Last week I started a new coaching engagement with an extraordinarily creative designer. She has been in business for over 15 years and in spite of working hard and creating outstanding results for her clients she has not achieved the financial success she desires. After listening to her explain her situation I said, “Why don’t you get a real job?” She looked at me with disbelief as if I had punched her in the face… and then I said, “Who has told you that?” With tears in her eyes she said, “My father … and he still tells me to get a real job.”

When you follow your creative ‘calling’ you step off the traditional career path that offers a well-defined and well-trodden track. For a creative person there is no clear road to success or promotion and there are no obvious or defined milestones to indicate progress. There are few if any mentors to assist, guide and teach you, and there are no financial bonuses or annual graded pay increases that people in traditional jobs receive as they move up the career ladder of ‘success’.


In a world where job status and job titles are markers for success, intelligence, financial security and the like, it is no wonder creative people often struggle with self- esteem issues and feel under-valued.


In a recent survey I conducted with past and present coaching clients and a few creative friends three desires were noted as common for all the respondents:


1.    To make a good living from their creativity

2.    To be creatively fulfilled

3.    To be supported in their creative journey


For over twenty five years spent listening to creative people (artists, designers, singers, musicians, actors, dancers, painters, small business owners etc.) talk about their career aspirations I have noticed a range of distinct differences between people who have not gained success and fulfilment and those who have. Those who have struggled hold a deep belief that what they do is ‘not a real job’. A voice of a well intentioned parent, a trusted friend or a jilted artist lives in a deep part of their mind causing havoc – playing with them, judging them, criticising them, sabotaging them. These people who struggle live from project to project, gig to gig or role to role. They procrastinate, they feel overwhelmed, stressed, and their self worth is often at rock bottom. Often they become discouraged and they see no other way than to abandon their dream of using their creative gifts to earn an income, and then they end up in jobs that pay the rent but leave them feeling unfulfilled and creatively bankrupt.


Creative people who prosper think and behave differently. They have done the internal work to clear limiting beliefs associated with being creatively successful and fulfilled, and they have developed a plan for their career or business that honours the integrity of their art and provides for the financial reward they desire.


I tell my creative clients, IF you want to step off Struggle Street get a real job! AND that job can be grounded in what you love to do. It can be your passion for your art, your talent, your creative gifts of music, song, poetry, design… however, you must change your mindset. You must think differently about what you do. You must invest in yourself. You must plan to succeed. You must embrace your creativity and do everything in your power to be your best, to be a master at what you do, to bring your creativity to the world.


If you are stuck in an old mindset that is holding you back and you want to be prosperous using your creative gifts and skills make your creativity your REAL job!


Turn those limiting beliefs and that negative self – talk about getting a ‘real job’ on its head. If you truly want to lead an extraordinary, creative life YOU need to take control. YOU need to leave the struggle behind. Plan to succeed. Plan to be fulfilled. Do what you love and reap the rewards!

Please feel free to share your own experience of working as a creative person. I’d love to hear from you.



Monica O’Brien is a professionally trained and accredited Coach and founder of Creative Edge Coaching She blogs on issues about creativity and small business development for conscious artists and business entrepreneurs. 


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