The No.1 thing creative practitioners can do to get more work & make more money


The most successful artists, photographers, designers and makers working in the creative industries today act and think in the same way - and it’s the opposite to everyone else...


Have you ever struggled to talk about your work, write an 'about' page for your website or an artist statement? Are you trying to write something about your work for a gallery, artists residency or grant application? It's one of the hardest things a creative person can do and it's even harder to get right.

The problem is that this struggle is often symptomatic of a much bigger issue - an issue that can have the biggest impact on how others connect to you and your work.

It can be summed up in one sentence:

You don't understand WHY you do what you do: Your motivation, purpose, cause or belief...

Considering WHY you create is the single most important thing you can communicate to connect with your audience - commissioners, buyers, gallerists... If you can’t communicate WHY you do what you do, you won’t sell work or get commissioned and people will not connect with you or your work.

I have worked with thousands of creatives as a specialist consultant and academic and I understand that talking about yourself and your work is one of the most difficult things you can be asked to do. So using proven theories, I have developed a simple framework to help you.


1. Read this article

2. Try writing a short statement to sum up “your why”.

3. Download my eBook or sign up for a free consultancy call if you need additional support.

The most successful artists, photographers, designers and makers working in the creative industries today act and think in the same way - and it’s the opposite to everyone else.

They start with the “WHY”.

  • All creative people know WHAT they do - WHAT they make or create.
  • Some creative people can articulate HOW they do it - HOW they get to the final work
  • Most creative people don’t know WHY they do it - their motivation, purpose, cause or belief.

The most successful people in the creative industries work from the inside out. They start with the WHY. This is the single most important thing you can do to communicate your work so that people will listen. Simply put, telling people WHY you do what you do gives your work purpose and invites people to connect with the meaning behind your work.

Almost every artists statement that I read leaves out the WHY, instead focusing on WHAT they do and (sometimes) HOW they do it. The magic ingredient that helps audiences engage is nearly always missing.

But why is this? Well simply put, it’s the hardest question a creative person can ask themselves and the hardest question to answer.  Artists, photographers and makers that have been creating for a lifetime still struggle to answer the question of ‘why?’. Answering why you create can often feel like being stuck in a bottle, not being able to read the label. We know instinctively why we do something but can’t express this effectively.

Have you ever stopped to question, why you do what you do? I’m not talking about rewards for what you do - money, influence, esteem. I’m talking about meaning at a deeper level - your purpose, your cause, your belief.

2. How do we know that starting with the WHY is effective?

This approach is not new, it’s a proven framework used by the most successful and innovative companies globally. Let’s look at ‘Apple’ for example...

If Apple told you that they make computers (WHAT they do), making use of the latest technological advances (HOW they do it) - would this alone compel you to purchase something from Apple? Probably not. Apple don’t start with the WHAT or HOW... they inspire their customers by starting with the WHY: We make products so you can “Think Different”. This has put Apple leaps and bounds ahead of their competitors who may make use of even better technology. People don’t buy the best products or technologies, they buy the products that they can connect with. Apple are now the largest technology company in the world - in fact, one of the top ten largest companies in the world.

In another context, Martin Luther King’s speech didn’t start with “I have a plan” (What & How) , instead... “I have a dream” speaks to his cause, his vision, his belief.

What do these examples both have in common? They inspire people who believe what they believe to buy into their ideas. In these examples, their products or cause.

If you as a creative don’t know why you do what you do, how can you ask people to care enough to buy your work or commission you? How can people connect with your work if you can’t articulate why you created it in the first place and why they should care?

It’s time to get to the root of WHY you do what you do, to attract those who believe what you believe. 

In one of the most watched TED Talks of all time, Simon Sinek (2009) asserts that you don’t want to attract everyone to your work, just those who connect with the meaning behind what you do:

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract people who believe what you believe...

All the great and inspiring leaders and organisations in the world  all think, act and communicate in the same way and it’s the complete opposite to everyone else. Inspired leaders think from the inside out... they start with ‘the why’.”

[Sinek’ golden circle]

3. So why aren’t more creative people able to articulate ‘the Why’?

Creative practitioners are instinctive, often visual thinkers and analytical in how we develop creative concepts through an internal process that rarely has to be articulated externally. When we are asked to talk about our work, our thought process is hard to verbalise. Often it’s a 3rd party - a curator, gallery, agent - that helps collate “the why” into a shape we can live with - that is, if they even get past the what and the how. This is usually in the form of an artists bio, often speaking about the creator in the 3rd person - with the artist themselves posed as a relatively mysterious and elusive entity that we can’t quite reach.

Knowing the why is complicated and articulating the why is uncomfortable. Agreed.

The irony in this whole scenario is that what you do and what you create is the very product of what you believe - the same internal and philosophical process that’s the hardest thing to articulate. As artists and creative practitioners, what you do - what you create - simply acts as proof of what you believe. If you can learn to articulate your beliefs - your WHY - you will inspire others to believe what you believe and it is only then that people can truly connect with your work.

Simply put. You make work - that’s great. So why should people care about it?

3. How to start with the WHY?

Well that’s the hard part. I challenge you to find a great artists statement that started with WHY the artist makes the work. It’s the most important question to tackle and the one that’s left unanswered nearly all of the time. 

This process isn’t easy and creatives can compare the process of being able to communicate the why as “being stuck in the bottle and not being able to read the label”. I’m going to give you a framework to help you talk about why you do what you do and why people should care.

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