The three kinds of advice you get on your creative journey

You are being called to greater things, feel stifled in the mundane and boring roles society has carved out for you, and want a grand adventure. You want to follow your passion but somehow make enough money to survive on. If you start talking with people about all your ideas, you’ll inevitably come across three kinds of people, and their advice. Here are some things you need to know, so that you know who to listen to, and who to ignore.

1. The doubters

These are ordinary people who care about you. They’ve never done anything exceptional and can’t imagine how you can do it. They talk about safety nets and fallback plans and savings and insurance.

They try to be supportive but you can see in their eyes they don’t think you can make it. You need to stay away from the doubters, as they will drain your energy, but don’t tune them out completely. The doubters will probably also be your clients and customers. They are the people who would love to do Big Things but don’t have the courage for it. So listen to them, empathize. Understand their desires and fears, so you can take big steps into the unknown for them, and come back bearing wisdom and gifts.

2. The dreamers

These are the people who tell you to quit your job and travel; that making money online is easy; that you can do anything you set your mind to. They recommend The War of Art and The Artist’s Way. They tell you to visualize and keep dreaming and never give up.

You need to hang out with dreamers; they have energy to spare. But if you hang out with them long enough, you’ll find a lot of them spend years building up projects, before failing and jumping ship to something new. A lot of dreams are chronically bad at making money or figuring out how to build a sustainable business. You want to stay positive and be in sync with the dream mentality, but you don’t want to be one of them. You want to be more than a dreamer. You want to complete something.

3. The doers

These are almost always the entrepreneurs. They get that success in business (or success in anything, really) is about finding out what people want and giving it to them. They understand websites and traffic and SEO and branding and positioning and sales copy and pricing anchors.

They’ve failed at several businesses and succeeded in several others. They’ve finished, shipped, learned some things, and tried again. Their income is growing. When they speak, their confidence doesn’t come from belief, it comes from experience and fact. Which is why they can sound self-righteous. They won’t support your ideas if they can see the faults. They’ll say “Sure you could do that, or you could do this other thing and make three times as much money, and it would be much easier.”

If you’re a dreamer, you probably aren’t ready to think about the income. You just want to do your thing, and making money seems boring and pedantic. But the doers know it’s better to do something boring that earns money and gives you freedom to do your thing, than it is to struggle and fail at your thing because you weren’t willing to focus on making the money.

There are easy ways to make money, and harder ways. If you find yourself always struggling, always short, always chasing clients and not sure how to get to the next level, you need a doer to look at your platform and tell you what’s wrong. Don’t just keep doing the same thing, hoping that it will somehow take off and make you rich (in a miraculous way you can’t understand, because you don’t get the market). If you aren’t making money, take what you’ve learned and do something else, something better, that solves a need. There is nothing noble about being a starving artist. It’s not society’s problem.

Listen to everybody, respect everybody, but understand these three people are saying different things. Most doers charge a lot of money as coaches, to help you fix your shit and make more money. But most dreamers aren’t ready for that, because they’re still hoping for a miracle.

Luckily, there is a ton of free advice out there, as long as you know who to listen to.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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