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From Burnt Out Artist to Joyful Creative Coach: The Power of the “Perfect Fit” Business Model

The Autonomous Creative Incubator

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    Listen to Eleanor’s story in her own words:

    Eleanor Chaney is an artist and educator who has worked as an illustrator, exhibited her prints in shops and galleries, and taught skills-based arts and crafts classes to thousands of people.

    But as a working artist and teacher, she felt like she had hit an upper limit on how much money she could make.

    “[During the pandemic] what became really, really apparent was it wasn’t that I wasn’t capable of making a living as an artist. The things I was being paid for weren’t even fulfilling in the way that they had been in the past. Because I had changed. And what I wanted from my work had changed. And I also had this deep craving to just be creative for the sake of being creative.”

    Eventually, she hit a point where she thought that if things didn’t change—if her work didn’t bring her and her family the things they needed—then she could no longer justify sinking her time into it.

    “Over the years, it led to just feeling really out of alignment with what I wanted from my life versus the reality of my day-to-day (or day-to-night, due to my long working hours). It was that the kind of repeated cycles of burnout over the years had left me feeling like [giving it up] was the only choice.”

    Seeking solutions on the interwebs

    Decision fatigue was a huge problem as Eleanor tried to pivot and address her career issues. Every idea she came across felt like it could be the key…but there were so many options.

    Everything she read online suggested selling low-cost online products to large audiences. She tried, but felt trapped by the fact that she would need to keep churning out content month in and month out, just to maintain her income.

    Everything she read online suggested selling low-cost online products to large audiences.
    Eleanor Chaney’s former homepage

    She heard courses might be the solution, but recognized that the massive competition in the online course market (and that same bottomless need for content production) would hold her back from reaching her income goals.

    Eleanor Chaney's Youtube Channel- Online culture told her that building up her social media following and making videos was the key to success.

    Online culture told her that building up her social media following and making videos was the key to success

    She tried focusing on growing her following, but couldn’t seem to get enough traction, and she didn’t have time to produce high-quality videos as often as she’d heard she needed to.

    Her business just wasn’t growing

    Self-doubt plagued Eleanor, and she never quite felt like “enough,” or like she could truly be in charge of her own professional life.

    “I was constantly putting myself in an apprentice role. I always felt like I needed more justification, more experience, and more skills.”

    She had a little voice in her head that told her to keep working hard, and somehow it would all work out. But in the meantime, she was exhausted.

    “At the end of the day, the problem was that the business wasn’t designed to think six months, or a year, or a decade ahead. I was always just immediately reacting to whatever circumstances I was offered…I was living hand to mouth, so any work that came along was always a priority.”

    Hustling every single day, but not seeing results, she turned to the Autonomous Creative Incubator to change tack. She wanted to earn more, enjoy her work, and build a solid foundation for a self-sustaining, profitable creative business.

    How Eleanor got the clarity she needed

    Using the income calculator in the Autonomous Creative Incubator showed Eleanor that she wasn’t able to market her prints well enough to earn the income she truly needed. The amount of money she was bringing in wasn’t enough to justify the time and energy she spent working on her prints.

    “When I actually did those sums,” Eleanor said, “and I put in a very low figure of what I wanted as my baseline to live on—I just thought, ‘This is a waste of my time. This isn’t even bringing me happiness anymore.’ I was literally just pushing myself through it.”

    Through the lens of the Incubator program, Eleanor realized that she’d been drifting for the past 15 years of her career. “It’s a weird, confusing thing that creative people do,” she shared, “where they’re deeply passive about what they want the business to do or to bring them. Yet they want their business to bring them their livelihood.”

    She realized that she needed to clarify what she wanted from her business—and her career as an artist—and solidify those goals in order to build herself a future in which, in her words, she would be able to “earn more, to work less, and to feel aligned with my values.”

    In the Incubator, she also realized that she was not alone in her struggle to build a sustainable creativity-centered career.

