The decisive question in every creative's career:
"How long am I going to tolerate teetering on the verge of poverty and burnout before I am willing to make major changes?"
Most creative professionals have spent years making the equivalent of sub-minimum wage,
putting on a brave face despite being snubbed and mistreated by agents, galleries, publishers,
and facing repeated health (and sanity) scares before they're forced to answer that question.
But it will come, sooner or later.
And the more awesome you are at what you do…
The more that question will haunt you.
Because, before we go any further, just take an honest, quick accounting of your professional history. You know you have incredible skills. You’ve got powerful depth of experience. Years of commitment to your work.
I know you've got that commitment, because nobody would put up with the intense demands of training and the ongoing struggle for mastery of your form in the face of demoralizing lack of appreciation or even understanding from the world (not to mention the insultingly paltry financial rewards)…
without a deep well of grit and passion and love for their work.
You're strong and inspiring, and amazing at what you do.
That should be enough.
You didn’t get into your field because you wanted to have your own business.
How about when you said yes to creating social media content for that arts festival for free, but then you found out they paid the other content creators…And then they forgot to credit you?
Or that time when you did the math and realized you could have made more money slinging frappuccinos than creating a stunning commission that took every ounce of your years of training and expertise to produce?
Two simple facts seem to repel each other like magnets with matching polarities:
You make or do something awesome.
You want to get paid.
You've tried to force those two facts to combine. You've done everything expected of you.
You've put up a website, posted on social media. Gone to events and chatted up potential clients. You've designed invoices and sent them as often as you can manage. You've tried to keep track of payments, and despaired when they're late. You've taken on crappy clients you knew would be a nightmare and then barely survived.
You've said no to parties and trips and weddings because you can't afford it.
You've worked through family gatherings and vacations.
You've lain awake churning through your options for bringing in some quick cash because rent is due next week.
You've bought the cheap brand of shampoo at the drugstore because you can't justify four extra bucks for the one you actually like.
If this makes you angry, if it makes you feel somehow not fully adult, like you missed out on something other people got...
...I hear you.
Sure, while you've heard all your life that artists are destined to starve, you also learned that GOOD artists don't starve. They get, um…found.
Something (??) happens to lift them out of this state of perpetual anxiety.
And if that “something” hasn't happened magically to you?
That must have some meaning, right?
Yeah. It does.
It means you've been lied to all your life.
This is not your fault. This isn't something that you brought on yourself.
You have not been equipped with the right tools.
School, the media, your industry all keep telling you that if you follow their rules your career is going to work.
And their rules don’t work. As much as you might wish this harsh reality weren’t true, your own trajectory proves that the rules you’ve absorbed will lead you astray.
There's no world in which creative success magically blesses those who work the hardest the way the myths suggest.
And you have been working so hard:
You’ve tried side projects and social media accounts and tactics that you heard about from somewhere…
You’ve taken on endless unrealistic commitments that accrete like barnacles and weigh you down.
But underneath it all lies the truth:
You've set up a system to make something and receive money for it.
No one taught you how.
No one helped you design your system for success.
You did the best you could with what you had available! You cobbled your system together bit by bit to cover your ass each time there was some new emergency, feeling like you’re faking your way through it.
(You're not faking it, by the way. You're still here and still doing it. That's real, and you should be proud of it.)
You've set up a system to make something and receive money for it. And it's broken.
What won't help?
Dancing around the brokenness, trying some sleight of hand and magical-thinking hacks to fix things.
Frantic activity trying to line up what it feels like on the inside of your business with what is looks like from the outside (before someone finds out that you don’t know what you’re doing).
Instead, you need to stare right into the Eye of Sauron, and face that painful question I posed up top:
"Am I going to continue to tolerate teetering on the verge of poverty and burnout, or am I willing to make major changes?"
It's painful, because even asking that question means admitting that you need and want financial and worldly success, and yet have been failing to achieve it for a long time.
Once you ask yourself that question, you've got only two possible answers:
Option 1: You can give in to the temptation to stay safe and keep playing small. Don’t even try to change your broken system.
So at least you won't feel humiliated when you fail to hit your goals. Instead, you can pretend you didn't really care about success anyway.
Option 1 can feel emotionally "safer" — to not want, so that you're not disappointed.
