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Being Self Motivated in Your Art Business

As creatives, many of us spend a lot of time working on our art alone.  That’s often the nature of the beast. We're all different, so that could mean hours on our own painting, writing, programming, rehearsing, or working in graphic design.  Whatever our creative output, many of us do it ourselves, and alone.  Add a freelance, self-employed layer to that already solitary art practice, and who could blame us for feeling isolated?  In some ways, working alone is freeing.  We can call our own shots, work at our own pace, control our environment to best suit our craft.  But isolation can have negative effects as well.  What happens when we feel down or uninspired?  When we spend the lion’s share of our time alone, who do we turn to for motivation, for inspiration?  

Obviously the role of cheerleader falls squarely back on our shoulders.  Who is going to motivate me in my business? I am.  Who is going to shake me out of an unproductive slump? I am.  And if there are times when I’m not able to do that for myself, then I am going to have to find the people and situations that can do it for me.  

What does that look like for a self-employed loner?  I’m afraid there’s not going to be one answer to cover us all.  It’s slightly easier for me, since my spouse and I run our business together.  When Bogdan seems down, I can step in to help, and visa-versa.  What do you do when you’re totally on your own?  Can we know ourselves well enough to be able to sense when we lack motivation, and further be able to take steps to break through that block alone?  

It turns out there are ways to help with motivating yourself, and I think the most important is to make sure you’re doing what you love to do.  Follow your passion.  If you don’t love the work you’re doing as a creative, I personally don’t see how you can turn it into a business.  Maybe I’m wrong, but why would you even try?  I’m not implying that you have to love organizing receipts or paying sales tax.  There are going to be all sorts of little things that you may hate doing in your small business.  But when those tasks are getting the best of you, can you turn your attention back to the fact that you absolutely LOVE your job?  Are there other things that inspire you?  Take a walk through the woods, look through your sketchbook, hang out with artist friends, watch that movie that always makes you want to paint.  Figure out what those things are, and use them as needed.

You can always create self rewards.  Devise ways to treat yourself at intervals throughout a project, or give yourself bigger rewards when a project is complete.  These could vary from taking a walk, buying some new gear for your artwork, watching a program or movie, or even springing for a trip to Mexico when a larger milestone has passed.  These rewards can be your secret, but can go a long way to keeping your spirits high, and your motivation strong.

Of course, having clear goals, tied to a vision and mission you know well and have internalized, and a specific short and long term plan will help immeasurably in keeping you motivated and on task.  I can understand though if that level of planning and rigidity might be too much for some creatives at the start.  Do what you can, and take incremental steps.  I would hate to kill your passion for art because you get bogged down in the business management of that art business.  Take it at your own pace, but get there over time.

And don't forget the power of your own brain. It can do remarkable things to encourage us. Use visualization, meditation, and positive thinking to keep spirits high. It's amazing to me that our brains can create all sorts of symbolic, non linguistic and chemical solutions to many of life's problems. Take full advantage of that magnificent motivational tool between your ears.

My biggest problem is that I get lost in the details, and things fall through the cracks.  Just last week I did all my writing, filming and recording for my podcast.  I got the thumbnail picture sorted, checked the title against a title generator, created postings on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest to promote the podcast, got them all scheduled to drop on the right day, uploaded the video version on YouTube, and marked the episode as completed. Then it occurred to me that I had never actually uploaded the audio file into the podcast platform.  That’s a pretty basic component of a podcast episode.  When those things happen, I feel my anxiety levels rise, and I start to worry about all the other things I may have forgotten.  Soon my creativity is  paralyzed.  

How I address that issue is to create a checklist of all the steps I have to go through to create and publish a podcast episode.  That way, I just work through the list, and don’t have to try to keep all those moving parts in my brain.  This week, my morale has been much higher, because I can work off that checklist without freaking out about what has to happen next, or feeling overwhelmed.  I can break the steps down into bite sized pieces, and I don’t have to wonder if I’m forgetting something important.

Bogdan and I have the luxury of maintaining studios in a large complex with 50 other artists in our building, and about 400 artists throughout the other buildings.  Every day I get energy from the other creative people around me.  It seems that whenever creative folks get together, wonderful things seem to happen.  But you need not rent space in a collective to hang with other creatives.  Check your community for MeetUp Groups, artist organizations, exhibitions, and events.  If there’s nothing nearby, create your own.  Just because you work alone, don’t feel like you ARE alone.  Reaching out to others not only can lift your morale, and spark new ideas, but it can also create some important friendships.  And who doesn’t need more friends?

You owe it to yourself and to your artwork to stay sharp and motivated in your practice.  Don’t ever forget that you are your brand, you are your business.  So don’t underestimate the value of a cheerleader.  Grab your baton, slip on a bedazzled leotard and grab your pom poms… you have work to do.


We’re still giving away a free copy of the template of the spreadsheet we use to track all of our expenses and such.  Thought it might be useful to someone who hasn’t done all that yet.  Drop me an email, or go to my website under the tab “Giveaway” and leave me your email address and I’ll send you the file.  Use it anyway you like.  I hope it’s helpful.


Have a wonderful week, and spend some time building your own tools for self-motivation.  I’ll see you next week when we will talk about becoming a self-starter in your small creative business.  


John Bishop Fine Art's "Conversations for Freelance Creatives" is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. His work can be seen online, or at his studio at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, Studio 108, in Houston.

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