Last year I published my book, Blazing the Freelance Trail, Professional Practices for Creative Entrepreneurs. I’ve been on the trail of Creative Entrepreneurship for over three decades. And I can tell you that at times it can be treacherous. Sadly, because creatives are so captivated by the creative process itself, the business aspects of what we do are largely overlooked. Creatives like to go “heads down,” soaking in the process of conceptualization, illustration, communication, and presentation. But all the while fundamental, yet invisible business realities mount up. Eventually, matters of cash flow, resourcing, scheduling, and new business rudely intrude themselves into the studio, interrupting the creative flow.
Creatives Rarely Start Out With the Intention of Building a Business
All businesses have to face these realities, but there is a huge difference between the person who conscientiously starts a business—considering their capitalization, their business strategy, their cash flow, and their marketing strategy from the outset—and one who backs their way into business, with its corresponding issues as an afterthought. Running a business is hard enough when you know the issues and take a proactive posture toward them. It’s almost impossible when you don’t even have your eye on the ball.
Five Themes of Entrepreneurship
The business lessons I write about in Blazing the Freelance Trail follow five themes: Money, Minutes, Marketing, Management, and Motivation. The advice I offer is given from the context of personal experience. Much of what I’ve learned has come from the school of hard knocks. Whatever mistakes can be made, I’ve made them. Failure is a great teacher—but only if you learn, and if they lead you to better practices. I was fortunate to encounter other professionals along the trail who were able to teach me the business fundamentals that had been omitted from my art school curriculum.
Freelancers and Firms
My book is relevant to any creative entrepreneur, whether they choose to stay on the freelance trail, or whether they’ve grown their creative practice into an agency. But it does focus on the freelance path, since that trail is by far the hardest version of creative entrepreneurship to master. Given its level of difficulty, and the relative inexperience of most freelancers, it’s no wonder the vast majority who set out end up getting lost in the woods. I don’t have official data, but based on my viewing of literally thousands of freelance profiles and websites, I’d guess that less than 10% of those who head down this trail end up staying with it, turning their creative passions into a sustainable, enjoyable, and profitable career.
Who This Book is Really For
The feedback I’ve received from readers over the past year has confirmed what I initially expected, and which I hope will change over time. Those who find and read my book have largely been creatives who are already pretty far down the trail and find themselves stuck. I’m glad and grateful that my book has been so helpful, and so well received by my fellow travelers, but my ultimate aim, my BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal, from Good to Great) is that my book will find its way into the hands of a new generation of young creatives, who will gain a perspective of the terrain ahead before they get too far down the trail, before the deep crevasses, raging rivers, and steep hazardous climbs prevent them from building great and successful creative businesses.
If you’ve been helped by my book, will you help me accomplish this audacious goal? If you know any young creative entrepreneurs, or perhaps even better, art school professors and design teachers, buy them a copy of the book. And while you’re at it, point them to my Podcast, 5 Minutes on Creative Entrepreneurship. If creatives can become competent orienteers of the business side of creativity, if they can master the trail they’ve chosen, the better the chances that they’ll succeed.