But that emotional "safety" is an illusion, and you know it. Living with the pain of an ongoing disconnect between your ambition and reality is grinding you down.
You have ambition. And that’s a good thing.
→ It's OK to want to make money with your work! It's even OK to make more money than you technically need to stay out of the poorhouse.
→ It's more than OK to want to feel safe, to be able to afford the ordinary luxuries "civilians" enjoy (a massage! brunch with friends!), and to be rewarded generously for your hard and excellent work.
You want that. It’s a good thing to want. I want that for you, too.
Option 2: You can decide that this is the moment you draw a line in the sand. Become as proud of your business as you are of your creative work.
Imagine what it could mean for you to have a business you’re proud of — One that is not only creative, ethical, and joyful, but also PROFITABLE.
Bringing in a healthy income is life-changing, not because the number in your bank account hits some arbitrary level, but because you'll be able to...
- Take care of your health. Make the appointment for that dental work you’ve been putting off. Upgrade to the organic veggies. Find a specialist who can help with your neck pain.
- Take care of your people. Buy those hideous sneakers your daughter is pining away for and make her week. Pay for a geriatric care manager for your mom to make sure she can stay in her home for as long as possible.
- Create the freedom to spend hours every week on your self-generated creative work without guilt or anxiety.
- Feel confident taking your seat at the table with the clients and institutions and companies you deal with day to day.
- Hold your head up in your creative community, and support and represent your peers.
- Trust yourself to know what's best for you and your business and that you’re equipped to make it happen.
- Model a healthy relationship with your work to younger creatives.
- Relax into a sense of safety that things are not going to fly apart at the seams if you stop pedaling for a few minutes.
Not to mention...
- Quit the soul-sucking jobby-job and design your work schedule around when and how you work best.
- Fire your toxic, abusive clients and instead work with amazing people who inspire you to do your best work—and have no problem at all paying for the privilege of working with you.
- Hire help that's actually helpful, that moves your business forward and takes the pressure off you to do everything.
- Take a freaking VACATION.
Stop being an accidental business owner. Design your business on purpose.
Stop cobbling together half-broken tactics and build a business on purpose, with personalized strategy designed to meet—and exceed—your needs.
You are no longer an apprentice at your craft.
You’re ready to build a business that's as functional and strong as your creative practice deserves.
A business that's worthy of you.
Now, you can have a profitable creative business you're proud of.
Launch a business you’re proud of in six months with
The Autonomous Creative Incubator
The Incubator is the artist-centered program where self-employed creatives design a
sustainable,profitable business rooted in their creative expertise.
"Learning" isn't going to fix this mess. DOING is the only true way forward.
So we've turned the usual online learning model around. The Incubator is designed to short-circuit perfectionism and procrastination, and deliver results with no fluff.
You don’t have to wade through hours and hours of videos to find what you need.
There's no physics textbook of arcane charts and formulas to memorize.
The Incubator is embodied learning.
We are walking the walk.
Your needs and your questions form the foundation of what we implement, so that this program is perfectly suited to get your business off the ground in a matter of weeks.
This is a streamlined, agile program designed to give you everything you need to produce results fast and no more.
The Autonomous Creative Incubator is an accelerated, six-month program to get you to the next level fast! You'll have weekly calls and hands-on support from Jessica Abel and the Autonomous Creative team.
Two days of live, online group sessions with Jessica Abel (replays available for everything, of course!) where you'll get your hands dirty immediately.
Design a pilot offer that is built to scale up fast and reach your financial goals. Form strong bonds with your cohort that will support you through the months to come.
The first 30 days of the Incubator includes two live coaching sessions a week, and a full day of voice-texting support — as well as a streamlined, action-first curriculum.
Our coaching sessions include strategic and informational support as well as hands-on critique and feedback on your work. You can even get tips on wrangling your tech.
Get the simplest possible version of everything you need to build out the operational, sales, and marketing structure of a business, and nothing more, so that you can build and launch a complete pilot offer…and start making sales to clients!
Milestone: Make Your Pilot Offer: Individual coaching call
Milestone: First Sale: Individual coaching call
Once your pilot offer is out in the world bringing in cash, it’s time to take a breath and start building out the first mature phase of your business.
The five month build-out period includes
- monthly action-first curriculum
- a weekly coaching call
- asynchronous support in our lively discussion group
Now’s your time to dial in your sales and marketing with direct feedback on all of your work.
