How Do You Balance Creativity with Profitability?

Steve Pavlina Recently Posted 10 Business Lessons From a Snarky Entrepreneur, and take note of #10 – Do What You Love but Be Damned Sure it’s Profitable.

I’ve written a lot about passion being required to be great at anything, but I’ve never mentioned profitability and there is a reason.

Focusing on profitability is distracting for creative types. I know… I know… Steve Pavlina is right… Profitability is critical but…

During my journey to finding purpose in life (which I’ll write about more in the future) I reached a point where a few abstract creative concepts popped into my head. I couldn’t even describe them with words (I can today, but I won’t.. yet… so subscribe to my blog). This moment was like the moment of conception. As I gave the ideas attention, the creative concepts grew, but they still hadn’t taken tangible form – even in my mind they were still in spirit form. It’s difficult to explain, so stay with me. They were floating just outside my mental reach. As I continued to believe and focus my thoughts, they slowly started to flash details into my conscious mind. The forms became clearer, not crystal clear, but I could see the outline and the shape. At this point I felt as though there was something living inside of me – in my soul – that needed to escape – waiting to be born into the world.

My creative experience is sort of like starting a journey on a distant planet and trying to make it to an unknown place on earth. You know you want it to be sunny, beautiful, and peaceful, but since you’ve never been there, you can only imagine it an abstract way. As you get closer you see the shining star that is Earth, then a little closer, you see a small blue sphere, then the white poles, then the reddish brown landmasses, then North America, then the Florida Peninsula, then an archipeligo extending into the Gulf, then a single island, then towns and roads and beaches… Well… you get the point. You eventually end up in Key West. 🙂

Now if you jump in at any point during this process and start asking these kinds of questions, you’ll ruin it:

  • How you gonna make money off an abstract concept?
  • How you gonna make money off a bright shiny light?
  • How you gonna make money off a bright blue sphere?
  • How you gonna make money off a reddish brown landmass?
  • How you gonna make money on a secluded villa on Key West?


At this point it’s quite obvious how you’ll make money. But it requires faith – faith that you’ll get there, faith in yourself, and faith from those around you.

A secluded beachfront villa on Key West is the finished project in all its glory and the rest of the universe is an endless sea of creative opportunities.

Now, my wife thinks this kinda of talk is a bunch of artsy-fartsy gobbledygook and that profitability had better be your number #1 priority. I used to agree with her, and I think that gives us good balance.

When I started this blog (which is part of a larger, long-term strategy), I told her I wanted to focus purely on creating content. Since I’m still working full-time, I have about two hours a day to work on this site, and I felt without compelling content it wasn’t going anywhere. So I purposefully delayed designing and monetizing the site. To her that was crazy talk.

I certainly believe profitability is important but I also believe if you create something compelling and stick with it, the money will take care of itself – but if you don’t manage it well, you will lose it.

Here are 6 thoughts about profitability:

  1. You can never be “Damned sure a thing is going to be profitable.” If you could, no one would fail. 70% of new businesses fail even when led by experienced entrepreneurs. 90% of rookies fail, so be prepared.
  2. Profitability is something you build over time. It rarely happens quickly.
  3. A sure-fire way to fail is to have no passion for your business. Your first focus must be passion, and then money will follow. But if you’re a creative type, you may need a business type to help you become profitable, and they will have different values. Accept it, unless you desire bankruptcy.
  4. Succeeding in the internet IP (intellectual property) arena is more like succeeding as a Rock Star than it is like succeeding in a traditional business. Example: You have no proof whether anyone will ever want to consume your IP until you “run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes.” To start, you must believe you have something original and compelling for your fans. But you may be wrong. Your customers (or lack of) will let you know.
  5. Sometimes profitability takes years to build, especially in the IP arena. It may take you five years or more to find out if you’ve got what it takes to make it in your IP niche, while other people will seem to make it overnight. So if you’re going to take a run at it on blind faith – and that’s what many successful people have done – you’d better be ready to eat nothing but beans and powdered milk for a few years – or have a savings account to live on. KISS and Metallica are two major music IP brands. And believe it or not, their business models are not much different than many of the current web 2.0 business models. Those endeavors took over 5 and 7 years respectively to reach profitability, and are now worth over a half billion dollars each. For each one of them, thousands in their niche never achieved profitability. Some reasons why: they sucked, they were too late to the party, they gave up, or they couldn’t withstand the lack of early revenue.
  6. Focus on your passions and some ideas will become profitable and others will not. But never stop creating; it’s what you were born to do.

And be sure to take Steve Pavlina’s point #2 seriously, I have a really sh!tty chair and my back is killing me. 🙂

5 thoughts on “How Do You Balance Creativity with Profitability?”

  1. I don’t believe that it’s necessary to have to balance creativity and profitability if you’re entering a venture out of pure passion. Pure passion towards an endeavor has the power to automatically attract both of those forces in satisfying amounts. Therefore, there’s no need to balance creativity and profitability when your already attracting so much of these energies so effortlessly.

    Another great post Steve – This stuff really gets the mind thinkin’.

  2. It depends a little bit on what stage in life you’re at. If you’re younger it’s much easier to go with your passions and try to make a living of what you love. If you’re good and passionate at something it will most likely be possible to make money. Sometimes a little and sometimes huge amounts.

    Pursuing passion later in life is find but there must also be some kind of safety net involved to avoid having the family on the street in six months if things go poorly.

    If you just focus on profitability, odds are you wont be successful just like you pointed out. There is a reason most people fail, it’s not easy to build your own business.

    Nice weekend


  3. I firmly believe that by law if you find your purpose, and pursue it, money has to follow. It helps to have an idea of how you will make money, but it’s not required, the money will come.

    Heck, anyone ever heard of the little red paperclip? That kid attracted a house, free and clear, out of a paperclip.

  4. I am of the belief that money will follow the passion. However the passion has to be sustained and if the money is not coming in the passion might die. So, be prepared for the long haul.

    Doing it part time at least allows the opportunity to test the waters and build confidence and experience. I think your long term goals will be realised and I think the blog will help you reach your outcome

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