7 Mindset Shifts For Freelance Artists
The more trips I have around the sun, the more and more I realize that life is what we make of it. Your life is your creation. It's not something that happens to you-unless you abandon your position as its chief architect and decide to let other's build it for you.
We've all heard the term "starving artist" but what if you didn't have to starve or struggle to put your work out into the world?
In college, I remember taking an art history class and sitting transfixed and fascinated studying art throughout the ages. Hypnotized by many art mediums and artists, I recall learning about Michelangelo. Michelangelo was a polymath genius who was widely considered to be one of the greatest artists of the Italian Renaissance period. His work was infused with a psychological intensity and emotional realism that had never been seen before, and I glossed through textbook photos of the Sistine Chapel in complete an utter awe. But the thing that piqued my curiosity the most was learning that Michelangelo unlike many of his professional colleges and predecessors wasn't another struggling artist. I'd grown accustomed to certain narratives about artists, one that indicated they barely got by. But the master sculptor and painter wasn’t just some art school dropout struggling for his art. He was a rainmaker. He was a multimillionaire in today's standards, and a successful entrepreneur.
The story of the "starving artist" clouds the quiet, relatively unknown tale of Michelangelo’s success and has become our most prominent understanding of what’s possible for creative people — which is to say, not much.
The remnants of this story of struggle can still be found today. It is the guidance we give a friend who dreams of photographing for a living, the advice we give a coworker who wants to write a novel, or even the cautionary tale we're told as children when we head out into the real world. Careful, our parents say ominously. Don’t be too creative. You just might starve.
The myth of the "starving artist", like all myths, was a powerful story that I'd let orient my life and entire career around for roughly a decade, hedging my bets with dolorous 9-5s and hiding from my true calling. I didn't want to struggle, and so I kept my passion a hobby for a long time and followed a predictable path towards mediocrity.
But the truth is, Michelangelo did not need to starve for his creations, and neither do you. Making a living off your creative talent has never been easier, and these seven mindset shifts can help radically improve your bank account and bridge the gap between your dreams and your success.
1. Have A Clear Vision
Vision is one of the most powerful and foundational mindset shifts you can make as a creative freelancer, business owner or entrepreneur. If you don't have a clear vision of where you're going, why you're doing what you're doing, or who you're going to serve, then you're going to get lost rather quickly.
Here's why having a clear vision is so significant to your success:
It's your WHY. And having a WHY inspires action and generates the internal energy needed to commit to change. It's a practical road map for creating plans, setting goals, making tough decisions, working on deadlines, and persevering when the going gets tough. Having a why is the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning when you feel like hitting the snooze button and turning off the mindless distractions like Netflix and Instagram. Without a precise vision, setbacks; like hearing the word no, or having an incredible opportunity fall through will hit you like a ton of bricks. Inevitably, it will be impossible to stay motivated if your why isn't bigger than all your fears, self-doubts, mindless distractions, and setbacks.
Spend some time in solitude and figure out what your vision is. Where do you want to be in six months, a year from now, five years down the road...etc. Don't just think about these questions, but visualize them in your mind. Get Specific! When we get clear on our vision of the future, where we want to be, and the why behind it all, it makes the journey seem far more accessible and achievable.
2. Money Is Merely An Exchange Of Value
Back in the day, we used to trade livestock for goods and services, but nowadays we use a universal currency to determine the value and price of things. Could you imagine bartering chickens or cows for the new Beats Solo3 Headphones? Where would you even house a herd of farm animals like that? And who has time for that nowadays? Thankfully, today we exchange a value for a service.
Frequently freelancer artists and entrepreneurs have a block around charging what they're worth. Often, it's a subconscious belief system with roots that steam so deep they're not even aware of their limited mindset and how their assumptions about money are sabotaging themselves.
Nearly always, this thought pattern boils down to a self-worth issue. If you feel you’re unworthy or not worth getting paid much for the work you do, I can guarantee you that you won’t. Our world is merely a mirror reflecting back to us the feelings that we are putting out into the universe. The best way to increase your bank account is to shift your mindset that money is merely an exchange of value and that you ARE WORTHY OF GETTING PAID!
