Starving Artist No More Blog

011: Mindset, Strategy, and Action

abundance creative and financial sweet spot daily habits entrepreneurship mental model mindset Jan 10, 2023
Starving Artist No More | Jennifer Jill Araya
011: Mindset, Strategy, and Action

As a creative business owner, you should expect your business to support you. You hear me say all the time that my goal is to help creative entrepreneurs build businesses that fulfill them holistically: personally, creatively, and financially. Those are the three big things that you need from your business. But how do you get them? What can you do to ensure that your business is actually providing you with personal, creative, and financial fulfillment? How do you get what you need from your business? Today, I’m going to answer that question.


Hello thriving artists, and welcome to episode 11 of the Starving Artist No More Podcast. I’m your host, Jennifer Jill Araya, and I’m so excited you’re here with me today to learn and grow in your journey as a creative entrepreneur.

Before we dive into the topic of today’s episode, I want to make sure you’re aware of a free resource available at my website, I have a free guide ready and waiting for you there, titled “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine: Three Financial Must-Haves for Creative Entrepreneurs.” If finances are an area where you struggle with your business – and let’s face it, finances are an area where just about every creative entrepreneur on the planet struggles with their business – then this guide can help. It outlines three important steps you can take to get control of your business finances and make your business money work for you. Just visit and fill out the contact form to have the guide delivered to your inbox.

And now let’s get back to the question I raised at the top of this episode: how do you get what you need from your business? The last episode of this podcast, episode 10, was titled “What You Need From Your Business,” and in that episode, I go into great detail about the three areas of support and fulfillment that you, as a creative entrepreneur, need from your business. Namely, you need to be fulfilled – you deserve to be fulfilled – personally, creatively, and financially from your artistic work. Your business should give you the financial resources you need to pay your personal and business bills and to have money left over to save. Your business should give you creative opportunity to work on projects that you enjoy, that you are passionate about, that light you up inside with creative energy and excitement. And your business should give you the personal time you need to care for yourself as a whole person, outside of your artistic endeavors, and the personal time you need to nurture and nourish relationships with those who are important to you. Personal fulfillment. Creative fulfillment. Financial fulfillment. Your business’s job – its purpose – is to support you in those three areas.

And I can hear you telling me, “That concept is all well and good. It’s great to know that my business should do these things. But how do I get there? How do I get that kind of fulfillment from my business? What do I do? Give me some action steps!”

Alright, I can do that. Action steps it is.

The way you go about getting what you need from your business is by focusing on three areas of action and growth: your mindset, your strategy, and your actions. Mindset. Strategy. Action. By working in a focused and intentional way to grow and mature your abilities in each of these three areas, you can, over time, build a business that gives you what you need. Let’s look at each of these areas individually so you can see why they are so important and what a huge difference they can make for you.

Let’s start with mindset. Man, this is a big one! Mindset is a huge area of struggle for most creative entrepreneurs. But that also means it’s a huge area of growth and potential and possibility. Instead of getting bogged down and angry with yourself when you feel imposter syndrome taking hold, or when you find yourself obsessing over bad reviews, or when you notice an unhelpful mentality creeping into your perception of your work, give yourself some grace. Just because those difficult and unhelpful thoughts are clogging your mind today doesn’t mean they will stay. You can change your mindset into one that helps you in your journey to become a thriving artist. You can change your thoughts.

Think of your mindset like a canvas that’s covered with an old and poorly executed painting. It’s not much to look at right now, and it might be incredibly frustrating to you as it stands at the moment because it’s a reminder of all the things that irritate you about your art and your work, but it’s not going to stay in that place of discomfort and dissatisfaction. You can change it into the mindset equivalent of a masterpiece. Just like Picasso took a painting of a man with a bow-tie and painted overtop of it to create The Blue Room, one of his most iconic paintings – really, one of the most iconic paintings in all of art history – you can take your current attitudes and begin to intentionally shift your thoughts so that you can mold for yourself a mindset that truly supports your work as an artist.

