love with the sunny side, while neglecting the challenges that come with it. Maybe it’s our conditioning in the western world today where people believe everything should be fast and easy.

  • jenn ashton

    yep – nice one

  • http://creativewebbiz.com/ Yamile Yemoonyah

    Great post! I get a lot of requests from people to help them build a creative online business (which is fine because that is my job) but the minute they realize what it really takes to make it happen, they give up.

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Yeah, they want it easy, which is a shame, because nothing worthwhile comes easy. If they had just a bit more persistence.

  • http://www.chiaracokieng.com/ Chiara Cokieng

    Mars, I love this list. If anything, reminds me that the persistent thrive.

    I have only been in the game for several months One thing i learned is that a well-fed artist HAS to understand his audience/customers (unlike a “starving artist” who just produces whatever the hell he wants to)

    But in order to be an effective artist/entrepreneur you are almost forced to radically change your lifestyle, to one that is far from that of the people you serve.

    For example, in order to write this post, you had to remember how it felt like to constantly be telling people how great your art is (something I’m sure you don’t do anymore)

    What I’m trying to say is we need to do what most people don’t AND still remember how it felt as a person who does not do. It can be hard as you move farther away from that situation.

    How do you deal with it?

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Chiara, heh, I don’t think I quite understand your question –
      do you mean the more you progress as a creative (and successful you get),
      the less you remember the “hard” times ?
      Heh, please clarify.

      • http://www.chiaracokieng.com/ Chiara Cokieng

        Yes. Sorry if it wasn’t clear :(

        • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

          so, no, I’ll always remember them, especially since it’s still a rollercoaster ride – good weeks / bad weeks.
          I think it’s going to take a while till I “feel” financially secure – that’s just the lifestyle of a creative. You have be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

          • http://www.chiaracokieng.com/ Chiara Cokieng

            Okay, thank you. I’ve always thought people like you already feel like they’ve “made it”

  • http://josephratliff.com/ JosephRatliff

    Nicely written Mars.

    In the beginning of my copywriting career (back in 2001, man how time flies), I was building my business, and there were times where I would get on Skype at 2am (or other really late time) with someone overseas… to get my first projects and start building my business.

    My wife and I jokingly called these “Midnight Deals.”

    I will always remember those Midnight Deals, because they “ground” me whenever someone looks at what I do now and says, “Man, you must have that ‘writer’s lifestyle’.”

    In the beginning, you get to work “half-days.” Just pick the half of the day you want to work. ;)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Heh, I still have no half-days, except sometimes in the weekend time. But frankly, it’s because I LUV working all the time. The other time is only spent on recharging my creative batteries !

  • anna marshall

    Thah. I read your blog for entertainment solely, as strange as that may sound. Kinda dig the over the top style of it. Never much need commenting the stuff, though. Comes with falling into the 97%/get a job variety of people-things, I’d wager. But I found this article the most helpful one of all of them, ever – and as I said, for help I didn’t come but for the shiny pictures and the artful ranting.

    Get a job and over it, eh?

    Bottom line being ‘this might be hell for you, please leave’, this entry is in a rather unkind way maybe the kindest advice you could give to a lot of people. I mean, 97% and that only of people somehow concerned with creative stuff, which are by no way majority themselves. Thats like cartloads, nah more mothershiploads full of people.

    I for one couldn’t take what you describe. It’d drive me mad damn fast, and I am already on the lala side of things. It’s not that I didn’t doubt this path was not mine to take, hell no. But this brought clarity, finality to the couldn’t-I-wouldn’t-I department of my brain.

    And for what more than clarity could one ask? Thanks for that. Appreciate it, much. Aaaand now I’m gonna shut up again, grab my popcorn and return to being an audience-only person-thing. Take care,

    annamarshall

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      Heh, I have to admit, kindness is not one of my strengths. But the reason this post feels rough is because too many peeps are rainbow colored when it comes to the realities of a creative career – they imagine the money and freestyle life, but forget about the hardships, which I mention here. I think an entertaining but hard smack to the brain is more useful than cozy-schmozy whitewashing. But my intentions are always positive ;)

      Thanks for tuning in once in the comment section, Anna ! Even you stay for the entertainment, I hope my writing inspires you in one way or another.

  • Andrea CH

    Hi Mars,

    very very relevant post, really cool website and great work – I really like it! just realised by reading all your points that I can accept practically ALL of them (and I have a small son) IF the work I’m doing is writing my own novel. If it’s freelance copywriting, however, I can NOT accept them. Sitting alone in front of the screen the whole day drives me absolutely insane if it’s not my own writing. So. Wow. That really tells me what I should be focusing on !! Just because you CAN do copywriting from home doesn’t mean you should right. :)

    • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

      heh, Andrea, in the longterm, you should switch to your true longing, otherwise you’re neglecting your calling, which eats you up sooner or later.

      I love writing and drawing, and that’s why I structure every single day around these two passions.

      Right now, I write my own novels (plus illustrate them), and because I want that to be my main income source in the future, I do them first because I do anything else.

      Passion = priority ;)

      • Andrea CH

        You’re absolutely right. What is your novel about? And is it in English or in German? Just curious :)

        • http://www.marsdorian.com/ Mars Dorian

          I’m finishing up two, both in English.
          The first one is a mystery-thriller about an startup addiction officer that works on the most addictive game app ever, which changes society and later him…for the worse.
          The other one is about a Forrest Gump like blogger who accidentally crashes into a drone and makes viral crash videos to pay for his hospital bill, which gets him in trouble with the Sheriff, who’s doing secret experiments in the same town ;)

          Both stories are about how technology changes the relationships of humans, and they are written in a fun, minimalist pop culture Mars Dorian blogging style.
          Phew, that’s a lot of info, but hey, you asked ;)

  • http://www.musialmarketing.com/ Julie Musial

    Great post as usual. You’re spot on! One of the things entrepreneurs need to realize is that their friends and family won’t GET you! As the entrepreneur we just need to realize that’s ok because “we are who we are”! Your family and friends will also try to protect you in a caring way by telling you to slow down or that you need to stop and smell the roses or something else similar. My response to that is, I live a charged life, I’ll do that when I’m 6 feet under (but I only say that in my mind). If you tell 9- 5′s how you really think, they would think you were certifiably crazy. I am very driven in my career which is not a creative but I am an entrepreneur in the marketing space. I love what I do and have a very difficult time turning it off. I live in the U.S. and I have three kids. The holidays are upon us and mom (me)is expected to do a great deal of holiday stuff. Some of it I hate but I do it anyway just for my kids. My point is, it’s not just creatives that live this kind of life. The world we live in has so many online opportunities but most will fail. They will fail because they’re not ready or willing to put in the commitment. When someone is considering being an entrepreneur I recommend they read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Napoleon fully explains the commitment and what “having the burning desire to succeed” means. Great post Dorian. I enjoyed reading it!

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