Paul Jarvis

The business of creativity (part 2)

PRE-S: Part one of this lives here. The second part below focuses on creatives selling out.

Again and again, I see this comment in various forms directed towards myself and others: huckster, fraud, snake-oil salesman, sell-out, spammer, selfish, money-grubber, etc…


“Where’d the guy who cared about creativity and art go? Now you just sell your shitty products!”

If I can set the record straight for a minute: just because someone sells something online, doesn’t mean they’re a fraudster, solely out to take your hard-earned money by any means necessary.

“Like the other monetizing numb-nuts out there, you started sucking the life out of me.”

There’s this growing sentiment that just because a few people online sell shitty, useless things (aimed more at making money than helping others) that all the people who sell things online are doing it for the wrong reasons. My inbox overflows with these types of emails some days.

Yet selling something that requires art and creativity doesn’t make you automagically evil. More than likely, it means you’re brave enough to stick your neck out there and share your take on something with the world. Kind of the opposite of evil, right?

Off the top of my head… Brennan Dunn has probably helped more freelancers with business than anyone I know. He’s created crazy and awesome ways to automate selling what he creates. Mariah Coz is probably the hardest working person I know and helps 1,000s of folks build courses, host webinars and create noticeable brands. She pitches hard and earns everything she gets. I’ve made a good living over the years creating and selling products I absolutely believe are worth more than they cost. And yes, I’ve mentioned those things to my mailing list. Several times.

The idea that a person can’t be creative and sell things without losing themselves to the “dark side” of sales and marketing (like it is heroin or skittles (both are addictive)) is utter bullshit.

You know what?

The main reason you’ve even heard of your favourite creatives is because they’ve found a way to be creative for a living. Otherwise, they’d be at some 9-to-5 job making 99% less art, because it’d only happen at night or when they could eek out time on the weekends. You know who they are because they’re profitable (which means they sell things).

As I’ve mentioned, I love being a sell-out. It makes me so absolutely over-joyed that I can support myself and my family doing weird and helpful things online to make money. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and it makes the hate easily worth bearing. Especially because I hear from people frequently that what they’ve bought from me has made a big difference. (On the contrary, the folks that gripe about what I create have never bought anything I’ve made.)

If you’re worried that you are selling things online for the wrong reasons (like for a quick buck or even fame), you’re actually not selling things for the wrong reasons. People that worry about that are never the ones that should. Just like if you’re worried that money and fame are affecting your art, you’re already aware of the possibility and therefore not really at risk.

And, if you don’t like the way, the means, or the frequency that someone else is pitching what they’ve made, then leave. Quietly. The internet is a big place and if you stop listening to the people that don’t resonate with you, you’ll likely never hear from or of them again. It’s also less effort on your part to simply stop paying attention than to lash out (trust me, I’ve done both).

I enjoy selling the products I make to the rad people on my mailing list. There’s never any pressure to buy anything, and the list will always be a free-to-anyone place where I share my writing, my ideas and my products. It also costs me thousands (and hundreds of hours) a year to run, so I’d be an idiot (or more of one) if I didn’t attempt to sell what I make to the people who are listening sometimes.

I’m not asking for encouragement to keep going either. I don’t need it. I learned a long time ago that it’s stupid to let other’s disapproval guide my actions or creations. If every creative stopped doing what they were doing because someone else objected, the world would have been robbed of all art before even a single piece was made.

What I’m trying to say is this. Let’s not let the loudest voices online be the ones who talk shit about those who make a living from their creativity. Yes, a lot of people are trying to do that, but we shouldn’t slam the ones who are doing it well. We should thank them for showing the world that creativity and commerce can fit together nicely (like the last two pieces of a 1,800 piece jigsaw puzzle).

Selling what you’ve made makes you brave as hell and someone who’s done more for the world than probably every asshat who’s complained about creative people making money from their “impure” art.

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