Here is a simple mind-shift exercise I invite you to answer in order t improve your feelings of worthiness as an artist:
First, start with this simple worthiness ritual: Every day, list three ways you provide value. It could be related to the content you create, the art you make, the service your business offers, or some area of your personal life that you provide value to others.
Second, is to think of someone you admire and think about how much they would charge if they were offering your service?
Lastly, jot your answers down in a journal and reflect on your observations. You'll never have that AHA moment and debunk the money myths that have been plaguing you until you actively spend time reversing how you view your worth and your thought process around money.
3. Learn From Mistakes And Move On.
Yes, you should take your business seriously. But you shouldn't beat yourself up over every mistake. Not every setback needs to settle into a permanent scar. The nature of forging your own path in life lies in accepting risks, trying new things, and taking big chances and looking for the limits of what's possible. The best artists know that creativity often means breaking the rules, making mistakes, and learning along the way. Mistakes are often among our greatest teachers, working to understand your mistakes, and putting your big girl pants on to keep dredging forward is one of the best forms of self-education.
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes; evolution is learning from them and moving on.
4. Embrace The Mantra “Progress Over Perfection”
As a recovering perfectionist, this is something I STILL struggle with. As an artist who cares deeply about the quality of the content I produce, I'm intimately familiar with the seductive pull to keep polishing my work into oblivion. It's easy to get sucked into the insidious sinkhole of perfectionism. Getting ensnarled in its pitfalls will inevitably grind your output to a halt and suffocate your soul.
If you wait to get it perfect, you'll never get it out there and as the famous saying goes, "Done is better than perfect." When you're working for yourself, whether you're a freelancer, an artist, or running a business, there is going to be a lot of things you need to do, and perfectionism will be one of your biggest time wasters if you let it.
Shifting your mindset to "progress over perfection" doesn't mean that your work will automatically be sub-par, but it does begin to dismantle the paralysis of perfectionism and train you to stay rooted in a growth mindset.
5. Stop Taking Everything Personally.
As an artist or business owner, you inevitably pour your heart and soul into your work and business. These business' and creations are extensions of you and pretty much feel like members of your families. Am I right?! However, there are going to be opinions. Not everyone is going to like you, and not everyone is going to say “YES!” to what you’re offering or buy into your work. Potential clients that seriously say they’re going to book with you…well, they might not. You’re going to get rejected and hear “NO!”s and told you're too expensive.
Eventually, if you spend any time working for yourself, you’re going to feel like Forrest Gump when nobody wanted to sit next to him on the bus.
But the simple truth is that rejection is a part of life. Unfortunately, you cannot stand up, flip over a table, and shout at a client that they will never understand your work because you are an "ARTISTE"! Rejection hurts. It can even leave you feeling crumbled, but it doesn't have to.
Don’t define yourself by the criticisms or project more meaning into the NOs than there is.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
When you're your own CEO, you're going to have to learn how to say the word NO. It takes a lot of practice, but you’re going to have to build up your NO muscle. Believe me; it can be done! Opportunities will come where you're going to have to make decisions. And sometimes, those will be tough decisions.
The best way to know when to say no and when to yes is to ask yourself these three simple questions:
Is this aligned with my personal or business vision?
Will it edge me closer to my goals?
Does this opportunity excite me?
If your answer to the following questions is no, then you know it's time to decline the opportunity politely.
7. Surround Yourself With Other Entrepreneurs
Sometimes the biggest naysayers or negative Nancy's in your life wind up being your friends or family members. If you surround yourself with people who drag you down, aren't motivating, or flat out don't support your dreams, then you're never going to propel forward towards your goals. The saying that "You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with" is an accurate one, so spend your time surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who inspire you to chase after your passions.
Make it your mission to forge friendships with a squad that's united towards similar goals, outlooks, and growth.
Join a facebook group, create a mastermind, find an accountability partner, hire a mentor, or meet up for coffee dates with other artists and business owners. Connect, and listen to their stories and learn from their experiences.
Tell me! Which of these mindset shifts do you need to make pronto?! I know there’s at least one! Don’t be shy…leave a comment below and start them implementing today if you are serious about growing your creative business.