3 obstacles that hold creatives back (and how to overcome them)

Building a creative business that fulfills you and provides you with the lifestyle that you want and deserve takes equal parts talent, gumption and stick-with-it-ness. Forget about waiting for the muse to visit. We have to make it happen. Every. Single. Day.

So what does making it happen actually mean?  It means committing to our dreams and doing our best to overcome the obstacles that threaten to delay the results that we want now.  The thing about obstacles is they’re much easier to overcome when you know what they are, so I’d like to call a few out and share a some strategies that have worked for me.


Obstacle #1 – You don’t know how to do something
We all have dreams.  Perhaps yours is having a phenomenally successful gallery show, being a best selling author or successfully launching an on-line store. But when we see others successfully doing what we dream of doing, we assume that they were born with the knowledge and skills needed to make it happen.  That’s just not the case. They figured it out as they went along. And you can too.


Ask for advice
No matter what you’re doing there’s someone who’s done it before you. There are no medals for re-inventing the wheel, so ask people you admire how they did it.  Most people are more than happy to share their experiences.

Ask for help
Here’s where you network comes in.  Now you know what steps you need to take to make something happen, see who you know who can help.  You’re there to help each other, so don’t be shy. 

Don’t stop learning
There are tons of free or cheap resources courses available to you.  Check out this fantastic roundup by The Muse and sign up for an on-line course.  

Fake it til you make it
In a world of authentic marketing (of which I am a huge proponent), I understand that ‘faking’ anything can feel disingenuous. Here’s the distinction that will ease those feeling. Faking it is not about tricking others into believing you can do something. It’s about tricking ourselves into believing we can do something, so we can push through the fear. To read more about faking it with integrity, click here.


Obstacle #2 – You can’t see how you’ll ever reach your goals
Our need to see the whole picture before we believe it can happen is a classic self-sabotaging strategy.  We talk ourselves out of something before we even try.  The sooner you release that need, the sooner you can get down the work of making your idea happen.


Break your goal down into steps.  If your dream is to work with higher-paying clients, those steps might include:

  • Articulate what you do more effectively so that it resonates with your dream clients
  • Review your fee structure. If you’re charging too little, you’ll continue to get small clients
  • Consider up-grading your brand identity. Are you website and communications materials representative of the clients you WANT to have?
  • Figure out where the dream clients are congregating (e.g. conferences, fairs, associations) and network there.

Keep going until you’ve exhausted all ideas. Then pick one thing and tackle it.  Don’t move onto the next step until you’ve completed the first. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling pretty proud of how far you’ve come.


Obstacle #3 – You fear failure
This is a totally understandable fear and one that everyone struggles with.  But here’s the thing: since we don’t know how to do everything right out of the gate, some level of failure is inevitable. 

It’s not whether we fail that counts, but how we respond to failure. Allow it to crush you and you’re in for a bumpy ride.  See it as a learning experience (after you’ve licked your wounds of course, you are human after all) and you’re in with a fighting chance. 

Entrepreneurship is a full-contact sport. Obstacles are there to challenge us, because challenge is exactly what we need to stretch and grow.  I’d love to hear how YOU deal with the challenges of freelancing or entrepreneurship. Please share your story or strategy on my facebook page. Your words of wisdom will surely inspire and help your fellow creatives.

One thought on “3 obstacles that hold creatives back (and how to overcome them)

  1. Goodness gracious, but this resonates with me, Justine!!! I'm working to build my freelance writing career out of part time with lower paying clients into full time with more lucrative gigs. At this very moment, I'm working on a project that's totally new for me. Every day means feeling my way around the 'how to,' which I take as a great learning experience. At the same time, that pesky little fear of failure does lurk in the shadows! You're so right about the 'no one is born knowing this stuff' thing. What an encouraging thought to carry with me on this journey!

    You're also spot on with feeling disingenuous. I'm all about authentic marketing too, but there is that whole 'fake it til you make it' thing too. Doing that balancing act is a perfect opportunity to make sure we check in with our missions and set our intentions daily!

    One fear you didn't touch on here but is inextricably related to all of these is the fear of success – being afraid that once people do start to pay what we're 'worth,' we'll actually have to live up to it! Scary!!!

    Thanks so much for this post, Justine. It was very timely and encouraging!
    Deb Mitchell

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