It all starts with intentionally and openly examining the stories you tell yourself about who you are and what your role is in the world. I have a fun story that will hopefully help you understand just how much of a difference your mindset can make. This story isn’t from the world of art, but it is from the world of theoretical math, which is absolutely a kind of art all its own, so I think its lessons apply perfectly well to our creative work. This story comes from mathematician George Dantzig. Here’s what happened, in his own words:

It happened because during my first year at Berkeley I arrived late one day at one of [Jerzy] Neyman's classes. On the blackboard there were two problems that I assumed had been assigned for homework. I copied them down. A few days later I apologized to Neyman for taking so long to do the homework — the problems seemed to be a little harder than usual. I asked him if he still wanted it. He told me to throw it on his desk. I did so reluctantly because his desk was covered with such a heap of papers that I feared my homework would be lost there forever. About six weeks later, one Sunday morning about eight o'clock, [my wife] Anne and I were awakened by someone banging on our front door. It was Neyman. He rushed in with papers in hand, all excited: "I've just written an introduction to one of your papers. Read it so I can send it out right away for publication." For a minute I had no idea what he was talking about. To make a long story short, the problems on the blackboard that I had solved thinking they were homework were in fact two famous unsolved problems in statistics. That was the first inkling I had that there was anything special about them.

What a cool story! As a student mathematician, George Dantzig solved two previously unsolved problems in statistics without even realizing that he’d done anything special. He thought they were homework problems – his mindset told him they were solvable – and so he solved them. Plain and simple. His mindset said that finding a solution was possible, and so he worked at it until he did.

That’s how powerful your mindset is. It can take something that others think is impossible or improbable and make it a reality. It can take your conviction that your business can support you holistically in those three areas I’ve mentioned – personally, creatively, and financially – and allow you to find the solutions that result in your business actually supporting you in those ways. It’s really not an overstatement to say that your mindset about your creative business and your artistic work is everything.

Right now, I’m in the middle of reading the book Mindset by author and psychologist Carol S. Dweck, which I highly recommend if you’re interested in learning more about why your mindset matters and how to change your mindset to one that is more helpful to you. I’ve not yet finished reading it, but it’s really good so far, and I can already tell this is going to be a book I read and reread several times. There’s one quote from the book that I want to share with you, because it sums up the power of mindset so well and so succinctly: Carol Dweck writes, “Believing talents can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential.” Believing talents can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential. Believing that you can grow as an artist and find fulfillment from your creative work allows you – the artist and creative entrepreneur – to fulfill your potential. Without that belief, achieving a business that meets your needs isn’t possible. But if you change your belief, if you adjust your mindset to incorporate the possibility that you can grow a creative business that works, then creating that business is possible for you.

That said, I don’t want to make it seem like changing your mindset is easy. On the contrary, changing your mindset is hard work. George Dantzig’s first impression of those two problems was that they were solvable homework problems, so he didn’t have any mindset blocks to overcome. We’re not quite so lucky. Our current mindset about our work is clogged with history, definitely not a blank slate. It probably would have been a lot easier for Picasso to start with a blank canvas when painting The Blue Room, rather than overpainting his portrait of the man with the bow-tie. I can’t tell you why Picasso didn’t do that, why he didn’t just start with a clean and unpainted canvas. He had that option.

Unfortunately, starting with a blank mindset slate for us isn’t an option. Our current mindset about our work and our identity as artists is influenced by our past experiences, good and bad and everything in between. It’s molded by the messages our culture insistently repeats about who artists are and what their role is in the world, including the “starving artist” stereotype that I speak against so often and so emphatically. Our mindset is shaped by everything around us. We have a starting point, as it were, for our mindset.

So if we want to alter our mindset into one that is more helpful to us – one that, like George Dantzig’s mindset, can take what others think is impossible and make it possible – we have to do the self-examination work to determine what we actually believe about ourselves and our art. It’s not an easy process. Self-examination is often uncomfortable. The “why” behind our beliefs is hidden by years of habit. But it is worth uncovering those deep-seated mindset ruts. Only once you recognize them can you change them. As the saying goes, before you start on a journey, it’s a good idea to know where you’re starting from. And examining your current beliefs about your work is the mindset equivalent of knowing your starting point on the map before you hop in the car for a road trip.

