The large cardboard box I was carrying nearly tumbled from my arms. I staggered, only just catching it before it hit the ground. I heaved a sigh of frustration and pain, chiding myself for almost breaking my desktop computer which was sliding around inside the box. I hadn’t had time to neatly package the computer in bubble wrap or styrofoam. The last 48 hours were a blur with each hour collapsing into the next.

I was making my final trek from my two-door coupe to my art studio. My car was now partially empty, but my studio was overflowing. Half of the room contained papers, canvases, and paints. The other half carried many of the contents that used to fill my loft apartment - or, rather, all of the items I hadn’t been able to sell overnight.

I had made it two years into the pandemic cooped up in my tiny apartment. A lot had happened in a short amount of time. I had graduated from seminary, officially started Dea Studios, my creative agency, and launched a virtual artist residency. Even though I was proud of the work that was developing, there were still plenty of challenges to navigate. Most immediately was the concern I had over cash flow. I was in the early stages of learning what it meant to truly run a business, and I hadn’t yet tapped into a workable strategy. I had managed to navigate the bulk of the pandemic financially, but as the world continued to fall apart around me, I also had to address that my own financial house was currently built on sand.

I hastily put down the box containing my computer on top of what used to be my kitchen table and hurried out of my art studio. I locked the door and only barely acknowledged the tiny voice in the back of my mind that whispered, “I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back.” I shrugged off the thought realizing that I didn’t have time to truly wrestle with the uneasy pit in my stomach. Reaching my car, I slid into the driver’s seat and made my way to LAX to pick up my mother who had agreed to help me make the 24 hour drive from California to Texas.

I spent the next few months in Texas glad to be out of the isolation the pandemic had forced me into, but confused about which road to take next. I loved being an artist and an entrepreneur, but neither road offered immediate financial security. It seemed like I had a knack for being drawn to the most challenging paths. Why hadn’t I simply been born with an interest in law, medicine, or even accounting? Surely there had to be a way forward for creative entrepreneurs like myself?

Image by Kostiantyn Li

I wrestled with the question of financial viability in creative entrepreneurship for years. I had the passion, vision, and work ethic that I assumed I needed for success, but I couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around money. How did creatives like me actually earn money? I wasn’t selling anything as concrete as food, clothing, and shelter, the proverbial staples of business. What I wanted to offer the world was much more esoteric. I held values around creativity, beauty, and collective healing, aspects that seemed like they would fit better in the nonprofit world. However, I couldn’t shake my desire to start a for profit business. I had even tried turning my ideas into a nonprofit entity, but the process never seemed to stick. So, I had to ask myself, how do I move forward?

Out of ideas and steeped in frustration, I finally picked up Rich Dad, Poor Dad a book written by Robert Kiyosaki. The book details the author's journey to wealth as he contrasts lessons he learned about money from his biological “poor” dad and his best friend’s wealthy father who also treated him like a son. I had no idea how radically this book would change the way I think about money, and if I had known, I certainly would have read it sooner. Kiyosaki's book offered what I had been searching for for years - practical advice. Most of the financial books I'd read up to that point offered motivational content, but what I needed was a book filled with applicable strategies. Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave me frameworks that I could build on as I created my business.

I highly recommend this book for every creative entrepreneur. You may not agree with everything the author writes, but this book will offer frameworks that you can learn from and adapt to your own business goals. I especially recommend the book to artists who are interested in building their own businesses, because it will help you to think like a business person. So many of the business and finance resources geared towards artists only offer very generic information. Points like “write out your vision” and “network” are common sense. If you want to go beyond generic advice, read Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It will give you viewpoints and solutions that anyone can adapt to their own financial journey.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways from Rich Dad, Poor Dad:

  1. "Risk comes from not knowing what you're doing."
    • Kiyosaki is actually citing Warren Buffett, famed financial guru and investor, when he writes this quote. What I took from this point was that ignorance is actually the enemy when it comes to financial wellness. A common misconception is that wealth building is mysterious. However, Kiyosaki details how finances are like any other subject - most people willing to take the time to learn can eventually understand how money operates. Investing and other wealth-building activities can appear risky, but it may be the lack of understanding that is actually the barrier and the greater risk.
  2. "The key to financial freedom and great wealth is a person's ability to convert earned income into passive and/or portfolio income."
    • On the surface, this makes sense - increasing passive income (income that doesn't require your physical presence or daily effort) can eventually lead to you not needing to worry about generating income everyday. However, how does one actually convert earned income into the passive income Kiyosaki is talking about? This question is especially important for creatives to consider, because our income isn't always consistent unless we work a traditional 8-5. Recognizing this reinvigorated me to learn more about creative entrepreneurship - a philosophy of business specifically tailored to meet the complexities of the modern creative.
  3. "Stop doing what is not working, and look for something new."
    • This point also seems obvious, but it can be challenging for creatives to implement.  The creative process does not always adhere to societal norms and rhythms (we can even question whether it should attempt to do so), so how do we know when our creativity is leading to something fresh and innovative versus simply sending us down an unfruitful path?
    • Responding to this point, I realized that I had to learn how to distinguish between the creative and the entrepreneur in creative entrepreneurship. While they both require creativity, the skill sets for each are distinct. What works in one arena is often detrimental to the other. Creative entrepreneurs have to learn to balance the free-spirited play that often births our creative work with the analytical and strategic abilities of sharp business people.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a greater starter book for any creative struggling to close the gap between their creative and entrepreneurial dreams.