How to Balance the Business Side of Creativity

Whatever creative discipline you work in, everyone faces a battle when figuring out how to balance the business side of creativity. How do you make money and stick by your creative vision? Is there a way to balance the two?

You might be incredibly proud of your work, but if it doesn’t fit the client’s brief, company brand, or your customers’ vision, then you’ve got to be flexible if you want to thrive as a freelancer.

Luckily for you, we’ve got this sorted – here’s how to balance the business side of creativity:

graphic displaying client brief and message 'magic is something you make'

When it comes down to it – when you’re working for a client, your work needs to help them achieve their goal, whether that makes the company money, advertise a concert or help an author’s book sales.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t express yourself and put your distinctive mark on a project.

The crucial thing is don’t let yourself get manipulated. If you’re working on an unpaid project and you’re told: “it’s for your portfolio” then make sure you stand your ground when they tell you that they don’t like the style – because it’s for your benefit as well as theirs.

Put it in perspective who you’re getting advice from.

If you’re a trained graphic designer or music producer and a client comes back criticizing your work due to feedback from a friend, then don’t let it get to you and rely solely on their feedback if they have no experience in your field. If you’re worried then get a colleague or an unbiased authority to review the work.

Also, remember that you can only work with the brief you’re given.

So don’t punish yourself if you were sent really vague instructions by the client, like “it needs more sparkle” or “there’s something missing“, and then find out that they don’t like what you’ve done.

There’s only so much you can do with a poor-quality brief, so don’t be scared to ask for more details. If you ask the client questions and get the answer, “it’s up to you, we trust you“, then just create what you believe in.

It’s better to be bold and create something you believe in than create something neither you nor the client like.

creative freelancers working in a team

Time is money, so don’t do unlimited revisions for clients just because they’re trying to get you to mimic another freelancer’s style.

You shouldn’t have to fundamentally change your style to suit a client. If the client wanted another style, then they should hire another freelancer to do the project. 

Be confident and don’t let clients walk all over you. You’ll never get respected if you do whatever revisions they tell you to. You’ve got to draw a line and be clear about what it is that you offer and how that stands you apart from everyone else.

The most important thing is that you get enjoyment from your work. After all, as Mark Twain once said, “… The more enjoyment you get out of your work, the more money you will make.” If you’re finding it too soul destroying then maybe it’s time to rethink your client focus and reflect on how well you’re managing to balance business and creativity. Passion is everything in the creative industry, remember that.

Joe Scarffe

Joe is the CMO at Twine.

When he’s not moaning about the state of the music industry or public transport in Manchester, he works with the Twine community and handles social media, the blog and partnerships with companies and institutions.