The idea of doing creative work to make money, over doing it for love has often been met with scorn and heated opposition. Understandably so.
I want to talk about why, in most cases, people are wrong to resist the idea. I’m taking a gulp, because I know this could prove to be a contentious topic of discussion, but something I believe is true, and often ignored.
If your creative work is for income and paying your bills each month, your primary concern is not creativity or passion, it is money, or it should be. Providing a skill, service or a product that you rely on for a stream of income should be driven by the aim of making money and understanding how.
Before you stop reading and throw your laptop at the fridge, bear in mind what I’m about to say next. Doing what you love to do and what makes you come alive is second on the list of things to prioritise. So it’s still very important.
If you decide to become an illustrator, for example, so that you can make boatloads of cash and work with great companies, but you don’t have much interest in illustration, then that’s foolish, and not what I’m supporting.
Choosing what you want to do, based on what you are interested in comes first, but then think about your priorities.
It’s the being passionate about something – and its position in the pecking order – where people often get mixed up. They say you need to be passionate first, then the money might eventually come rolling in.
Putting passion at the forefront is ok if you’re doing this on the side, as a hobby, or just for fun. But for those of us who are taking a risk, dropping our day jobs, and doing what we do so that we can sleep without getting rained on at night, this is dangerous thinking.
By not prioritising money – a choice I think I could say that is made fairly often in the creative world – the urgency of taking actions that lead to making it, drift further and further away. Not so good if your income relies on your creativity and you don’t want your heater to stop working on an icy day.
By now you might be asking: ‘Won’t thinking about how to make money disrupt one’s organic, creative process?’ This is one of the concerns lying at the heart of the anti-money argument.
Yes, it could, if you are in the middle of a creative undertaking, like visualising a scene for your novel. But plan with the money and market in mind first, then go on to do the creative stuff. Both are important.
Your creativity and love for the work should not be compromised and doesn’t have to be, even if money is guiding the way. Being aware of how your work can succeed commercially will act as a boundary – enhancing rather than detracting from the creative process because your scope is no longer endless.
Obviously we do see commercially successful projects that weren’t particularly original or creative, but it can be argued that there was less care placed on the creative process.
You can still create Booker Prize-winning writing if you write with the money in mind. That is to say, with your potential audience and what they are willing to pay for, in mind.
Thinking about the commercial aspect of my own work (i.e. the people who will pay for my work and what works for them) has had one of the biggest direct influences on its positive progression over the years, that I can think of, and I’ve no doubt this applies to others in various forms of craft.
“Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”
Healthy creativity and having a love for what you are doing is still crucial, because it is these things that lead to work worth paying for (even if some things take a while for people to ‘warm’ to them). If your output is poor, or your creativity was somehow stunted in your process, it wouldn’t attract buyers anyway.
If it makes it easier, substitute the word ‘money’ for ‘value that other people are willing to pay for’.
Myself and many others have experienced the pain and frustration that comes with no funds in the bank, which incidentally is one of the quickest ways of losing the energy of creativity.
For the really ‘out there’ and original stuff, leave the money out of it and focus on doing something different. But for the most part, especially if you rely on what you do for financial survival, do it with the money in mind.
I’d love to hear your ideas on this! Do comment below and share this with others. Thank you!