Have you ever read one of those click-bait articles on the traits of “The Creative” person? Of course you have. You know the ones I am on about… according to Lifehack / Buzzfeed / TheHuff /BoredBug as The Creative you are:
A constant daydreamer
Only able to think/speak in stories
Low on Self Confidence
Unable to handle interruption
Unable to focus on only one thing
Unable to multi-task
Have a mind that is racing 24/7
Only able to work at odd hours.
Unable to learn music.
A bad conversationalist.
An introverted extrovert.
Etc. etc. etc.
Articles like these can seem like a bit of fun but in reality this kind of stereotyping of the behaviours of creative people can be extremely damaging. On the most basic level, it can make a genuinely creative person feel like they don’t fit in because they don’t live up to this wild-child, lovingly-nutty archetype of “The Creative”. I have known many very talented creative people who were great conversationalists, never procrastinated and had their underwear drawer alphabetised. And genuinely I can’t even fathom the bit about being unable to learn music?
However, when I speak with Creative Entrepreneurs who are struggling to manage or maintain their businesses, I can really see the damage this archetype does. Creatives have come to my office for mentoring and have told me that they cannot be expected to:
Track their spending
File their taxes
Know or adhere to the laws of their jurisdiction
Care about profit
Back up and manage client data
Track their metrics
Answer e-mails promptly
Have a business plan
All because they are “The Creative”.
It is all too common that creative people use the excuse that they are The Creative in order to issue themselves a free pass out of the harder or less exciting parts of running a business. Instead of being truthful with themselves that they have not kept track of their expenses because they don’t like doing it – they have simply told themselves that the expectation was unreasonable because they are The Creative.
And The Creative isn’t good at doing Maths.
And The Creative can’t be expected to meet deadlines.
And The Creative is too creative to be limited by trivialities like money.
The unfortunate reality is that creative people can lose control of their business because they allow themselves to believe that they cannot be expected to run a business properly.
The most common reason that creative enterprises fail is not because the product was bad – it is because the business was run badly. There are photographers whose work can only be described as “passable” who have a healthy bank balance and exceptionally gifted photographers who have folded after just a few years.
How can a Creative Entrepreneur keep this myth from damaging their business?
Accept that there is no such thing as The Creative.
Like many people in many disciplines – it takes every colour to make a rainbow. Just because TV, film, Buzzfeed or your disapproving Auntie thinks that all creative people are __(fill in the blank)___ doesn’t make it true.
Creative people can be exceptionally good at maths – just talk to any architect!
Creative people can be excellent communicators or stand up comedians would all be out of a job.
Creative people can be organised – just think of the crazy organisational skills of any museum curator.
Creative people can read music. Because Bach and Mozart and Strauss.
Being a Creative Entrepreneur doesn’t mean you are limited by society’s expectations. You can (and will!) be good at the minutiae of running your business if you want to be.
Accept that staying in businesses means you must become good at managing and controlling that business.
The time for excuses has come and gone and now what we need is a little home truth. If you do not run a professional, well organised business, you are likely to fail. Maybe you will keep afloat for a few years, maybe you will reach a small amount of success, but bad business practises will catch up with most people sooner or later.
Don’t leave the running of your business into the hands of fate.
Decide that this year is the year to get your business in order. Don’t wait for that bad review, that complaint to trading standards or that HMRC investigation before you commit to making a change. Take a good long look at yourself in the mirror – and know that right now an excellent business person is looking back.
Take baby steps.
Just because you have decided to get your business head screwed on straight doesn’t mean you have to do everything all at once. Take time to evaluate the shortcomings in your business (disorganised e-mail communication, no set procedures for common tasks, failing to use contracts, not keeping up on bookkeeping) and decide strategies to get your business house in order. Once you have decided on a strategy, break it down into steps and get one step done every day/week/month. It is unreasonable to expect to do everything perfectly overnight. What matters is that you are in a permanent state of forward progression.
Do what you do best.
Maybe you aren’t great with bookkeeping. Not because you are The Creative – but because you have assessed your skills as an individual human being and you know this is not your strong area. That is totally fine. You don’t have to be an amazing bookkeeper to have a well-run business. Do what every great business does and hire in someone to do the jobs you are not good at. It is okay to delegate responsibility to others if you know you are likely to do a job badly (or not at all) because your skills are weak. Save the energy you spend on crying over a pile of receipts and use it in other areas of your business where you excel.
Be proud of being a good business person.
It seems quite socially acceptable amongst creatives to admit they are bad at running their businesses. Right around the 15th of January some creative entrepreneurs can be downright smug about leaving their bookkeeping until the last minute. With Facebook posts such as “gin or taxes – I know what will win!” it can sometimes seem as though being bad at business has become a badge of honour. It is time to shift that paradigm and begin to be proud of more than just our creative product. It is okay to do a dance of joy when you submit your taxes on the 1st of May or create a new workflow spreadsheet. When you do your clients proud by answering all your e-mails within 24 hours for a whole week – sing it from the mountain tops. When we move our mind-set away from the myth of The Creative we will begin to redefine our success as more than just a beautiful product.