Early in my online career, I was exploring my own creativity. I was submitting short stories to literary magazines, painting and entering my work into local art shows, watercoloring, making jewelry, and holding portrait sessions. Before that, I’d hung out a shingle creating websites for small businesses, enjoying my time in Photoshop (but ultimately hating the coding). I did what I did for the love of doing it.
From other people, I heard this, over and over: “I wish I could do what you do, but I don’t think I’d ever make any money.”
So I’d counter back by telling the person that I really wasn’t making a lot of money. I’d point out that what was really paying the bills was my job as a college professor, and art-making was what I did on the side.
Given that, what was the real risk? Why not try? Why not do it for the love?
And often, I’d hear something like this: “I don’t have the time to do my job and make art–and I’m the type of person where, if I’m all-in, then I’m all-in. I’d want to quit my job and get a studio and make art all day, and that isn’t going to pay the bills.”
I’d think this one, tiny-big thought that has, in a renegade way, been a backbone for all of my success: Paying the bills has nothing to do with why I do, what I do.
Motivated by money, or do it for the love?
Why are you doing what you do? For money? Or for love?
Paying the bills has nothing to do with the love of what you do. This is craft. This is creative expression. Whether you want to illustrate, take portraits, become a life coach, train for a marathon, or study algebraic equations, those things that you’re passionate about are not supposed to be entered into because you can make money doing them.
You do them because you must. You do them because a life lived without those things feels empty.
If you love the craft of what you do, you’ll do it on nights and weekends, over your lunch hour. You’ll do it because you love to do it, not for the return and not for awards and not because you’ll get praise.
You’ll do it because you love the drag of a Micron pen on paper, or the click of the piano keys, or feeling your synapses fire as you work through an equation. Whatever your particular thing is, you’ll insert it into your life.
Balancing Craft and Business
Don’t get me wrong: money is, yes, important.
I’m not a trust fund baby–like most people reading this, I need money. My husband does not support me with his salaried job, so that I can be a coach as a hobby. When we were buying our first house and I told the mortgage officer that I was a life coach, he squinched his eyes and smiled and said, “People can actually make money, doing that?”
Then he reviewed my financial statements. He didn’t ask that question, again.
I have spent time in the early years of entrepreneurial hell where I was looking at my dwindling bank account and wondering how I was going to pay bills.
Money and some business know-how matter, and that’s why I integrate marketing training into my life coach training program.
If you decide that you want to meld business and craft, then yes, you need to know how to balance the craft of what you do, with the business of what you do.
If the craft overwhelms the business, you’ll never make money. You’ll stay stuck in creating, without understanding why telling people “I’m a writer” doesn’t result in them banging down your door to hand you paid projects.
If the business overwhelms the craft, you’ll end up hating the work the way you hated your old job. You’ll spend so much time “trying to make money” that you’ll end up neglecting your craft–a recipe for misery.
It Might Be a Hobby
If you truly have no interest or desire to learn about marketing, or if you’re so attached to singing the song of how overwhelming it is to start a business, then your craft might actually be a hobby.
And for the love of god, what is wrong with that? Not everyone needs to have an Etsy shop and be on five different social media platforms.
What is wrong with taking a typography class, even though you’re not going to invent the next Helvetica? What is wrong with training to become a life coach, and using the skill-set to further your leadership role in the board room at your salaried job? What is wrong with painting in your garage? What is wrong with checking out a geometry textbook from the library and working through pages in your spare time?
Nothing is wrong with that, unless your ego is on the line.
Ego says: You gotta build a business, make six figures, be the person they invite to the next TEDx talk, get the publishing deal. Ego obsessively focuses about all the things that have nothing to do with the essentials of craft, and everything to do with getting hype and cash.
Craft is interested in: does this feed my soul? Is it fulfilling? When I look back on my life, will I be happy that I spent the time I had, engaged in this? Craft says, “Let’s turn this into a business or a book deal because that’s how we get to do more of what we love, not because we’re going to make a lot of money.”
If you decide to meld craft and business, this is important: You must love the craft of what you do above all else, because that’s what will carry you through the learning curve and uncertainty of melding craft and business.
Shades of Gray
I’m not saying it’s either-or, the business or the craft.
Let me be clear: I enjoy hype and cash. Book deals and TEDx talks are on my wish-list.
But–those things pale in comparison to how I feel when I’m working with one of our trainees and she models the most incredible coaching. This doesn’t compare to how I feel about my life over-all, because I make time for writing, every single day.
If I reach the end of my life, and never ink the deal or take the stage, I will be okay.
If I had not spent the last decade of my life as a life coach and writer, it would not be okay.
At some point, your desire must become greater than your excuses. I’ll never do this as a full-time job, so what’s the point; I don’t really have enough time; I’m too old so why bother; I’m too young so why would anyone listen to me?
Who cares if you’ll never be full-time at this, if it’s what you really want to do with your life? What else are you going to do with your life–surf Facebook all day? Watch three hours of Netflix, every night? Those are the more appealing options? Come on, now.
If you really, truly want to be full-time at your craft, then you’ll hike up your knickers and learn what you need to learn to make that come to fruition. If you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
Everyone thinks the same ten things about money or time or whatever, when they’re afraid.
Your choice is to decide that your soul’s calling matters more than the fear. That’s all on you.