How Creatives Make Money

Odds are, if you are reading this, you make money by leveraging your creativity. You write, design, create, or do something such that your ability to make money depends largely on your ability to be creative.

I’ll pause and let that sink in for a minute.

I said in passing last week that your productive peaks are the essence of how you make money. Understanding this has some important implications, but I need to walk through some discussion points first.

The Means to Production

Imagine that you were a delivery person who owned your own delivery truck. Obviously, if your truck broke down, you’d be in a bad situation, for you couldn’t complete your job.

Or imagine that you were a blacksmith who ran out of coal. Again, while you were out of coal, you wouldn’t be able to perform your trade.

Good delivery people and blacksmiths spend an appropriate part of their time maintaining and securing their equipment, for their vehicle to production is tangible. Creatives, on the other hand, are far more likely to squander their vehicles, mostly because they don’t understand and respect that they make money by leveraging their creativity.

I’ll stretch the examples a bit more…

If you were a blacksmith and someone stole some of your coal, you’d probably be a bit mad. Yet you let the many beeps, bounces, and alerts steal your attention everyday.

If someone were to distract you and make your hits miss when you were trying to form a hammerhead, you’d likely be a bit frustrated by the intervention. Yet you stop or stifle the creative process every time you short-circuit your brainstorming process by self-doubt, being unprepared for it, or simply not allowing it to happen.

If someone closed your shop during business hours, you’d likely be mad as hell that you couldn’t work when you needed to. Yet you plan non-creative work during your productive peaks and then try to force yourself to be creative when you aren’t.

Were we to take seriously how important our creativity is to what we do, we’d be much more mad, frustrated, and protective than we actually are. It’s only once we start taking it seriously that we start to see how important it is.

When Creativity Strikes!

Creativity is not one of those things you can plan for like the daily mail. You can understand when you’re more likely to be productive and creative, but some days the train comes late. Other days, it doesn’t come at all.

But when creativity happens, it’s important for you to be in the position to harness it. Shut down your email client (it can be done!). Let your mind run. Pull out your pencil, keyboard, or whatever implement you use and get to work.

The flip side to this is understanding that you can’t force it. We all have tasks to do that don’t require us to be creative. On your “off” creative times or days, do those. Or go out for a walk, exercise, or call an (available) friend.

A good blacksmith understands that there are times to forge metal and there are times to grind files. Both are critical components to her ability to make money. A good creative understands that there are times to forge ideas and there are times to sort email, and that both are critical components to her ability to make money.

Do you understand how you make money? If so, what are you doing to foster, maintain, and protect that resource?

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  1. says

    Definitely take advantage of the creative moment when it happens. I have had times where I am in the mood to write something, but I wait. Then, before I get back to it, something happens that changes my mood, and I cannot write what I had the right emotion for earlier.

  2. says

    this WAS a light bulb going on for me. I get interrupted all the time at home when I am trying to work on personal projects and it makes me mad. I feel like my family are not respecting my creative time. I guess because I’m not working on “money-making” projects, it’s not as important. The key thing here is that they are interrupting my creative process, whether it’s a paying job or not. I’ve got to establish some boundaries and communicate to the family my needs regarding my creative process. Thanks for the light switch.

  3. seanrox says

    Fellow former-Military Class, Creative Eagle Scouts are easier to find these days — Keep up the great work, I’ve already read several poignant articles and have signed up for your blog RSS.

    It’s all about that old “Service Project” that made the difference…

    artist, eagle scout 1987.

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