Creative Minds and Money

a picture of a lemon with googly eyes and says "I am good and delicious"

During consulting sessions I get to meet a wide range of people doing vastly different things: writers, product brand owners, professional growers, illustrators, witches… everyone at varying stages of their small business, everyone with greatly different goals. It’s been completely fascinating and invigorating to meet so many cool folks and to be able to assist with working through their hangups. I used to get so stressed and worked up before when I would offer consulting some years ago. I was insecure and was overwhelmed with the fear of letting someone down, or not meeting their expectations. I would fret over whether I’d be able to really help them or address all of their issues in the ways that they needed. I was worried that the cost of the session vs. the value of what they were gaining was not equal. I simply did not believe what I was offering was worth anyone’s time unless I went way beyond was was expected. I would often go overboard with what I was energetically able to offer just so I could feel like I did a good enough job in the end. But of course, it only left me feeling drained.

I don’t know what changed that for me, but my guess is time. I’ve had a few more years under my business belt since the first time I offered consultations and I’ve gone through a major downsize that included a very personal and vulnerable public acknowledgement of mishaps. I suppose at this point I feel like I’ve finally weathered those hard moments that were once simply a hypothetical fear. It’s the same fear that all business owners share of course, a thread that binds us all. The constant undercurrent of the question: “What if this doesn’t actually work out?”

As I’ve been diving back into consulting again I’ve picked up on some common patterns when it comes to personal fears and the many ways they contort and blind our path. We create blockages and detours on our way to our biggest vision because a direct route seems a bit too hasty, maybe even too greedy. I can see my dream, but am I even allowed to go there? Why would someone choose to buy this thing from me? Perhaps the little hurdles we create for ourselves along the way are for our own safety. I think we have many ways to get to the light of our ideas, but I suppose there are some necessary lessons long the way. We simply have to grow into things.

Everyone deserves to feel financially supported, no matter what they choose to do for work. I deeply believe this. I think the reason why artists and anyone trying to build a living off of their creativity feel exceptionally tested on a personal level when it comes to selling what they create because often times we feel guilty when we both enjoy doing something and make money off of it. We have been conditioned to feel this way in our lovely western American society where the arts are decreasingly relevant in schools, and artists are constantly questioned for their prices. For many it’s hard to wrap their minds around fully and completely trusting in the joy and satisfaction they feel when they are focused on their creative path, and not feel guilt and shame for receiving money for it.

I wish I could say I’m completely beyond this fear. The truth is it does tend to come around like a stinky little ghost anytime I’m ready to take something to the next level, but I’ve grown used to its stench. I can feel it right now. It’s pretty much the same query that many of my creative consulting clients have who are fresh on their business journey, and that is “why would anyone choose to pay me over someone else? I’m not that special”.

And you know what I’ve realized? You’re right, no one is that special. Not a single one person, artist, business, brand, what have you, is all that special. What gets people to where they want to go, though, especially when it comes to selling their art, goods, service, or whatever, is something quite simple. It’s something so trite its obnoxious, yet most of us are petrified to go there: They are unafraid to be themselves.

Brands that seem to have it going on usually have this one major strength. They have thought about and plucked out the major things that make them unique and they have used these qualities as their guiding tools in all aspects of their business. It’s not about breaking the mold when it comes to figuring out what makes your offerings more special than someone else’s. It’s always about acknowledging what you already are, and not attempting to be or do anything that goes against that. It’s about trusting your gifts, your experiences, your origin story. The lesson is always about embracing that you are already good, you deserve good things, and good people will support you.

They will even pay you.

Let me be clear though… you can and will make things people won’t want to buy. It would almost be strange if that didn’t happen. But this is the risk we take when we set up shop and wait for our patrons to try our super special, one of a kind lemonade. Some people, no matter what, are just not that into lemonade. The folks that love lemonade though, do want to find you, and sometimes it’s just a matter of putting up more signs. The signs need to be a reflection of you and what makes your lemonade different, otherwise they may go to any other lemonade stand. Are you extra sweet? A little more sour than others? Maybe your lemons are homegrown, or maybe they look a little different? Let what makes your lemonade different be your strengths, and let the people know about it. No more selling generic lemonade for you.

