Taking the first step to start a creative business is not an easy one, especially if you’ve always been an employee. The thought of leaving a steady income can make anyone uneasy.
The good news is, you can plan your business before jumping all in.
There are many methods to starting from scratch. The two most popular ones are to either go all in or to side gig until it’s safe. The proponents of the first idea of going all in keep it simple. They believe that you can’t find a successful business with a part-time CEO. That to do it right is to dedicate all your time and energy into this. This is the “hustle crew”.
Those who believe the latter think it’s foolish to go all into an industry if you know nothing about it. If you’ve never worked for yourself, paid your own taxes, or hired someone- it would be best to wait until you’ve got everything put together.
I will talk about this more in another post, but for now, you should go based on your own ideals. If you feel like you’re being forced to do something, you will not succeed.
Freelancer or Entrepreneur?
First, you need to figure out what you want to do. A lot of people start out as freelancers and later become entrepreneurs. Others make great money and stay as freelancers. Some like to jump into becoming entrepreneurs from the beginning.
What’s the difference between a freelancer and an entrepreneur?
The easiest way to explain it is the way they earn income.
A freelancer gets paid when she works, and when she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid. Simple enough. It’s the same as having a typical 9-5 job where you’re paid for when you show up. The benefit here is that as an independent contractor, your client cannot tell you where and when to work. You call the shots as long as you’re in communication and deliver the service on the agreed time.
A focus on a freelance career can make you very successful. You’ll learn how to price your services competitively and what kind of client to choose. The more work you put in, the more you’ll have to show for it. Then you can continually raise prices until you’re satisfied.
The hardest part is finding clients. But once you start building a reputation, those references will start picking up.
An entrepreneur makes money from different aspects of the business. You make money while at work and away from work. Not to confuse this with passive income, which is sometimes an aspect of entrepreneurship, but not the definition of it.
It is definitely a goal of entrepreneurs for the company make money without them. This is a result of the work they put in beforehand to build processes.
Can the business scale? If the answer is yes, then you’re an entrepreneur. If you see it being a one-man show that can’t survive without you putting in the manual work, then you’re a freelancer.
There is no right or wrong answer. Whichever creative business model you choose, you can always change it later.
Choose a Specific Industry
Make it really specific if you can. Why? Because a specialty will get you the audience you want and it will make loyalty skyrocket.
Think about your favorite artists or entrepreneurs. They all have something they’re known for. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer, then maybe your specialty is infographics or marketing material. If you’re a musician, you wouldn’t put out an album that had country, hip-hop and classical in one place. If someone discovers your country song, they’ll get disappointed when there are no more like it (which was the whole reason that person was interested in the first place!).
People aren’t into “catch-all” business people. They go to different people for different things. If you want a rustic wedding and you’re looking for a photographer, you would probably look for those who’ve shot weddings in that style. You wouldn’t hire an urban fashion photographer.
If you can find a niche that has demand, there’s your answer to your creative business.
Research and Prepare
Find people who teach others how to do what you want to do! This isn’t always an easy list to create. You’ll want a couple of people who teach different things. Don’t have too many experts in one subject.
For example, if you want to be a freelancer, find someone who teaches how to get the best clients. And stop there once you’ve found the one.
Next, find someone who is experienced in the skill you’re specializing in. Find another graphic designer who creates a lot of infographics for marketing and promotion. Use them for inspiration, never to copy. Bonus points if you can find one who also teaches you their techniques like an article or class on how to create compelling infographics.
Are you trying to create a creative business that can scale? Find a serial entrepreneur who is teaching others how to validate their business idea. And stop there again.
One of each is the key. If you do too many, you’ll lose focus. If you see their success, that’s enough reason to listen to them and give it a try.
Brand Your Creative Business
Branding is a big topic and I can talk about this in multiple posts. To have a brand is to have a business personality.
List all the things you want to do, keywords that come to mind, your style, etc.
Then, try to make an informative but concise sentence with everything your creative business is about.
See how I didn’t mention a logo? Because that’s not what branding is about. Though a logo is important, it is not the first step when creating a brand you care about. Do not create a logo until you’ve defined everything well and you’re completely happy with it.
As a designer, I have to vouch for others and say that when the time comes, you need to invest in your brand design. Yes, you can absolutely go in Fiverr and pay someone $5 for a logo. It won’t be great, though. The amount of time it takes to research, brainstorm, make a mood board, draft, revise, and edit is a lot longer than 5 dollar’s worth. Us creatives can usually spot something cheap, and no one likes cheap!
Tell the World
Planning is only the beginning of creating a business. Now you need to be found, so you should be everywhere. Make a list of all the social media platforms out there and see which ones are relevant to you. There’s no harm doing them all and figuring out later what to leave out.
No matter where you start, you need to be making content in some form. Whether it’s writing, posting your illustrations, etc, you need to be doing this consistently.
Make people notice. And people won’t notice if you don’t have anything to show!
There are so many other steps you can take, but this is a good start to defining the creative business you want. Let me know if I left something out that you think is a crucial step in the planning stages.
ARE YOU STILL UNSURE?
Every month, I set aside some time to talk to people about their creative businesses. We go over branding and business planning.
If you have an idea but don’t know how to start, I can help you along the way.
Schedule a consultation session with me for free.
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