Cathy Heller (@cathyheller) is a DIY musician, licensing guru, and creator and host of popular podcast Don’t Keep Your Day Job, on a mission to offer real tools and insight to help others find a sense of purpose and newfound fulfillment in their work.

What We Discuss with Cathy Heller:

  • How to coax creativity from yourself by engaging in activities that provoke emotion.
  • What makes the difference between indulging in a creative hobby and creating work that others are willing to pay for.
  • Branding yourself as a creative in a way that’s effective and profitable.
  • How creatives can market in a way that doesn’t contradict their brand.
  • How to pitch to non-creatives in a way that isn’t a time sink.
  • And much more…
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When you’re trying to make it as a creative force in any industry, you have to know how your skills can be applied in a way that they’re useful to people who can pay you — otherwise, you’re just a hobbyist. But you also have to strike the right balance without selling out what you consider to be your artistic integrity.

Cathy Heller moved to Los Angeles to make it as a musician, but it took her a while to find this balance and discover how she could be of use to Hollywood instead of assuming creating art for art’s sake and her own reasons would pay the bills. In addition to being a licensing machine with her songs being played in your favorite movies, television shows, and commercials, Cathy is the creator and host of popular podcast Don’t Keep Your Day Job. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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If you already live a busy life, you might find that being creative is time consuming — or needs to be coaxed by engaging in activities that provoke emotion. Don’t Keep Your Day Job creator and co-host Cathy Heller recommends going for walks, spending time away from your phone, visiting museums, meditation, and journaling as outlined in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

“It’s important to cultivate creativity…creating a space where you’re writing in a journal — even if your hand’s just writing ‘I have nothing to write’ and just keep writing, after a while you will find that you have stuff in there to say and it starts to come out. Over the course of four days or 12 days or six months you start to see patterns of things you keep talking about and you’re like, ‘Wow. I don’t really stop to even really know myself.’

“People are very precious about their identity — ‘This is who I am,’ and ‘This is who I am not.’ Do we really even know? We’re so much more multifaceted and multidimensional and I think we just want so much to have control and to be able to put ourselves in this box, this very tight, precious little neat thing. Because there’s this unknown that is a little scary, but it’s also exciting.”

Sometimes what we initially create may not be up to our standard of excellence. Cathy drew an analogy to cultivating creativity after a long period of stagnation as akin to turning on the water at a cabin that hasn’t been occupied for a while and finding that it runs rusty brown. If we’re aware that it just takes some time before the clear water returns, we can dismiss its initial murk.

Cathy mentions the bottleneck of not feeling worthy or capable in our endeavors, often referred to as impostor syndrome. Seth Godin once suggested to Cathy that any successful endeavor has “radical empathy” at its core.

If we lack this radical empathy and succumb to the self doubts of imposter syndrome, we run the risk of never discovering how the world might make use of us — we never connect with a potential audience by recognizing what it needs, getting caught up instead in what we think we want.

Cathy came to California in search of a career in the music industry, but it came about in a way that she hadn’t initially planned. Traditionally, she assumed she would be signed to a recording contract, and that would continue on in perpetuity. When it didn’t work out that way, she pivoted. She started a podcast, she started a talent agency, and she started teaching because that was what the market was looking for.

“When I went back to music,” says Cathy, “I put in the radical empathy…the difference between a hobby and a business, I realize, is other people. If it’s a hobby, do whatever you want and enjoy it, and more power to you. But as soon as you’re like, ‘I would love to make dollar bills from doing this so I can pay mortgage and buy sushi,’ well, somebody else is going to pay you that, so they need to be involved.”

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about how Cathy learned to play the licensing game to get her music used in Hollywood productions, how Cathy’s idea of success differs from what it was when she began, how Cathy learned to let go of what she wanted from the world and understand what the world needed from her, what Cathy considers the new hustle, and much more.


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