Episode 18: Administrating Your Creative Practice

Could anything be more boring to a creative professional than administration? Yet have to face some administrative realities. Not only can managing administrative details be confusing—but as creatives, we tend to revolt at administrative minutia in general. But if we ignore these tasks, they don’t go away—they just become harder to deal with.
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Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?

After I hired my first employee, I tried to process payroll on my own. It took hours and hours of deciphering rules and formulas, and then even more time to fill out and submit the necessary forms. And in the end it turned out that I made a minor calculation mistake. Not only did I have to pay the difference, which amounted to just a few cents, but I had to pay a penalty on top of it. And of course properly submitting the paperwork for paying the amount due, and the penalty, was just as cumbersome as submitting the original payroll in the first place.

It wasn’t long before I figured out that paying a payroll company was absolutely worth every dollar. But it’s not just payroll we need to deal with. There’s taxes, filing annual reports for your LLC, and if you have employees and managing your health plan—don’t get me started on health insurance!

The administrative role, that’s a part of your creative practice, can’t be avoided. You can hire help, like a payroll service, but other things, especially your internal administrative tasks like managing your schedule, answering emails, your paying bills, and so forth—they’re on you.

When you break down all the administrative tasks you need to handle, none of them on their own is all that complicated—we’ll maybe except for taxes, but you can hire an accountant for that. The real challenge for the creative professional is not the complexity of any particular task, it’s keeping up with them all—or overcoming the intense desire to avoid them altogether.

When it comes to the subject of management, and administrative details, the core skills you need to cultivate are organization and self-discipline. Unfortunately, most creatives lack these inclinations. We prefer getting lost in the creative process, and nothing kills that process more than insurance forms.

But if you’re going to be a creative professional, if you’re going to be entrepreneurial with your creativity, you’re going to have to cultivate these disciplines. Not that it will be easy, but you have to adapt and embrace these tasks. And part of these disciplines is adopting some form of routine and schedule. Because when it comes to administrative tasks, the longer you delay, the bigger the pile gets, and the more difficult it becomes to clear it. For example, the administrative task of updating your books, and billings absolutely needs to be done on a consistent weekly basis. We’ll talk more about that task when we return to the subject of Money

If you keep up with your administrative tasks, spending a little time each morning taking care of a few emails, and closing the end of each work day mopping up a few more, it’s not that hard to stay on top of things. The ability to accept and adapt to administrative disciplines is a core indicator of whether a creative is cut out to become a creative entrepreneur. In the resources section of my website you’ll find a Freelance Suitability Survey, that asks some questions that can help confirm whether or not you’re cut out to run a creative business. You may want to take that and soberly reflect on what it takes to run a business.

Next week we’ll consider the client service role of running your practice, and so until then: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.