If you’re a professional creative who takes pride in your work, you probably relate to the artist archetype. Whether you’re a book coach, an editor, an author, a freelance writer or some other creative professional reading this blog, relating to the unconscious archetype of the artist could be holding you back in terms of your income, your sales, and the consistency you see in your professional success. Let me explain…
THE ARTIST ARCHETYPE
Archetypes are simply universal and inborn models and unconscious collective imprints that influence all sorts of things like beliefs, personality patterns, relationships and behaviour.
And the artist archetype (in Jung’s 12 personality archetypes) one most creatives I know relate to: the singer, writer, passionate dreamer who creates something from seemingly nothing, using imagination and innovation to build a beautiful piece of work.
For most creative professionals i know (editors, book coaches, writers, actors, authors), there’s a higher intelligence which is incredible at big-picture thinking, or lightning-fast solutions to problems while they’re in the zone. I know a professional ghostwriter who can crystallise your book’s vision at amazing speed. She’s booked up with publishing projects, but there’s no consistency to her workload. She swings from three huge deadlines for lucrative 80K+ writing jobs to nothing for months. Her tax returns are a mess. And her health is, too.
So what does this have to do with the artist archetype?
With all archetypes, there’s a shadow side that can often be at play to sabotage our creative success, and if you believe in projection (another Jungian psychoanalytic term), if you don’t become consciously aware of the shadow, it manifests outwardly in painful experiences (like burnout, financial loss, struggle, etc etc).
THE SHADOW SIDE OF THE ARTIST ARCHETYPE SHOWS UP AS…
👩🎨 Perfectionism (let me do five more edits before I press ‘send’, I have to do it all myself, it’s not good enough for me to market and promote yet, no-one does it as good as me, I can’t ask for help because it won’t be the way I like it, etc etc). When your perfectionism is running the show you end up burnt out, working 60-80 hour weeks, exhausted and strung out.
👩🎨 Believing you need to suffer and struggle and take YEARS of gruelling work to produce something of quality (starving artists of the world unite!). This can show up where you believe you need to pitch everything from scratch and do everything custom-fit, because your genius won’t fit into a template or repeatable formula. You also never invest in getting any support or help in your business or even learning tools and techniques from someone who may know a better way.
>>>This is the worst shadow of the artist archetype, because as well as making you burnt out, overworked, exhausted, it will keep you in financial struggle for the rest of your life!
Selling something consistently is in direct conflict with this belief! If you truly believe every piece of work demands intense struggle, you cannot make more than a certain amount of money because you only have so much time and energy. You need to drop this piece of your identity before you can succeed on a financial level because the two are in direct conflict.
👩🎨 Having no pre-planned strategy to sell your work consistently because you think you do your best work by the seat of your pants, in the stress zone of panic and last-minute adrenaline to really tap into your higher power!
The limiting belief here is that a strategy would limit your creative output, when in fact, a few simple systems and strategic tweaks would help you feel better so that your genius can shine through (because you can rev up your creative engine with more beneficial activities than being on a deadline. How so? Go to a meditation retreat, have a spa, sleep in. Creativity thrives from rest!)
For me, it’s been a lifelong practise to overcome these shadow elements of my inner artist because it’s definitely the archetype I most relate to. Even though I’ve run a writing business for almost twenty years, I’ve never actually thought of myself as a business owner. I’m an artist, and my craft is writing.
OVERCOMING THE PERFECTIONIST
With the perfectionism piece, I learnt to silence the inner critic through years of freelance writing for major media, because sometimes my deadlines were the SAME DAY!
I simply didn’t have the TIME to tinker endlessly with my opening paragraph or I wouldn’t be paid (and i’d never get another job). This was good practise for sending manuscripts to publishers – at some point, you’ve got to decide it’s ‘finished’ and pressed send (and, it will never be perfect. That’s just a fact. It’s more important that it’s finished!).
If you’re at a certain level of your creative profession where you’re earning a good income from your expertise, you’ve no doubt learned to master your inner perfectionist, because you’d lose all paid work if you never delivered on time. This is the illusion, though, you might think you’re at the peak of your creative profession because you’re getting lots of work, but your inner artistic shadow could be limiting you in the following two ways.
THE LIMITING BELIEFS HOLDING BACK THE CREATIVE PROFESSIONAL
For me, the persona and beliefs of the suffering and struggling artist, was the toughest nut to crack. Lack of consistent strategy to achieve results and sell my work blocked me from receiving a regular income or consistency in my creative practise. You see, like most artists, I like to be free to create. I don’t want to be locked into some idea of how I should do things or a timeline that may not work. But that also means that you waste a lot of time building things from scratch that could be systemised and automated!
