How I Chose a Creative Lifestyle
Last week, I said no to a big opportunity and the potential greatness of having my own company so that I can make art.
Okay, let me back up.
7 months ago a friend came to me with an offer to co-found a headshot photography business with him. After much thought, I said yes. After all, I always talk about how different sources of income are so important to optimize your creative career. I thought I would do this on the side while continuing as usual with building my art business, and it will eventually replace work with clients that I now trade my time for. “This will be great” I thought, as eventually I will hire others and make passive income. I’ve always wanted a side business to call my own, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
I put on my hustle pants and started working hard at bringing the headshot business to life. 7 months later, the company is starting to do REALLY WELL and I found myself VERY UNHAPPY. I saw that I was not giving 100% to the new business or my art business. And knew that both demanded more attention to succeed. Bits and pieces from both businesses were going missing.
Pursuing this meant that I didn’t have enough time for my art photography. Forget about long-term travel to shoot my project, or casual days browsing for inspiration. The thing that I live and breath for, was slowly deteriorating.
I was climbing two mountains at the same time, and this was only a recipe fall down.
I asked myself, why did I enter the headshot business? What was the goal? So that I could have money, to free up time, to travel, make art and build the art business?
This is what I did before the headshot business, I realized.
I put an end to my part in the headshot business. Now I am more focused and confident about my art than ever. I started a new project this week, and completed things I’ve been putting off for months.
The thing is, this story isn’t unique. Not to myself and not to many people pursuing creative careers. I’ve talked to so many creatives who constantly have to make choices like this.
Should artists pursue lucrative opportunities or their passion projects?
Anyone that knows me knows I am a big advocate of pursuing and focusing on what you are passionate about. In my experience I’ve seen that passion, paired with hard work, (just like any business), can also be very lucrative.
I’m not suggesting you drop everything and render yourself homeless to pursue your painting career. This is about eliminating and diversifying the things you’re doing to give yourself the freedom to nourish your creative passion, in whatever way works for you.
I want to give some practical advice on outlining what you love, and feeling good about your creative goals.
The perfect day exercise
The one thing that helped me the most is the perfect day exercise by recommended by Lewis Howes. This is an exercise that helps outline exactly how your ideal life would look like.
To start, sit down with a pen and paper, and write ever detail of your perfect day.
- What time do you wake up
- Who are you with
- Where do you live
- What kind of place do you live in
- What art you’re working on
I can’t emphasize enough how looking at my perfect day helps me focus on my goals. When I’m not sure about whether to pursue an opportunity, I ask myself, will this help me go towards my perfect day?
Another exercise that’s helped me is the goal-elimination exercise. This is where you write down the 25 things you want most in life, identify your top 3 goals, and erase and completely forget the rest. In order for this to work I’ve found that you really do have to erase and throw the other goals away. You are not restricted to business-oriented goals at all, they can be related to art or not.
Find your path
For me, it’s all about finding creative ways to free up my time so that I can focus on what matters. Like generating passive income from my art prints, artwork rentals, and taking on high-paying jobs with clients that don’t require a big commitment. This is why I became a freelancer rather than having a part time job.
Find unique ideas in your industry to that will allow both your art and your business to thrive. For example, if you’re an illustrator, create illustrations and sell them on print on demand sites like Curioos and Society 6.
You will sometimes go off your path
Even after implementing the above, it’s easy to find yourself off the perfect day path. Losing focus is a common phenomenon. The thing to remember here is that opportunities are learning experiences. You won’t know what you want until you try. Try different opportunities, and quit quickly if it’s not suiting your creative lifestyle.
What are your strategies for pursuing your creative career and living your life the way you love?