The Five Toxic Myths & Mindsets that Keep Creative Souls Struggling



October 26th 2016

*Caution:  Tough love…but great advice ahead! As a fly on the wall attending any creative event, you hear the same tired myths, excuses, and mindsets.

“Such is the life of the starving artist”

It’s become epidemic among creatives that “we all need to struggle” and that creatives almost need to be poor in order to not “sell out” or be too commercial. With a little tough love, we have collected the most common myths which keep creatives struggling.


This one is the classic lies (I don’t think lie is too strong of a word here) that creatives love to repeat over and over.The source of the starving artist myth!

Many creatives have been sold a romanticized idea that creativity and art is somehow more legitimate or real if it is created by poor people. This idea was popularized in the mid-19th century by the writer Henri Murger, who wrote Scènes de la vie de bohème- Which was about this group of hip but poor artists living in the Bohemian quarter of Paris.  The book was wildly popular and it became trendy to be a poor artist.

So many creatives refuse to take a business class, refuse to learn about marketing, branding, and wonder why they are struggling?!

The Future really is Creative! Technology and automation are quickly eliminating the majority of the traditional and manual sector jobs.  It has never been a better time to be a creative soul in this new creative economy.

The Takeaway: The Starving Artist is an old and tired myth that needs to die. Creatives have such a bright future if they have the right mindset and learn a few basic business skills.


“I have a gig this weekend” This is one of my favorite small but powerfully toxic mindsets that you hear creatives say all the time.

At first glance, what’s wrong with saying you have a gig?! What’s the harm?

The dictionary definition of “Gig” is:

“a job, especially one that is temporary or that has an uncertain future” “he secured his first gig as an NFL coach”

Let me ask you one question.  Have you ever heard an architect say “I have a gig this weekend building a skyscraper? No way!

“Let me ask you one question. Have you ever heard an architect say “I have a gig this weekend building a skyscraper? No way!

— The Future is Creative

However, you hear creatives all the time saying “come to my gig this weekend” or my friend has a gig at a cafe or theatre.

So why is this toxic?  Because it sets up the idea that your passion/talent is just a little side hustle.  Something that you do for fun or a hobby that is not your job, vocation, or passion.  It minimizes your work as an artist or creator.

The Takeaway:  Stop calling things you do for your passion and career gigs.  Ask yourself tough questions.  Is this my HOBBY or do I want to make a life from this and share it with the world?


Let’s talk about free work and exposure.  You should never ever work for free. Never.  Ever.  Your time, expertise, and passion need to be compensated for.   I don’t care if you are new or junior.  You are valuable.

Now the key here is that when I say “You should never ever work for “free”  What I mean is that there should always always be an exchange of value and it does not have to be cash.


Here is a classic example:  Now let’s take a junior photographer.  There is a massive music festival and they have invited you to shoot their event in exchange for “exposure” and to build your portfolio.  Here’s what happens, a few emails go back and forth and the conversation is very one sided….the music festival sets all the terms and requirements for the shoot days.  The photographer agrees and works their butt off at the event ….sits back and waits for the “exposure” to get them clients.  #EpicFail  

What’s the problem?  There is NO exchange of value! There was no contract.  No clearly outlining exactly what the photographer would receive in lieu of what would be a $1000.00+ plus contract.

Now let’s look at this another way.  Now the photographer puts together a simple contract and offer where they outline what they are willing to shoot for the event and what EXACTLY they will receive in equal exchange.  An example offer could be:

“You should never ever work for free. Never. Ever. Your time, expertise, and passion need to be compensated for. I don’t care if you are new or junior. You are valuable.

— The Future is Creative
  • 2 social media posts during the event thanking the “official” photographer of the event with contact details of the photo company.
  • A discount code for attendees of the event that if they book the photographer they receive 10% off.
  • An interview on their YouTube channel or podcast on “what it was like to shoot at the event”.
  • 3 VIP tickets for any friends.
  • Half a page of an ad in the event paper program showcasing the photographer.
  • Lunch and canteen drink tickets.
  • An onstage thank you at the closing speeches.

The Takeaway:  Never work for free.  You are valuable at any point in your journey or career.

Exchanges of value are great if they are put together properly.  You should be thinking if I normally would charge $1000.00 for this contract, how can I receive $1000.00 in benefits from this job in marketing, advertising. (exposure)

You should never ever work for free. Never. Ever. Your time, expertise, and passion need to be compensated for. I don’t care if you are new or junior. You are valuable.


The “big break” will come. Instead of creating a plan or creating something themselves, the starving artist believes that their big break will come and they’ll be instantly rich, famous, and happy.

Sure you hear about examples of this happening…as the media loves a good “overnight success story” but for every Justin Bieber getting magically discovered on Youtube…there are 1000 people who had a plan…

The Takeaway: Don’t listen to Justin Bieber.  Just kidding.  Media and social media make it look like everyone was an instant success.  Have you ever read a newspaper headline that read “Woman works for 8 months according to her plan and creatives a million dollar company”? No!  A solid plan and working toward your dream is all you need.


Almost every one of my consulting clients who are in the creative field always seem to say the same thing.  “I wish I was a business person like you” or “I just need someone to handle the “business side” of my project.

Are busineses people some magical unicorn people that came out of busineses land? Trust me, I learned all my busineses skills the same way as anyone else and I didn’t study a business degree!

Example:  I speak fluent Chinese and Spanish.  People always say “wow I wish I was a language person like you”  No one likes to hear that I simply buckled down in a cafe every night for a year, with a weekly plan of what I wanted to learn.  How is learning business skills or a language any different?

The Takeaway:  Sometimes, creatives LOVE to put themselves in a magical separate group from the rest of humanity.  Picture skateboarders from high school…all hanging out together, wearing the same clothes, using the same slang.

No one is a natural born “business person”  Business skills are learned just like learning a language like French.  This is where the tough love comes in.  You don’t need a “business partner” and you don’t need to go to business school.  You simply need to surround yourself with other “business” people and dedicate a little time learning the fundamentals.

  • The secret is, we focus on our strengths and contract out the rest.
  • Thats where “The Future is Creative was born.  To provide creatives with the business skills they lack in making their creative passion their career.

What other myths and mindsets do you see in the creative community that are toxic and hold creatives back from epic success?

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How to Beat Overwhelm when Starting a Business

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