“Fear and action can exist in parallel. In fact they should. Fear and discomfort typically mean I’m moving in the right direction and that I need to keep going.”

First one out in this interview series is one of my online favourites: writer, webdesigner and course creator Paul Jarvis. If you don’t know him already, it’s about time you meet him.

I adore Paul for several reasons. One, this guy never wastes my time. I have never read an article of his that wasn’t worth reading.

Two, he’s generous. He goes out of his way to help, support and inspire his tribe: creative people who are trying to find their way around freelancing, online business or just being a decent human being. It’s his job, sure, but there are plenty of pretty preachers out there, saying just the right things but not quite walking their talk. I love the practical kindness Paul represents.

Three, he creates seriously useful stuff. Books, courses and newsletters alike. And he’s successful at it, in every meaning of the word, so there’s good reason to watch and learn.

(Also, I have a soft spot for tattoed guys.)

He’d never use those words himself (and he’ll probably call me airy fairy for it), but I think of him as a perfect example of someone doing his heart’s work, making the world around him a little better in the process.


What does living a creative life mean to you?

When I was growing up and going to school, I was told that in order to make something of myself I’d have to making a living being a doctor, lawyer or engineer. For a while I believed that, and followed other people’s goals for myself. I wasn’t happy, fulfilled or even challenged. There’s nothing wrong with those professions, they just weren’t the one I was supposed to (or wanted to) do.

No one ever told me that I could be creative for a living. Seriously!

I quit university the day I realized that I was there because I had been pushed there by well-meaning adults (like my parents and teachers). They held goals they thought I’d want, like getting a useful degree from a great school, above what I actually wanted – which was to go out and learn in the real world. Luckily I got a job offer while in university, making it easier to leave. I never enjoyed or got much from school – not because I was too smart for it (not true), but because I learn better by doing than being taught how to do.

Eventually, I quit that first real job too, and decided to see if I could make it happen – if I could be creative for a living. That was 17 years ago, so I suppose I have.

A creative life is one where I get to flex my creativity on a daily basis and solve problems with solutions I’m required to invent: new designs, new works, new plans.

What do you wish you would have known when you started this work?

That it’s ok to not have the answers. I still don’t have all the answers, not even close. You can even be an expert without all the answers. You just need enough of them to be able to do the work you do and the work that people give you money for.

What trips you up? What kind of resistance do you struggle with the most, and how do you move through it?

Fear did and still does trip me up. When it’s getting into my head, setting up camp, and I believe the stupid shit I tell myself. Like not being good enough to do what I do, being a fraud, not being as good as my peers, that sort of thing.

The only way I’ve found to move through is to not let it dictate action. Fear and action can exist in parallel. In fact they should. Fear and discomfort typically mean I’m moving in the right direction and that I need to keep going. The worst thing you can do is let fear guide the decisions you make.

What are you currently working on that you’re excited about?

My course the Creative Class feels like the crown jewel of my creative work so far. In it, I help creatives who are amazing at what they do get better at business. Because that shit’s hard! But it’s necessary if you want your creativity to support you.


Paul Jarvis is a freelancer evangelist. He writes a popular weekly newsletter and teaches a class on the business of freelancing.

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