Are Your Beliefs About Creativity and Money Holding You Back?

February 12, 2014
You must believe in yourself

Photo: sweetonveg

“The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind – creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning makers. These people – artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers – will now reap society’s richest rewards and share its greatest joys”.

Dan Pink, A Whole New Mind

One of the big things we need to overcome as creative professionals are self-limiting beliefs. In my experience, we all have them – and just when you’ve broken through one self-imposed glass ceiling, you usually find there’s a whole other level to challenge you!

The Clear-Minded Creative Self-Limiting Belief Buster (TM)

Let’s consider some of the typical self-limiting beliefs that plague artists of all kinds and contrast them with a more positive Clear-Minded Creative belief system:

I’m not talented enough.
Talent can be developed over time with practice – clear-minded creative types never stop learning.

Being an artist means being poor (aka starving artist syndrome).
Creativity is a highly valuable skill, especially when combined with digital/tech skills. Creative people/artists contribute a lot to the world, and deserve to earn a living if their work is valuable and unique.

Being self-destructive is part and parcel of being creative (and evidence that you may be a genius).
Bullshit. For our creativity to be sustainable over a lifetime, we need to look after our mental and physical health as best we can. If you want people to think you’re a genius, being eccentric is enough!

I don’t have time to be creative.
Making time for creativity is always possible if you prioritise it. Maybe you have a limiting view of what creativity actually is? Many different jobs involve some kind of creative work. Sacrifice may be involved of course – you cannot do everything.

Success as an artist is completely reliant on one big lucky break.
“Luck” depends on taking responsibility for your own success, clarifying and defining your values and goals and taking
persistent and consistent action towards what you want, instead of constantly seeking other people’s approval.

Dirty Cash

“Dirty cash I want you, dirty cash I need you.”

Stevie V

There are few self-limiting beliefs as crippling for creative people as those that centre around cold hard cash, or lack of it.

Many of us have negative connotations around the idea of ‘selling out to the man’. Rich people can be associated with greed, and selfishness. Look at the linguistics of this: you’re either ‘earning an honest crust’ (in other words, enough to buy stale piece of bread) or you’re ‘getting filthy rich’ and rolling around in a swimming pool of hundred dollar notes like Scrooge McDuck.

Scrooge McDuck

In the UK this is based in class divisions going back centuries. You’re either a hard-working, down to earth working class type, a poncy middle class person who has ideas above their station, or a privileged upper class twot who can do whatever they want because they have the safety net of a constant supply of mummy and daddy’s money.

As stupid as this all sounds, it can be hard to break out of preconceived perceptions like these. If someone from a working class person becomes rich, some might even consider them to be betraying their community, unless they maintain all the superficial appearances of being humble that is required of them.

The truth is that in and of itself, money is not inherently a force for either evil or good. It is simply a currency and can be used for whatever purposes we choose. There is no doubt for example, that money increases our freedom of choice, and for those who value social good, we can use it to massively improve the lives of those less fortunate and improve the world in many other ways.

“If I earned more, if I charged more for my work, if I made more space, I could do better work. I could give more. I could change more. I could be a glowing, positive force in this world.”

Tara Gentile, The Art of Earning

There’s plenty of money to go around, but there’s no doubt that it is currently distributed extremely unevenly/unfairly in this world. I’m afraid I don’t have the answers for that, but I do know that by doing a dead-end job you’re not going to have access to those riches because there will always be a limit on how much you can earn.

The best way to increase your earnings then, is to start your own business, whether it be offering a freelance service, or creating products that you sell.

But even with a business, you can seriously limit your earning potential simply because you do not believe in your own value or the value of your product.

art of earning

What is your relationship to money?

The success of initiatives like Kickstarter shows the appetite for great creative work and the willingness to help fund it. But we need to be comfortable with money before we can ask for it. Tara Gentile speaks very eloquently about this in her ebook The Art of Earning.

 ”The small picture is that money is deeply personal. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Getting right by money & our own earning power takes soul work. It takes a personal understanding of so much more than just the dollars & cents that dictate the decisions you make.

Seek to understand your emotional reactions to creativity, sensuality, and power and you’ll begin to understand your relationship to money. You might even start to see it grow.”

Tara Gentile, The Art of Earning

Buy The Art of Earning | | PDF and audio

The book Career Renegade by Jonathan Fields also has some great ideas for how creative people can think differently about their talents in a way that will enable them to make a decent living.

And if you want practical advice on managing your money, Mark McGuinness has an excellent resource called ‘Money for Creative People‘.

The key is to think about how what you can do would help other people achieve their goals and dreams – and finding people who are willing to pay you for that service. Ultimately in this scenario everyone’s a winner.

Extra Heads Up

Tara Gentile is doing a course over at Creative LIve RIGHT NOW called Value Pricing & Business Models for Creative Entrepreneurs. You can watch it live or buy it at a reduced price over the next two days (it’s repeated at different times so don’t worry you haven’t missed it!)

Chris Guillebeau has a lot of excellent guides to help creative people build a business, including a brand new one called Designed to Sell. I haven’t bought it yet, but his stuff is always high quality so I recommend it without pause.

Even better heads up

Chris Guillebeau is confirmed for the amazing Alive in Berlin conference in May, along with Pam Slim and many other great speakers. Early bird ticket offer ends tomorrow, Friday 14th February aka Valentine’s Day. I’m a part of the Alive in Berlin team and I’m really excited about this event. Join us!

A ridiculous additional bonus heads up

Tara Gentile and Jonathan Fields are also appearing at Small is Beautiful, a cool new conference about microbusiness in Glasgow this June which I’m hoping to go to as well, so why not plan a wee holiday around both this and Alive in Berlin? I’m extremely excited to have these events happening in Europe and I think it shows that the message I’ve been sharing on this blog for the last 3 years is finally becoming more mainstream in this part of the world – which can only be a good thing.

P.S. Yes, this post contains some affiliate links, meaning I get a cut if you buy. But probably not as many as you think.

P.P.S. You wouldn’t begrudge me making a few quid out of all the work I’ve put into this blog post now, would you?


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This article was written by Milo McLaughlin and published on Milo is a copywriter, multimedia content producer and creative coach based in Edinburgh Scotland. He is the founder of Clear-Minded Creative, which provides inspiration, support and practical advice to help talented people forge a new path in life.

4 responses to Are Your Beliefs About Creativity and Money Holding You Back?

  1. Thanks for sharing the small is beautiful conference, Milo! I may not be able to make it to Berlin, but I’m sure a train to Glasgow is in the the realm of possibility!
    Karen Marston recently posted..The 4 Traits You Need to Become a Well-Paid Freelancer

  2. Yep, the stereotypes you mention as century-old European tropes ring a clear bell over here across the Atlantic as well, Milo. Just another example of how we get in a rut in how we see ourselves, but here you do give resources for getting out of it! Great post. :)

    • Thanks Margaret – I suspected there might be similarities! Obviously it’s a huge topic to address in one blog post but I tried my best ;)