Insight: Building Infrastructure

Note: This particular article is geared toward those who wish to earn a living at being Creative. If you are a dabbler or a casual writer, you may wish to stop here.

Transitioning to a creative career path is never an easy option. There are new demands, new challenges, and a change to a Long-Term/Big Picture mindset that is essential to achieve the level of Success that we desire. We may not like the current paycheck we are earning through a regular job, but like it or not we rely on the security of those calendar paydays. In fact, it’s easy to just relegate our creative pursuits to the level of a hobby or a pastime.

Those, like myself, do not wish to simply push what we love to the back burner for whatever free time we may have available. Add a family to that mix, which I don’t have, and the situation becomes even more tenable because there is a severe shortage of understanding mates out there.

Which brings us to the subject of building infrastructure. The dictionary defines Infrastructure within this context (thanks to Dictionary.com: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/infrastructure) as “the basic, underlying framework or features of a system ororganization.” 

You have to create a foundation for what you are doing, if your goal is to be a professional. The House Analogy is very appropriate here. When a house is being built, a foundation must be laid in order to support the walls, floor, and ceiling to be installed later. Without a foundation, the structure cannot support its own weight and is destined to fail and collapse in upon itself. This cannot be avoided, though often it can be delayed for a short while.

How do we create this infrastructure? Here are a few suggestions that I used to create my own foundation, and while they work for me, they are individualized and should be understood within that context:

1) Understand that the infrastructure you are building will do nothing for  your creativity other than supporting its material needs. It will not make you a better writer or even a successful writer. It will just allow you to fund your writing and keep track of income and expenses relating to what you publish.

2) Be Realistic: No matter how much we may want to romanticize our creative selves, no one likes to be broke. Having money is not evil and wanting to be paid for your creativity is not a sin. Professionals get paid. Period.  There is a business side to being creative and reconciling that within yourself is an important step toward making a living at it. Play on the Page, but track your Living on the Spreadsheet.

3) Separate your Creative Funds from your Personal Funds: This sounds complicated, but it’s really not. Go to your bank and establish separate checking and saving accounts dedicated to your creative endeavors. You could go the extra step and set yourself up as a business, but there are fees involved and additional rules that vary according to where you live. The idea is to get into the habit of putting distance between the Personal and the Professional. Yes, it’s still all your money and you can do with it as you like, but once you have it set up, you will find that things like Self-Employment Taxes and whatnot become easier to handle when funds have been set aside for that purpose. You can also pay yourself when the income levels reach a point where you can support yourself.

4) Don’t immediate give up your Day Job: I currently have a Day Job, which supports me while I write. Not everyone has a significant other who can pay the bills or are independently well off financially, and free them up to be creative. Being a full time creative professional means taking a pay cut at first, so if you can make bank on a Day Job for a while and budget your time during the interim, by all means do so. When the time is right, you can divest yourself of that Day Job. It’s not playing it safe. It’s playing it smart.

5) Being Creative is your Second Job: Most people I talk to hate this one, because they feel it takes away the “fun”. Nothing could be further from the Truth and I invite you to disabuse yourself of the notion as quickly as possible. Creative doesn’t have to equal poor and struggling and thinking of it as a job does nothing to diminish any fun aspect. You have to eat right?

Remember that this is just one guy’s opinion and your mileage may vary with regard to how successful an outcome may result. It works for me and I hope it works for you. Have a great day and until next time, Ever Forward. 🙂

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