Use the data from your first client engagements to discover how well the way you designed your first offer works for you, and to redesign it as needed to more fully support your goals—and those of your clients! (You may well discover it’s time to raise your prices!)
Milestone: Your first 5k: Individual coaching call
Milestone: Aligned Marketing Plan: Individual coaching call
Milestone: Your first 10k: Individual coaching call
You also get:
Agile, laser-focused live coaching
In group calls and in individual 1:1 milestone calls, Jessica and the coaching team can address any questions, issues, and roadblocks you encounter on your journey so that you never stay stuck for long.
Plus: all calls are in a private podcast feed, so you can review them or catch up on the go, in the kitchen, or in your studio, on your schedule.
Critique feedback on all of your work
You know how in online courses you do all this homework but then never get anyone’s eyes on it, so you’re not sure how to improve it or what to do next? Well, that won’t happen in the Incubator, where you can submit all of your coursework for live feedback.
Membership in a safe, supportive, small-group setting
Form durable, powerful relationships with other incredible, engaged creative business owners who are struggling just like you are to make a great living, with support for developing accountability groups and partnerships.
Not a “groups person”? This group is unlike any you’ve experienced. The power of the cohort takes even non-joiner skeptic members by surprise. These relationships are literally the number-one most-loved feature of this program.
A 24-7 online support and feedback forum
Engage in asynchronous conversation and ask questions whenever it makes most sense for you so you can work on your schedule and at your pace.
A kind of indescribable interactive, action-encouraging workbook/textbook/course dashboard (PLUS your own company HQ)
…built for you in the online platform Notion. Really, until you see how engaging and flexible our format is, you won't believe it. No more taking notes that never turn into action!
This is the promise of the Incubator:
I won't let you get stuck in procrastination and dithering
In TWO DAYS you can design an offer that's designed to bring in cash...
...and you can actually test your new offer on clients—get paid!— within 30 days.
Sound impossible? If you can devote about 8-10 hours a week to your business, you can change your life in a month. The elements of the changes you will need to make are so manageable.
And I will be there, with my team, at every step, to make sure you have what you need to pull it off.
What would it feel like to have a product or service offer in hand that’s designed to be profitable and easy... and to sell it without sleaze, feeling confident that you’re providing something that will be of genuine value to others?
You could experience that by mid-November.
You could have a functional, profitable, honest-to-god real business by April! Or even a lot earlier, depending on how simple you’re willing to keep things! (Believe me, that can be the hardest part...)
We start on October 20. You can have a rock-solid business built by March.
It’s time to take action! Join us now.
Pay in full (Early Bird)
Pay monthly (Early Bird)
30 min 1:1 with Jessica
The problems faced by artists, writers, and creatives when building a business are uniquely challenging
You’ve been deprived of the preparation you need to run your own business, yet your work requires that you have your own business.
You require time, space, margin, to think and make your work. You need freedom and control over your time and attention. You must use unusual materials and have an off-beat workspace. Yours is not a standard-issue business.
ALSO. You’ve got the same skill set and expertise that has produced some of the most valuable (as measured by money!) assets of the human race: Literature! Art! Science! Music!
And yet, you’re told repeatedly that, not only is it basically impossible to get paid for these valuable skills, there’s also something morally suspect about trying.
Dentists do not have this problem.
Microchip manufacturers do not have this problem.
Bankers definitely do not have this problem.
It’s taken for granted that those jobs are all reasonable things to do with your life, and so people pursuing those paths are routinely equipped with the tools and knowledge to make a good living and grow their business over time.
Here’s what you need to know: There is a powerful invisible architecture that underlies the way businesses create and exchange value.
In the Autonomous Creative Incubator, you’ll use these powerful tools of leverage and decision-making to accelerate your journey to financial solvency without all the painful mistakes that other creatives fall into.
Stop coddling crappy clients and start working with people who truly appreciate you.
Stop piling on hours to somehow feel OK that you’re charging an almost-reasonable amount of money and start designing offers that intentionally enforce your boundaries.
Stop launching project after income stream after promo and start focusing on work that has a real shot of hitting your goals
Stop getting frozen in place by fear and indecision and start tapping into an inner well of self-trust that you know what you’re doing.
