This year marks 10 years of running a creative business and it’s been a ride! I have learned SO MUCH, about business and also about myself.
There have been many amazing moments but, it’s also been tough – especially financially and in terms of not having much time for anything else. This was not the idea – for me, owning a business is an opportunity to build something that can help you achieve time and financial freedom, while serving others.
I’m still on the journey to realising that dream. And I’m still motivated because I’m so much clearer about what I need to do, than I was in the beginning. Back then, I had no clue about the how!
Looking back, there are so many things I could have done differently in these 10 years – that would have brought me better results sooner. I hope that by sharing some of them, I can help you reach your goals faster.
5 things I wish I knew when I started my creative business
I wish I knew the importance of the following 5 things when I was starting my creative business:
I wish I knew the power of figuring out what you want to be known for and letting that guide everything that you do.
How I describe my business; my visual identity; the marketing content I produce; the networking events I attend and professional communities I’m a part of; the experience I create for my clients; even the clients I choose to work with and so much more!
I wish I knew the power of finding your voice and how presenting it well does most of the work of attracting your ideal clients. Basically, I wish I knew all the things I teach in my Soulful Branding course!
I figured this stuff out as I went – often learning the hard way which, involved losing clients, losing opportunities, losing money, and sometimes even losing my cool…
A simple change in how you think about profit can make such a huge impact on how you manage your money. You possibly already do this when it comes to your personal finances – familiar with the envelope system?
Mike Michalowicz breaks it all down, in a very actionable way, in his book, Profit First, which is not only a very informative read but an entertaining one too!
He describes a system for religiously setting aside percentages of all income, for profit, tax and owner’s compensation. A system that forces you to be much more critical about your operating expenses and cut them down. And best of all, a system that works with our human nature, not against it, putting us in a better position to win.
Well-thought-out systems and processes
To achieve the time and financial freedom I desire, my business needs to be a system that can function without me. I have to remove myself from being a bottleneck for everything else to take place.
As tied as we may be to the craft – and our identity as the “artist” – the truth is that, everything can – and should be – systemised. In case that idea scares you – it begins with simply writing down the process to be followed, for every function that needs to be completed in your business.
What happens when somebody is interested in buying from you? What journey do you set out for them – what particular steps does your business take to get them through the journey.
First work out these journeys for everything – marketing, new business, the process of working with a client/serving a customer, what happens afterwards, communication with your team and suppliers, onboarding new team members etc. Consider every area of your business. Then, you can: document these processes; create scripts and templates where possible; see what can be automated; and see what you can delegate.
Multiple income streams
It can be tough to conceptualise how a creative business can function without you, especially if it’s established on the back of your unique style. I get that completely. But we’re creative people who are in the business of using our imagination to find solutions.
One of those is by having multiple income streams, ensuring that a significant proportion of them are passive. Meaning that, you create something once and then sell it over and over again, even while you sleep! This can include physical products (e.g. cards, prints etc.) or digital ones (including online courses and more!).
I realised the importance of this, early on in my business but, it took me many years to prioritise it. In fact, I’m only truly prioritising it now – in this 10th year! Don’t be like me, guys.
Multiple income streams also protects you in the face of uncertainty. 3 of my 6 income streams were rendered non-viable by COVID-19. Of the remaining 3 – 1 is not passive as it involves me trading time for money. This limits what I can achieve because I only have so many hours in the day.
A signature side project
Several of my income streams began life as a side or passion project.
Dedicating time to your side projects can pay in so many ways! These are just some of the ways side projects have helped me:
- Discover my unique voice
- Grow an audience of my ideal clients and customers
- Attract new clients and customers
- Get speaking engagements, interviews and features in the press
- Grow my business revenue
- Create and serve a community of women creatives
- Establish a much-talked-about festival
- Hone my craft
I know this has been the case for other creatives too!
Where do you need to put in work?
If you have all those 5 things sorted – congratulations! I’m sure that you’re reaping the rewards. If you haven’t, you’re not alone. For most of us, these things are an ongoing work-in-progress!
Every day, I’m finding ways to improve upon all of these things. The more I learn, the more I implement, the more my results change (for better!) – the more I’m convinced that, devoting time to these 5 areas is some of the most important work I can do on my business.
I’m sharing these – and more learnings from over a decade in creative business – in more depth, inside SHINE – my learning program for creative business owners.
Stuck at how to monetise your creativity in the first place?
Whether you’re just starting out, or even if you’re more seasoned but struggling to make the living you desire – do this first.