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How to Grow a Creative Practice, Business or Career

June is the beginning of the peak growing season where I live. My little backyard garden has suddenly sprung to life. Everything looks verdant and blooming with the promise to bear fruit (or veg) in the months to come. At this time of year in Canada, in our gardens, parks, farmlands and forests you can see new growth day-to-day. It feels magical. But growth doesn’t just happen magically in our gardens or in our work and lives as creative professionals. It takes focused energy, cultivation and time. 

Growth and learning go hand in hand as key aspects of our creative work, careers and development and one of ten areas of focus outlined in my Wheel of Creative Practice, Business and Career. Growth for creative professionals doesn’t always mean doing more or going bigger. It can, if we are looking to increase our creative output,  grow our audience or income, expand our skill set or pursue larger projects or clients. Sometimes clients reach out to work with me for help with this kind of growth.  Other clients are seeking support to grow their capacity to be more focused, consistent or strategic. I work with artists and creatives at all stages of growth and development of their artist practice, creative business and career. And so I recognize, as you probably do also, that we creatives may seek growth in one or more of these areas at various moments in our work and careers. 

What does growth mean to you right now as a creative professional?

What we focus on in our creative practice, business or career will grow.

If you are privileged to have a garden or outdoor space to grow things in, you likely understand that you won’t grow tomatoes in your garden if you don’t set out to do it in the first place. The same principle is true in your creative practice, business or career. In foundational sessions with new clients, I help them identify specific goals and tangible outcomes that we will work towards together. Then we can focus our ongoing coaching conversations to identify actions, specific support or resources needed and to develop mindset and strategies to help them achieve those outcomes.  Once you decide and know what you want to grow, whether it’s one thing or more, then you can plant your focus and take action to nurture and cultivate that growth.

As an artist or creative, what do you want to grow this year? 

Growing a creative practice, business or career requires ongoing cultivation.

Just like caring for a garden, from time to time we have to tend to the growth of our practice or business and our own professional growth. We can cultivate growth in spurts when the mood, opportunity or need strikes. Or we can build behaviours, routines and practices to support learning and growth day-to-day, week-to-week and year-to-year. Some tools and strategies work better for different artists and creatives. I have clients who leverage artist residencies to travel and gain new experiences, support artistic growth and expand their professional networks. Others intentionally set aside a portion of their earnings towards courses, workshops or participating in professional opportunities. Some cultivate learning through personal practices like journaling or writing daily pages. Some commit to deep dives into periods of research or education. Personally, I have weekly, monthly and quarterly reflection and refocusing practices. I read regularly and I commit to participate in creative and coaching related workshops as the need or opportunity arises. 

How are you cultivating growth in your creative practice or business

and in yourself as a creative professional?

What strategies and tools work for you?

It takes time to generate growth in our work or selves as creative professionals. 

My clients and I talk a lot about what it means and what it takes to make and maintain time for various aspects our work as artists and creatives Including, dedicating time to growing and learning as part of our work. Time that’s worth investing because otherwise we become stuck, stagnant or loose out on opportunities. We can approach this through making commitments to structured learning opportunities such as workshops or courses, formal certification programs, residencies, conferences or participation in other professional opportunities that help us learn and grow.. Within these structures the time commitment is clearly defined for us. We have to choose and commit to these blocks of time for these learning and growth opportunities. Artists and creatives can also integrate regular practices or routines within their creative practice or business to support growth and development. Some do this by setting aside daily time for reading or listening to podcasts to increase their knowledge base or regularly and purposefully dedicating chunks of time for exploration and development. Others have a daily or weekly ritual of reflection on their challenges, learnings and progress. Whether we want to increase our knowledge base, learn and practice new skills, experiment with new materials or techniques or explore new methods or approaches. These things take time.

How do you approach making time to learn and grow as a creative professional? 

In Conclusion

Growth in our creative practices, businesses or careers requires committing to learning and taking action to develop our creative work, skills and our abilities as professionals. With focus, time and cultivation, these types of growth bear fruit in the form of wisdom, confidence, skills and capacities. Things we need to grow to help us thrive.

Image Credit: Madelyne Beckles

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I volunteered to help my library with their annual fund raiser over 7 years ago. While I question having the time to volunteer every year since, when I should be working, reading or researching for my design practice. I have met people through volunteering who connected me to potential leads for jobs or paying projects. I have also turned the free time spent solving an organization's fund raising problems as an opportuntity to help me grow creatively in other areas I would not have been able to just focusing on getting paid monitarily. I have been happiliy paid through my personal and professional development.

Replying to

Thanks for sharing Richard. I agree, volunteering is a great way to grow our experience, skills and our networks as creative professionals!

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