You got this.
The Incubator is like no other program you've experienced before
We pull back the curtain and reveal all the strategic underpinnings that allow you to design a simple business for success, rather than doing more and more and always scrambling to make ends meet.
We deliver the complete framework of strong, flexible, functional business that's built around the concerns of creative professionals, and we help you build it out to your specifications, every step of the way.
We get you DOING, instead of just thinking, planning, and dreaming.
You're not an apprentice anymore. You've read enough, studied enough.
It's time for an experience that's not informational, it's transformational.
Other business coaching programs:
- Are made for people who grow up dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur.
- Offer cookie-cutter “step-by-step” frameworks that do not take individual circumstances into account.
- Start with the assumption that you’re in business to make “SIX FIGURES” and not because your work is your mission. (Which is not to say that there’s anything wrong with financial goals! They just aren’t enough.)
- Teach tactics, but leave out the strategy that would make it possible to determine which tactics are the right ones for you.
- Hit you with information overload, and you’re still left wondering: “Okay, but how??”
The Autonomous Creative Incubator:
- Puts your creative focus at the heart of your business.
- Offers personalized instruction and individual feedback as well as a powerful and supportive small group cohort to accompany you on your journey.
- Starts with your own definition of success (including financial success, but also including your health, relationships, and anything else you value).
- Incentivizes you to take action with simple, achievable steps that build upon one another and a clear, motivational timeline.
- Ties what you're doing to a larger picture and clarifies the meaning of your successes.
You deserve to be proud of your business
And you need a new approach to getting there. You need a strategic plan, you need processes that reinforce your commitment, and you need support and accountability.
In the Incubator:
We know you’re a creator first and foremost.
We know you want a values-driven business designed just for you and that action is the only way to get you there.
And we will help you take those scary, long-delayed steps toward financial security and autonomy in a supportive, nurturing environment, where learning and implementation go hand-in-hand.
I’m Jessica Abel
I’M A CARTOONIST/ AUTHOR/ TEACHER/ EDITOR/ ILLUSTRATOR TURNED CREATIVE BUSINESS OWNER.
I know what it’s like to be doing everything “right,” working insane hours and still not making ends meet.
My own story is why I’m totally committed to my mission to help as many artists, writers, and other creatives take control of their careers as I possibly can.
My comics career—from the outside—looked pretty good. And every time I would create a new book, I’d think, This one's got legs. This project could totally blow up.
And then when the book was published, quite the opposite happened. In some cases, the results were shockingly bad. And I’d just go, how is that possible?
I came (late) to the realization that there are mechanisms that I was buying into, accepted ways of having a career as an author, that, while they can help you produce books, they do not help you make a living as an author.
They just don't work. They depend on magic.
They depend on magically getting attention from somewhere.
I like to think of myself as competent. Yet the total lack of connection between the massive effort I was investing and the minimal return was driving me crazy.
I needed control over my life and my future.
I needed to support my family.
So I pivoted, hard, to creative business ownership.
This pivot point for me and my career is exactly the pivot point I am driven to create for others.
I want you to have an independent, creative, sustainable business.
I want you to have control of your future.
I want you to stop feeling victimized by your creative life (and stop feeling guilty for feeling that way when so many others would love to do what you do).
I believe that every professional creative needs to equip themself with powerful, effective strategy so that they can build businesses that meet their needs.
Strategy is the key that unlocks powerful decisions that will allow artists to live and work as they choose.
We (the big We—the world) need you to be successful because we need you to have the freedom and support to bring your work to the world for the rest of us to experience!
Our Coaching Team:
I’ve been an active fiction writer (both literary and for the screen) for twenty years. I’ve launched my business as a writing coach and writer midwife twelve years ago. I share my time between the trenches of writing and the headquarters of writers, where I help them design strategies to run sustainable careers. According to my team mates, I’m also awesome at Notion and automations, and I’m excited to help you cross the gap between amazing creative to amazing creative entrepreneur.
I'm Lou! I'm an illustrator, graphic designer, and printmaker, and I've been working with Jessica since the early days of The Creative Focus Workshop. I head Operations at Autonomous Creative, meaning I handle integrations, automations, and tech.
I can't wait to help you connect all the dots and launch a business that works for you.
