25 No-Nonsense Hacks and Insights from 25 + years of Creative Entrepreneurship

Things I wish I had known when I was starting out
25 No-Nonsense Hacks and Insights from 25 + years of Creative Entrepreneurship
Jake McNeill
July 8, 2021
5 min read
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Talent is overrated

Am I Good Enough? 

That’s what’s stopping you from starting, right?

The truth? Everyone is shit in the beginning.

Here’s David Bowie’s first review from the BBC

“Amateur sounding vocalist who sings wrong notes and out of tune…The singer is a cockney type but is devoid of personality.”

Just get started. You’ll be shit in the beginning, but you will get better every day. 


Everyone has it. Some people are just better than hiding it than you are.

High achievers are usually people who channel their insecurities to drive them.

The truth? Imposter syndrome never goes away. And that’s a good thing.

If you’re not feeling it; you’re coasting. 

Nothing of note was ever created in a comfort zone. 


Critical thinking exercises are crucial. You need clarity, focus and direction. 

Without it, you are walking aimlessly. 

You need a defined goal. 

Try Walt Disney’s Imagineering exercise

De-risk your creative business

When starting a creative business it important that you apply a critical thinking exercise to remove assumptions. 

Assumptions are the mother of all fuck ups.

Ask yourself the difficult questions and save yourself time, stress and money trying to fix avoidable mistakes. 

Try the six honest men method


It feels great but perspective changes quickly.

As soon as we reach a goal, we create an even bigger one. It’s the hedonic treadmill.

The truth? True success is the sweet spot between being grateful for what you have achieved and being ambitious for what you haven’t.

If you aren’t grateful for what you have got; you will never be happy with what you get. 

Mental Strength

This is the most important aspect of creativity and entrepreneurship. 

92% of people quit their New Years Resolutions. That’s not a judgement, just a fact.

The top performers in any creative niche are the ones who refused to give up.

This is more important than talent.


Cliched but true nonetheless: If you don’t love what you do you won’t make it. Your heart and soul need to be invested otherwise you’ll quit.

There’s nothing wrong with quitting but if you’re not completely invested you are better off not starting.

Carving out a career as a creator or solopreneur is entirely possible but it is the hardest thing you will ever do.

Lag vs Lead metrics

Creator and entrepreneur success is about systemising your creative process into repeatable steps.

What is your long term goal? (This is your lag metrics)

Reverse engineer it. 

How many newsletters will you need to publish? How many videos will you need to post?

How many live streams? How many downloads of your app?

Then work out what you need to do weekly. 

Post 3 blogs or 1 podcast or 5 live streams or write one page a day.

These are your lead metrics. 

Create a plan and use lead metrics to achieve your lag metrics.

Deciding Vs Wanting

Building a career as a creator is hard. 

It’s a solid struggle. 

Struggle is when you can’t finish your content. Struggle is when you’re too scared to publish the content that you do. 

Struggle is when you overthink everything. 

Struggle is releasing content that doesn’t connect time and time again.

Struggle is investing your self worth in all of the above.

These struggles are all part of the journey. Your icons struggled, too. They decided to keep on struggling and got a bit better year after year. 

Every creator and solopreneur wants success. 

Successful artists and producers decide they are going to be a success — and are willing to pay whatever the price is to do so. 

Mental Contrasting

When planning new projects it’s normal to fantasise about success.

This releases dopamine. The brain can’t differentiate between fantasy and reality. 

The problem? The reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy and you will quit.

You have to visualise all the obstacles you will enviably face and create strategies in advance for overcoming them. 

This is critical. 


The best model is called WOOP

Wish — what goal do you want to achieve?

Outcome — How will you feel when you achieve it?

Obstacle — What are the inevitable obstacles you will face?

Plan — How are you going to overcome those obstacles?

This system has been proven to increase your chance of success by up to 60%

Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say.


It will hold you back. It will stop you from publishing your work. 

And enjoying it when you do. 

Strive for excellence. The difference?

People are happy with they achieve excellence. Perfectionists are never happy even when they achieve excellence. 


People think you need motivation to get started. That’s wrong. You get motivation after you get started.

Just get started.


Don’t write a book. Just start with a page

Don’t edit the whole video. Just start with the intro.

Just get started. You will get motivated and do more. 

Velocity vs Direction

Doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if it’s in the wrong direction. 

See clarity section.


You don’t build an audience you connect with one. The more people you connect with the bigger your audience becomes.

If you move someone emotionally; they will be a fan. 

Make content that moves people emotionally.

Make content that connects.

They will tell their friends about you. 

That is the key to be successful. Your icons simply connect with much more people than you do. 

‘How can I grow my fanbase?’ is the wrong question. 

How can I connect with more people?’ is a better one. 

Want to build an amazing online business?

Start a terrible online business

Fail and iterate

Fail again and iterate

Break-even and iterate

Make a profit and iterate some more

Smash it but keep on iterating.

Amazing online businesses are never finished. 

But, more importantly, just start — and keep on iterating.


There’s no harm in quitting. Sometimes it’s for the best. Sometimes it’s best to not even start.

We all get caught up in the excitement of starting new ventures. We don’t consider the impact it will have on our lives. 

The things that make us happy. 

Time with family?

Time with friends? 

My advice? Do the Stanford University’s Life Design Exercise

I quit the music industry. The stress and burnouts weren’t worth it.

The end no longer justified the means. 


Lots of people think they are burnt out. If it only takes you a long weekend to recover then it ain’t a burnout. 

Full-on burnouts can take up to 2 years to fully recover from. 

Square or Box Breathing

This is the simplest hack to prevent stress and anxiety

The science is clear: deep and regulated breathing hacks your nervous system and kills stress and anxiety. 

This will change your life. No bullshit.

Try it. 

Personal Branding

“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man” Jay Z

We are all personal brands whether we like it or not. Every creator has a personal brand, every entrepreneur and the founder should.

Personal brands can get you a promotion. Can land you your dream job.

It can grow your business. To be an expert in your niche you need to publish content.

Social Chain is the biggest social media agent in Europe. Its worth £250MM 

They turned over £1.5 MM in their first year. 80% of the business came from co-founder Steven Bartlett’s keynotes telling his personal story.


Don’t compare yourself with your heroes highlights. 

Compare yourself with where they started. When they were overwhelmed with self-doubt and insecurities.

When they were shit. 

Everyone is shit in the beginning. See # 1


Money and success are cool but they won’t fulfil you. 

Creative fulfilment

Connecting deeply with your audience and solving their problems will. 

Interested in 1:1 Creative Business/ Personal Branding Strategy Sessions?

I help creators and solopreneurs become famous in their niches. I specialise in:

  • Critical thinking and mental models for clarity and focus
  • Building simple repeatable processes to achieve long term goals
  • Starting new creative businesses
  • Standing out in saturated markets
  • Overcoming creative blocks that are holding you back
  • Turning audiences into superfans

I do discovery calls to see if we’re a good fit.

Cost? $0.00 Commitment? Zero. Time? 30 minutes

More info? Go here

A bit about me

I’m an ex- multi-platinum artist manager. I created strategies and built audiences for artists who sold millions. I’ve challenged myself to write 50 articles in 50 working days. 40 down, 10 to go.

You can read more in the archives here. Find out more information on my website or connect on my LinkedIn

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