what are some good ways for a creative person to make money? (the problem is no business know-how)
July 26, 2005 4:34 PM   Subscribe

what are some good ways for a creative person to make money? (the problem is no business know-how)

id much rather make money by using a powerful idea than working my ass off, given the choice. im not necessarily looking to be rich. having not much understanding of the business world due to vehement avoidance all these years, the only thing i can think of right now to make money with creativity is with patents. i feel like if i had a business degree right now i would know exactly how to go and make money. surely, people make money with good ideas in ways other than patenting.
any business-minded people know what i should look at if i do indeed possess this ability to come up with original ideas?
another thing im thinking would be a good way to brain-power my way to money is with the creative application of math skill (which i dont have, so i cant verify this).
the main thing is id like to set my own hours. i dont want a 9 to 5. brain over sweat, basically.
posted by GleepGlop to Work & Money (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have to say, I find the idea of someone asking the internet how they can make money by being creative to be delightfully hilarious.

This is the reality: Creativity, 99 times out of 100, does not make money. Dedication does. If you really are blessed with an ability to come up with truly original ideas, it doesn't really matter. All that matters is your ability to leverage those ideas into a business model. If you don't have that ability, you're not going to make money.
posted by Jairus at 5:00 PM on July 26, 2005

Do you do or make something creative already?

Basically your question is:
1. I'm creative
2. ????
3. Profit!
posted by mullacc at 5:02 PM on July 26, 2005

id much rather make money by using a powerful idea than working my ass off

Every successful person I know works their ass off. The only ones that don't were born into it. So for your problem here, the solution is to choose your parents wisely.

Good luck with that.
posted by mathowie at 5:09 PM on July 26, 2005

I make a living via ebay, selling things I create. I had no business knowledge when I began, just saw a bunch of people selling really inferior products that I knew I could better. I don't make a huge salary, but for the hours I put in it definitely beats having a day job. I now have a decent enough client base, a good few commissions, and a living. And I could probably sell 5 x what I do now if I had the time or the inclination.

The key in my case was seizing an idea and selling direct to the customer without an agent or middleman. And peddling my talent. There are few outlets that can connect a seller with as many customers as ebay can.

By the sound of your question, you need a good idea, or ten. If you had the ability to come up with original ideas you wouldn't be asking this question or blaming your inability on lack of a business degree. Your question actually reads like some sort of wind up.
posted by fire&wings at 5:09 PM on July 26, 2005

Surely someone as creative as yourself could come up with something. /snark

Do you already have your powerful idea, and are wondering how to harness it to make money? That very much depends on the idea.

Or are you wondering which ideas are the ones which make money? Look for problems which very rich people want solved. For instance, a more efficient method of extracting oil from the ground occurs to me off the top of my head.

(Though if you do have an idea for something you feel could make money, don't post it here, obviously. Go get it patented first, or talk to a trusted friend.)

There was a similar thread a while back, but I can't find it. Hm.
posted by Count Ziggurat at 5:18 PM on July 26, 2005

hmm i feared the 'if youre so creative...' response... but come on now, thats cheap. do you think its so unbelievable that people that come up with good ideas all the time dont have the first idea about how to turn them into money?

matt, do people that filed patents work their asses off? no, they sell their sleazy patent for buckets of cash to some corporation. but i dont really think i should have to provide counterexamples to 'everyone who has made money had to work their ass off.' sure thats probably most people, but of course that isnt true.

business models... leverage that into a business model... ok whats that. yeah, kind of back to my original question...

let me help by pretending i know about business: well gleepglop, your options are designing and or creating a product that doesnt exist, providing a service that doesnt exist, etc. you could become a consultant if you are good at solving problems, as well as other business roles that i dont know about because im only pretending...
posted by GleepGlop at 5:28 PM on July 26, 2005

I think there was a related question asked by someone who had good, creative ideas for cartoons but did not have the talent to create them.

