How to Cultivate a Professional Mindset to Succeed As a Creator
You can either be an Amateur or a Pro — the choice is yours.
Do you always feel it’s unfair almost all platforms pay five figures to their top creators while you still struggle to cross a two-digit pay-off? Do you feel like there’s some secret sauce these pro-creators are using which you’re not aware of? Finally, do you feel you’ve not yet “made it” to call yourself a creator?
If you nodded yes to any of them, you’re not alone. I was there too, and the majority are still stuck as amateur creators. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not here to judge anybody. But ask yourself this: if you’re spending some time doing what you love on the side, don’t you want to be a pro in it too?
You know the answer deep down. You want your efforts to be recognized. You want to build an audience that looks forward to your creativity. You also want to get paid well for doing what you love. All of this is fair to ask for.
While success requires consistency, some quick fixes will help you accelerate the process. I hate to use the word ‘mindset’ because it sounds cliche, but truly, it all starts with having the right professional mindset. It’s a simple set of principles to abide by, and success will follow with time.
At least, it did for me. Here’s how I cultivated my professional mindset to succeed as a creator.
Instead of Relying on Inspiration, Rely on a Solid Schedule
“I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine every morning.” — William Faukner
When I started writing, I’d write 8 articles a month and then publish nothing for the next month. Why? Because there were writer bonuses or challenges for that month and not for the rest. This is one of the common when you rely on inspiration and motivation to come to you.
It was fine when I treated writing merely as a hobby. When I saw my writing had had a positive impact on many, I wanted to take it forward seriously as a side-hustle. The problem was clear to me: I shouldn’t allow extrinsic motivation to drive my success anymore.
I finally overcame this by sticking to a fixed schedule that I would abide by. Inspired by Faulkner, I sit down to write every day when the clock strikes 9 pm. Some days, I’d write only about 250 words, but I would write for multiple hours on most days. It’s become my routine.
What you can do:
Ask yourself, would you wait to feel inspired to go to the office for your 9–5? Would your boss accept that? Exactly. Then why would you assume it’s okay to do it when you’re the boss, even when you’re doing it as a side-hustle?
If you want to succeed as a creator, you must set yourself on a fixed schedule and stick to it. You can start as small as one hour every day or go on to detail multiple creative sessions for a day. For how long, or when, is up to you — you pick but follow it religiously.
Amateurs complain about the lack of motivation and inspiration while professionals rely on schedules to create it. Which one are you going to be?
Remind Yourself of Your New Identity Every Morning
“You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.” — James Clear
It’s funny to tell people how my writing journey started, a hobby, an outlet to express myself and help data enthusiasts break into data science. The stars must have aligned in my favour; luckily, I read Atomic Habits around the same time.
James Clear talks about the power of identity change in his book, and I started calling myself a writer out of nowhere. I probably must have written somewhere around 5 blog posts, but I went on to change my Medium bio, website and LinkedIn bio to read “A writer.” Talk about the burning motivation to implement things you just read.
I added “ideal journaling” to my morning routine to remind me of my new identity. Ideal journaling is nothing but forcing yourself to come up with 10 ideas every day. In my case, 10 headline ideas to write about.
It only takes me about 15mins to come up with, and it signals my brain that I’m a creator, which helps me create consistently.
What you can do:
Morning routines have scientifically-backed benefits on your emotional, physical wellbeing, relationships and your overall productivity. I’ll tell you why in a moment but trust me first and add something that reminds you of your new identity (i.e. a creator) into the morning routine.
If you’re a writer, simply start with writing 10 headlines every day. If you’re a YouTuber, it could be 10 video ideas. If you love creating podcasts, how about listing 10 people you’d love to interview next? There’s always something for every type of creators.
I know this isn’t going to be easy. Coming up with 10 ideas means, you’re going to suck at it for a while. I still do. But who cares? That’s not the point. The idea is to signal your brain of your new identity and flex the idea muscle continuously until it becomes a norm.
Now your brain knows you’re a creator, and you create. That subtle difference in mindset makes all the difference between an amateur and a professional creator.
Get Rid of This #1 Trait of Amateur Creators
“Those who are unwilling to invest in the future haven’t earned one.” — Harold Lewis
Most creators are unwilling to invest in improving their creative output. No, I’m not talking about buying fancy equipment and the latest MacBook Pro; I’m talking about basic, affordable stuff.
Thankfully, I didn’t fall into this trap. I invested early in my craft, even before I aspired to become a professional in it.
For my data science expertise, I have paid for countless courses on Udacity, Coursera, and Datacamp. I bought a website domain to which carries my data science portfolio, which adds to my credibility. I use the Grammarly Pro version, and it helps me craft better sentences without errors. I read a lot to write, and thus having a Medium membership made a lot of sense.
I admit you don’t need all of this to succeed. The point is to understand what is important for your creation and invest in it. When I recommend some of the tools I use to fellow aspiring creators, they hesitate but are comfortable spending more than $50 on a night’s dinner and drinks.
Professional creators set their priorities right.
What you can do:
When you start a business, you are bounded to invest in it. When you’re a professional writer craving for a professional output, why would it be any different?
If you’re a podcaster, the need for good quality audio equipment is a no-brainer. Most creatives would need a decent laptop, a good internet connection, a decent website. You’ll probably need video-editing software, camera equipment, and perhaps a newsletter if you're a YouTuber. You get the idea.
And for god’s sake, get what you need to improve your craft. You have to spend money to make money. Professional creators invest in themselves. Amateurs go penny wise, pound foolish.
Final Words to Keep You on Track
Look, it might seem a far-fetched shot at the moment. It’s always been like that from the other end, but it gets better with the right mindset. Of course, you still have to improve your craft and become better at it, but it starts with adopting a professional mindset. Again, here’s how I did it:
- Instead of relying on inspiration to strike you, rely on a solid schedule that will never fail you.
- Perform activities that remind you that you’re a creator every morning.
- Invest in yourself to improve your creative output as early as possible.
When you finally join the club of building a loyal audience and getting paid really well for doing what you love, you’d kick yourself for not adopting it earlier. I’d leave you with these amazing words by James Clear:
“You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.”