Finding and following your own path as a creative entrepreneur

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Let’s talk about the relationship between authenticity, personal satisfaction, confidence, and success.

Here’s a simple and perhaps obvious truth I’ve observed time and time again, as I’ve worked with all kinds of artists: the more they allow themselves to engage with the ideas, subject matter, styles, media and techniques they are genuinely inspired by—the more likely they are to sustain a deep, personal satisfaction with their art practice.

In other words, I see authenticity being a strong predictor of personal satisfaction in one’s work. When you’re true to your own calling—however idiosyncratic it may be—there’s a sense of alignment, a magnetism that keeps you coming back to your work, over and over again.

And the more that deep, personal satisfaction grows, the braver you get about sharing your art. You feel your confidence rising, to the point where you want to say: “Hey, check out this thing I made!”

And, more often than not, as that confidence to share your art grows, so does engagement with others around your it. You get feedback, encouragement—and even opportunities to sell your work.

If you’re diligent in this pursuit—creating with a desire to satisfy yourself, building confidence in your work, sharing, engaging, and selling when the opportunities present themselves—you can find yourself building a small business around your artwork.

I’ve seen it happen countless times.

There’s a common pitfall, though. It comes in the form of distractions that can lure even the most earnest artists away from their own true calling. A couple of the more insidious distractions are these two questions:

What can I make that will sell?

There are so many talented artists already out there, how will I ever be noticed?

These kinds of questions appear quite logical and practical. They point at irrefutable truths, such as:

Just because you love your art doesn’t mean anyone’s necessarily going to want to pay you for it.

There may be folks out there who’d want to pay you for it, but getting their attention is going to additional work—with no guarantee of success.

Those distractions are enough to derail many creative dreams.

Here’s the thing though, the calling never goes away. We’re all born to create, and we must learn to trust the process of creating the things we want to create, the way we want to create them. We must learn to focus on own subjective sense of satisfaction within that process, and to define success on our own terms, first and foremost.

Only time will tell whether this translates to any kind of success in more objective, market terms. But that’s OK. As Rebecca Solnit writes about making art, “...there's another kind of success in becoming conscious that matters and that is up to you and nobody else and within your reach." In other words, becoming more and more attuned to your own very personal creative calling has its own rewards, arguably far more important than success in conventional fame and fortune terms.

As I often say to my clients: “If I had to choose between helping you make a living from your art or having a life-long love affair with your art, I’d choose the latter.” I suspect you would, too.

Here’s the deal though: Don’t assume you’ll have to make that choice!

My business as an art brand advisor exists because there are artists who are not having to make that choice. They’re artists who’ve followed their hearts, their own quirky passions; they’ve made the art they love rather than the art they think will sell; they’ve built confidence on the ground of deep personal creative satisfaction; they’ve shared their work with others. And in the process, they’re building businesses—often businesses that are thriving, businesses that warrant getting professional help now and then, businesses that support them and their families.

This is not a guarantee. But it’s also not a pipe dream.

So keep listening to your calling. Keep creating. Keep sharing. I’m right there with you.

If you’re looking for a community of like-minded artists to share the journey with, I hope you’ll check out my newest offering. It’s a series of workshop/mastermind groups designed to provide support, feedback and accountability as you carve your own creative path. Learn more here.