You’ve probably wondered if you have what it takes.
You love creating, whether it’s plucking out a story or a song, producing a new show, capturing a sunrise to preserve a moment forever, or crafting that silver into wearable art.
But when it comes to making good money at what you do?
That’s a different story.
There are so many things that you’re juggling, and they’re all important.
It’s easy to let things the things you don’t like to do slide, to rationalize or make excuses, or to tell yourself you’ll get around to them someday.
On top of that, you have to deal with all those nagging fears and doubts –
- “I’m not good at business,”
- ”I don’t think I can ever learn to manage all this,”
- “There’s just no money in music/photography/poetry,” or the big one,
- “Does it really matter what I do? Would anyone even notice if I quit?”
We’ve all been there.
The hard truth? You can’t know for sure
I can’t tell you if you have what it takes to reach whatever success means to you. No one can. But the reality is that there are warning signs that your dream business is on shaky ground, and it wouldn’t be fair for me to lie and tell you otherwise.
These are some of the most common mistakes creative entrepreneurs make. Many of these are traps I fell into myself at one time, and some I still work on.
The good news is that none of these signs are a death sentence and all are fixable – but don’t fool yourself. They are critical. If you ignore any of these areas long enough, they’ll cause a great deal of pain and heartache – and maybe spell the end of your dream.
As you read through these points, understand that none of these make you a failure personally. They just mean that your business could fail if you don’t take them seriously.
Signs you’re sabotaging yourself
Do you ever feel like you’d do just fine if you could only get out of your own damned way? Here are just a few ways you might be holding yourself back.
1. You let doubt paralyze you
You’re uncertain, inconsistent, and haphazard when it comes to getting your work out into the world. You waver in your commitment and don’t take your calling seriously. You let the highs and lows of being artistic and creative get to you – and as a result, you don’t put out a constant stream of work.
2. You try too hard to be noticed
You come across as desperate and needy when you’re networking with peers or influencers. Maybe you’re not consciously aware of it, or maybe you realize too late that you wish you had approached a conversation or introduction differently. You focus on thoughts like, “If only I could get this person’s attention, I know they’d help me,” “If only they saw my work, I know they’d love it,” “If only I had an agent/manager/an appearance on America’s Got Talent, my troubles would be over,” etc.
3. You don’t keep your promises
You give your word to your customers, clients, peers, mentors, family, or yourself but then don’t follow through. You haven’t built a reputation of trustworthiness and you’re okay with that. You tell yourself it doesn’t matter.
4. You long for the glory days of the past
It’s true, music venues don’t pay like they used to, the gallery system has changed, and traditional book publishing looks nothing like it did years ago. The world and the economy are different. But you spend more time on wishful thinking than on adjusting to the new realities.
5. You wait for inspiration
You only work when the muse hits you, instead of sitting down at the same time every day to work.
6. You procrastinate instead of doing what you know needs to be done
You have a litany of excuses and stories that you tell yourself and others about why you just can’t get your work done, why you can’t get organized, or why you can’t find time. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know there are distractions you could cut out or ways you could better manage your time.
7. You’re not persistent
You give up quickly when situations get too difficult, instead of finding ways around, over, or through constraints and roadblocks. You don’t persevere, and you interpret hardships as a sign that you should be doing something else.
8. You can’t ask for help
You try to be Superman or Wonder Woman, and struggle with asking for guidance or assistance from friends, peers, or mentors. You try to do everything yourself, even minor things, when you know your time is probably better spent on strategic activities that will grow your business.
9. You have no clear vision for your life or future
Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”
You haven’t taken the time to spell out your goals for your personal life or your business. You take a meandering approach, just reacting to opportunities, with a vague sense that you’re not really where you want to be.
10. You don’t communicate your mission, your passion, or the reason you are driven to create
You don’t know or can’t explain why you do what you do or why it matters to other people. You wish your audience was more excited about your work – but at the same time you’re afraid to stand for anything. You try to make everyone happy and to be all things to all people.
Signs you lack perspective on your craft
It can be hard to see yourself as others see you. You might be harder on yourself than you would be on friends who are in the same situations, or you might be wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to your skill level.
11. You know your work isn’t good enough yet but you won’t change your approach
Your skill level isn’t where you’d like it to be, but you’re not seeking out the best resources you can find, studying with the best teachers you can afford, practicing by yourself, or putting your work in front of your audience. You either avoid feedback completely, resist any feedback that’s not good, or take everything everyone says to heart and become confused trying to act on it. You’d rather stay comfortable.
12. You’re overly confident
You don’t continuously learn about your craft or business. You think that because you have so much experience that you don’t need feedback from experts. You blame your lack of success on situations outside yourself, like you’ve just never been in the right place at the right time.
13. You don’t share your work because you’re embarrassed
You lack confidence and you let that fear stop you from showing your creative projects to anyone. As a result, you’re not growing as an artist. You don’t see that growth comes from moving ahead despite your fears.
Signs you don’t really understand marketing
There have been plenty of unscrupulous businesses who have given marketing a bad name, but without it, you can’t sell your work. Have you experienced any of these pitfalls?
14. You see marketing as sleazy
You’re afraid to come across as a pushy car salesman. You don’t see yourself simply as an artist who is communicating and building genuine relationships with friends who need what you offer. You tell yourself that you hate marketing, that you’re no good at it, and that it somehow cheapens your work and diminishes your ability to be truly creative and artistic.
