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The difference between being self-employed and being a creative entrepreneur.

When you realize the subtle but important distinction between being an entrepreneur and simply being self-employed, you free yourself from the cage of a limiting business model.

Being self-employed is nothing more than giving you a job. You still have to show up and deliver the goods just like in any other job. However, being an entrepreneur is not about self-employment–it’s about self-empowerment.

Maybe that’s why I am so fascinated with the idea of success and accomplishment. Maybe that’s why the ideal of “economic freedom” at the intersection of career and calling has created my own terminal case of “do what you love and the money will follow”.

I always resonated with the idea of doing what you love, but truth is, I didn’t really believe the money would follow. That mindset kept me locked in the cage of self-employment.

My dad was self-employed. I learned how to be self-employed from him. He loved to make things and hated to sell things. He was always struggling to keep customers and find new ones. Consequently he struggled to keep his job with no bandwidth for creative thinking and innovation for his future beyond the job at hand. One day, he got tired and quit forever.

Creative entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are always creating amazing value for their customers that exceeds far beyond their own labor!

Clearly my journey of self-employment tells the tale and makes the point.

I never had a real job in my chosen career. After college, I went right into self-employment. I chose a profession that was based on providing a service and billing by the hour. Like a plumber or a lawyer–in my case it was graphic design and corporate communications.

It was an easy to understand business model for someone who simply wanted to be self-employed–I got paid by the job. Consequently, my focus was always on getting lots of jobs. Over time I learned how to sell jobs and build a successful job-shop. I thought I was successful because I could support my family and myself very nicely. I didn’t realize what a trap this would eventually become.

Along the way the marketplace changed. Technology leveled the playing field and lowered the barrier to entry into my profession. The market was flooded with graphic designers. Our job shop services became abundantly available at cheaper fees than what I needed to charge to keep the machine I created running. Projects were getting increasingly tougher and tougher to come by. What business we did win, was not very profitable, my focus was keeping all of us comfy cozy in our nice paychecks.

At the limits of my knowledge, I didn’t have the deeper understanding “self-employment -paid-by-the-hour” was a flawed business model and would never lead to a level of “economic and creative freedom” that I dreamed about. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and I found myself completely burned out– sick and tired of constantly hunting and chasing for lower paying clients. Trapped in the cycle of feast or famine trying to keep me and a dozen or more employees in paychecks every week. Alas, my spirit and passion for self-employment was finally broken–of no use to myself, my clients, employees, and worse to my family!

As you can imagine, in a highly competitive create-on-demand profession, this would become a defining moment for me–a tipping point where everything I had built my entire life upon was now on the line.

People change for two reasons–they want to, or they have to. In my case it was both!

In 2008 (in the face of the worst economy of a lifetime), I made the decision to radically change my life and professional direction. I was going to become an enlightened entrepreneur creating value from my ideas rather than my labor!

Leveraging three decades of experience and expertise in branding, marketing, communications, and business development I reinvented myself as a writer, thought leader, facilitator and creative management consultant helping small business leaders, entrepreneurs and solo professionals with ideas and strategies to take their accomplishments to the next level.

Over the past five years, lots of learning, experimenting and prototyping has taken place. When I think of this time period, I sometimes feel it has taken far too long to get where I think I should be. I want the learning process to be faster. New ideas, no matter how hard you want them to, come into form in their own sweet time. It takes what it takes and can’t be rushed nor forced.

I believe the ability to persevere against mounting physical evidence it’s not happening is what distinguishes those who achieve from those who don’t.

On the other hand, I’m blown away and energized by the creative process of designing and building a new foundation! I’m fascinated with the transformation I have experienced. I get emails from readers from all over the world. Many will ask me “how can you be so creative and prolific?” and “when do you have the time?”

I tell the truth. I no longer trade my time for money so I have lots of time to create valuable ideas that help business leaders grow and expand. Notwithstanding the financial challenges and costs that come with any shift in strategic direction, thus far, the creative process of building something extraordinary has been the most amazing and fulfilling of my life.

As contemporary poet and philosopher David Whyte elegantly describes “living on the frontier of our lives” is the only place where we can truly experience our greater potential, be the most useful, and feel most alive. When it comes to turning a formless idea into something valuable in the world, I know what I’m talking about!

I’ll be honest; I feel fear all the time. Sometimes it paralyzes me, frustrates me, and distorts me. But I keep on planting seeds the best I can, with whatever resources are available at the moment.

Reinvention, innovation, creativity and transformation are self-empowering forces to expand your value to people and grow your influence in the marketplace. These forces are always present and available–there for your taking.

You may wonder if my new business is big financial success? Not yet. Do I feel confident, accomplished and successful? Absolutely!

The Moral of the Story.

The marketplace rewards value creators with wealth and freedom–breaking the shackles of trade-your-time-for-money-self-employment. Your true value to the marketplace has nothing whatsoever to do with your labor. If you want more, you must first be more.

Elevate your value to the marketplace first by thinking bigger about your own value. Challenges, whatever they are, no matter how difficult they may seem, are nothing more than opportunities to practice filling the space your bigger future demands. You will worry and be afraid, despite that, keep believing in your bigger vision for your future. Plant your seeds.

The harvest is for the sower!


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