What harmful stories – what toxic mindsets – do you tell yourself about your work? Imposter syndrome – the belief that you aren’t really good enough and that if others really saw the real you, they’d recognize you as the imposter you are – is probably the most common one out there. I know I struggle with this one a lot. In fact, I don’t know any person, artist or otherwise, who hasn’t felt the sting of imposter syndrome at some time or another. And this is a really hard one to change because it’s based in such deep human fears of being measured and found lacking, of not being enough.

But being hard to change doesn’t mean it’s impossible to change. With imposter syndrome, or with any other harmful mindset that you find yourself believing, take the time to examine where those hurtful stories, those false stories, are coming from. Does imposter syndrome overtake you most often at a certain time of day or in a certain situation? Do obsessive fears of bad reviews happen in relation to a specific type of project more than another? What brings those harmful mindsets to the fore?

Once you can find the common thread tying the instances of negative mindsets together, you can begin the self-work process to change those mindsets and to speak truth to yourself in those areas. Challenge your limiting beliefs. In the example of imposter syndrome, take time to focus on all of the many experiences you have that directly speak to the untruth of that imposter feeling. Focus on the good. And by focusing on the good, on the joyful, on the positive experiences you’ve had, you can change the stories you tell yourself about what is possible for you and your creative business. Once you change your self-talk, once you begin the process of convincing yourself that it is possible to receive fulfillment from your creative work, you will start to see the possible paths for getting yourself there. The unsolvable mathematical equation isn’t quite so unsolvable anymore. Your mindset will have shifted, and possibilities will blossom.

Before I move on from this mindset talk, I do want to acknowledge that mindset work is not a one-and-done process. Even if you intellectually understand that your current mindset isn’t helpful and that a different mindset would serve you better, making that shift doesn’t happen overnight, and it can sometimes feel like a “one step forward, two steps back” proposition, where you make mindset improvements only to see those improvements dissolve in the face of a new setback or challenge.

I mentioned earlier that I struggle with imposter syndrome at times, and I wasn’t just saying that. I love my work and have the awards and external validation to show me that I’m good at what I do, and still I have to fight feelings of inadequacy. For your most deeply held toxic mindsets, you may always struggle with them. Those mindset fights may never go away. But they can impact you less than they are right now.

Think of mindset work as a daily practice. Just like musicians practice their scales daily, and dancers stretch daily, you can focus on your mindset and do work that will improve your mindset daily. Saying daily affirmations may sound woo-woo and silly, but that kind of daily focus on a positive mindset can actually lead to incredible results. One of my biggest daily mindset practices is my gratitude journal, which I talked about at length in episode 4 of this podcast. A meditation practice is another great option for a daily practice to help you improve your mindset over time.

Remember, change is a direction, not a destination. And change begets change. Once you get yourself pointed in the direction of an improved mindset, that direction will keep you moving forward and keep you innovating and discovering new ways of traveling along your mindset journey. The goal isn’t to have a perfect mindset immediately. For one thing, a “perfect” mindset doesn’t exist. The process of evolving your mindset into one that tells you that finding fulfillment from your business is possible is a process of daily, intentionally challenging your internal stories and changing your self-talk so that you see the possibilities around you that will allow you to build a business that works.

Once you’ve begun the process of molding your mindset into one that supports you and your artistic endeavors, it’s time to look at the next part of how you can get what you need from your business: strategy. It’s time to chart the path to get you there. It’s time to come up with your strategy.

If you look up “strategy” in the dictionary, there are a lot of definitions, but the two that most directly apply to our discussion right now are “a careful method or plan” and “the art of devising plans toward a goal.” You know what your big, 10,000-foot-view goal is: to build a creative business that works, one that supports you holistically in the three big areas where you need support: personally, creatively, and financially. By working on your mindset, you begin to learn that this kind of business is possible. Your strategy is your plan for the series of practical steps that will take you from where you are to where you want to be.

