What a Business Coach Can’t Teach You


The words make it all sound so easy.

  • “It’s in the doing.”  
  • “80% of your time will be business, 20% will be art”.  
  • “Go where your target audience is.”  
  • “You have to work your plan.”

Although there is a modicum of basic business truth behind each statement they are meaningless until you live them; until you “Grok” them. (Stranger in a Strange Land, anyone?)

Ha!  Stranger in a strange land is a great metaphor for the experience of building a sustainable creative business.

The Best Description of Life in a Creative Business

The best description of life while creating a business popped into my email this week.

“Until you experience the valuable lessons that come from quitting your job, running out of money a few times, not sleeping because you have a rent payment to make and wondering where the next paying client is going to come from, and the highs that come from the opposite of those things, you’re just speculating.”  - (adapted from Jonas Ellison, Why spirituality is the most practical thing.)
 Speculating - ”to engage in a course of reason with inconclusive evidence; to indulge in conjectural thought; to engage in any business activity with considerable risk.” (dictionary.com)

All three of those definitions are spot-on, but “to indulge in conjectural thought” is most accurate to describe a creative business venture. 

Until you...

  • sweat the fear,
  • curse the uncertainties,
  • anxiously chew your nails to nubs,
  • put yourself face-to-face with potential clients over and over and over,
  • experience brutal self-honesty about work habits, beliefs, and skills,
  • stare down your resistance,
  • do all the mental/emotional/physical work required,


the foundation of your creative business is no more than wishful thinking.

You can get all the advice in the world but if you can’t, won’t, or don’t put it into action…well, you know…you may end up disappointed, frustrated, maybe bitter, depressed.

Three "duh's" and your creative business

Please pardon my pretention to offer this bit of hard-learned knowledge.  Know thyself(Yeah, it’s another platitude; dull, trite, uttered as if it’s a new insight.)  If you don’t mind, I’ll use my experiences to clarify the import of this advice.

A business of any kind requires massive amounts of interaction with other people. (First "Duh!")  After decades of serving/caring for others in a professional capacity, I really had no energy left to deal with others.  It’s pretty hard to meet and nurture new art patrons if one is dreading those interactions. (Second "Duh!") 

The amount of time it took for me to regain “interpersonal energy” is equal to the amount of time it took me to understand the difficulty.


A business of any kind requires a degree of humility.  I think as artists, we sometimes suffer from a sense of “terminal uniqueness”, the idea that just because we’re artists none of that “business stuff” applies to us. (Yeah, okay, I’m talking about myself here.)  When we believe our uniqueness surmounts the business stuff, we fall behind on the footpath towards significant success and sustainability. 

When I allowed myself to start doing the “business stuff” I started building a more solid foundation for my photography studio.

Building a business of any kind requires time/effort. (Third "duh!")  Even though this point seems self-evident, I suspect it may be the biggest miscalculation amongst artists starting a creative business.  And I can’t really tell you how much effort/time it’s going to take because you just have to get in there and do it - every single day. You have to make the follow-up phone calls, you have to become involved in your community, you have to meet - literally, meet - your target audience where they hang out, you have to write the thank-you letters, you have to write out your plans, you have to plan your marketing, you have to balance the books, you have to learn what you don’t know, you have to follow through on everything. You have to make mistakes and then correct them. You have to measure your progress. More often than you'd like, it may feel as if you're taking 2 steps back for every step forward.

Then you have to create the art.

What a business coach can't teach you

Sometimes, words are like balloons; big plastic bubbles filled with hot air, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”*

The words mean nothing until you get out there and start working them, till you live them, till you “Grok” them.

A business coach can’t teach you the feeling of doing business.

It's only in the feeling that you'll fully understand the work of doing business.

* Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 27-28)

What are your ideas about this topic? I'd love to hear/read them. You can leave your thoughts over on the Facebook page.

May your holiday weekend be safe and filled with love and fun!


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