• Choosing a creative career comes with unique challenges

  • Coach Helen Jane Campbell explores the role coaching can play in boosting your creative career thrive

  • We have coaches available to support you today – find yours here 

Creative people, just like you, can find traditional ‘work’ structures a challenge. You may have chosen your career as an artist, writer, dancer, maker or similar because you are driven by something other than money. Because you operate best on your own schedule. And you chose to tune into your talent instead of moulding yourself into some sort of corporate, timesheet-bound, sausage.

As a coach I’m interested in working with people who view ‘success’ as being truly feeling fulfilled, rather than having everything on paper and – perhaps – feeling empty inside. I recently spoke to painter David McAdam Freud about self-actualisation (i.e. reaching our full potential) and we talked about what it means to him to create art. He told me:

"For me, being an artist is being free of financial motivations or the wish to have a job. I decide or agree that something is going to be made, hope it will appear without my consciously inventing it then compromise between manipulation and play while exploring the idea of the thing and its existence—texture, smell, shape, weight, taste, intention, effect it has on the space surrounding it. I try to hold at bay any thoughts of cost, marketability of the piece, acceptance by whomever commissioned it, as I think these considerations distract from the work but they inevitably occur and, if I am not very careful, overwhelm the process."

So where does that leave us when it comes to business coaching and creative, independent people? There are plenty of adverts featuring smarmy-looking folks in suits screaming at us about how to earn six figures, but what if that’s not our vibe? Is there a version of coaching for people who wish to create naturally and organically, retaining a sense of authenticity and—vitally—integrity too? Let’s unpack some questions and fears you might have and explore a bit further:

Isn’t business coaching just for big businesses and corporate types? 

Coaching is for everyone, the secret is to be curious, explore and select a good match. Finding a coach who can tune in to your vibe and help you feel aligned, motivated and fulfilled is super important whoever you are. As a creative I’d say this is perhaps even more important than in the corporate world as your coaching is about your values and desires as you shape your business, rather than about fulfilling a third-party’s goals. The great news is that, if you work as a creative well there’s a vast, juicy world of coaching available to you.

Most coaches will offer a free 20- or 30-minute discovery call. So shop around. This is for both you and the coach to figure out if you gel well together. Bearing in mind that on coaching calls there might be tears, laughter, talk of money, desires, death and re-invention... well you want to pick carefully and land up with someone you can be vulnerable in front of. I’d suggest choosing a coach who’ll invite you a bit outside of your comfort zone. This is about stretching and growing, not a ‘nice’ chat.

What if I can’t afford to hire a coach?

Here’s my take on it. Most coaches will offer payment plans to help you spread the cost. It’s a legitimate business expense. And, yes, the investment might feel out of reach, but it’s just that, an investment. If you want to wait around your whole life wondering ‘what if’, then don’t get coaching.

While money is neither the main focus or the aim of coaching, almost every client I work with HAS made more money in their creative business after working with me. Some clients are turning over tens of thousands of pounds each month now, and started with mere hundreds in their business each month. If lack of money is holding you back, your coach can help you improve your money mindset, work on your relationship with money, explore your sense of self-worth and support you to improve your internal script around what money means for you.

If you can’t afford one-to-one coaching right now, perhaps you can join a group programme or even go to some online taster sessions. Like many coaches I run a free Zoom session each month on my Facebook group. There is plenty to get your teeth into whatever your price point. Simply following some coaches on social media can be a great start.


I’m an introvert, I don’t want to fake-it-til-I-make-it or be loud on social media

I get it. Me neither!

There’s a huge misconception about what coaching is, and I think that’s based on a lot of the products out there and what gets shared and praised online. Coaching is not teaching. But a lot of coaches do run courses and I think this can cause confusion. Coaches do not give homework, but there may be actions at the end of each session. The crucial thing to remember is YOU choose the actions.

If a coach is telling you what to do and how to be then it’s not coaching, it’s teaching or mentoring.

Coaching is the creation of a safe, non-judgemental, supportive container designed for you to give birth to new ideas, take fresh perspectives, plan, overcome blocks and reach your full potential. A great coach will help you to thrive in a way that suits your natural personality, whether that is outgoing, introverted or something else. It’s not about leaping forth into the unknown to be made to wear certain clothes or act in a way that feels icky to you.

The coach doesn’t do the work for you

Your coach may take notes, they may help hold you to account but simply hiring a coach isn’t going to magically make you more productive or motivated or richer. It’s not the act of hiring a coach which brings that, it’s the investment you make in your own self-development. You have to do the work. Each coaching session is a designated space to deepen your self-knowledge and help you to become more fully congruent. If you feel like you are currently holding back, that you could be bigger, brighter, richer, or show up more fully in any way, coaching can help you to do that. A coach is an objective cheerleader, a powerful change agent and an ally who listens without judgement.

Any actions you do agree will be at your pace. For example, if I’m working with a creative person who struggles to ask for what they want, we might start with an action around asking for their take-away coffee exactly as they like it and build up to asking their biggest client for a higher day rate (for example). It’s not about making huge overnight changes, but instead creating gradual consistent lasting habits. One client is creating a writing habit by writing for two minutes per day. Two minutes. It may not sound like much but the key point here is habit creation and showing up. Coaching is not like a fad diet, it’s a way to create life changes that stick.

Coaching can help you learn new skills

While coaching is not teaching, coaches will come with specialisms and help you focus on a specific problem if you ask them to. For example, I worked in PR for twenty years before becoming a coach, so I am well-equipped to support creative people who want to show up more fully.
Your coach will offer ideas which you can accept or reject, there is no ‘should’ or ‘must’ in coaching, instead you’ll receive a delicious menu of ideas which you can choose from, trying different new ways of doing things, instead of repeating unhelpful patterns. For example, Cath Brown is a coach and former barrister and she specialises in helping people to have difficult conversations. Here’s what she told me:

•  Think about what has happened

•  Ask what need that relates to for you

•  Decide what your request is: tell them what you want and tell them why they should give it to you

•  Make that request with clarity

If you feel ready to explore coaching for your creative business, take one gentle action today towards finding out a bit more.

Helen is the author of Founders, Freelancers & Rebels: How to Thrive as an Independent Creative. Use the code CAMPBELL20 to get 20% off your order via Eurospan: https://www.eurospanbookstore.com/founders-freelancers-rebels.html

Further reading

Coaching for more confidence

How creativity boosts your mental health

How coaching can help you thrive in times of change

Creativity and psychotherapy: two sides of the same coin

What's the difference between counselling and coaching?