Just like your mindset work is an ongoing, never-ending process, crafting an effective strategy for your creative business is not a one-and-done activity. Your business plan will need to grow and evolve over time, as your art and your business grow and evolve. You’ll need to constantly evaluate what has worked for you in the past and what is continuing to work for you in the present so you can stay effective and efficient into the future. On the other hand, you also need to be honest with yourself about what isn’t working so you can cut out the unnecessary and focus your time and energy on what really moves the needle in your business.

Poet Bill Copeland wrote, “The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” Copeland was talking about goals in general, but I think that if you replace “goal” with “strategy” in that quote, you’ll get something that applies very well to today’s discussion. “The trouble with not having a strategy is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.”

As you begin opening your mindset to the possibilities before you and as you become more and more convinced that you can do this thing called creative entrepreneurship, you will start to notice opportunities and possibilities all around you for how to make your dream of a thriving creative business into your reality. The options are everywhere! The possibilities are endless! You could do this, and you could try that, and oh, what about that awesome idea! If you’re not careful, you’ll end up chasing after every new shiny object and, as Copeland said, spend your life running up and down the field and never score.

Strategy is what puts order to the chaos and tells you that while doing A and B might get you to your end goal eventually, if you actually do A and C instead, you’ll get to that end goal more smoothly and with more joy in your creative work. Having a strategy is crucial if you want to take the possibilities you now see because of your broadened mindset and make those possibilities your reality. A strategy is what makes sure that all the things you do in your business serve a purpose and actually make a difference in getting you where you want to go. Instead of randomly running up and down the field, you’ll move with intention and focus.

Exactly what strategies work for you and your business will vary widely depending on your exact creative industry and also on what you need from your business to be fulfilled by it. As I mentioned in the previous podcast episode, I cannot tell you what it means in practical terms for you to be fulfilled by your business personally, creatively, and financially. Only you can determine what dollar amount equals “financially fulfilled” to you. Only you can define a project that brings you joy and therefore is creatively fulfilling to you. Only you can establish how much time you need for your self-care and relationship care and what specific activities are appropriate to fill that time.

I encourage you to take some self-reflection time to get specific about those definitions for yourself. And once you know that X is the dollar amount you need from your business, and that Y type of projects are the ones you want to pursue because they bring you the most creative fulfillment, and that you need Z number of hours each week for personal self-care and relationship care, you can start plotting out the strategies that will make those targets a reality for you.

In terms of financial fulfillment, the free guide that I already mentioned and that is available on my website, “Say Goodbye to Feast or Famine: Three Financial Must-Haves for Creative Entrepreneurs,” gives you some great examples of strategies that will help you find financial fulfillment from your creative business, things like paying yourself first, working within your creative and financial sweet spot, and pursuing asynchronous income streams in your business. Those are all very practical, actionable strategies that will help you be rewarded financially for your artistic work, and if you have questions about any of those strategies, just visit my website,, and fill out the contact form to receive the free guide.

In terms of creative fulfillment, focusing on the marketing and networking strategies that have brought you creatively fulfilling work in the past will be your best guide as you develop your strategy to work more regularly in that creatively rewarding area. Every creative industry is a bit different in terms of what form that marketing takes and how exactly you approach those networking reach outs, but marketing and networking is involved in some way for every creative business out there. And it’s always an effective strategy to use creatively fulfilling work you’ve done in the past as examples of your very best work to market yourself for more work like it. Examine for yourself how you’ve gotten creatively fulfilling work in the past, and use that as the guideline for forming your strategy going forward.

For personal fulfillment, remember: you get what you schedule. Your strategy around getting what you need personally from your business revolves around setting aside the time intentionally and making yourself and your relationships with those around you a priority. Get clear with yourself about what you need, and formulate a strategy that will allow you to have that time for your personal needs.

Doing strategic planning like this creates a map for you to follow that gets you from where you are now to the incredible future your mindset work has shown you is possible. It’s honest about where you are and clear about where you are going. It shows you what steps to take and how to get from here to there. It also allows you to make adjustments along the way as needed so you can get to the end result you want, even when roadblocks and challenges inevitably pop up. Your strategy will tell you that actions A, B, C, and D will all move you closer to your ultimate goal, so you know that if A doesn’t work out, you still have B, C, and D to get you there. Or that if actions C and D aren’t possible together, choosing one of them to focus on will still move the needle and help your business grow and thrive.

