Money and Meaning For Creative Entrepreneurs: Making Commerce Creative

Are you a creative entrepreneur who's struggling with procrastination or poor profits? You are not alone. Research shows us that the vast majority of creators are under-earning, often despite working hard. One of the reasons is that we need to stop doing business as usual and start making commerce creative.

Making Commerce Creative: Traditional vs Digital Pathways

For centuries, at least since the ancient Greeks, we’ve been setting creative and the commercial, spiritual and material, as opposites. This has not done any of us any favors. Successful creativepreneurs are now breaking down this duality but many are still caught in it and very confused.

Many creatives who would love to leave their day jobs steer clear of connecting money with their mission. They steer clear of anything to do with money, dubbing it “uncreative”.

A memorable meeting with one such friend from my meditation group comes to mind. Brooke is a great writer. She also teaches creative writing at her local university but, broke and unhappy with where she finds herself, is thinking of giving up and taking a full-time office job. I told Brooke (as I tell anyone who will listen) about the digital opportunities now available, how she could, with a little work, turn her books and teaching into a good income: get her rights back from the various small publishers who were underselling her books and publish and sell them herself, while turning her university course into an online asset that will earn her more money, and in a more sustainable way that would sit better with her writing.

“You’re not listening to me,” I said, when her eyes glazed over halfway through.

“I can’t do those things,” she said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I don’t care about all that.”

“All what?”


Oh, that one word that says so much. (I’m devoted to higher things. It’s too much work. It’s low status work. It’s the opposite to how I define myself. It doesn’t give me the validation of a publisher and the university. It’s asking me to be someone I’m not.)

I did reply, knowing as I did that I was going too far and really should, as my mother has always told me, mind my own business. Caring about other people’s creative business is an occupational hazard for me. It makes me unpopular with those who choose, or default to, traditional pathways to payment and profit. Yet on I go. I’ve learned over the years to turn my opinion into a question. Which is what I did now with Brooke.

“Even though you’d reach more readers and students, have more impact and influence?”

“Even though you are far more likely to make a good living doing the work you love?”

Even though it was no good. Brooke took her office job. I take no pleasure in telling you that she is miserable. Brooke is far from unique.

Making Commerce Creative: Battling Ignorance

Over the past decade, I’ve seen many give up in this way. The longing never leaves them. It’s what they’re supposed to be doing, if they’d only get the blocks out of the way… and do it.

I’ve seen many others who investigate creative business, read all the blogs and books, do a tiny bit of this or that, but never truly get started. Others who have found their way through, by happy accident or sheer determination, but struggling, living with a constant feeling of discomfort and inadequacy, a constant fear of going broke.

Many of these don’t make it. Fifty percent of all businesses fail within the first five years; the failure rate for creative businesses is even higher. Before that moment of quitting, the internal struggle is intense. Crazymaking. Creativepreneurs tend to blame themselves, thinking they’ve chosen the wrong niche, or the wrong goods or services, or they denigrate themselves and their skills.

“I’m no good at figures.”

“I hated marketing.”

“I couldn’t master social media.”

The real culprit is deeper, the inability to activate their own creative process and practice in relation to business.

Often, for the creativepreneur, the gap between horrendous financial struggle and easeful success is simply ignorance.

  • Not knowing what you need to know about creative business and how it operates. You take conventional business advice. Or you muddle your way through, picking up what you can from books and blogs.
  • Not knowing enough about your own creative process. You’re going against the grain and failing to understand the needs of your particular business, given your particular challenges.
  • Not knowing how to shape assets and processes. You’re working hard, yes, but on the wrong things or in the wrong way.

Making Commerce Creative: The Creative Process

The creativepreneur taps the same creative process to run the business itself. Artists and writers know how to trust the process. We know that if we set our creative intention and learn what we need to know about our craft, if we keep on keeping on with the intention to improve and the willingness to learn from our missteps, if we add enough time and energy and creative practice, we will make something that pleases us. Success is inevitable. It’s how the creative process works, if we don’t get defeated by doubt or resistance. If we turn up and play our part. It’s just the same with business.

Creative attention to our assets with an intention to succeed yields commercial success. If we set our creative intention and learn what we need to know about how income follows assets, add time and energy, if we keep on keeping on with the intention to improve and the willingness to learn from our missteps, if we add enough time and energy and creative practice, then we will make a creative business that pleases us. It’s inevitable. It’s how the creative process works, if we don’t get defeated by doubt or resistance. If we show up and play our part. Consumerism.

The truth is that the creative process is infallible if followed. It is we who block our own way by our habits and our modes of thinking and doing. As the zen proverb has it: “we stand in our own way and wonder why it’s dark.”

For more about create dates, pre-order Three Pathways To Profit for Creative Entrepreneurs: Practice, Process, Positioning.

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