3 Tips For Conquering The ‘Creative Conundrum’
William Warren is an award-winning illustrator, author, and entrepreneur who believes in the power of remarkable visual communication to bring ideas to life. In 2013, he founded The Sketch Effect with a simple yet compelling mission: “to make ideas understandable and actionable.” With his book, The Conquering Creative: 9 Shifts to Build an Unstoppable Creative Business, William is on a quest to help other creatives turn their talent and passion into sustainable businesses and careers.
Whether you’re a professional climbing the corporate ladder or an entrepreneur forging your own path, the journey of a creative is riddled with contrasts: the passion for pure creative expression, the demand for profitable outcomes, and the complex landscape that lies between. This is what I like to call the Creative’s Conundrum. And it’s a paradox that most artists struggle with time and time again.
So, how does one traverse this path? How can a creative individual, professional, or entrepreneur make a living with their craft? At the heart of the Creative’s Conundrum is one truth: a successful creative career or business is not built on creative skills alone. It requires business acumen. This typically means investing time, energy, and money into things we might not naturally enjoy and may even find tedious.
Reassurance for the Artistic Soul
But hold on. Breathe. There’s a silver lining! You only have to be a good businessperson–not a great one. In fact, you can even make do with being an average businessperson! The secret is this: a pinch of business savviness can go a long way towards building the business or career of your dreams. In other words, you don’t need to earn an Ivy League business degree or pour over Harvard Business Review. But you do need to address the Creative’s Conundrum head-on. And this requires a conscious shift from being just a creative to becoming a Conquering Creative–someone who isn’t afraid to merge artistry with strategy.
From Fear to Fulfillment
Let me tell you a bit about my first encounter with the Creative’s Conundrum. I was twenty-something years old and a year into my master’s degree program in illustration at the Savannah College of Art and Design. I enrolled in graduate school with a dream of becoming an editorial illustrator or children’s book illustrator. But as graduation crept closer and closer, I found myself paralyzed with fear. The anxiety of putting myself out there to market my services, find clients, and grow a career all on my own was daunting. So, I chose a ‘safe’ corporate marketing job, thinking I’d find stability. Over time though, I felt as if I’d sacrificed my creative dreams on the altar of my fear. Fast forward to today, and I own my own business where my team and I make a living providing visual communication services that bring ideas to life. And it’s a job that fills me with joy!
This corporate detour? It became an unintentional crash course in business. I learned firsthand that business didn’t need to be scary or boring. In fact, it can be incredibly exciting when done right! But the good news is that you don’t have to take the corporate plunge, like I did, to realize this. My goal is to help others shift from business-averse creatives to bold creatives who use business to unlock their full potential. Are you ready?
Here are my suggestions to help you bring your creative visions to life.
Three Ways to Make Your Creative Dreams a Reality
1. Embrace Your Passion as Your Product: Although it can be uncomfortable, this is a necessary step to transform into a Conquering Creative. Until now, your art may have been a reflection of your simple love for the craft. But to succeed as a creative professional or entrepreneur, you have to be ready to present it as a sellable “product” or “service.” Rest assured; this won’t dilute the essence of your work. Instead, it’s a testament to the power of your art to help others find solutions and enable you to live a life by design. You’re not selling out–you’re conquering.
2. Acknowledge the Work Ahead: We’ve all heard “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Unfortunately, that’s a big old pack of lies. As countless people who are successfully “doing what they love” will agree, passionate work still demands effort, time, and sometimes, blood, sweat, and tears. The reality is, if you love what you do, you’ll just work differently. So, embrace the entirety of this journey, with both its highs and lows. This will keep you inspired yet grounded in reality.
3. Find Your Sweet Spot: Before diving deep into your professional or entrepreneurial journey, one of the first things you should do is identify your sweet spot: the intersection of what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and what the market needs. So, ask yourself: What is the one thing you naturally excel at? You probably already know this one, but it’s worth defining in concrete terms. Next, what gets you excited on a deeper level? What’s the ‘why’ that fires you up? Lastly, what do people want to spend their money on? This will probably be the most difficult to answer and the one most often overlooked by creatives. But once you find your sweet spot and go all in on it, you’ll be well on your way to an unstoppable creative career.
In short, think of the Creative’s Conundrum not as a roadblock but as a challenge. As daunting as it may seem, with the right mindset and approach, you can turn your passion into your profession. Welcome to the journey of a Conquering Creative. Now, go forth and conquer!