Creative in Work vs Creative in Business

What the hell does it mean to be “a creative”?

Let’s just start there.

Creative small business owner. Creative entrepreneur…

We throw these terms around a lot, but something about it has never sat right with me. Honestly, I’ve always found the term creative entrepreneur a little cringy.

I think I’ve finally figured out why.

Being creative in your work and creative in your business are two totally different things, and one doesn’t imply the other.

Creativity, to me, means you’re doing something that might not work. It’s not proven. There’s no guarantee. You’re doing something in a way that it hasn’t been done before.

So you can be creative in your work—you can be a photographer or a web designer or a ceramic artist—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re creative in your approach to business. Your Instagram feed could be mistaken for another wedding photographers, or you could be mirroring someone else’s marketing, pricing, or social media tactics. You’re using a proven model that you’ve seen elsewhere. You’re following the rules.

On the flip, you could have what’s not considered a creative profession—you could be an accountant or a lawyer or a financial planner—but be creative in your approach to business. You don’t look and sound and feel like every other accountant. You’re using social media in an unexpected way, or you’ve created a new business model. You’re not doing what people expect someone with your job title to do. You’re changing the game.

When we look at creativity in this way, we can see that it’s a lot broader than painter=creative.

Creativity is an approach. It’s a posture. One you can apply to your work, your business, and of course, your life.

This is why being creative can feel so lonely. Because we look around and don’t see examples of the thing we want to build. There’s no one building the business, or life, or career that we want for ourselves. No roadmap we can follow. There’s no blog post we can read, podcast we can listen to, or course we can buy that will tell us exactly what we need to do.

They can help! Sure. But ultimately, it’s on us. Only we’ve got those answers. That’s what makes being creative equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Here’s the thing though…

We’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

One more time for the people in the back—we’re all building something different, but our problems aren’t unique.

We all have to deal with the stuff that circles around building a creative life and business—the money, sales, health, systems, planning, and boundaries stuff. Our solutions to these problems are different, but our problems are shared.

So, in that way, we really aren’t alone.

There’s solidarity in the process.

We just have to get better at talking about it.


P.S. I recorded a 5-minute video chatting this through before writing it down. So if that’s more your style, you can watch the video here.

Photo taken on my trip to Prince Edward County earlier this month.