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5 Secrets to Growing a Profitable Creative Business (while working 3 days a week)

Q/A – My best Business Advice for Creatives Just Starting Out

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Just recently I put up a question box in my instagram stories for creatives who are just starting a business or are thinking about starting a business. I asked them what they would like to know or learn from me in a podcast. I got so many great responses from this, so I decided to turn this episode into a Q/A. I’m going to directly answer 5 questions that came through from different creatives in the trenches who are trying to figure out what to do as they’re just starting out. So if you’re new to business and you’re in the same boat, I think you’re going to really enjoy this episode. And the first question comes from Heather. 

QUESTION ONE: WHEN TO START?

Heather – “My main struggle is to know when to start… I know lots of people start a business on the side and then quit their full time job once it gets going, but I find it so hard and exhausting to have my brain in two places at once! I sometimes think it would be better to just make the leap but it’s so scary” 

You are not alone! This is such a great question to ask & I get asked this a lot. As someone who also worked my day job while trying to get my side hustle off the ground, I can relate! There is no right or wrong answer to this question. I think it solely comes down to the individual and the circumstances you find yourself in. I personally came up with a business idea during a holiday, then continued at my job for another year while working on my business idea on the side. After working for a year, then took the leap to go into it full time. My business was nowhere near ready to bring me an income that replaced my teaching job, but I was mentally ready to take on the challenge, and my health was telling me I needed a change too. I am very grateful that I had a husband who was bringing in a wage and could support me during the first 6-12 months of not making any money in my business (that is always a factor to consider…you have to survive)!

Fundamentally, starting a business is taking a risk. It’s spending time & money, with the chance that it will not be returned to you. That’s just a fact. At some stage, you do need to just take the leap. And, actually, there is something motivating about quitting your secure job and starting a business. The necessity to make money from your business increases and this motivates you into action. It’s this type of action that will propel your business forward. Having the security blanket of a job is not just going to eat up your time, but is going to have you sitting in your comfort zone with your business. In your comfort zone, is where your business doesn’t grow. You have to keep pushing yourself for your business to succeed. 

It was pure determination, for me, that really propelled my business forward into an actual, money-making business. I was determined to replace my teaching wage and I knew that I couldn’t sit around making no money. 

“One of the most underrated secrets to success is to start before you’re ready” Marie Forleo.

Now, if you have no option but to work and pursue your dreams on the side, then I have a few tips for you. 

  1. Simplify and focus.  Confucius says, “The man who chases two rabbits, catches neither”. Your time is precious, so make sure you focus on what really matters and what will move your business forward. Marie Forleo says, “Simplicity and focus keep a side hustle from becoming a pushed-aside hustle”. I believe this!
  2. Set aside time to work on your side hustle each day. Ask yourself, what is the one task I need to do today to keep things moving forward?  Set yourself a timer for 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 90 minutes (whatever you can give) and spend that time working on your side hustle. Keep working on that same task/project/idea until it is complete. Don’t jump around between ideas, you’ll never get anything done. If you’d like some extra help figuring how to map out your ideas in a simple project plan. Check out my  “Beautiful Year” course. This course helps you get clarity on what you should be doing inside your business and helps you break down your dreams into goals and actionable steps.

QUESTION TWO: HOW MUCH SHOULD I SPEND? 

Shelli – “How much you should spend on your business when you’re first starting out? How do your gauge if your business will take off or be a flop? The idea of spending too much money on something that doesn’t take off makes it almost too scary to jump in” 

There are two parts of this question, “How much should I spend?” and “When should I call it quits”

How much should I spend?

This is a great question and I really think this comes down to the individual, however, I’m a firm believer that you can start your business on a shoe-string budget. For a creative (service based) business, I wouldn’t spend anymore than $5,000 right out of the gate. Obviously every business is different so you may need to increase or decrease this amount. But, if you wanting a figure from me – that would be it! If you don’t have any money, totally fine. You can spend as you earn. If you’re already getting some clients, you might want to decide to put the money from the next 5 jobs straight back into investing in your business. In my floristry business, I still personally put aside 20% of my income to invest into my business. 

If you have a business idea or would like to start a business, I would start putting aside a sum of money that you feel comfortable with and labelling it “business”. Talk to your partner about this and come to an agreement on an amount that you’re comfortable with. Also decide what percentage of your revenue you’ll put back into your business. For my floristry business it was 20%, but for my online business I have put every cent back into my business for 12 months now. There is no one size fits all, you have to work out what works best for you, your family & your particular business.

When I was starting my business, my husband had just lost around $20k in the stock market. We had shares that made us around $75k and then the business we invested in went kaput and we lost over $20k that we had put in. We were used to investing money & losing it. So my husband saw my  business like that too, we’ll invest money and if we lose it, that doesn’t matter. That’s business. We had the mindset of you win some, you lose some. But you have to be willing to lose some, to be able to win. 

So I think you do have to be prepared to invest money into your business, but only invest what you’re comfortable with, because you can do a lot of things on a shoestring budget.

Where I would recommend spending money when you are starting out, is branding. And I don’t mean a logo necessarily. I wouldn’t spend 1,000s of dollars on just a logo, because you can find a simple font to use for your business logo to begin with. But I would think about the visuals in your business and how you can invest in them. For example, photography. Get some brand photography done and a website created. Professional images and a professional website not only make you look legit to your ideal customers, but make you feel legit. 

