Step 4

The Dreamer’s Manual:
16 Steps to Achieve Your Creative Goals

Step 4: Make a “To Don’t” List

Making a “to do” list is a great way to plan for creative success, but when working toward an important goal, knowing what to avoid is equally as important as knowing what to embrace. So the next time you make a “to do” list,” also consider making a “to don’t” list.

Imagine your goal is to make a living doing art commissions for online customers. One of the items on your “to do” list might be:Figure out what production processes work best when creating art for online clients

After adding this item to your “to do” list, add its opposite to your “to don’t” list:

Figure out what production processes create the worst problems when creating art for online clients

If you only create a “to do” list, your research may uncover the most tried-and-true methods for creating art commissions, but you won’t know what to avoid doing when implementing these processes.

For example, your research might reveal the following method as the best way to create art commissions:

  1. Determine what type of art the client wants and give them a price and time quote
  2. If the client approves your quote, get a deposit for half the final amount
  3. Make a sketch and send it to the client
  4. Make one round of suggested changes to the sketch, then return it to them for approval
  5. After approval is received, create the final artwork
  6. Send the final artwork to the client and invoice them for the remaining balance

Knowing this information is essential, but it’s also worth researching any “horror stories” of what went wrong in this scenario for other artists. Your research might reveal the following information:

  • Clients who refused to pay the remaining balance after final artwork was sent to them
  • Clients who demanded more than one round of changes to sketches, after only one round of changes was agreed upon
  • Clients who took forever to get back to artists on changes to sketches
  • Clients who wanted to pay less than the agreed-upon amount for final artwork
  • Clients who demanded artists work faster than the agreed-upon timelines
  • Clients who claimed the art created was not what they asked for

If you have advance knowledge of these potential problems, you can better protect yourself against them. The end result of all your research might be that you decide to create a contract at the start of the production process, to help resolve any future issues and to provide documentation that can be used in court, if you ever have to take legal action to get paid.

Every item on your “to do” list should have a corresponding item on your “to don’t” list. Knowing what doesn’t work will strengthen your decisions about what will work, and improve your chances of achieving your goals.

Step 4: Make a “to don’t” list