Your strategic plan is a living, breathing thing. It’s not a static document that you follow no matter what. Regularly checking in with your strategy so you can evaluate what’s working and what needs to be tweaked is what will allow your strategy to grow with you as you and your needs change.

I set aside one half of a work day, a total of 4 work hours, each month to review my business strategy, figure out what’s working and what’s not, and plan for changes moving forward. At the beginning of each quarter, so every 3 months, I set aside an extra 4 hours, so totaling a full 8-hour work day on those new-quarter months, to review the past quarter and plan for the coming quarter. And at the end of December each year, I take an entire week of work time to get practical and specific with my business goals for the coming year, setting the strategy that will allow my business to keep meeting my needs as those needs change and evolve over time.

Being intentional about formulating and updating my business strategy over time like this helps me keep my bigger goals in mind while not getting lost in the gulf between where I am and where I want to be. Working on my business strategy is a process of contented growth: both being contented in the present and being happy and grateful for where I am now, while also being focused on not staying here and instead moving forward and growing in my creative work. Having a strategy is everything.

If you are feeling lost about exactly what strategies will get you where you want to be, I highly suggest you seek out mentors to help you get specific about the strategies that will work for you. That kind of work is what I do every week with my one-on-one coaching clients and with my group workshop participants, and if you’re interested in having me help you develop the strategic plans that will allow you to grow a business that works, I would love to talk to you. You can reach out to me at my website,

But you don’t have to work with me to get this kind of help. I’m sure you have friends and colleagues in your creative industry who are walking this same path and who have ideas that will be useful to you, too. Share your struggles with them, and ask for their outside perspective in determining which specific strategies will be most effective in getting your creative business where you want it to be. No man is an island, and even if you are technically a solopreneur and are working alone in your business, no creative entrepreneur is an island, either. You are not alone. You have incredible resources around you in the form of your creative colleagues and friends. Use those people resources surrounding you to craft a strategy that takes the future you want and lays out the path to get you there.

Once you’ve begun the mindset work and after you’ve planned out a strategy to make your wishes a reality, it’s time to take action. It’s time to actually do the work that will get you where you want to be.

The “action” part of this process is where the rubber meets the road. It’s where your mindset adjustments and your strategic goals turn into reality. It’s the magic process of taking the steps you need to take to make your wishes into reality. And so many new creative entrepreneurs who hear about this “mindset, strategy, action” framework get excited when we get to the action part and just want to dive in and jump into action right away, before doing any mindset work or strategic planning. But actions don’t do any good without a focused, positive mindset and without a clear strategic guideline for what actions need to be taken when. The actions you take rely upon the work you’ve done getting your mindset moving in the right direction and outlining what strategy is going to get you where you want to go.

The action phase of the process is also where we need the most support. Support is helpful and useful when developing your strategy, but it is absolutely vital when it comes to taking action. Sometimes the actions that our strategy tells us are necessary for us to grow our business are actions that are uncomfortable to us. Maybe your strategy requires the action of attending in-person networking events when you, as an introverted artist, find such events incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe your strategy tells you that you need to do the hard work of revamping your business finances so that you are able to pay yourself first and get a steady salary from your business, but you don’t enjoy the process of doing that financial admin work, and that process confuses and frustrates you, and the temptation to just put it off “one more day” or “one more week” or “one more month” – in other words, to never actually do it – is so very strong. Maybe your strategy tells you that you need to design a catalog of your artwork so that you can reach out to wholesalers and retail shops, but the thought of putting that time into designing a catalog makes you want to curl up under a blanket and hide.

Sometimes the actions required by our strategy are actions we are excited to take, but that’s not always the case. And when your strategy calls for you to do something that you don’t want to do and that you know you won’t enjoy the way you enjoy your creative work, how do you find the motivation to take that necessary action anyway?

