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How Creative Businesses Fail… Well, Most Of The Time!

30 March 2015

The black clouds appear… You eventually get the nearest life-sucking equivalent job and everyone rejoices.

Recently I’ve been re-reading one of my favourite books, ‘The E-myth Revisted’ by Michael Gerber. It’s THE book that inspired me to create Endless Wave Dynamics. It not only opened my eyes to seeing business in a whole new way but also allowed me to be happy producing again. When I read it last year, I was on the cusp of walking away from my career in the music industry. I’d had enough. The fun was gone, pressures and external forces were seemingly at work and, for a brief second, I thought about getting a “normal” job. I regretted my career choice. I left school in 1997 with hardly any qualifications owing to my school years spent smashing the shit out of a drum kit. Music was the obvious choice; I had to chase the dream. Like many, I didn’t give myself any other option.


The rest of the world didn’t exist. It still doesn’t for the most part but that’s our creative vice by design. We artists are passionate and we become the masters of our own bubble in order to produce the work that we do. Ignore everything and get really good at stuff! That’s our motto. Photography, writing, web design, whatever it is – we’re glued. Our obsession might stick or it might change over time to something else. But we’ve got the bug.


Here’s a custom fairy tale about you and a big bad wolf. It’s my take of ‘The E-myth Revisted’ and how creative businesses tend to fail.


Once upon a time… (around the time that you would have used a public telephone or found a copy of Razzle on a railway banking)…you worked your arse off doing something fun. At some point, you got that good at it that you weren’t the only one acknowledging it. Others around you praised you. Some were that impressed that they asked to include your skills on their projects. “I love your artwork, can you make me a logo?”, “can you…” pops up a lot. Well of course, we bloody love the compliment.


The black clouds appear and your family and relationships push you to get a job, for it’s the grown up way. And it is, so you do. You eventually get the nearest life-sucking equivalent job and everyone rejoices. You learn the ropes inside and out, but it’s outshined by what you’ve got going on at home. All you can think about is the burning fire of potential you have lit and the fire alarms are sounding. Every free hour you’ve got is given to fine tuning your skills.


Eventually you can’t stand another jail day, your visiting friends are pointing at the door and the cell is open. They say, “you should do this for a business.” You’ve got the skill set and roll a double 6 for a get-out-of-jail-free card. You set up your first business and, as if by magic, people actually love what you’re doing. £200 for passing go! It works right out of the box. No messing about, this is punk rock!! You’ve got attitude, this is raw and people want a part of it! You’re ecstatic and with a few years of mastery you know this is what you were put on this planet to do, people around you agree. Again your friends and family are excited, unfortunately you’re too busy for relationships but do you even care? Nope. You didn’t expect to be this busy. This is heavy going!


The problem is that you’ve started this as a technician not a manager and as a result your business is doomed. Subtle mistakes start to pop up. The occasional client isn’t happy. Your clients haven’t paid you on time; you’re struggling to keep up. Next weeks work is as solid as a brick wall and you’re about to be smashed right through it because it’s Sunday night and you haven’t finished the work from the week before, even the month before that. People already know your capabilities, your best work – you’ve got to keep it up. The ball is in motion but you feel like someone is kicking yours.


The amount you’ve got to get through is terrifying. But you do it. You’re exhausted and you have to finish, you know they are only going to complain about it. It’s hard to decide which is going to take the most energy – correcting the mistakes or dealing with the consequences of not correcting them. It doesn’t matter; they’ll only choose someone else to do the work next time. You start to hate the client, especially the ones that are friends. They bring you work, the last thing you want right now is more work. How can you say no? You don’t. You struggle. You fail.


That’s when you realize it – you hate your job. You left your previous job so that you could spend your time doing the thing that you love but somewhere, who knows where, you invested all your time and money in creating ANOTHER JOB. With your waking breath you say “I’m cancelling!”, “I just can’t do it anymore” and you blow your own house down.


I must say at this point that this is not my life story, very similar but not mine. But as I read ‘The E-myth Revisited’, it tells a very similar story about a baker called Sarah who had also reached breaking point and all her passion had gone. The love had been lost and then found again by implementing a simple set of managerial and entrepreneurial skills. I found myself nodding, a slow simple yeah! Keep checking as we explore all the ways to further your creative career.


Check the links below to get a copy.

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