We aim to shed light on the deep mechanisms that keep individual entrepreneurs in the creative and cultural industries motivated in this insecure and fast-paced environment. We collect data through a survey of entrepreneurs working in the Dutch creative and cultural industries (CCI) and examine what motivates these professionals to work in an environment characterized by tough competition. Specifically, we analyse our respondents' self-perceived (creative and entrepreneurial) competences and needs (for autonomy and relatedness) in relation to their motivation to execute creative work. We suggest a reading of our results through the lens of self-determination theory. Our results show that the need for competence is a consistent predictor of an individual's motivation to work in the CCI. Furthermore, we find that although intrinsic motivation is very high among entrepreneurs working in the creative and cultural industries, those who have a relatively high esteem of their creative capabilities do expect external rewards as well. Our study suggests the existence of a trade-off between autonomy and commercial viability rather than one between intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.