15. You have no email list or a small, neglected one
You know you need to build your list but you haven’t taken it seriously. You offer no value outside of newsletters or updates, and you have no irresistible incentive for people to sign up to your list.
16. You haven’t communicated with your email list for months
You think about it, but you just never get around to it. You’ve become a bit complacent and comfortable doing business as usual, and you just can’t make yourself get in there, come up with something interesting and engaging to say, and hit the “send” button.
17. You waste huge amounts of time on social media
You parrot what you see others doing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram, without any clear strategy. You have a vague goal of trying to increase sales or get people to come to your events or shows, but you proceed without bothering to try to learn to use social media effectively.
18. You don’t have business cards
When you talk to people in person, they’re supportive and interested in what you’re doing. Then they ask for your card, but you don’t have one. You don’t appear to take your business seriously and have no way for people to follow up with you, sign up to your list, or keep in touch.
Signs your online presence is weak
Your website matters. New fans, whether you meet them in person on online, will want to learn more about you and keep in touch. You need a way to foster that relationship. You could be missing opportunities if you say “yes” to any of these points.
19. You’re ashamed of your website
The last time you made any major changes was 7 years ago when a friend who knew HTML helped you out. You suspect your site is confusing to people and you’re sure it could be optimized but you let uncertainty and indecision keep you from doing anything about it.
20. Your updates and posts on social media are mostly about yourself
You let people know what you have and what you’re doing, but you don’t try to figure out what resonates best with your followers. You don’t ask what things they most want to hear or learn from you or what they love most about what you do so you can give them more of it.
21. You’re not getting a reaction
You have few comments and very little interaction, excitement, or engagement on your blog posts or social media profiles. You don’t know how to increase that interaction or grow your web traffic so you just keep posting on your own sites and hoping that someday it will take off. Secretly (or not so secretly) you suspect that what you’re doing isn’t working.
22. You don’t update your website consistently
You don’t post new content regularly or keep your pages up-to-date. You won’t consider blogging or video blogging to build relationships with your audience, establish your expertise with the visitors to your site, or to help them decide that you’re the person they want to work with or buy from. Your site looks much the same as it did a few years ago.
23. You don’t own your own domain name
Your site is hosted as a subdomain on another larger site, or your main web presence is your social media profiles. The minute the company that owns your site goes out of business or decides you did something inappropriate, your website could be lost.
24. You don’t have a website at all
You know that it’s so easy today to have an affordable, professional-looking website, yet you resist. Maybe you can’t get past the technical barriers. Or – maybe you have a vision in your head of the most perfect, amazing site ever but you think that you can’t get what you really want, so you’d rather have nothing.
Signs you have unhealthy attitudes toward money
Make sure that these common traps aren’t holding you back from earning a good income.
25. You don’t know what it is that makes people open their wallets and buy from you
You don’t fully understand the emotions that make people act, the benefits they get from your work, or the value that you offer them. As a result, you’re unable to tap into those emotional drivers and increase your sales.
26. You are a master of one-night stands (when it comes to sales)
You have no marketing materials or systems in place to follow up with buyers that make it easy for people to remember you, find you, and buy from you again. You look at shows or events as one-shot sales deals instead of the beginning of a great, long-lasting relationship.
27. You underestimate the length of time that it takes to build a business that can support you
You only want to do your creative work and so you’re relying on one income stream, but you’re barely making it. You’re ready to throw in the towel because you think it can’t be done.
28. You’ve rarely sold anything outside of family and friends
You’re afraid to make offers or to ask for money for your work. Somewhere in the back of your mind, you might believe you don’t deserve to be paid well.
29. You don’t make it easy for people to buy from you
You have completed work, but it’s not organized or easy to find or explain. Potential customers don’t buy because you either have too few choices or because they’re overwhelmed. You base your product offerings on what your competitors are doing. You don’t have an exclusive, high-end offer because you don’t believe you can create work that’s worth a higher price tag.
30. Your books, customer lists, accounting systems, and follow-up systems are a mess
You feel like you’re constantly reacting and fighting fires. You’ve got stacks of unsorted papers just piling up. You’re always scrambling and racing to beat deadlines. You know that any increase in business would overwhelm you. You don’t have the systems in place for growth.
What this all means
I’d love to tell you that making money in creative fields is easy. I’d love to give you permission to spend all your time on social media because it will help you grow a fantastic, thriving business. I’d love to give you an “easy button” that puts cash into your bank account while you sleep.
Heck, I’d buy that “easy button” myself!
But that’s not how it works, and that’s not really what you’re here for either.
I’ve made many of the mistakes on this list. I learned, I persevered, I found great people to help me – and you can do the same.
If you’ve read this far it’s because you care. You want the real scoop and you’re willing to figure this stuff out.
If you’re wondering, worried you don’t have what it takes to achieve your goals, that’s a good sign.
If you wake up at 3AM and can’t fall asleep for the same reason, that’s even better.
You’re one of the few who are willing to do what it takes, however long it takes.
If you’re doing good work, I guarantee people will want it.
Don’t give up. It’s a hard road, but it is doable, and the results are so worth it.
So what are you waiting for? Pick one thing you’ve been putting off dealing with and get it into shape.
Get started today!
And if you know you need help, work with me one-on-one. I have a couple of slots still open. None of us does this alone!
Photo credit – Kevin Trotman, FlickrCC