Do you know when I was freelancing for publications, I used to write every pitch from beginning – I didn’t even have a template to fill in, even after I’d sold hundreds of articles via email? I could have saved so much time!
Recently I’ve begun outsourcing some of my digital admin to a virtual assistant. This has been absolutely mind-bending to see that something that takes me three hours can be done in thirty minutes and the energy saved frees me up to create more of the bigger, more important stuff (like working with clients, or writing new content, or creating a new course!).
BUSTING THROUGH INCOME CEILINGS AND BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE PROFESSIONAL BUSINESS
Having NO sales and marketing strategy because of your shadow artist who believes they should focus on the work and the whimsical creative approach = no consistency in your business, no-one knowing what you do, and overwork and burnout because you have to scramble for every client, every sale, every purchase, because you set up everything from scratch and do everything anew each time.
If you’re doing any of the following, it might be time to break up with your struggling artist!
Can you relate?
- Most authors I speak to wait until the week or month before their book launch then do a mad scramble around marketing and promotion (when mapping a plan could have equalled SO MANY MORE BOOK SALES!).
- Selling your service work (writing, editing, design, etc) in the slowest, clunkiest way possible (pitching every client individually, having no systems for automations or on-boarding or marketing, resulting in exhaustion and inconsistent sales)
- Having no digital systems and processes for sales so that when someone lands on your website, they have to actually fill out a contact form to know what you do and how you can help them or how much your service costs.
- Or! Your admin systems are rubbish (ie. non-existent) and like the freelance journalist me of yore, I didn’t even have a pitch tracking spreadsheet where I logged everyone’s emails and replies. I recorded it all by hand in a notebook. Yikes!
- Do you have a client management system? If you do not (and maybe you don’t know what they are or why you need one), you need to install one. Pronto!
FROM STRUGGLING ARTIST TO PROSPEROUS CREATIVE
The night I made my first automated online sale for my writing is seared on my brain as a paradigm-shifting moment because it set fire to my inner ‘suffering artist’ archetype. And the funny thing is, it was for a very small amount of money: $8.88.
It might as well have been a million dollars.
The fact that i didn’t have to go anywhere, call anyone back, or create or produce any further work was absolutely mind-blowing. And once I’d experienced that in my body – I went on to create further products and offers that sold via automations (courses, coaching offers, VIP days, editing offers). Some were completely passive post-sale, some involved me putting set hours into the delivery, but it was no longer complete chaos in terms of the hours I was putting in. I could plan! I now make all my money from automated courses and digital offers. NOTHING in my creative business suite demands I turn up to a particular physical location in a suit (oh how i hated wearing suits) anymore!
Suffering, struggling, coupled to the time-space-continuum artist be-gone!
IF YOU’RE BURNT OUT OR IN FEAST-FAMINE CYCLES, THERE’S A SIMPLE FIX
It’s an 8 letter word that starts with ‘S’!
I was talking to a fellow creative professional this week who has no system or processes in her creative business. She’s at breaking point (and suffering terribly) because every month she’s swamped with a mountain of admin, sales and content creation to market to, pre-vet, interview and onboard each client anew. She’s expert at what she does and is getting most of her work from referrals, so the marketing side isn’t so urgent, but she’s exhausted, she’s reached her limit, and there is simply no way to grow her income and relieve her health pressures until she makes this fix. And it doesn’t need to be that way!
An artist’s strength is being creative, innovative risk-takers in their work. They love the process, they’d probably do it if they didn’t get paid anyway, because it puts them on a higher plane and it taps them into a certain genius part of their soul that knows no bounds.
But this very often comes at the cost of healthy systems and structures to A: make the work endure for longer and B: Make sure the artist gets taken care of so that they can produce the best work possible that keeps them in their genius zone!
They end up poor, or strung out, or overworked, or bitter because 80% of their time is taken up with work they actually hate to do (not the art itself).
With my friend, I mapped out a strategy to solve her problem (I was worried about her!) and free up more time with a few simple tweaks to her systems so that she can sell more consistently, take the admin off her plate and continue to deliver her best work.
A strategy is simply the quickest path to a goal, a map to eliminate agony, time, frustration, mistakes and fatigue. And every artist needs a strategy to sell their work –
You deserve to have more time in your genius zone, making consistent sales, connecting your valuable work with more people and less time feeling frustrated, burnt-out and confused about what to do next.
It’s time to break up with the suffering artist archetype and embrace the successful one.