It helps to expose and explore some of the myths surrounding creative businesses before you go any further. Things can look pretty glamorous from a distance, but once you are within spinning distance, you realize that this isn’t anything like it was advertised to be. It also doesn’t help when people send you postcards about how swell everything is, when in reality the weather is stormy and the people are rude. Forewarned is forearmed …
Myth: your business is your life. Reality: the average person changes careers five to seven times before they die, and creatives change careers more like five to seven times every five to seven years. It is okay to be a job hopper in the creative business. In fact the future will be more like a project to project kind of jumping around. Even if you think you want to stick with one job, one company your whole life (are you sure you are a creative heroine?) it isn’t possible anymore. End of Story.
Myth: Compies offer careers. Reality: People create careers.
Myth: You climb the corporate ladder from mailroom to boardroom. Reality: traditional career planning is useless today. The old rules are obsolete, and paths that were once prominently marked are now grown over or washed away. Make your own path.
Myth: Glamorous businesses and big titles is where it is at. Reality: Titles don’t mean all that much anymore. Managers finally figured out that a big title makes up for a small paycheck. I say go for the big check and let them call you whatever they want.
Myth: Work is a necessary evil. Reality: When you find the ideal career, you’ll never work another day in your life. It won’t feel like work, anyway. That is total actualization.
Myth: Pick a path that involves the hot careers and you will be sure of a job. Reality: Don’t limit yourself to what is hot or popular. Follow your passion, your curiosity. The experts don’t know more than your parents or friends do. You know. So stick that neck out and go for it.
Myth: Once I make it, I am set for life. Reality: a creative career is like a roller coaster ride. There is a slow and steady climb (which is not much fun) as you pay your dues, work hard and make connections. Once you get to the top, you have just about a second to enjoy the view before you go plummeting to the bottom, ten times as fast as the climb up. Sometimes that fast drop is your choice, sometimes it is not. The momentum of it carries you back up the next rise however, and around the curves to the next dip and rise and the next. The point is that a creative business does not take you on a steady uphill climb. But unlike other professions, they offer a lot of thrills too.
Myth: I want my first job to launch the rest of my life. Reality: if you are waiting for a job to start your life, stop waiting. You need a life first. A sense of who you are and what you want to be. Then you go looking for a job. Most people make a more lasting commitment to their second career, because they have had time to figure out what they really want by then.
Myth: Changing your career will make everything okay. Reality: the saying whereever you go, there you are comes to mind. While there is no doubt the right career makes life much, much better, it won’t make you better. A career change is external. If you are unhappy where you are now, take the time to discover why before you leap into another situation.
Myth: The most talented people get ahead. Reality: talent can take you only so far. Having a vision, a story a plan, and the willingness to treat your career as a business, that is what it takes to get ahead.
Myth: Some people seem to get all the lucky breaks. Reality: you make your own luck. Behind all those ‘lucky breaks’ is a lot of legwork, preparation and planning. Being in the right place at the right time means putting yourself in a position to be at the right place (get out there), being prepared when opportunities arise and having the guts to grab your chance when it comes. Many people claim they have got no chance to win the lottery. So they don’t play. Are they unlucky because they will never win or unlucky because they don’t take a chance? Opportunities are everywhere, but without a clear story about what you want, you may be passing many ‘lucky breaks’ of your own.
Myth: Entrepreneurs are born, not made. Reality: It is true, not everyone is cut out to make it on their own. It takes a certain type to be in business. But creative people have many of the traits necessary to be successful businesspeople. They also have some traits (like an allergic reaction to detail work) that must be overcome.
Myth: If I work harder, everything will work out. Reality: in the military, they have soldiers digging ditches and marching around in circles. This is very hard work. What does it get them? Calluses and athlete’s foot. Hard work is needed to let ideas percolate is needed even more.
Myth: There are simply not enough opportunities in the creative business to go around. Reality: You only need one. Don’t have a defeatist attitude, or you are already defeated. Somebody is going to get a book deal or record contract, or sell their software idea. Why could it not be you?
Myth: The only real artists are starving artists. At least they have some integrity. Reality: some creative businesses simply do not pay well, no matter how many dues you pay. But making money in your creative business does not mean you are a sell out. It means you are smart enough to find a market for what you love to do.
Myth: Do what you love and the money will follow. Realiy: If it were that simple, don’t you think everyone would make it big time? The real message behind this myth is that it is much more pleasurable to do what you love for a living. Because you love it, you do your best work and work hard. As a result of those factors, the money finds you. Hopefully, before you are dead.
Myth: You have to be famous to make a fortune. Reality: Anyone who has had any degree of fame will tell you it does not pay the bills! Being respected by your peers and adored by your audience is awesome, but there are plenty of people you have never heard of who are quietly making millions. Fame is not the goal; it is a sometimes by product of doing good work.
Myth: If you don’t like having a boss, you should work for yourself. Reality: That is true, as long as you don’t have any clients, partners, publishers, agents, fans etc. Freelance clients will work you harder and try to pay you less than any ‘real’ boss. They don care about your other clients, other commitments, cash flow problems, or the fact that their deadline comes at a very bad time.
Myth: When you work for others you are just an employee, a peon. Reality: You are the boss of you, and nobody else. An entrepreneurial mindset will help you get ahead, no matter where you work or who you work for.
Myth: You can’t start at the top. Reality: Well, actually, you can. Start your own business and you will be owner, boss, CEO. You will also be publicist, bottle washer. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn.
Myth: The more you make, the happier you will be. Reality: The more you make, the more you make. Money creates its own problems, and happiness is something else altogether.
Myth: There is no such thing as job security anymore. Reality: Your job security is your talent and skills. Build on each experience, develop new skills and make contacts along the way. Be willing to change, adapt, learn, and reinvent yourself. Be a problem solver and a self starter, innovative and productive. You will not only survive, you will thrive.
Myth: Everyone is out to steal your ideas. Reality: Very few people have the intent, ability, follow through or malice to steal your ideas. Don’t let this fear hold you back. Do what you can to protect yourself and your ideas, and then go out and spread the word. Make something happen.
Myth: When you figure out what your dream is, everyone will support you. Reality: The sad thing is that more people are trying to sabotage you than support you. Their insecurities and envy are their problem, not yours.
Myth: If you are all over the place, you have got a better chance of catching a big break. Reality: Lack of focus is one of the biggest problems creative people have. In fact I would say that focus is the difference between flourishing and floundering.
Myth: Only anal retentive left brainers try to plan their business. Reality: Even creative people need a plan, a loose plan with a strong story.