We all know these people. They wake up one day, decide to start their own business, and when it doesn’t pan out immediately, they start whining how hard it is to be self-employed. I get it! I’ve been there off and on in my 27 years as a writer trying to make my living from my creative work.
There are a few things I want to point out to my fellow creative or “holistic” type entrepreneurs (including animal energy workers, massage therapists, life coaches, business coaches, anything with energy work or holistic whatever), because these folks tend to whine far more than the indie business owners who actually have stores or a catalogue of physical products they’re selling.
- Life isn’t fair.
- Being self-employed is hard.
- If you’re working in a business where your product or services is a “splurge” purchase, or something people see as a luxury, it’s a lot harder to find clients/buyers than it is when you’re dealing in products or services people need for survival.
- Keep your day job until you’ve maintained the same (or growing) income for a minimum of a year.
Earlier this week I watched a friend who does energy work on animals, complain that she can’t get any business. She’s one of the whinier of my entrepreneur friends. So first, she has a business that not everyone believes in. Not everyone believes in energy work, so her business targets a very specific type of person: someone who believes in energy work for animals. This vastly narrows her appeal as a business. Second – it further whittles away her potential clients when you add the caveat that someone needs to be willing to PAY to have energy work done on their pet. I have pets, I believe energy healing is a nice complimentary practice in addition to traditional medicine, but I’ll be super honest here — I won’t pay $25-$100 for a session for someone to do energy work on ME, let alone my cat. Hell, for me and my income — that kind of thing borders decadence. However, I might spend $20 on a CD that allegedly calms cats and play that over the stereo.
Another friend is a business coach. To be honest here, I know about 20+ life coaches, and 4+ business coaches, and the majority of them don’t get much business at all. That aside, one of my friends who is a business coach was complaining just last month that getting new business owners to pay for coaching is like pulling teeth. Well of course it is! These people have likely just sunk their entire life savings into their new business. They’re probably buried in bank loans. Now you’re asking them to take money they don’t have to pay you to tell them how to excel in their business when you yourself haven’t had a successful business? To that, my friend told me he catered mostly to writers and creatives who needed self-help. Yet, the vast majority of writers and creatives are often dirt poor unless they have a wealthy spouse, or a good paying day-job. Why anyone would hedge their bets for financial security on a business that caters to a group of people who don’t have a lot of disposable income is beyond me.
Perhaps I need to pick on my own kind for a moment, too. I know so many aspiring writers who hope to make it an actual career (and a few who think it’s a get rich quick scheme). Fiction novels are another splurge expenditure that a certain group of people (readers who tend to have very specific tastes, which narrows the audience) make when they want to be entertained – and they have A LOT to choose from. The reality is that the majority of writers will never make more than a few hundred to a few thousand a year. Those who make a living income (i.e. the same you’d make at a day job), or a six figure salary, are an exception rather than the rule, and oftentimes those six figure success stories are short lived. Give it 5 years and the writers making bank today, may be struggling to make a fraction of what they were making five years ago tomorrow. That’s how this business goes. Been there, done that. While 27 years of building my career has giving me a stable income envied by many writers, that 10K – 15K per month that I was making back in 2011-2012 on my novels is now a wonderful memory and a future goal (again). ::sigh:: There’s no shame in being honest — huge success in a creative career can be fleeting and sometimes you have to fail again and again before that success sticks.
The point I’m trying to make is that when you’re choosing your independent career, it’s important to have realistic expectations based on the clients/consumers you actually have the ability to attract, and whether or not your product or service is an indulgent splurge (in an ever difficult economy for the working class), or a need that people will drop money on whether they can afford to or not. Most of us have the “former” type of indie career. Not the latter, which means that you will have to work hard for EVERY paying customer.
I’m not trying to be an asshole or a naysayer, but you knew going into this, that it was going to be a hard road. You knew going in that there were no guarantees. You knew going in that your potential clients were going to be a tiny group of people and business would be based on disposable income, belief, etc… No one owes you a living doing energy work on cats. I’m sorry, they don’t. Just like no one owes me a living writing books. Not all of us get to do what we love for a living 100%. We have to go out into the world and find boring, but necessary jobs to keep the family in health insurance and to keep the mortgage paid. There’s no shame in being a plumber, electrician, accountant, or office jockey while pursuing what you love on the side. That’s how the majority of people do it.
Mostly – just don’t delude yourself into thinking millions of people will be flocking to you and throwing money at you so you can do energy work on their cat. Don’t think business owners are going to line up to hire you at an hourly rate for business coaching unless you’ve been featured in Forbes, or at least the local business paper. Don’t expect you’re going to write that first book and get rich off of it. These are all unrealistic expectations and you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Complaining about it solves nothing.