Defining Success as a Creative Business Owner: What Does it Mean to You?

Open up to the ‘S’ section of your dusty Merriaam-Webster dictionary (or, ya know, Google it) and you’ll find this definition of the word success: “a favorable or desired outcome.”

Pretty vague and open-ended if you ask me!

And somewhere along the way society decided to fill in the blank and decide what success should look like for us. 

Often this looks like an emphasis on financial wealth and fancy titles. 

However, for many creative entrepreneurs, success is not exclusively tied to money or status.

When you set out to build your creative business, it was likely because a conventional 9-5 job couldn’t fulfill your particular values and vision

Now, as the owner of a creative business, you are in a unique position. Not only do you have the freedom to make decisions around projects, pricing, and working hours, but you also have the opportunity to redefine what success means to you. 

What ACTUALLY feels successful is deeply personal and incredibly unique for each and every person. Plus it changes over time as we grow and circumstances shift.

But before you make any assumptions about what you think success in your business will look like, you need to be intentional!

If you DON’T take time to get clear on what your one-of-a-kind version of success is, you could very well slip into the patterns of striving for what you think you should want instead of what will actually bring you fulfillment. 

In this blog, we’ll question your preconceived notions about what success should look like so that you can focus on outcomes that really mean the most to you.

The Fine Line Between Success + Failure

Before I was a business coach for creatives, I ran my own graphic design business. 

One of the earliest and most impactful pieces of advice I received was about getting retainer clients to ensure a steady stream of income. I was assured these wash, rinse, and repeat clients would lead to success in my business.

And they weren’t necessarily wrong.

Building a reliable, consistent portfolio of retainer clients can be solid advice.

But, there was a problem. 

I was so focused on landing those retainer clients at that specific price point, that I lost sight of the big picture

While I was setting myself up for financial success, I was unaware that I was also setting myself up for failure in other areas. I hadn’t factored in some of the things I valued that prompted me to start my own business in the first place: time freedom and the ability to choose the projects that excited me.

You see–

Once I committed to those retainer clients, I ultimately gave them control of my time. My schedule often revolved around their needs and availability. On top of that, I had to accept any project they threw my way, without being able to pick and choose the ones that truly sparked my passion.

I wonder if you can relate.

Have you ever achieved something only to feel a sense of underwhelming overwhelm

Trust me, I’ve been there too.

So often we think we’ll be successful when we…

  • get the job
  • hit 6 figures 
  • win that industry award
  • lose that stubborn 10 lbs
  • or [fill in the blank with something else we’ve been told 100x that we need to do to be successful]…

Most of the time, we strive for what we believe we are supposed to want.

And often once we get there it feels EMPTY.

Or we barely even notice that we’ve “succeeded” because now we’re focused on the next shiny thing!

This happens in business ALL the time. 

Maybe you’ve hit your income goal but find yourself lacking fulfillment because you have no free time to spend with friends and family. 

Or maybe you’re fully booked with clients but still haven’t earned enough to replace your 9-5 salary, leaving you hesitant to take the leap into full-time entrepreneurship.

But here’s the real problem (hint: it’s NOT you)…

Your lack of “success” has nothing to do with your abilities or potential. 

The root cause is simple:

You haven’t defined what success truly means to you.

And until you do, you’ll never know if and when you’ll get there!

Untangling Success

So how can you get to the root of your definition of success?

First, you have to untangle the stories you’ve constantly been told by parents, friends, society, and social media about what you should want and strive for in your personal and professional life. 

Because in truth, most of the time, we strive for what we are told to want.

In our fast-paced world, it can feel nearly impossible to stop and consider what success really means to you. You might look outside of yourself for validation to make sure you’re on the right track. 

But If you are always relying on the opinions of others, you will NEVER feel satisfied in your work, no matter how many impressive milestones you achieve.

Success can become such a knotted concept, that it’s often tough to tell the difference between what you think you want and what you actually want. 

I speak from personal experience.

For years, I played the success game. 

I pursued the top grades, diplomas, and corporate titles, thinking that recognition and status were the keys to success. 

And for a while I found these achievements to be rewarding, riding the dopamine high. It wasn’t until I stopped climbing the corporate ladder that I realized I had always relied on another person, school, or business to present me with the next step toward “success.”

When I started my first business, I faced a rude awakening. I realized no one would map out this next chapter of my career for me.

That was around the time I was introduced to this concept of defining success for myself.

And let me tell you… I was floored.

It was a serious aha moment– and today it is often a game-changer for my coaching clients too!

Initially, this newfound knowledge was overwhelming. But after some time I found it liberating! For the first time in my life, I could decide the next step forward, what my day-to-day schedule would look like, and do things on my terms to achieve my unique vision of a successful life and business. 

How defining success can skyrocket your creative business

As a creative entrepreneur, understanding how you define success can truly be the secret sauce that propels you AND your business to new heights. 

It serves as your guiding compass, helping you more skillfully navigate the twists and turns of your entrepreneurial journey.

This is especially important when building, growing, or scaling a creative business. 

If you don’t take this time upfront to get crystal clear on your vision and definition of success, it becomes challenging to build a business that aligns with your goals and desires (hello, accidental business) and you may find yourself off-track and unfulfilled in your work.

In fact—

This is why so many entrepreneurs end up recreating the 9-5 job they were trying to escape in the first place!

While financial goals are undoubtedly valid and often play a significant role in driving the work we do (let’s face it, we all need to pay the bills!), it’s essential to acknowledge that success in entrepreneurship comes in various shapes and sizes. 

It’s not limited to a single metric. 

When your definition of success is firmly established, you’ll be better able to…

  • Make decisions about opportunities in your business
  • Focus your energy where it is most impactful
  • Trust your gut when it comes to creative direction or client work

Ultimately, by defining success for yourself, you take control of the future of your business. 

Create your definition of success

Okay– so you understand the value of knowing what success means to you but you’re probably wondering how to go about identifying your version of success.

Success is deeply personal and unique to each individual. In order to figure out your definition you’ll need to get curious and be honest with yourself. 

Remember, there is no right or wrong answer, just what’s right for YOU. 

Start by considering what truly matters most to you right now. 

Is it financial abundance? Freedom? An ideal lifestyle? More time for yourself? Making an impact in your industry? A combination of these metrics? Or perhaps something else entirely?

As you consider what you value most, get specific about your vision. 

For example:

  • If you value financial abundance, how much money is enough, and to what end? What will that money allow you to do in your life and work?

  • If time freedom is your priority, what does that look like on a daily, monthly, or annual basis? Will you travel the world? Visit family? Have time to finally write that book?

  • And if making a positive impact is of high importance, envision how you want to serve your community.

Chances are, your version of success isn’t just one-dimensional. It’s probably a combination of several factors, with certain pieces holding more significance to you than others. 

And remember, as you grow and evolve, your values and priorities will likely shift. So, be sure to carve out time to redefine what success means to you in each season of life and business. This clarity will help you prioritize effectively and stay true to your most up-to-date version of success.

Grab Your Success-Defining Freebie

Unlearning and shedding the beliefs about success that have been ingrained in us for years, if not decades, can be a challenging journey.

But, good news is, I’m here to lighten your load.

As a coach, I’ve worked with countless clients on redefining their version of success. I’ve honed this process to be not only effective but also tangible and easy to implement. 

And now, I want to share it with you.

Click here to access the FREE ‘Definition of Success Exercise’ and I’ll shoot it over to your email asap!


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