Has anyone ever told you that “you’ll never earn money like that”, or “it’s better to find a ‘proper’ job”? I’ve been on the receiving end of such comments multiple times! I chose to study Art History at uni. My parents were always supportive of whichever study I’d choose (thank you, mum and dad!), but I remember the laughs and sniggers of classmates (who all chose business economics) and even eyebrow raises by family or friends of the family, asking whether there was any work in that. Basically, they all thought I was stupid to pick a subject that was destined to lead me to poverty.
Money blocks and undercharging
It somehow sticks when you hear that message. It becomes a mindset issue. Because everyone told me “there was no money in the arts”, I settled for less. I accepted the fact that pay was low, and that I should be grateful to even have a job in my industry. So even when I, years later, set up my own business and became a shop owner (in vintage furniture), I kept myself smaller than I should have. Because deep down I believed that, as a creative, you don’t earn much, and that “I wasn’t a real shop like the proper ones in the high street”. So I stuck to a tiny budget, didn’t feel brave or ‘business-y’ enough to take financial risks to grow, and I always over-delivered and undercharged.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved running my shop and had a fantastic four years doing it, but the truth is, I just covered my expenses with the sales I made, and a bit more. If it wasn’t for my husband’s steady income at the time, I couldn’t have lived off the revenue of my shop alone. I now look at those years as an investment in my business skills and knowledge, and I am super grateful for the opportunity they gave me to grow in confidence and to figure it all out by myself. I learned SO much. But I now know that with the right mindset, and perhaps a coach, I could have made it much bigger.
Your path is yours and yours alone
Despite my money blocks, I have never had to work a part-time job on the side just so I could do my creative stuff too. I have always worked in the arts and creative industries. And so: yes, there is work in it, and if there are no jobs, you can create your own. And yes, you can even have a creative business AND earn lots of money with it. It all depends on mindset, strategy, and skills.
I managed to find work in my field even before graduating, both in Holland and the UK, and I would tell anyone to follow their own path despite negativity from people around them. Get a ‘proper’ job? Fuck ‘em!
Know what you can offer, and share your USP
YOU know who you are and what type of work will bring the best out of you. I would have died in a corporate environment. The arts and culture are my life fuel. Small business, any time.
The one thing, however, I know was a leading factor in my success to always find work in my field, and how I launched my little vintage shop and got sales, was the fact that I am good at communicating. Communication is key.
Explaining your personal USP, making yourself visible, and making the right connections. You gotta be able to market yourself and convince people that they need you.
And this is my message to you today: if you want to succeed and grow as a small business – or even find interesting creative jobs – you cannot sit back and wait until somebody accidentally finds you. I know, putting yourself out there for all to see can be scary. Fear of judgment, fear of failure, fear of a big fat ‘no’. I know this feeling well and it sucks!
But you have a dream, right? You don’t want to go back to that boring office job, or stressful work environment you used to be in, do you? No more ‘proper jobs’, life is too short for that, and you have so much to give.
You have everything already inside you to make it happen. Your ideal client is out there waiting for you to become visible and help them. Go for it. I believe in you.