‘Cultural entrepreneurs’: the best and worst bits #MAEnt

London skyline

In attempt to illustrate this post, here’s a pic of the London skyline to illustrate the fact that ‘the world’s your oyster’ when it comes to personal and professional goals.

I’d never heard the phrase ‘cultural entrepreneur’ before tackling my first lot of reading for the online enterprise and innovation module of my MA in Online Journalism. (As you may gather from the gap between this and the last post, I’ve returned to study after a long break. I blame the kids). But I’m surrounded by them, people who start micro-businesses with a creative focus and grow them. And by growth I don’t mean expand, I mean grow personally, professionally, spiritually, financially, whatever it may be.

I spoke to a few small creative businesses to see what they like most and least about breaking out on their own and pursuing their passion for a living…

Best thing is the control. I love being able to choose what I do and when I do it. I love ‘sacking’ clients because I realise I have a heavy heart when I do work for them. And I love being able to do most of it from home.

Worst thing is how bad I am at setting boundaries. There have been far too many times when I’ve had the laptop on at 7am and am still going 12 hours later. There’s this sense of having to really provide good value, which means appearing to be on it all the time. My leisure and social time have suffered as a result but four years in I am learning to set boundaries a little better

Best thing: Freedom! To be in charge of your own destiny, earning potential & work/life balance. Taking last minute time off to be with your poorly children. Go to the dentists without weeks of notice. Start work late because you had a late night. Work from home or the office. To try something new. To fail on an idea & not have to answer to anyone, just learn & move on. To choose who you work with, both colleagues & clients. To search the Internet for personal stuff during work time.

Get back to you on the worst!

Best things: The freedom (but I’m about to contradict that) and lack of ceiling, for sure. Not being stuck in endless meetings when you know you have 101 more important things to do is another bonus. There’s also the pride. When you’ve had a good win for a client that you know will genuinely help their business, you can be really proud of that, and more often than not they client’s hugely appreciative.

Worst things: the risk, but I don’t think there’s any such thing as permanent job now. People often assume that if you run your own business you’ve got the flexibility to take days off, drop things, and be there with no professional consequences. The look on people’s faces when you’re constantly checking your emails and incoming calls can make you feel super guilty. To reinforce that, the hours are LONG. And it’s impossible to ever truly stop because – if you’re working alone – there’s no one to delegate to. It goes without saying that being off sick is nigh on impossible! There’s also the isolation. Having come from a hugely sociable office with some lovely colleagues, working alone can feel very lonely at times. I miss chats in the kitchen, gossip and even ‘How was your weekend’.

But overall, I’d never want to go back to a 9-5. The positives, for me, far outweigh the negatives.

Best things: was going to say freedom, but running your own business can also weigh you down with responsibility, you feel you have an obligation to support clients 24/7. So the best thing is that you have far more control over your own development, career and the choice to work harder and nine times out of 10 reap the rewards. You’re pretty much in control of your own destiny, I guess. The highs are more personal than they are when you’re grafting for somebody else. When you’re employed, you’re essentially helping someone else fulfill their own agenda or ambition. Working for myself allows me to achieve personal as well as career goals. To me that’s the perfect hybrid for a job.

Worst things: The stress of the ‘non-creative’ aspect of the business. It would be great to be able to just solely focus on the creativity aspect, but when you run your own small business you also have to become the account manager, the project manager, chasing overdue invoices but at the same time be respectful and professional in order to protect your own reputation. In addition to this, another stress is a family member who think it’s okay to interrupt your day with idle chitchat because you work for yourself. Isolation can sometimes be a problem, and there is only so many conversations you can have with your dog.
I miss the ‘office banter’ but this is such a small price to pay. The positives far outnumber the negatives.

Best: 1) being the creator of your own success, with no one else able to take credit. You know the hard work you put in directly relates to money coming in. 2) being able to create your own or brand, not having to conform to someone else’s (within reason!). I found this liberating, like shaking off the corporate shackles. 3) being able to say no to work that is not good for you/your business.

Worst: finding good people to support you when you need extra pairs of hands. Parts of my brand, in my opinion, are quality and proactivity. Finding people that are able to deliver the same under your brand is ‘effing difficult.

It’s not what I do for a living as such – more ‘pocket money’ I s’pose but the best thing is being able to push forward in directions that YOU feel make sense. You don’t have to justify this to anyone and that gives you creative freedom to not only take risks but not worry about recrimination if it doesn’t pay off.

Worst for me is that, as turning work away has a directly negative impact on my own finances – not those of a faceless ‘big boss’, I’m less likely to say no to work even when I know that at times I’m pushing too hard or balancing too many plates.

I only have one day a week dedicated to my own personal creativeness. But for me, the best thing is having dedicated uninterrupted time to focus on something I truly love doing and have dreamed about doing all my life. I also love having lunch in front of House of Cards, and watching birds chirp outside my window. I love not being interrupted and I choose when I want to chat to someone. It’s also the feeling that on that one day, I’m not part of the rat race.

The worst part? That you can’t guarantee long-term income, and the pensions and benefits situation is iffy. Otherwise, I’d make a go of doing it more days a week.

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