11 ESSENTIALS FOR THE CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR
CONGRATULATIONS: YOU'RE STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS!
You're officially a creative entrepreneur. Welcome to the family.
When I first started looking into creating my own business, it took me a few years of trial and error before I came up with a solid business idea and a plan.
One of my biggest mistakes? I didn't invest enough time in research and specificity. I often caught myself unprepared for certain opportunities and floundered when I was given a chance to pitch my ideas. Not to mention that for a long time I couldn't settle on what my business was about!
Those days, thank goodness, are gone. When I hit a roadblock now, I have enough experience and knowledge behind me to move forward.
Now I'm sharing my 11 essentials for starting a creative business to help you on your path to success (+ make sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter for updates on content like this, join me on social media + share this post if you found it helpful.):
This is the starting point. Starting a business is no joke: it takes hard work, resilience, investment, constant learning and perseverance.
Before you embark on your journey, be absolutely certain this is what you want to do. Be committed to one idea at a time. One business will take up enough of your time: you won't possibly be able to handle multiple startups at once.
2. Industry KNowledge
Success relies largely on knowing what's already out there. Take the time to do extensive research of your industry and your current competition. This is where you can start to think of ways you can stand apart: how are you going to be unique? What will you offer that's different and/or better than your competition?
Social media, niche blogs, and professional sites such as LinkedIn are great places to start. Create a spreadsheet of your discoveries for quick access and study.
3. Relevant experience
Relevant experience is a must. If you're trying to build, say, a tech startup, you have to have some knowledge and experience working with technology.
If you're interested in starting a business in a field in which you have no research, get to learning. Take some classes. It's easier than ever to learn with sites such as Udemy, Great Courses Plus, Lynda, and even Audible. Internships or part-time jobs are great ways to gain the hands-on experience that will be invaluable to starting your business. I have interned with the DC Shorts Film Festival and worked for an advertising company and Anthropologie to get media, branding, and advertising experience to take to my own endeavors.
4. A business plan
A plan for the present and future. You need a roadmap for success.
Setting yourself goals and standards of achievement will help you successfully hit each milestone of a growing business. I would suggest taking a business course or investing in a few books if you're absolutely green to business planning. Basic questions include:
- Who does your business serve and what are their needs?
- How do you meet the needs of your consumers?
- How is your business taking a unique approach to solving your consumer's problems?
- What are the day-to-day operations of your business?
- What are your responsibilities? What are your team members' (if any) responsibilities?
- How much will it cost to start your business, and how will you cover this cost in your first year?
5. Badass networking skills
Building your team is about more than your employees. It's also about constantly making new friends in your industry to support your business.
For this, you need badass networking skills. When I say badass, I mean confident. Confidence, believe it or not, accounts for a lot of successful networking.
How do you network confidently? Believe in your business, have your pitch down sharp and ready, and always have your contact info at hand to further your relationship.
Even better, consider offering an incentive for your budding network to follow up and keep in contact. Perhaps you offer a free e-course or a trial of a product. Free stuff makes for fast friends.
6. A support system
Here's where you build your team, both in and outside the office. Your team is the bread and butter of your business. If they're not happy and productive, neither is your business.
Make sure you surround yourself with those you trust, admire, possess the talent and skills to get the job done, and have a great work ethic.
More importantly: treat your team right from the start. I've worked for many a boss that cycled out employees every few months because they didn't know how to respect those who worked for them. Don't make the same mistake.
Outside of your business, make sure you surround yourself with friends and family who support you regardless of success or failure.
One of the best things you can do for the productivity and success of your business is to take care of yourself. If you're not well, you can't perform.
Plan your life for optimal health. There's no shame in indulgence and fun, but focus most of your time around good diet, sleep, and exercise.
Remember: 2.5 cups vegetables and 2 cups fruit a day, at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and break a sweat as much as you can during the week. And water. Get that H20.
Make sure you also map out time for rest and relaxation. We all want to be successful as soon as possible, but burnout does not help you get there.
8. Tough skin and the drive to end all drives
Starting a business is tough. You've got to prepare your mind for constant rejection and failures.
Remember: failures and mistakes are prerequisites to success. Each no means you're only getting closer to your yes. Push forward, and harbor no self-doubt.
One way you can combat the strain of rejections is taking the time to practice self-care. Keep positive affirmations in the places you frequent most. Recount the successes, even if small, you have each day.
Train your mind to see the bad in a positive light. When you do, nothing can stand in your way.
9. A website or online portfolio
Most of us live on the web. Businesses embrace the internet so entirely that some only offer certain products if you buy online.
The web is an amazing source of business. You can reach across the entire world with your products and services and make sales that would probably be impossible without it.
Even if your creative business is in a performance field, your online presence is more important than you know. For example: acting. Casting directors, producers, and all kinds of professionals involved in the film industry search the web for new talent.
In fact, sometimes this is the only chance of meeting these kinds of people: the film industry is famously hard to break into, and these professionals are even harder to get in touch with. Sometimes all you have is your online presence.
I prefer Squarespace. While Wordpress.org may have more customizable features, it's incredibly hard to work with if you're not at least somewhat familiar with code. Squarespace's templates are gorgeous, professional, and so easy to understand and use.
This is actually where I started my study of web design. I wanted to create a unique website when i was still acting in New York City, and turned to Squarespace from a friend's recommendation.
Now I love Squarespace so much that I occasionally help other performers build their Squarespace websites (because Squarespace is that awesome). motleyb is also my work.
At minimum, a website or online portfolio should include:
- A home or landing page (preferably with an email opt-in form for building your network)
- An about page
- A page where you sell products, explain your services, or display your performance chops
- A contact page
Additional pages may include testimonials, a blog, additional media such as product or service video clips, and more.
10. Business cards and other marketing materials
In addition to your website or online portfolio, it's essential to carry marketing materials with you. You never know who you'll meet, and being prepared with your contact information, branding, and website helps to ensure that your growing network keeps in touch.
Here's 10 tips on creating a banging business card from Creative Bloq.
By other marketing materials, I mean any materials that are specific to your industry that could be useful in connecting with other professionals. For example, an actor might carry a mini headshot and resume with them in case they meet a casting director.
11. A social media presence
I wish this wasn't so true, because to be honest, I don't care for social media. Social media drives business more than ever (read this from Fortune).
Think of it this way: your website is your money-maker. This is where the sales are made and the money flows in. Customers, however, don't know you yet. Just like a brick-and-mortar, you've got to go out and get your customers, especially when you first start. Social media is one massive hub of potential customers.
There is an art to creating a great social media presence. I'm still working on this, cause, again...not my strong suit. I have, however, invested in some amazing courses that have helped shape my business perspective of social media. Two of these include Instagram with Intention by Hilary Rushford, and Pinfinite Growth by Melyssa Griffin.
Social media is a part of your business plan. Even if you're already savvy with social media, I would still recommend investing in social media strategy courses to help you successfully implement this aspect of your business.
FURTHER READING: 6 WAYS TO OVERCOME CREATIVE MENTAL BLOCKS
What do you think? Did I miss anything? What are your essentials? Let me know in the comments below!