4 min read

Black Friday is happening (both before AND after Friday somehow), Cyber Monday is coming in hot, and my inbox is full of sales emails.

I mean FULL of sales emails.

And as someone who occasionally sells things, it really has me thinking a lot about consumption and my lifestyle and aspirations as a creator.

An investor tweeted recently about that term, “creator,” and what it means. Is it an artist? A creative? I weighed in on my point of view…

Creators make things, and they make them for others. If people aren’t watching, listening to, sharing, or buying what you’re creating, then I would label you a pure artist.

And that’s ok! Plenty of people create for themselves and are happy if no one else cares about it at all. All creators are artists, not all artists are creators.

But what if you want to be a creator and no one is paying attention, or buying?

Let’s do a quick thought experiment – think about the last thing you shared that was made by someone else.

Maybe it was a link you posted on Twitter or Facebook…

Maybe you texted someone a link…

Maybe you shared a photo or video with a friend on Instagram…

But why did you share that thing?

I would guess that it either:

  • Expressed something you believe to be true
  • Made you laugh
  • Was surprising, unique, or absurd
  • Made something easier or more possible for you
  • Was a great “deal” on something you already wanted

Whatever the reason, I guarantee it wasn’t JUST to support the creator.

As a creator, I often ask myself, “Why isn’t this working? Why don’t people care more?”

But I know the answer. I know why things that I do work and why they don’t work.

It’s almost always a question of origin and purpose.

As a consumer, when we spend our money or attention, we aren’t doing it for the creator’s benefit. We’re doing it for our own benefit. EVEN if we’re buying a gift for someone else – it was our goal to buy a gift that we think the receiver will enjoy.

But we LOVE the things we love. Things that help us better understand our world, express ourselves, provide amazing value, or a great customer experience. We will share far and wide this THING or experience that really made an impact on us.

Yet, so often creators enter a project through the lens of, “How can this make me money? How can I monetize this?”

It’s a nonstarter. If the origin of something is for the purpose of making money, you’re screwed. People share what made an impact on THEM, not an impact on the CREATOR.

Have you seen how many mattresses are advertising to you on Instagram? Have you seen how many software or streaming service subscriptions we pay for now?

There is no shortage of ways for us to spend our money. Actually, the number of things I want to buy is terrifyingly high – so take a number, creator!

In another interview from a few weeks ago, my friend Jason told me he changed his writing practice to start with the prompt, “I want to help you ____.”

Fill in the blank – fill it in with anything. That is a much stronger starting point than, “I want to make money by selling you ____.”

…sounds tough to be a creator, right?

It’s not all bad news. The good news is, people do like to support creators they’ve built a relationship with. And that same relationship will build the trust necessary for someone to say, “I like this person. I bet working with them would be awesome, and I’m willing to pay to make that happen.”

In my case, it’s expanding Freelancing School. The courses are available now, students are actively participating, and they’re sending me great feedback. I know it works for those who are ready to really get serious about making a living!

But the question isn’t, “How do I get more people to enroll in Freelancing School?” The question is, “How can I provide the best support for aspiring and growing freelancers?”

And the answer probably isn’t more paid products! The answer is actually giving more away for free. The answer is building relationships with people who haven’t even found my work yet.

How do I do that? Well, now we’re back where we started…

  • Expressing something you believe to be true
  • Making you laugh
  • Creating something unique
  • Making something easier or more possible for you
  • Giving you a great “deal” on something

That’s going to look like more long-form, specific pieces like the Health Insurance for Freelancers. It’s going to look like a new weekly podcast. It’s going to look like a free online community for freelancers.

Don’t underestimate your potential clients. They are smart, discerning, and can tell when something is right for them. People continue to enroll in Freelancing School, and people continue to join the Unreal Collective Accelerator.

If that’s how I can best help them, that’s awesome. In the meantime, I will keep creating.