On January 10th, Theo gave a presentation at the American Family Dreambank about how one should approach making a living being creative. The talk covered the following:

Q: Can you afford to NOT be creative in today’s economic conditions?

  • Importance of creativity to society: innovation
  • Jobs with low creativity and autonomy are not secure
  • Jobs with low creativity are a poor investment of your time and energy and can diminish your creativity
  • Creativity makes you versatile
  • We are in a “gig economy”

Why do we want creativity in our work?

  • Exciting!
  • Rewarding!
  • Sense of control!
  • Innovation!
  • Seem clever or original!
  • We can follow our Passions!

Tough questions: Passion and your personal Creativity

  • Will pressures involved in a vocation damage or kill your creative passion?
  • Is Passion enough?
  • What are the elements of your creative passion that you will not compromise on?
  • http://clientsfromhell.net/post/149315986563/the-problem-with-your-passion

What does a creative living look like?

  • Are others doing it already? Something similar? Contact them!!
  • US statistics bureau of labor statistics – what does the job and economy look like in the past, present and future?
  • Professional resources- Professional organizations, meetups, seminars/workshops, conferences, sellers of products or services for the business

What are good questions to ask about your desired profession?

Ask Creative Professionals:

  • Find out about routines
  • How much of their time is doing actual thing, vs. support activities
  • How does the job differ from their expectations?

Ask yourself:

  • Can you do what they do day-to-day?

Fear of Failure as a creative

What is the worst that can realistically happen? How can fears be turned into confidence?

  • Minimize Financial Risk
  • Don’t quit your job tomorrow
  • Use established businesses as resources
  • Friends and family
  • kickstarter/fundraiser
  • Get contracts for service
  • You are taking a big risk, not just financially
  • Ego, reputation, lifestyle, free time

How to gain confidence:

  • Gain experience
  • Ask the right people for feedback, and be responsive to that feedback!
  • Show your work to lots of people!
  • You have to believe in your own work if you want others to!

Still not discouraged? Great! Start your first project!

  • Start a project based on your ambition
  • Find a client that shares your passions or interests
  • Non-profits are ideal choices, and great networking
  • Make sure your participation in project is NOT critical to their success or failure
  • For-profit business – Moderate pay is okay if you are learning, but not more than once or twice for the same service. More on this later.

Make your first service agreement clear about timeline, services, and compensation!

  • Agree in writing upon the goals, services, criteria
  • Be open to change, but be very careful of changing scopes
  • Stay in touch about progress, be accessible
  • Professional level standards for work and behavior
  • ALWAYS refer to this document for service being provided.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to complete the project, and make sure the client is aware of timeline.
  • Deliver beyond expectations as much as possible!

About getting paid as an independent contractor, freelancer, or small business owner

  • Free work is a mortal sin
  • Substandard fees will kill your passion and your business
  • If you do not make enough money, you will have to get a job to support your side hobby job.
  • “What happened to your last ________?” “They went out of business”


  • Exposure bucks are worthless
  • Can’t spend
  • Rarely result in more business
  • Result in worst customers-initial customer will not respect your time, secondary customers will know you work for little or nothing
  • Self-respect
  • Good customers respect and value your service, time, and expertise.
  • Be careful of friends and family
  • Confuses relationship
  • Mixing business can lead to conflicts of interest and hurt feelings or business that are irreconcilable
  • You and they may lack objectivity that hurts collaboration

Don’t treat your creativity as a commodity

  • Don’t race to the bottom, creativity is not a commodity
  • Sell the benefits of your service or product
  • Gain the confidence to ask for what it’s worth
  • Get better at making it, then charge more
  • Don’t let sticker-shocked cheapskates degrade your worth
  • Your price tag filters out bad customers


  • Freelancers Union
  • Graphic Artists Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines,
  • Hello Bonsai – https://www.hellobonsai.com/agreements
  • Small Business Administration: small business resources for success
  • US statistics bureau of labor statistics: stats of employment and jobs
  • Clients From Hell Podcast
  • 100state, Sector67
  • Industry-specific or professional organizations

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