    “I was so convinced it was a flaw within my personality, and that there were things I needed to address about my self-confidence, my self-belief, and my mindset around money and what I deserve. I thought I had all these messy stories that I’d probably be unpacking until I die.

    But when you’re around these other people who are at a similar stage, and they are amazing people who are also really struggling to bring in the money and security they want… I realized it wasn’t about my personal flaws…it was a problem with the entire system of how we taught to do this.

    This is about creative people not knowing how to value what they do, but not understanding the practicalities of how to earn from what they do.”

    Offering one-on-one coaching transformed Eleanor’s business

    During the Incubator, Eleanor decided to pivot to offering one-on-one creative coaching. Now she specializes in helping sensitive artists connect with their creativity and work in ways that acknowledge and support their unique needs.

    With Eleanor’s help, her coaching clients explore what inspires them and brings them joy.

    Now instead of being in constant reactive mode, Eleanor has built a strong foundation for a sustainable business that she truly enjoys—including continuing to make and share her art on her own terms.

    I can see five years into the future now. I can see how I can consistently show up for this business and grow it and do work that I actually feel super passionate about and excited about. And I haven’t had that for a long time.”

    With Eleanor’s help, her coaching clients explore what inspires them and brings them joy.
    Eleanor’s homepage, updated to reflect her new offer

    Looking for your own transformation?

    Eleanor says she would recommend the Autonomous Creative Incubator to other mid-career creative people who have hit a point where they have been doing things in a particular way for a long time, but they recognize that they need to make a change.

    “I would recommend the Incubator for people who don’t want to abandon everything they’ve worked for…they aren’t in the position to just throw it all out and retrain.

    What they want is to take what works best and what they enjoy most and what they think is worth carrying forward, and leave the other stuff behind.”

    For creative people who want to move away from being producers—who have spent many years in production mode where they are the “maker” or “do-er”—Eleanor says the Autonomous Creative Incubator can help them move into roles where leveraging their experience and knowledge is more fulfilling and valuable, while also protecting ample space for self-directed creativity, free of the distortion of financial imperatives.

    Surprising insight + supportive community

    I asked Eleanor what she would say to people who were considering applying for the Autonomous Incubator, but were on the fence about joining.

    “The Incubator is very reasonably priced and definitely worth the investment, but I personally didn’t see it as like a casino game where I expected to put money in and the big cash would come out of the bottom. If the pressure on you is that you have to start earning huge amounts of money within four or five months, then be conscious that you may find things within the Incubator that you weren’t expecting about yourself.”

    When Eleanor started the Incubator program, she didn’t just need to increase her income. She needed to believe that her business was worth it, because it was continually taking up so much of her time and energy. She needed a reframing of her business model and of the way she looked at her ability to make money.

    “I began to identify that a lot of these struggles have been about my experience as a sensitive person,” she said, “and that actually, that is what I could bring to other artists and creatives.

    “That was probably the biggest achievement for me on Incubator. It’s the thing that I feel most proud of getting to. Because I had to work through it. It was a process of believing that I had something to give. Of trusting that I could do it in the way that I wanted to.”

    Reaching that belief empowered her to take something she saw as a flaw, and turn it into something she can offer to other creatives navigating a similar journey.

    The support and structure she received within the program helped Eleanor reach her goals, and the community of creative people has been incredibly supportive.

    “My biggest fear was that everybody would be sick of me at the end of the six months, because I’d never had that kind of prolonged exposure to a group who were working in this way together. But there’s been a real sense of friendship, community, and mutual support.”

    Ultimately, Eleanor has learned that she has every right to choose her creative and professional path. She knows that her one-on-one coaching model is a valid form of valuing her experience and using her expertise in a new way. Now she is on her way to building a profitable, sustainable, joyful business that brings her best to the world and helps her clients—while still pursuing and sharing her art in the way she was yearning to.

    Be as proud of your business as you are of your creative work

    The Autonomous Creative Incubator Program

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    The Incubator is the artist-centered program where self-employed creatives design a sustainable, profitable business rooted in their creative expertise.