PHLEARN MagazineOut of the Box

Out of the Box

Ideas for reducing certain risks when venturing into the full-time business of creating.

For an individual stuck in a nine-to-five and wanting to explore his or her creativity as a way of making a living, simply walking off the job can be tempting. It’s not something I would recommend. With some serious planning though, you can make the transition easier and greatly reduce the risks of falling flat and having to beg for your old job back.

Before I started my own graphic design and social marketing company, I had a number of occupations – everything from lumber yard manager, to long-haul truck driver/trainer. My design career has been spent with publishers, printers, and design firms.

My most recent position was in the production and art departments of one of the largest over-the-counter drug manufacturers in the world. It was while working for that company that I finally decided to give my solo career a shot. Before I made that leap, however, I had to understand the risks involved, and how to minimize their effects on my newfound courage.

Buy Less & Work More

Since we are talking about changing career paths, reducing financial risk is, for most of us, step one. Having a way to pay the bills while you develop your market just makes good sense. In other words, don’t quit your day job too soon in the process of living your dream.

You need to live smart – develop a poverty mentality. Eat out less. Buy less. Save your money. I have seen too many artist friends give up on their dream simply because they didn’t plan for a long-term financial strain.

Do what is necessary to develop a financial cushion – reduce debt and put money in the bank. That may require working a second job to pay off bills and/or grow a nest egg.

Extra work may be necessary in order to provide more than just money.  You need to do everything you can to outthink and outproduce your competition. Yes, competition. Lets face it; we are talking about the “business of creativity”. Putting in extra time and effort is mandatory to be successful in any endeavor, especially business.

That extra time and effort can be spent in many ways. You may need to learn new photography skills or computer software. A short time ago I hated using a certain program – then I learned how to actually use it. Now, it’s my “go to” when designing certain types of promotions. It allows me to be more creative, therefore more competitive.

Sales & Marketing

Using your creative talents to support yourself, and possibly your family requires that you become a businessperson. You don’t need a business degree; just spend a little time and learn the basics. There are certain aspects of modern marketing that will prove priceless if you learn to how to deploy them.

Create a market before you take that big plunge. Do your best to gain a few clients or make a few sales before going all in. This way you can gauge the market and know if what you have to sell is sellable. It will also help build your salesperson skills.

The best way to create a market is by gaining an audience. To do that, you need to go where the attention is – the Internet, social media. Open social media accounts on every major platform – and post, post, post. Post every day, on every platform. It doesn’t even need to be what you’re selling every time, either. It can be personal. Allow people to know who you are. Art is personal, subjective. I’d rather buy art, or pay for a service from someone I know.

And don’t forget YouTube. Aaron Nace allowed himself to be known on YouTube, and look where we are.

True Risks versus Insecurities

Every creative faces different challenges and risks. Yet, some are not risks at all, but rather fears and insecurities that hold us back.

Whenever I take a step forward in my career I risk failing. Instead of thinking of it in those terms, I like to think of it in reverse; every time I risk failing, I take a step forward. Whether I actually succeeded or failed, I didn’t let my fear keep me stagnant. It’s just a matter of putting it in the proper perspective.

Closing Thoughts

No one can predict every setback or eliminate every risk. In the end it’s the market that ultimately decides if our creative ventures are viable. What I need to make clear is that you have a better chance of being a successful creative if you reduce the risks and subsequent pitfalls that kill most endeavors before they ever get off the ground.

The right mental attitude, a little financial preparedness, and some competitive business tactics will greatly reduce the initial risks we face when taking our creative careers out of their nine-to-five boxes.

You can learn more about the author at his website.

Michael Pratt

Michael Pratt is the owner of Pratt Graphics, a graphic, web, and social media design company. Michael has worked in the graphic design, publishing, and photography industries for more than 30 years. In 2015, Pratt Graphics entered into social media content production. Born in Alaska, Michael now lives in Georgia with his wife and step-son, and is an avid Seattle Seahawks fan.

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