The great love-versus-money balancing act

Artists and other creative people have all dreamed of a time in our careers when we will no longer have to do our day job (or other work) just to make money. Then we can spend all our time doing exactly what we most love doing.

But in reality, everyone has to manage the great love-versus-money balancing act throughout their careers in order to provide both the income and the creative expression they want. You'll even see big movie stars do this - they alternate working on huge blockbuster movies with doing indie films that pay a fraction of the income but provide them with a chance to be more creative.

For the rest of us, it might mean that as a writer, you do commercial copywriting in between books. As a video artist, you fund yourself by shooting corporate videos or adverts. As an Internet entrepreneur, you pick up the odd coding job on elance.com to keep yourself going.

The point is to choose the right mix of work. Don’t make the mistake so many do of taking any low-level work to keep them afloat, no matter how ill-fitting. There are far too many creative people stuck in boring temp jobs and punishing sales roles. If the work is a terrible fit for you, you’ll be so drained afterwards, you’ll have no energy for the thing you really want to do.

Aim to find a mix of work – some more like play than others, some more financially rewarding than others – but all of which use talents and skills you enjoy using. Make sure you are in flow. Get it right and you might find your more commercial work becoming symbiotic with the work you do purely for pleasure.

Have you made the love-versus-money balancing act work for you? Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear how you've done it.

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  • Hi was intrigued by this post. I like the distinction the gapingvoid cartoonist (Hugh?) makes between cash and sex. But even movie stars have to like the blockbusters. I remember reading an interview with Matt Damon and the point he made was that blockbusters fail too and you have to at least LIKE the people/script at some level. Would also be intrigued to hear your take on crossing over e.g. letting your corporate clients know you do songwriting etc...or to use your example letting your coding customers know you have an internet business...Rgds Anne

  • Hi Anne. I definitely think you should aim for everything you do to be something you like - and end up with a mix of stuff along the spectrum between "I'd do this even if it didn't pay" and "I like doing it, it pays really well but it's not my favourite work".
    And yes I think it is usually best to come out as a multifaceted person! Just have separate websites - you don't have to rave about your songwriting on your corporate site but you might have a little link in the 'about me' page that mentions it; "...and I'm a songwriter[link]"

  • Through research, I provide customer insights to companies so they can flog more stuff to their customers - whether that's innocent drinks or Ernst & Young the accountants. I do some regular corporate work to fund my ability to help young start-up food and drink businesses like Peppersmith and Leon restaurants. Sometimes I get lucky and the start-ups scrape together enough cash to fund customer insights research from me. That's great. But I don't rely on it happening.

  • Sounds like a good mix you've created Tessa