You know, I came up with a great idea, a series of tubes connected by thin strips of plastic. The tubes have solid bases and caps on the top. The idea is that you fill these with water and freeze them. Then, because the shape of the ice are tubes, you can place them in narrow mouthed water bottles. This idea is representative of cyphill and his human counterpart. If you use this idea I get the rights to name it and 10% of the profit.

posted by cyphill at 5:32 PM on July 26, 2005

yes ziggurat, im looking for ways of harnessing. basically im saying that what i need is to know ways of harnessing ideas. the ideas themselves will be 'in the bag' following that. i thought it was a given that the average person doesnt know how to go and start up a business or sell an idea tomorrow...
posted by GleepGlop at 5:35 PM on July 26, 2005

cyphill, what? i really should have just put a disclaimer that no, i dont necessarily agree with patents, and yes, i understand that people that ask about making money on the internet are usually idiots that want people to put something in their lap. but please lets not derail the potential learning of something for myself and possibly the future learning of a small child.
posted by GleepGlop at 5:39 PM on July 26, 2005

cyphill, too late on that. I bought a few half-cylinder thin-but-long ice cube trays made for sports bottles a month ago. Only $.50 each too!
posted by shepd at 5:58 PM on July 26, 2005

damn, I thought that was a good one too. (I wasn't joking gleepglop)
posted by cyphill at 6:01 PM on July 26, 2005

yeah i realized after, ha! just the innate absurdity of patents. then the chin stroking began...
posted by GleepGlop at 6:07 PM on July 26, 2005

GleepGlop writes "matt, do people that filed patents work their asses off? no, they sell their sleazy patent for buckets of cash to some corporation."

This is a very rare occurrence. You might be able to find a few examples of people who have made money off of independently developed inventions, but it's a difficult (impossible?) path to follow for a few reasons:

1. Patents are expensive. It can cost tens of thousands of dollars to get a good patent written and pushed through the system. Patent attorneys don't work for cheap, and you do need an attorney if you want a patent that will be legally unassailable. It's possible to file yourself, yes, but you will have to put lots and lots of work into learning about the system and researching the state of the art.

2. Companies that are interested in research and development spend a lot of money on research and development, and they pursue patents on their own work. They know what they're interested in, and that's what they pursue. It's unlikely, therefore, that you will have an idea that they are both interested in and that they have not already investigated.

3. People who develop inventions independently are typically able to license them to companies because of contacts they have with these companies. This requires building up a network of contacts, which takes--you guessed it--lots and lots of work.

People have this romantic idea of the noble inventor tinkering away in his garage and being rewarded for his ingenuity with sacks and sacks of money by some appreciative corporation, but that just isn't how it works.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:09 PM on July 26, 2005

yes ziggurat, im looking for ways of harnessing. basically im saying that what i need is to know ways of harnessing ideas. the ideas themselves will be 'in the bag' following that. i thought it was a given that the average person doesnt know how to go and start up a business or sell an idea tomorrow...

A major difficulty here is that advice at any level of detail that could actually be helpful to you would require a lot more information from you about the kinds of fabulous ideas you're talking about. What's your expertise?

matt, do people that filed patents work their asses off? no, they sell their sleazy patent for buckets of cash to some corporation.

This is not terribly common, and generally getting to the point where a giant corporation is interested in paying buckets of cash for your patent involves quite a lot of work of all sorts.
posted by redfoxtail at 6:11 PM on July 26, 2005

The amount of people who "get lucky" is pretty small, and the amount who don't do much work to get lucky is smaller still. Some people have launched wacky Web sites that've suddenly got a million visitors, sold t-shirts, and made a few hundred thousand.. but it's not common! As stated above in several forms.. it's all about dedication and to keep going and going and going and going.. you get the idea :) I have been doing this for six years now and am only just starting to get places.
posted by wackybrit at 6:29 PM on July 26, 2005

all true, perhaps i should restate my position. i am extremely motivated / dedicated. Enough that i think its a reasonable thing that i might attain avoidance of 9 to 5 drudgery if i put my mind to it. this isnt about me getting rich quick. I realize i cant have my future assured at the flick of a wrist.
anyway, maybe theres a good book on the subject. somethin along the lines of 'how to turn your ideas into profit'. I guess i cant expect people to conduct a business seminar in here, but i was hoping for a couple of leads besides 'look into patents' as one option which is what i came in here with...
posted by GleepGlop at 6:58 PM on July 26, 2005

Count Ziggurat - Look for problems which very rich people want solved.

... or a problem a *lot* of people want/need solved - make up for it in volume.

GleepGlop - that's an interesting idea, asking ask.mefi, that... If you *do* make it big, you're gonna have to do something for the ask.mefi community =)

The demographics are getting top-heavy. Anything that you can think of to benefit seniors? Also, the demographic is getting, well, heavy - anything you can think of to offer to the overweight?

To try to answer your question; I'm not sure that creative people actually make money if that's all they are - creative. Unless they use their creativity to leverage more out of their labour (ie., artists who sell art, or people who are already doing something then use their creativity to make their product better, or use their creativity to... well, creatively market their product/goods-of-their-labour).