Maybe this is just the crux of it. Many of us are so worried about being liked by everyone that we get lost. We end up making art that’s safe. We start with an idea that gets us so excited we’re lifted off our chairs only to ultimately whittle that idea down to a tiny smooth pill that’s easy to swallow. I’m not talking about healthy curation and editing, which every idea and concept naturally needs in order to fit within the limitations of our physical world. I suppose what I’m sensing is that too often our fear of humiliation is so strong that we forget what is so likable about us to begin with. Instead of thinking of the many who will absolutely “get” us, we fret over the small few who may or may not troll us. We are quick to see the goodness in everyone else but damn if we can’t see it in ourselves, let alone trust that someone would actually give us money for a piece of it.

Luckily there is a way out of this heavy spell but it’s going to take a little bravery, and a little bit of action every day to change the course of those lazy brain neural pathways. It’s not about making big leaps into the abyss, but instead small choices that will start to chip away at this stone cold belief that you aren’t enough. I’ve put together a little list of tips for those who may find themselves hung up in this way. It’s by no means a complete list, but these are things that have helped me. Maybe they can also help you step into where you’re being asked to go when it comes to trusting what you have to offer is good:

1) Email 10 friends and family members and ask them to list 3 qualities that they love about you.

Are you already terrified??? Look, I know. I know! I was full cringe when I did this….at first. Usually if you’re someone who feels insecure about putting your gifts out there on display the last thing you’re going to want to do is ask someone why they like you. Let me tell you though, that is exactly why you need to do this little exercise. I learned about this simple but very helpful exercise from Marie Forleo in her B School course. Not only do your friends and family know you and see your qualities the clearest, but they also love and like you. Part of the confusion when it comes to starting a creative business is that we haven’t yet separated ourselves from our ideas and products enough to see why they are so special. We often don’t know how to talk about our creations and we don’t exactly know who needs to know about them. Hearing how others perceive you is a great way to understand some of your natural gifts and traits, and will also help you embrace your unique voice. Are you friendly and warm? Quick witted and experienced? Rebellious and a trend starter? Let the compliments wash over you and use these qualities to shape the way you put business out into the world, ranging from the type of offerings you decide to focus on, to the way you market and promote them.

Here’s a template:


I’m doing some business development research and I need a quick favor. I’m looking to friends and family to give me some outside perspective.

Based on what you know about me, could you reply and let me know what you feel are 3 major strengths of my personality? Doesn’t have to be lengthy, just 3 words you might use to describe these qualities is so helpful.

Thank you for taking a moment to let me know!


2) Stop worrying about how others see you, and start seeing them.

Start speaking to your audience in a way that acknowledges who they are and their needs. When you have a product or service that you’re trying to promote it can feel like such a drag, but oftentimes that’s because we’re putting too much emphasis on ourselves in that process. Flip the script and turn your attention to the people who would resonate with your offering. What problem are you solving for them? What is it about this thing that they’ll love? What are your customers’ dreams? Chances are you share a lot of similar values with these people so you need to be acknowledging them in all of your marketing efforts. Talk about a personal experience that relates to your new good or service, or let people in on your process. People are engaged when they can see themselves in your shoes or feel like you understand them. We are all out here just trying to be seen, and every time you talk about your art you have a chance to offer that.

3) Take a hard look at your relationship with money, and start healing.

Money is a huge force in our lives. It’s something most of grew up barely talking about. Our caregivers had their own relationship with money and then, for better or worse, we adopted it. Money comes enraptured in stories and too often those stories are painful, scary, and cloaked in secrecy. Maybe you’ve never had enough money. Maybe you’ve always had what you need, but just the act of talking about anything money related was taboo in your household. No matter the circumstances, I’m willing to bet the farm you have relationship issues with money. When it comes to working for yourself these issues will take on strange forms in the way of not charging enough for our work, shying away from consistent self-promotion, or the ultimate yikes: working for free. Of course when you’re first starting out you haven’t made many sales yet, so it’s natural to feel a little unsure of your work’s value when you’ve just simply not seen the proof yet. There are lots of other ways that we fudge up our relationship with money though, and sometimes we can cling too tightly to its existence. We may feel like the only way to keep it in our pockets is by constant grinding, and continuously pushing upward. You know like when you equate how hard you’re working with how worthy you are as a person? Oh is that just me?? I am not going to pretend like I am an expert on money handling (HAHA), but becoming more aware of your money relationship issues will take you far in the world of self-employment.

