10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Started My Creative Business
It's hard to believe that this year marks 10 years in my creative business journey! A lot has happened in these short ten years and today I wanted to share some of the things I wish I'd realized a little sooner. Or had had someone a little further forward in their experiential journey to share with me. These things have shaped the women I am today! I believe that we are all in it together and it's my duty to share and support those who follow in our path! After all, what would life be without our community or networks!? For me, those people/creative's/students/makers who are just starting out are why I do what I do. These tips are also useful to anyone who often gets stuck and needs a little reminder of just how far they've come... and continue to grow!
1, There is no right/perfect time to start, you just have to start!
I know so many amazing people and truly talented creatives who do themselves a huge disservice by holding back their gifts and projects because they think they should wait until that perfect moment to start or until their offering is already refined and perfectly packaged up. The truth is this is our one life, one chance to create the career we want to live and there is never a perfect time to take the dive! OK so if you are savvy you can plan certain things like launching your product when it's seasonally appropriate, aligning that workshop with a national event etc or getting feedback from trusted peers. But Just who exactly are you serving by waiting until that perfect moment appears? And how will you even know what that looks like?! If you have an idea or dream to put out there now is the time to get started. Once it's out in the world you will gain more knowledge about the success of that thing, reviews, and areas for improvement will become clear. You will make it work or not, but at least you won't regret having never tried.
2, Dreams are good but actions are better
Like many of my creative peers, I love to make a seasonal/annual vision board to help guide my goals and decision making throughout the year. But what good is a dream if you don't take steps towards achieving it? Actions equal growth. A good way to start is to break it down! I often work backwards from the thing (project/product/event) I want to achieve and create small actionable steps/objectives to help me create a structured plan that I can really get stuck into. Next thing to do is to focus on one thing at a time and you can begin working towards your dream. KISS - Keep It Simple Stupid a good mantra to remember!
3, Connections are there to be made
It's almost unheard of that you bump into that peer or business guru whilst walking down the street. And unless you are fortunate to have had a lucky break straight out of uni (perhaps a sponsorship, talent scout or graduate program) these connections can take years to happen organically. (a little visioning and positive affirmation never go amiss to speed things up!) But in the same breath, these connections might be the stepping stone towards you winning that award or creating the event or product that will secure the future of your career. So get out there and make it happen!
Do the research. An email is a good start but always follow up with a call. Failing that a beautifully written letter with your business card can make a huge impact especially if you are a visual creative. See what's going on locally and attend a networking event - there are some really cool events all over the place and it's easy to avoid the stuffy over corporate kinds I remember getting trapped at as a freelancer. Reaching out to that peer you admire and offering to take them for coffee and a cake is a lovely way to establish a link.
4, Don't spend what you don't have - Finances, time, energy
It's pretty simple really and will save you a whole lot of stress and ill health in the long run. Think about how you can trade skills or products. Look out for grants or funding schemes such as The Princes Trust to apply for. Getting yourself into debt is never a positive option and there are usually ways to work around it. Citizens advice are a good resource as well as your local Chamber of Commerce for business stuff.
Always remember there are a finite number of hours in the day... staying up all night for a week to work on a commission or project won't benefit anyone in the long run. Your health will be damaged and your quality of work will be impacted. Keep topping up those reserves... you'll thank yourself for it later!
5, Join your local girl gang, women's network, Etsy team
Running your business is often hard and daunting especially when you are feeling lost or alone. Seek out local meetups, coffee mornings and online communities! There is no need to do it alone, there are so many people in the same boat wanting to create friendships, support networks and the business community. A quick search online or Facebook should get you started... and if you feel too shy at the start to attend an event, stick to online groups and forums. Just remember not to sit on the sideline! Be active and make connections and friends/business besty's will follow in time.
6, Say no as often as yes
This took years for me to master but was a game changer when I did. Say no to doing things for free, say no working outside of your comfort zone, say no to people who ask too much of you. You are your own boss and you have the power to shape the life you want. Saying no is an empowering practice and helps you create your niche as well as setting the bar for the work you want to put out into the world. Use it wisely is my advice.
7, Being visible is key and makes putting your self out there in the world much easier to do!
Promoting yourself no longer has to be cringy and awkward. These days it's about aligning yourself with your values and sharing a bit about YOU and what you are offerings on a regular basis. Add a call to action and you are half way there! It's a known fact that people buy from people they like, know and trust. So share more of you, your why - the reason you are doing this thing. It will draw the right clients and customers to you like a bee to honey!
8, Failure is an important part of the process
Though at the start it can often feel soul-destroying failing highlights areas for growth and learning when you least expect it. How many of us have written an article or a proposal to then accidentally delete the file... the new version is always better because its the second edit! Test, fail, change and test again. If you don't try you will never know how it works. And if it doesn't work try it again a different way. But NEVER let the fear of failing hold you back!
9, Investing in your business means investing in yourself too.
Running a business isn't just about buying laptops and investing in materials. You are the most valuable asset in your business and also need topping up on a regular basis! Anything from a fancy herbal tea, a craft magazine, an afternoon walk, a massage or a session with your coach. There are all important things that maintain your physical and mental health... which then, in turn, helps build and grow your business. Keep up to date with training to stay inline with your peers, book a day trip to a gallery and soak up some culture. It might not feel like a business necessity but as freelancers, our businesses are built on our lives... so keep yours full and informed with what's going on in the world around you!
10, You already have everything you need inside you...
Sometimes you just need a little help realizing it. It's often hard to see whats in front of us especially when we are feeling tired or overwhelmed. Often the constant noise of social media can leave us unfocused and comparing ourselves desperately to others. Take some time out from that chattering, find a calm and quite space for your own thoughts, ideas and your vision with become stronger and radiate through your decision making! Working with a business besty or mentor - someone outside of the project - is an amazing way to gain objective advice, support and feedback. And remeber even coaches have coaches! Getting support is something we need through the journey of running a business. It keeps us grounded and moving towards that WHY.
11, Kindness costs nothing but has the power to change the world.
12, Growth is uncomfortable but something we all experience
We are all aware of growing pains as a teenager, well something similar happens in business when you have reached a certain level of success or knowledge and you start to grow past that. To up-level and improve your skills you have to push yourself up-to-the-next-level (Of whatever thing that may be) and this can be hard, anxiety inducing, cause you to question your worth and strength... but that is all part of personal and business growth. Some people call it the uncomfortable middle, I think of it as an necessary reminder of just how far you've come! Hang in there it will pass.
If you are a creative business owner, a maker or someone feeling inspired to create their dream career but could do with a little help and support... Book your free 15 minute clarity call with me now and let's chat about how I can help you.