I wrote this self-coaching guide for Fairy Tale Life (before I moved my creativity coaching to Packing Lust) to help you decide whether you should start a business as a writer, artist, photographer, performer, designer, or any business where you will be offering a product or a service that you create or co-create.
The outcome we are aiming for here is for you to make a decision to:
a) Start a creativity-based business as soon as possible.
b) Start a creativity-based business on a specific date in the future.
c) Not start a creativity based business at this time.
If you are considering starting a business with a partner, make sure both of you answer the questions individually, and then discuss your answers together.
1. Do I believe in myself?
I don't just mean this in a Disney musical sort of way. It's not just about believing you are a good person with talent. It's about trusting your ideas, skills, gifts, and ability to grow. It's about believing in yourself when no one else does.There will always be times when other people validate your work, but when those people aren't around, or when other people criticize, you are your most important validator and encourager. Can you find things to love about your work? Also, can you believe in your ability to persevere while you close the gap between the quality you aspire to and the quality you actually produce? This is the gap Ira Glass refers to when he says "It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions."
2. Am I growth and learning-oriented?
The first place this applies will be in your market research, that is, in talking to and learning from potential customers, clients, or fans. Are you open to your business not looking exactly like you first envisioned? Can you learn about what people really want and need and apply those lessons to your business?
Can you build new habits that will at first feel uncomfortable or scary? Do you have the can-do attitude that is summed up in Marie Forleo's mantra "everything is figureoutable?" Do you love to learn about how to improve your work and your business?
3. am I sincerely focused on and committed to this idea?
In the first question, you asked about your belief in yourself. The opposite of belief is doubt, and self-doubt is a powerful killer of dreams. The best way to combat self-doubt isn't through willpower to stop negative thoughts, but rather, the willpower to focus on your art and your vision of your business as you build it. Once you've researched your business idea, and made sure there is a possible audience for what you do, you've got to fully commit and focus. Doubt will certainly come up if you are human, but your focus and commitment need to be stronger than that doubt.
4. Can I help people connect?
Seth Godin writes, "In the connection economy, there's a dividing line between two kinds of projects: those that exist to create connections, and those that don't."
As an artist, your job is to create the work. As an artist who is also building a business, your job is to help people connect over the work. Do you feel comfortable in this role? Can you answer questions, foster conversations, and reveal your process enough to make people feel connected to you? Will your projects create connections?
5. Can I make the space?
To run a business, you will need to make physical space and time space. You'll need to actively manage your time, which often means using a calendar. It means prioritizing chunks of time in which you will work with focused effort on your business. It means finding & paying for childcare if necessary. It means clearing out a room, closet, or other space where you will work.
6. Do I honor commitments to myself and others?
Danielle LaPorte says that the secret to success is to do what you say you are going to do. Of course, this is a high standard, and life is full of opportunities for white lies. (Did you really keep in touch with everyone whose high school yearbook you wrote in?) But language is powerful, and if people don't trust your words, or if you don't even trust your own words, then your business may falter. Can you keep appointments and be on time, or communicate clearly if you have to cancel? Can you deliver products or services when you state that you will? Can you stick to your policies even when they are inconvenient?
7. Am I open to suggestions and ideas without being overwhelmed by them?
There's a delicate line between being open to growth and opportunity and staying focused on creating your vision. You have to learn to walk that line. If you are too open to every new thing that comes into your landscape, you could get overwhelmed and creatively stuck. Yet if you shut your eyes to all new ideas, you may miss out an important life or business opportunity. Have you developed your own personal sifting process so that when new ideas come in, you can implement, discard, or save for later?
8. Do I have the support of a few people close to me?
It's true that not everyone in your life - or even in your family - may understand what you are up to when you choose to start a new business. That's okay. But I believe that you need to have at least one or two close friends or family members in your corner who believe in you and are cheering you on. Bonus points if your romantic partner is on board. You supporters will be there to give you pep talks when you lag, sympathy when the going gets tough, and ideas when you feel uninspired.
9. Do I have savings, a good bridge job, or some other way of staying out of debt while I build my business?
While businesses can grow quickly, it's common that in the beginning they cost more money than they bring in. And if you don't have a built-in audience that you've already cultivated, then give yourself plenty of time to gain fans or clients. In the mean time, you'll need a way to keep paying the bills. You could save up (the amount will vary depending on your budget and your business), you could keep working in your current job, or you could get a bridge job. A bridge job is one that covers the bills but doesn't drain your creative energy. It helps if your bridge job meets a need for you that your business doesn't. For example, if you are an artist who spends long hours alone in the studio, an ideal bridge job might be bar tending to meet your need to socialize. Your spouse or partner also might agree to take care of the bills for a time while you build your business. Finally there are artist communes and artist housing projects worth looking into where your cost of living could be very low.
10. Do I have a clear purpose in life that I know on a deep level and is this business connected to it?
I know, this last question is a doozy. But I believe that without a sense of purpose, life is less fun and less meaningful. I love how Mark Twain puts it: "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why." Your purpose can be in a 10-page mission statement, or in one word, such as "love," but you need one and it needs to resonate deeply with you. Your purpose may change or evolve with time. Do you know your purpose? If so, how is your business idea connected to your purpose? Running a business takes as much time as you are willing to give it, and that time will be more fun and fulfilling if you can identify every day why what you're doing matters.
Let's Talk about Yesses!
How many yesses did you have? Did you say "yes" to all ten questions? If so, congratulations! You may be ready to start a creativity-based business! If not, can you work on turning any no's into yesses? If so, your decision can be to delay starting a business until a certain date in the future. I believe self-doubt can torture entrepreneurs, and is the greatest killer of new businesses and new ideas. I wrote this post to help you make a strong decision and vanquish self-doubt. Now that you've answered these questions, I hope that any doubts you have about your decision to start a new business are gone, and that you can move forward with confidence in your decision.
I wish you luck, fun, and magic in your new venture. Know that I am here cheering you on.
"Yessing" you all the way,