4) You’re not trying to sell your product to yourself.

We’ve all done it. We’ve made an exciting new design, a new class or product that we’re ready to start sharing. We’ve got everything ready to go except for how much to charge… and then we price too low. How much is appropriate? How much is offensive?? I can’t give you a clear answer here because every offering is so different, but I know one thing for sure: Do not price your goods for yourself. You are pricing them for someone else that has more money than you. This doesn’t mean you can’t also offer sliding scale (if you can afford to), or do a promotion that gets people in the door at a lower price point. However, one of the bigger mistakes I feel we can make as creative business owners is when we think everyone has the same money situation as ourselves. This is simply tunnel vision and not understanding that our audience can have a diverse range of income levels, and many people absolutely have a budget for the things you offer. Just because you may be in a tighter position doesn’t mean you want to stay in that position. Quite the exact opposite, right? This type of thinking can inadvertently keep us in a “starving artist” archetypal rut where no matter how much we create we tend to stay stuck in an under-earning mentality. It’s easy to wear this as a twisted badge of honor, especially if you’ve grown up in environments where you absorbed the message that people with money aren’t trustworthy, or working hard often meant at the expense of one’s health and wellbeing.

5) Promote your work, in some way, every single day.

If you are someone who has trouble vocalizing what you offer then this really needs to be at the top of your todo list each day. Channel the qualities that your friends and family mentioned about you and use your natural strengths as your guide. Self-promotion and marketing isn’t something we’re born good at. Just like everything else, it’s a practice. Think of every post you make on Instagram, video on TikTok, or every newsletter you send out as a tiny bit of exposure therapy. Every time you send something out into the world about your work you are making conscious steps towards saying “HEY. Here I am, and here’s this thing I made” and farther away from “oh hey, sorry to bother you, here’s this thing I made if you want to check it out.” If you don’t believe in your work, then no one else will either. Building confidence in self-promotion is a matter of practice practice practice, and for better or worse, social media can be a good place to get more comfortable with this (Don’t worry about the numbers. Just post and let it go). Let it become such a routine to put yourself out there that you forget about the worry and you start getting excited for the potential instead.

6) Just because something doesn’t sell at first doesn’t mean it’s a wash.

More of a tip than a practice. Do you know how many people are out there in the world that haven’t heard about you? Things. Take. Time. Most of us out here are working with limited resources and don’t know the first thing about instant fame and success. Allow for a more natural growth to take place when it comes to your small business to take flight because at the end of the day, that’s the type of growth that is sustainable. I’ve had many designs or product offerings sit for months before they picked up any traction. Most of what’s required to launch a small business requires lots and lots of patience. Oftentimes it’s a matter of reaching your right audience, and as you continue to grow you’ll bring in more and more new eyes. You may be surprised at what ends up being the popular thing.

So back to being special. I lied, you are very special. But people need you to spell it out for them, and that’s something we’re not used to. Like all things that are new, believing in yourself and your work is a thing that takes time and it won’t always flow off the tongue. I know all of the above, and yet I still struggle. Starting a business is funny because it’s like creating a public obstacle course for all of your inner unsureness. It’s a test of bravery that working within the confines of someone else’s company and rules doesn’t always offer, and there’s no clear road map to success when you’re on your own. But I can assure you that what you’re creating is special if you allow it to be, and the money will come. If you find you’re trying one approach for a long time without much results, then switch it up. There is no rule saying you can’t change your mind, and that’s the beauty behind having your own business. You have the freedom to try new things.

Oftentimes it’s not everyone else that needs convincing of your goodness, but rather that rigid boss within.

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