I'm afraid that the answer you might be looking for is going to be something along the lines of being a "middleman" or broker or some other parasite (not that that's a bad thing...).
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:04 PM on July 26, 2005

Matthew Lesko's books are very popular at the public library I work at. People tend to check 'em out and then never return 'em, which I can only assume is because they've all relocated to offshore tax havens. Then again, I believe his books are fairly US-centric, and your userinfo says you're in Canada.

If you're extremely motivated and dedicated, and you think that having a business degree would solve your problem, it sounds to me like you should get one.
posted by box at 8:53 PM on July 26, 2005

Successful inventors tend to be in the field of their invention, e.g., the football coach who invented a type of tackling dummy. What do you see in the area you work in/study in that needs improvement?
posted by Cranberry at 9:39 PM on July 26, 2005

Every time I've watched Penn and Teller's Bullshit I've been amazed that whenever they go to debunk something it almost inevitably is pretty lucrative: sell magnet therapy at a shopping mall, sell carnie tricks as spiritual enlightenment, whatever. The best con artist they had was this guy who travelled around the country in a motor home doing reflexology (glorified foot massages) and then selling folks on reflexology classes for like $2,000. He had it made.

Of course, you'll have to be an excellent salesperson for this to work, but creativity helps.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:31 PM on July 26, 2005

Failing the "big idea", come work in advertising. The even call us "creative:, which is cute, and lets us make fun of the "suits". Another bonus is that they pour booze down our throats, which is the only reason i've even got the nerve to answer this. OK, granted, not the answer you were looking for (not get rich quick) plus there will be all sorts of "boo....advertising is the devil" sort of things, but should you be good with words or pictures, there are worse (ok, metafilter, I know, EVIL) ways to make a decent buck. And there are no patents required. Also, not a quick buck.... maybe this isn't anywhere near a good answer. Sorry. How about spam? V14gr4 rulz.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 11:18 PM on July 26, 2005

mr_roboto has it right. One of the great myths about the patent system is that it protects small, independent inventors. The patent system is an extorsion racket that rewards the professional racketeers.

The high cost of getting a patent already favors large corporations that generate patents for a living, but that's nothing compared to the cost of extracting money from the patent. You'll have to master the process of selling to large companies, pay your travel expenses, put on a good suit and learn to negotiate complex licensing agreements like a professional. You'll have to spend time and energy looking for violators, and then pay the legal fees to defend your patent. And one day a large company will claim that it has prior art or an overlapping patent, and try to strongarm you out of business with their ability to keep you paying legal fees.

There's only one genuine way to make big money from a creative endeavor: first, find a partner who understands sales and marketing, and another one who loves to manage the day-to-day administration and is a tightwad on expenses. Then, work your ass off for years building something that you genuinely believe in. Then, get lucky and negotiate well to sell your company to someone who really wants it. Ideas are worthless; businesses have value because they take a lot of work to create.
posted by fuzz at 3:24 AM on July 27, 2005

Short of plunging into an MBA, can you take an evening class in starting a small business? Even if it's very basic, it will show you how to create a business plan, research your market etc., and give you some concrete focus as to what challenges and steps you have ahead of you rather than a general "If only I had a business degree I could do this" feeling. You need to break down the ENORMOUS challenge you've set yourself into bite-size chunks that you can comprehend and tackle.

understanding of the business world due to vehement avoidance all these years

If you've been avoiding the business world all these years, are you sure you can get over your natural antipathy to it enough to plunge headlong into it and carve a living out of it? Not intending to snark, just to raise some issues you surely need to think seriously about. Even if you're a creative genius, people won't be nice to you when you're trying to persuade them to part with money for your genius. You'll need to be able to cope with all the rough and tumble of the business world and still come up enthused.

this ability to come up with original ideas

Can you be any more specific about your areas of expertise? Are you just going to tinker in the garage until you come up with something, or are you an electrician or an engineer, or a fashion designer, or....

Also, I am not an expert at all, but I'm sure that you will have to work your arse off. If there was a straightforward way to enjoy the creative process, AND make money AND avoid hard work, we'd all be doing it. If you're working for yourself you might have more flexibility about which hours you work, but I imagine there will be a lot of them. I also imagine it will be emotionally hard work if you're putting your 'baby', out there in the world and trying to make others love it too. But of course it will be all the more rewarding if they do...
posted by penguin pie at 6:58 AM on July 27, 2005

thanks for the responses. i think i overcomplicated this question... i think im just going to have to read some books on business. should be fun...
posted by GleepGlop at 9:01 AM on July 27, 2005

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