Support. That’s where your motivation to do the hard but necessary thing comes from. If you build around yourself a support network of others who can encourage you and act as your sounding board, you will be able to find the motivation to do the work that needs to be done, to take the actions you need to take. Mindset work can often be done individually, and even strategic planning can sometimes be completed very effectively on your own. But taking that mindset adjustment and strategic plan and turning it into the reality of actions requires support. You need others cheering you on to give you the motivation to get the tasks done.

This is why my one-on-one coaching program and my group workshops are so helpful to those who participate in them, and if you’re seeking that kind of support, then my coaching and workshop programs might be a good fit for you. You can check out my website for details about those programs.

But that’s not the only place you can find support. My biggest cheerleaders in my creative work are my husband, Arturo, who is my partner in life and in business, and my two business accountability partners, Gail Shalan and Marni Penning. I also have a wider support network of colleagues and creative friends who I can turn to when I have questions or when I need support, but these three people – Arturo, Gail, and Marni – are my tried-and-true, always-there-for-me business support network. They give me the motivation and encouragement I need to take my mindset and strategy work and turn it into check marks on my “to done” list.

I encourage you to develop that support network for yourself. As I mentioned, my coaching and workshop programs are structured to give all participants the deep support they need, but there are lots of other places where you can find that kind of encouragement if a formal coaching or workshop program isn’t what you’re looking for. Do you have a colleague in your creative industry that you can approach about establishing a business accountability relationship? Do you know of anyone who might be willing to mentor you and help you stay accountable to your business goals? Do you have a friend who is willing to partner with you in your work and be your sounding board for your business ideas? Are you a member of any social media networks that might help you to find someone to fill this role for you?

Reaching out to ask for this kind of assistance isn’t always comfortable, but the payoff can be huge. Working as a solopreneur creative can at times be isolating, and if you are intentional about seeking support as you work to take action in your business, it can make the difference between a strategic plan sitting on the shelf gathering dust, and that strategic plan actually being turned into actions that you’ve taken to help your business grow and thrive.

So that’s it. That’s the answer to how you get what you need from your business, how you grow a business that fulfills your needs personally, creatively, and financially. Use the “mindset, strategy, action” framework. Start by doing the deep mindset work necessary to believe that this kind of business is possible for you. Examine the stories that you tell yourself and challenge the false, harmful beliefs you hold, changing your self-talk into a narrative that serves your art rather than working against it. Next, develop a detailed, practical strategy that outlines the steps you need to take to move your business in the right direction. Refine that map for yourself that shows where you are now, where you want to go, and the path between here and there. If necessary, reach out to others in your creative industry to get help shaping that strategic plan and determining what exact strategies will work to get you to your desired outcome. And finally, put that strategic plan into action. Turn the action items into checkmarks on your “to done” list.

This last part is where creative entrepreneurs often falter, since those actions that our strategic plan tells us are necessary aren’t always the fun activities of art-making and creating that we want to spend our time on, but they’re necessary actions nonetheless. So seeking support is vital, either through a creative entrepreneurship community like the Starving Artist No More coaching and workshop programs, or through a more informal setup, like a business accountability relationship with one of your creative colleagues or a support or mentor relationship with a friend or partner.

And when you put all that together, when you combine your mindset growth with a concrete strategic plan and follow through with the support actions that are required by that strategic plan, then you will be well on your way toward building a creative business that works.

Thank you so much for being here today for this episode of the Starving Artist No More Podcast. I know how precious time is to creative entrepreneurs, and I really appreciate you sharing some of your time with me today. If you have any questions or feedback for me, please reach out to me via my website. I’d love to hear from you. As always, reviews, ratings, and subscriptions are so very much appreciated, as they help new listeners discover this little podcast. And if you know a creative entrepreneur who might be helped by the content I shared in this episode, or in any episode, please pass it along to them. Sharing is caring, right? I’m so excited for you as you embark on the process of adjusting your mindset, developing your strategy, and taking action in your business. I know you can build an incredible business that supports you and your art. I can’t wait to see what you create.


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