The Autonomous Creative Incubator Curriculum
Here is your roadmap to a real, profitable business:
- Design your business to meet—and exceed—your needs (financial and otherwise).
- Design a profitable pilot offer
Launch your pilot offer
- Pilot product
- Marketing pilot
- Sales pilot
- Phase one operations
5 months to level up:
Build out all the essentials of a functional and profitable business. We will return to all the topics we cover in pilot form in the first month, dive deeper, and improve our results.
Month 2: Time and project management
Month 3: Marketing deep dive
Month 4: Sales and copywriting deep dive
Month 5: Operations and financials
Month 6: Iterate and level up
Hit your milestones and qualify for 30 minute 1:1 calls with a coach!
- Making your pilot offer to potential clients
- Making your first sale
- Developing your aligned marketing plan
- Your first 5k
- Your first 10k
The Incubator is for mid-career creative professionals (full- or part-time) who have deep expertise, but who need MORE from their work
The Incubator is exactly what you’re looking for if:
- You have a full or part-time creative practice.
- You have worked with clients and made sales in the past in your creative business.
- You want to make more or all of your income from your creative business.
- You’re willing overcome any negative feelings you might have about “business” and unpack your relationship with money.
- You're willing to put in the time and work (an estimated 6-10 hours a week).
- You want to use digital tools and run your business online.
- You want to create high-priced offers and are ready to believe you can sell them.
This program might NOT be for you if:
- You’re stuck on the belief that there's a magic gatekeeper who needs to grant you access to the next level, or that success will just happen to you.
- You’re not willing to challenge your beliefs about money and business.
- You’re determined to make your business work with low-cost offers.
- You are not flexible about how your business is designed, but instead want to make what you’re doing already work.
- You believe that there’s no way this can work for you, and you’re not open to change.
- You’re not willing to prioritize building your business over other work for the next few months.
There is no better time than now to build a real business that will make more money for you so you can stop courting burnout
I know: you’re busy and overwhelmed and don’t have a spare neuron to think about “strategy” or launch something new.
That’s literally the definition of the perfect person to join this program: The creative at the end of their rope, frustrated, sick and tired, conflicted.
Do you sometimes worry you’re becoming bitter?
Yeah. I made this for YOU.
As I talked to other amazing creatives like you to develop the concept for the Incubator, what came up over and over was a sense of...shame.
Shame that the money wasn’t flowing the way they had been taught to expect.
Shame that they spend so much time on the work for so little.
Shame that the inside of their business feels like such a hot mess, and seriously? Don’t most people get this sorted by like, 25??
I have felt that too!
And I HATE that we’re made to feel shame over trying so hard to implement the system for making a living that we’re told is the One True Way, but is in fact BUILT TO FAIL.
There is NOTHING to be ashamed of! You are f***ing INCREDIBLE. You have gotten this far by dint of sheer effort, grit, and scrappy determination!
Every system is perfectly engineered to produce the results it’s currently getting.
No matter what you hope will happen...
Nothing will change until you revolutionize your system for making money with your creative work
...so that it works for YOU
Six months from now, you could have a business that makes you beam with pride, that’s simple and profitable.
Or you could have what you have now.
If you want to launch a new, profitable business by the end of September this year, join the Autonomous Creative Incubator today
Yes, you can make more money. Here are more answers.
I'd hazard a guess that when you've made attempts before, you were probably throwing spaghetti at the wall. Essentially, trying tactics like “post more on Instagram” or “start and email list” that make no sense and no difference if the underlying structure of the business isn’t set up to be profitable.
The Incubator focuses on strategy first. And then you’ll choose reasonable, aligned tactics according to what works for you, so that you will see results.
There are no guarantees! But changing the underlying system so that it’s designed around meeting your needs is how you set yourself up for success.
I hear you. I have felt the same way. But making money is how we can take care of ourselves and our people.
There is nothing wrong with being paid for the value you provide. We don’t expect a lawyer to write up a contract without being paid. We don’t think it’s weird for a house painter to expect money.
Why do we think it’s wrong to be paid for creative work? Just because we like doing it? Or is it because we don’t really believe it’s worth anything…?
Feeling that making money with our work is somehow wrong is a form of internalized oppression. It’s OK to have these feelings. We all do. If you’re willing to work on them and take back your power, the Incubator will help you get there.
