No one ever said, ‘I want to be a failure when I grow up.’ That’s because success is so much nicer. But what exactly does it mean to be successful as a creative professional?
If your idea of success translates to making good money, exactly how much income are you aiming for each month or each year? If it means being famous, do you want to be a household name regionally, nationally or internationally? Do you measure your success by the number of Twitter followers or monthly blog views you have, by how many articles or books you’ve published, by how many exhibitions or concerts you’ve had?
It all seems to come down to numbers. The bigger the number, the more successful you can consider yourself to be.
But often, when someone cynically wonders about the point of a undertaking a lone act like voting or recycling, the optimistic believer will respond that one more person contributing to the greater cause really does makes a difference. That even if you can’t notice it now from where you’re standing, it all eventually adds up.
You could apply this same concept to your success.
If you are able to make a positive impact on just one person’s life, doesn’t that make you feel good about yourself? Isn’t that something to be proud of? This was a direct result of your talents, your abilities. Doesn’t this mean you are successful in what you do? Because all those individual inspired moments that do add up, and just one of those moments can set off a chain reaction.
You might say, ‘Sure, this is all fine and dandy, but adding a dose of inspiration to someone’s life doesn’t pay the bills, and I can’t really be successful if I don’t make any money.’
This is one major reason that many people initially pursue their passion as a side hustle while maintaining their full-time job. But: if your art is important to you, that’s what makes all the difference. As long as you believe in it and fully pursue it as you are able, do everything you can to nurture it, you will see a return on your investment of time and energy.
If you didn’t care about the kind of work you did in life to make money, you’d be at a random office job, helping some corporation make tons of money and maybe get a nice pen after 20 years of showing up to your desk every single day.
But starting your own business means something.
It says to the world that you have a unique and defined vision of how you want to contribute to society, of how you want to express yourself, of how you want to use your talents and skills. Being aware of your strengths already means you are on the right path. That is a success in itself, considering how many people don’t know what they want to do in life and don’t know what they are passionate about.
As a creative professional, you’re obviously in this for something greater, and that something greater is what needs to be considered carefully as you continue to redefine your measure of success.
Whatever standards you set for yourself will affect the way you live your life—because as a business owner, your work is, inevitably, very much entwined with your lifestyle. Achieving some kind of work-life balance usually entails tweaking the work part more than the life part, since most business owners are consumed by their work and can neglect the other aspects of their lives.
How you measure your success directly correlates to the types of goals you set for yourself, and, in turn, reaching those goals will directly affect your work-life balance.
So think about how important it is to you to entertain, educate and inspire people with your skills as a designer, photographer, writer, musician or crafter. As Mark Manson puts it, “passion is practical,” and being motivated by something other than money or fame is what will really take you far in your career.
If you want to make headlines with your work, if you won’t stop until you’ve made it to the top, congratulations on having the drive and discipline to do what it takes! But not everyone has that drive—even if you do dream of fame and fortune.
And so what? You are still successful when you hit your monthly or yearly goals, you are still successful when you have happy customers, when you are able to express yourself as a creative professional. If that satisfies you, what’s wrong with that? How is that not success?
As you redefine success, you’ve got to forget the numbers and consider the big picture.
Being happy and having your health as you pursue your passion in life—there are many people who don’t have these things. Think about what you do have, think about the people who are important to you, and be grateful–because being grateful will make you more humble and you’ll realize just how well off you are.
Check out our class on Fulfil Your Creative Purpose with Ann Rea, and learn how to identify your true calling in life.