I would also look into investing into education. This still is the best money I’ve ever spent in my business. I wouldn’t have a podcast now, if I didn’t invest in educating myself. Everything I know & can share, has come from a result of investing into education.

When should I call it quits?

I would at least give your creative business a good 12 months of full time investment before you call it quits. But you have to decide this for yourself and what is best for you. For me, I wasn’t ready to give up after 12 months of not really making any money! And most businesses take years to become successful. However, if you are completely drained and unhappy in your business after 12 months, call it quits.

QUESTION THREE: WHAT SHOULD I SELL?

Nikki – How do I identify what “product” I should sell & how do I advertise my business and connect with my intended audience?

How to identify what you should sell? 

  • If you are struggling to figure out what you should or shouldn’t sell, I would write down all of your ideas on a piece of paper and then I would brainstorm the pros & cons of each of your ideas. 
  • Once you’ve done I want you to identify which idea sparks the most joy (Marie Kondo style). But not only the one that sparks joy, but the one that you know there is also a market for (people actually will buy it). Because that’s the thing that is going to make you money. 
  • But remember, “You don’t have to get it right, you just have to get it going” (Mike Litman). A lot of people can get stumped right at the beginning stages of their business because they’re too scared to lock themselves into something. If you’re already creating something or you’re passionate about something – just put it out there. You can change things later on. Your business is something that evolves. A business is always evolving. Allow yourself to make mistakes or to even have regrets. It’s all part of it. You will get more clarity with time. 
  • Market research – what do people want? Interview a few people. Test a few things. See what flies and what doesn’t fly. What does your market need or want from you?  You probably won’t know the answers straight away and that’s ok. 

How to establish your business/advertise?

  • Content is king. Consistently create content on social media. Without content, you won’t have a presence, and people won’t know you exist. 
  • Then socialise! Interact with others. Don’t expect people to interact with you, if you don’t interact with them. 
  • Reach out to people who might share your work – friends, family, other social media accounts. 
  • Get clients to share what you’ve done for them on their social media accounts
  • Have a competition online. 
  • The beginning stages are scrappy! Get scrappy. Put yourself out there in whatever ways your mind imagines up that is appropriate to the business you’re starting. 

QUESTION FOUR: WEBSITE

Ruth – I’m struggling to know what is necessary to display on a website and what can be built upon/added in later as growth happens. What would you suggest?

FIVE ELEMENTS

  • Business Name & slogan. (a clear one sentence message about what your business is about. Nothing fancy, clever or poetic. Just clear, simple & obvious). I recommend looking at the Story Brand website to get ideas. 
  • A great professional photo of yourself or something relevant to what you do.
  • One Lead Magnet – freebie – that people can get if they sign up to your newsletter
  • About me – check out episode number 12 with Elise Hodge on How to Write a Compelling About Me Page. 
  • Outline services (pricing optional)

Bonus/Optional – Blog

QUESTION FIVE: DETERMINE YOUR UNIQUE STYLE

Jennifer – How do you find your own style and voice in an industry with competitors?

  • Write down your values, let them steer the direction of your business. Don’t compromise. 
  • Start talking about these values, opinions, ideas in your social media posts. Allow people to get to know you & who you are. Be unapologetic about yourself. 
  • Explore creativity outside of your competition and industry, particularly your local competition. When I was in floristry I was inspired by florists from other parts of the world that had a style that I wasn’t seeing in my local area. These styles inspired my work. My work became an amalgamation of different styles I was seeing. 
  • I also loved art and creativity in general, so I would be inspired by different things I saw in a kinfolk magazine that was unrelated to floristry or in a country style magazine that had pictures of a garden. I think all creatives, just need to feast on creativity and see what your mind dreams up.
  • When I first started floristry I remember thinking that I wanted to get training to figure out how to put arrangements together. And I remember my friend Sam telling me not to. The reason he encouraged me not to get any training, was because my edge was the fact that what I created was different. If I did some training, my work would end up looking like everyone else’s and I would lose my uniqueness. So when I opted to do any online education, it would be around business, not creativity. The creativity was something that I allowed to evolve and adapt through my own experimentation and I think that kept my work unique.
  • Zig instead of zag. I’m not sure who came up with this idea, I think it may have been James Wedmore. But sometimes we have to do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. If everyone is starting a podcast, maybe you need to start an IGTV channel. Or if everyone is using serif fonts for their logo design, maybe you can use something completely different to spice things up and set yourself apart. Everyone is using soft peaches and pinks in their branding, maybe you want to use blue. I think it’s fun to come up with ways to do things differently to others, but I don’t want you to go too overboard with this either. Don’t just be different for the sake of being different. Be strategic about this. 
  • Sometimes though we worry so much about being unique, that we self-jeopardise. Sometimes the reason everybody is doing something, is because that something works. For example, if everyone is sending their clients a PDF outlining their services in the initial email they send to potential clients, maybe that’s because it works and you need to do that too!

LINKS IN THIS EPISODE

> My  “Beautiful Year” course – how to map out a simple project plan for your business

> The Story Brand website is an awesome place for slogan ideas

> About me – check out episode number 12 with Elise Hodge on How to Write a Compelling About Me Page. 

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