If you’re seeing this sales page, you’ve got what it takes. We’ve already checked the boxes with your application and any follow up. You’re ready and we want you!
The Incubator is a time commitment, it’s true. But consider all the extra time you spend side-hustling and grinding out more work for extra cash. The Incubator will help break that cycle, so that after six months you have more time for the stuff you actually want to be doing.
Plus, The Incubator is entirely digital, which means you can complete the course lessons from the comfort of your couch or kitchen table, as long as you have an Internet connection! You can access the program from anywhere through our private course portal. And you'll never miss a beat: you can go at your own pace and do the lessons on your schedule.
Social media is absolutely not required, and in many cases isn’t even recommended. Email, in some form, is likely to necessary, but it doesn’t have to be at the core of your marketing.
There are lots of choices about how to promote your business, and when you build your own strategy on a solid framework, you get to be in charge of where your spend your time.
That said, In the Incubator, we will assume that you are transacting business using online tools (like sales pages and payment engines, invoicing and tracking sales) and that you will have a website or other online location where you offer your work. Even if you create a physical deliverable, the structure of your business will be built with online tools.
For the six months of the program, you'll have full access to all of the course materials and the incredible Autonomous Creative Collective. When that six months ends, you will be eligible to join the Autonomous Creative Collective as an ongoing, alumni member at the end of your six month enrollment, with access to all the community support and monthly content published in the ACC.
You’ll also be invited to re-enroll inside the Incubator as a next-level alum, with access to all the materials and coaching calls.
Concierge onboarding will occur with live walkthroughs in the week of February 28.
We start on March 5-6, 2022 with the Jumpstart Weekend. We will be live 10 am - 4 pm ET. All calls will be recorded and available for replay.
The Bootcamp Month (with 3x weekly coaching supports) runs through April 1.
The Incubator program Pilot Cohort runs through September 30. You’ll launch your offer to the Autonomous Creative Collective during the month of September!
The Incubator is a live, high-touch coaching program, and our investment in you starts from Day One.
As such, a full refund is only available before the program begins (through 5 pm ET March 4).
Once the program begins, if for any reason you’re unhappy with the program, a partial refund of $2500 will be available for 14 days from the program launch (through March 18).
Still not sure? A quick quiz
Here are 9 ways to know if you’re ready to join the Autonomous Creative Incubator:
You’ve recently started selling your work and don’t want to waste any time getting it right. You could spend years trying to learn business on your own, but you’re ready for immediate action.
You’ve been selling your creative work for a while now, but it’s just not bringing in enough money to make a meaningful difference in your life.
You already have an amazing offer, but when it comes to handling the business aspect of what you do, you’re flying by the seat of your pants.
You’re someone who is willing to experiment with different strategies and change whatever you’re currently doing that isn’t working.
You’ve been working a job or getting gigs to make money, but now you want to channel your energy toward building your own business.
Even if you still feel nervous, you are inspired by how different your life could look in six months, as the proud owner of a new/renewed, successful business.
You care about taking an ethical, values-centered approach to business and want to be part of a community that shares your values.
You’re feeling a sense of possibility. Even if coaching programs have disappointed you in the past, reading about our hands-on, artist-centered approach is breathing new life into you.
You’re excited about being part of an incredible cohort and the intensive Bootcamp Month, knowing you could launch your pilot offer and start making money in just thirty days.
If you said “yes” to at least 6 of the above, you’re a perfect fit.
By now, you know the best way to build a profitable, functional business, one as thoughtfully crafted as your best work, is by joining the Autonomous Creative Incubator
If you’re a writer, artist, or creative freelancer struggling to manage your accidental business...
If you yearn to prioritize the work you’re most passionate about, without having to sacrifice financial security...
If it seems like you’ve tried everything, but nothing has worked...
If you’re ready to design a business you can be proud of, join us today.
You have a choice
You can keep doing what you’ve been doing.
Keep selling low-cost offers that aren’t worth the effort it takes to make them.
Keep waiting for a magical gatekeeper to lift you and your work out of obscurity.
Keep trying to do more, make more, work more, only to remain overworked and underpaid.
Keep turning down vacations, trips with friends, or panicking whenever an unexpected bill lands on your kitchen table.
Keep doing nothing, despair that you’re destined to be a starving artist.
Or you can choose act, to be intentional with your life and business.