3 Ways to Grow as Both a Creative and a Professional

Question: How do I grow my business with limited time and still be creative? Business is great, but I feel like I’m not personally growing and I’m stuck in a “commercial” rut.

Perhaps the problem is a lack of creativity … in thinking about creativity.

How Do You Define ‘Creativity?’

Your question implies that doing the business itself is not particularly creative. So how about changing the way you think about what’s creative?

I know many creatives who became “creative professionals” (i.e. photographers, illustrators, designers, etc.) because they wanted to make money doing “creative” work, only to find that the work that came their way wasn’t particularly creative, which is often the reality of commercial work.

However, some of those creative professionals have discovered that building a business can be an extremely creative pursuit. So one option is to shift your mindset and see how creative you could be in growing your business. Here are three simple ways to do that:

1. Be creative in your promotions. Instead of avoiding self promotion, use it as your opportunity to show how creative you are. (The No Plastic Sleeves blog shows off extremely creative ways that artists promote themselves.)

2. Find a creative way to thank your existing clients for their continued business. Use snail mail to send something spectacular that lands with a thud. It will stand out for its creativity without being too costly, especially when you’re not mailing to thousands.

3. Think creatively about the wild, unexpected new markets you could get into or the future-friendly services you could offer. What client needs do you see coming in the next three to five years that others aren’t focused on? This, I think, solves the problem of the “limited time” question.

Growth as a State of Mind

The “not personally growing” part suggests you’re doing commercial work that’s not interesting and doesn’t allow for creativity, perhaps because of the restraints clients place on the work by timeframe, budget and more.

This seems like a case of trying to satisfy your creative urges through commercial work. I think that’s a mistake. Although it may sometimes happen that your commercial work is creatively satisfying, if you depend on it to satisfy you – that is, if you depend on your job to double as your only creative outlet – you will often be left feeling frustrated and disappointed.

Many artists look to their personal work to satisfy the need for creativity. It also has two huge benefits:

1. It provides a needed outlet to grow creatively, which can only benefit your commercial work.

2. If you promote your personal work (and a blog is the ideal place to do so), it has the potential to attract the kind of clients who are predisposed to like that work and therefore hire you for it.

What both of these notions have in common is the need to have outlets for creativity, which is challenging to make time for but worth every minute.

About Ilise

Ilise Benun is an author, consultant and national speaker, the founder of Marketing Mentor.com and the co-producer of the Creative Freelancer Conference. Her books include “The Designer’s Guide to Marketing and Pricing (HOW Books), “Stop Pushing Me Around: A Workplace Guide for the Timid, Shy and Less Assertive” (Career Press), and her latest, The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money (HOW Books 2011). Marketing Mentor

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2. Creativity is Your Best Marketing Weapon

3. For Artists, Even Paid Jobs Should be “Personal”

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