Is there anything more rewarding than when your creativity (just doing your “thing”) becomes more than just a hobby? It doesn’t matter what that thing is. It could be portrait photography, written content, designer lingerie, colorful cupcakes, or whatever reveals your creative side.
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Do what you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” From many perspectives, this saying is true. However, be realistic when you see this phrase on motivational posters, especially at the beginning of your journey to build a small business. As many as 90 percent of startups fail if they are driven only by passion and love.
You have two choices: Create amazing things and sell a few here and there, or dive deeper, make a thorough business strategy, and turn your passion into a profitable and soul-fulfilling business. That’s it. If you chose the second option, below are ten steps that will help you take your “thing” to the next level and challenge you to start on the right foot.
What is a Creative Business?
A creative business is a business whose primary asset is the original work. Every business creates something — a product, an original work, a service. But where the creative industry is concerned, the business owner needs to pay special attention to using creative work as a central element.
Entrepreneurs are called “creatives” who offer creative services or products with artistic value. Although “creative” is the main adjective used to describe this type of business, it requires more than creativity as a driving force. A successful creative business also requires a connection between the creativity of the entrepreneur or “creative” and a positive response from potential customers, which can be achieved through a profound planning process.
For a creative business to succeed, the entrepreneur should invest in building a brand, corporate culture, relationships with clients, and, of course, the primary asset — the creations. Although this applies to any business, these four things have extra power when applied to creative businesses.
Legal Advice for Opening a Creative Business
Make it legal. This isn’t even a step but a foundation of any business for creatives. In case anything bad happens, your want to shield your personal finances and assets. The following handy checklist will help you ensure you and your creative business are legally safe and sound:
- Think about your business structure (legal entity). What’s the best option — a self-employed sole proprietor (a perfect opportunity to start online business ideas from home), a not-for-profit company, or a commercial enterprise? You will need to choose a legal entity and set it up officially. One of the most common options is a limited liability company (LLC). Suppose you don’t set up a separate official business. In that case, you and your business will be considered the same entity, and you (and your bank account) will be personally liable for everything that happens in the business. Your personal assets will be considered the company’s property. Other possible business structures include partnerships, corporations, and S Corporations (S Corp).
- Get a business license (if required). If you choose a sole proprietorship business structure, you may also need a business license. However, this depends on your state. While some regions require a business license, you’re automatically a sole proprietor as a creator.
- Trademark your brand. Get this exclusive right to use your company name, logo, or tagline safely. Once your business starts growing, other companies may pop up with similar branding. Unfortunately, this is a competitive reality. With a registered trademark, however, you will ensure that you’re the only one who can legally use your mark and prevent expensive and time-consuming lawsuits.
- Get legally set with your creative business contracts. The legal principle that can help to ensure 100 percent safe business management and relationships is to have a clear understanding in writing. From Trademark Licensing Agreements to Brand Ambassador Contracts, stay protected at every step of growing your business by structuring these documents correctly.
The best idea is often to have an attorney prepare industry-specific contracts. However, downloading the Lawrina Creative Business Template Pack is a great starting point to cover unexpected matters that may arise and streamline your document creation processes. Either way, be sure to have legally-binding contracts in place to minimize potential risks.
10 Steps How to Start a Creative Business
The following steps will help you to get a clear vision of where to start and to make it all happen:
1. Research your market
It doesn’t matter how unique or creative your product is. The number one reason new businesses fail is from misreading market demand. Most first-timers at entrepreneurship skip over this part because it’s such a boring, seemingly unnecessary step. However, investing your time in profound market research can bring long-term benefits to your business. Answer the following questions:
- What is the demand right now for my product/service?
- Why would multiple people want it?
- Which jobs will my product/service do for them?
- What do they get from me that they can’t get from someone else or something else?
The answers will help you to see where the market is for your creative start-up.
2. Write down a vision (and revise it regularly)
After you have done the market research, you are ready to write down a clear vision, starting from your mission statement and goals divided into milestones. This is the ideation process creative people usually enjoy. What do you want to do with your business when thinking about the end result? Here’s a list of questions to answer to get a more precise vision:
- What is the ideal end result?
- What does my ideal customer look like?
- How do I get the desired result?
Always remember to come back to your vision and review it often. Also, make sure that your team is driven precisely by the same ideas.
3. Track every dollar spent
The second reason many new businesses fail is because of insufficient funding. From the very beginning, keep track of your expenses, mileage, and income so you will be ready for tax time. The best solution may be to hire a professional accountant. However, there are many apps available that can make the process of managing your finances easier.
4. Treat every customer like a million-dollar client
Some startups fail because they cannot address customers’ needs efficiently. In creative businesses, everyone who loves art or anything handmade is your potential customer. You will need to build a relationship and foster a community of advocates who know you and trust your business. When you have built that relationship, the selling process will be easy because you already have their trust.
5. Create a brand
Creating a brand for your creative business is much more than just creating a logo or a business card for your business. Your brand is your visual identity. The word that matters the most here is consistency. Make sure to keep the same style while working on your branding. Also, make your visual business identity stand out among competitors. Sometimes, it’s about rich graphic design, and sometimes it’s about being as minimalistic as possible.
6. Find the Right people in the right place
Business is always about the people. You may have only three people on your team at the beginning. However, it’s still a team that needs sufficient communication and a healthy working environment to embrace creative business ideas and make your business succeed.
7. Invest your time & money in marketing
Once you’ve figured out your market, product offering, and brand, you are ready for a marketing strategy. It’s time to get your product and business noticed. The first step is to create a sound website with an appealing landing page. SEO-optimized content will attract more traffic. In addition to the website, there are three important parts to every successful digital marketing strategy — content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.
8. Set the right priorities and smart time management
You have only 24 hours in a day (for both personal and business plans). So, once you have your list of goals, you will need to prioritize daily tasks to move toward your ultimate business goal. Breaking down larger jobs into bite-size chunks (for yourself and your team) can help to ease pressure and improve focus. Also, make sure that every goal has a specific deadline to meet.
9. Ensure Income Diversity
Creating diversity is an important step for every new entrepreneur. With different streams of income, you will be better able to keep your business sustainable. Affiliate marketing is one option to consider to earn a commission by simply promoting the products or services of another seller.
10. Refine, tweak, and improve along the way. Always.
This final step relates to all the previous nine steps. As your business grows, remember that your work will never be done. You will need to continuously learn from each step to tweak and make improvements as you go. For instance, your ideal customer may change over time, as well as the market demand. Your marketing strategies that worked at a specific time might stop working. The more you learn and the more open you are to refining your business practices, the better your chances will be for success.
Even if you start a creative business driven by passion, you’re likely to face challenges and responsibilities that will not be enjoyable, especially at the beginning. Don’t worry. It’s completely common to love your job but still feel like it’s hard work. There’s no such thing for any business as overnight success (unfortunately). With these ten steps, you’ll be ready to start selling your “magic.” You are 100 percent capable of whatever you set your mind to if you have a thoroughly planned business strategy and know what to do, step by step. Now is the perfect time to start.