Feb 20, 2014 Design + Creative

Overcoming the Plight of the Creative Entrepreneur

We don’t want to lose the creative entrepreneurs because we need them in this world to push the envelope of what is possible, as well as, prove and provide an option that is different from the day to day world of corporate life.

What is a Creative Entrepreneur?
Creative entrepreneur, what does that even mean? For our purposes let’s define (loosely) the creative entrepreneur as the small(ish) business owner focused on best practices in design and/or website technologies. These individuals are seen as the makers and freelancers working in UX and design, pursuing their profession on their own terms, in their own way. Having to answer to no one, they move across the planet in ease, and extrude from their non-entrepreneurial counterparts jealousy and envy. They have it all! And yet, from their point of view, it sometimes seems that they have nothing. Allow me to explain.

If you are a creative entrepreneur, I’m sure that you can relate to these sentiments. Many people think that because you work for yourself, life is easy, and your projects are fun, interesting and cutting edge. However the current state of being a creative entrepreneur is not as glamorous as it may seem.

In fact, the current state of the creative entrepreneur is conflicted, to say the least. We have chosen to go down the creative path, but have also chosen to go down this path alone. We are on this path to pursue our passions and to make our mark. Further we want to do so without outside constraint and without having to answer to “the man”. And, although this path sounds like an easy stroll, in reality it is rigorous climb. What makes our path rigorous is that in order to see these passions come to life, while working for ourselves, we have to build a bridge along our journey. That bridge is the one that brings together our creative side and our business side, and more often than not building this bridge is the most agonizing challenge of our lives.

Bridging the Two Disciplines
Even if you are able to get organized and focused, it usually means that you find yourself losing the fun and inspiration from your creative side, while trying to keep the financial success of your business intact. The struggle for creative entrepreneurs is bringing these two sides together in harmony so that great design can be achieved and financial success can be attained. It is this struggle that causes the creative entrepreneur a great deal of angst.

First during this struggle to bridge our two sides, we can become disillusioned about being able to stay on the creative entrepreneur route. We chose this route to be free from constraints, and then we find there are all these constraints involved in following our dreams and still paying our bills. Not only do we have to design the solutions to our clients problems, but we have to find our clients, pitch our clients, estimate our costs, do our own finances… the list goes on and on! This causes us to question our passions, and doubt our creative and entrepreneurial abilities.

The second point of angst occurs because of this disillusionment and doubt. Due to these, we can become incredibly unhappy, and eventually give in and start to work for someone else, sacrificing our passions in favor of someone else taking care of the non-design noise. This would be great except that we are usually still not happy working for someone else, and we still don’t fit into that mold. And that means that we are just going through the motions and not living up to our full potential.

The third point of angst occurs for those of us that actually can go forward and run a successful creative entrepreneurial business but never build our bridge between our creative and business sides equally. We lean too heavily on making the business successful and never really get to see the fun that comes from our creative pursuits.

In order to be successful at business, we have to be organized and stay focused. Attributes which are, at times, the exact opposite of those needed to be a successful creative.

Perseverance Shall Prevail
Basically, it is hard for many of us to build our creative and business bridge, and because of that the prospect of being a successful, happy and fun-having creative entrepreneur becomes very dim. This is the plight of the creative entrepreneur. To make matters worse, the fact that this plight often drives us away from entrepreneurship or away from creativity is a shame because many of us really can be successful at being independent and creative at the same time, if only we had the right information and know how. Further we don’t want to lose the creative entrepreneurs because we need them in this world to push the envelope of what is possible, as well as, prove and provide an option that is different from the day to day world of corporate life, so that those that don’t fit the corporate mold can have a place to design too.

I know, that it can seem like there is no hope unless creatives become business people, and who wants to do that?! But, fear not… there is hope! All we need to do in order to solve these problems is learn a few best practices, tips and tricks in bridging our creative side with a business sense. And, luckily, that is exactly what this blog series is intended to do!

We’re Here to Help
Over the coming months I’ll be helping you to figure out how to run your business while following your passions and, most importantly, having fun! As a creative entrepreneur with a degree in business, I’ve had much experience in making my creative entrepreneur endeavors successful and fun. Thus, during this time, I’ll be bringing topics to you beginning with how to figure out and know your purpose by coupling together resources such as Mr. Simon Sinek’s Start with Why with my own consulting successes (and failures). This means that I’ll help you to really understand and know why you do what you do, what you do to fulfill that why, and how you do those whats to reach your why.

I’ll also take you through figuring out and better understanding what services you actually offer customers and, more importantly, knowing the real value of those services so that you can price yourself correctly, raise your rates when appropriate, and know that you are worth it. Along with all of that we’ll talk about the best way to charge (hourly, flat rate, etc), depending on our client’s needs, as well as our own situation. Afterall, we all would like to know a little more about if the rate we charge is the right one!

During this time, we’ll also talk about how to pick the right clients based off of your passions (and theirs’), your services, their needs, your rates, and their budget. Picking the right clients is key to making sure you aren’t working on projects that don’t match up with your why, and thus find yourself questioning going independent to begin with. Choosing the right clients is great, landing them is even better, but figuring out how to make them repeat customers is the dream, and that will be another of our topics. I’ll show you how to do this by becoming a full fledged, all-around service provider, as opposed to a one job per client freelancer.

Another important part of being a successful creative entrepreneur, and yet another topic we’ll cover, is knowing who to partner with, and how to make those partnerships the best they can be. As much as it can be hard to admit, we really can’t do it all on our own. Knowing not just how to work with other clients and freelancer, but how to best utilize those relationships will be a big part of seeing your Creative Entrepreneurial dreams come alive.

Lastly, we’ll do all of this as well as cover issues around keeping the fun and inspiration in our work once we do become successful entrepreneurs. We’ll keep the fun and inspiration by re-defining “work” and “play”, learning to re-align our understanding of our careers, and truly understanding that work and life don’t need to be balanced, the need to be integrated.

In Closing
Well, it looks like we have a lot of work to do in the upcoming months, and a lot to learn about how to be the very best creative entrepreneurs we can be! I’ve given you just a taste of the type of advice that I’ll be sharing in order to overcome the creative entrepreneur’s plight. The outcomes of employing this advice are you being able to organize yourself, focus yourself, charge the right rate, get the right clients, keep them coming back from more, and having fun and staying inspired in the process. Further, you’ll be able to do all of this without sacrificing your passions and inner fire. Basically, your business will be successful and you can make your mark without selling your soul!

Thus, I hope you’ll stay with us on this journey towards being a success (and happy!) creative entrepreneur. I don’t promise that the ride in overcoming the plight of the creative entrepreneur will be easy, but it will be the best step you’ll ever take toward fulfilling your creative passions. Until then, why are you reading this blog post? Don’t you have a business to run?!

About the Author Lis Hubert is a New York City-based independent information architecture and user experience consultant whose present & past clients include ESPN Mobile, espnW, Viacom Media Networks, and NewsCorp. She has spoken at conferences around the world on topics ranging from user experience to independent consulting, and is also a frequent contributor to the UX community’s knowledge base, writing for publications such as UX Matters and teaching industry classes for resources such as TeamTreehouse.com. More by this Author