I first started my adventure of running a creative business 10 years ago. I had recently graduated from Fashion School and after a few months in temporary industry job, found myself struggling to find more work. So when I discovered Etsy and the world of blogging, I didn’t hesitate to start my own business and put my work out there. I learned a lot that year and continue to learn in an ever-evolving online marketplace.
After having 2 kids, I found myself losing touch a bit with the online business world, and the old ways of doing things were not enough if I wanted to keep pursuing my business and also find a way to fit it in with two small boys running around me all day.
So this year I fully immersed myself into the online entrepreneurial world and soaked up as much as I could and started making big changes, for this new decade and chapter of my business.
As the year inches closer to the end, I thought I’d share some of the key things I have learned this year for creating and running a successful creative business. If you are just starting out in the online business world or like me, feeling left behind and needing to take things in a new direction to grow, these tips should head you down the right path.
So these are my essential ingredients for business success.
GET SERIOUS ABOUT YOUR BRANDING
If you want to treat your business like a business and not a hobby, you need to take the time to create your brand experience. This includes the visual style of your brand, such as logos and graphics. Also your copy and your brand voice, the way you speak and the words you use and don’t use. Branding is also about the overall experience you create. This is something I am still working on as I plan packages, but it is all about considering every touch point a person has with your business and how you want that to look and feel. Branding is essentially how people feel about your business. So you need to consider what you would like people to feel and how you can create that in a consistent way that communicates to and attracts your ideal customer.
If you need help with defining a style for your Brand, try my free email course to get some clarity.
TAKE THE TIME TO PLAN
I have a naturally scattered mind, with scraps of paper and ideas and to-do lists. I have been trying to train myself to plan better, as the more you plan in an organised way, the more time you save, the better you can focus and the more likely you are to reach your goals.
You can achieve so much more and be more time efficient if you just plan.
The best tool I started using is Asana, it makes it easy to plan and track projects and all the things I need to do in my business. Other systems you could try are Trello, Airtable or a good paper planner like ‘Pure Profit Planner‘ or ‘Conquer Your Year‘.
LEARN FROM THOSE FURTHER AHEAD
Having someone or a few people who are further along in their business and can guide you, give you advice and help you will make a big difference and save you a lot of time and worry. Not to mention hours trying to figure something out that just doesn’t seem to be making your business grow. Getting help and guidance can come in different forms depending on the style that works best for you. It could be finding a business or industry related coach or mentor to work with one on one. It could be joining a group coaching or mentorship program.
If there are certain areas of your business that you find you need help in or want to focus on improving, enrolling in online courses with experts in those areas can really help, especially if the teacher provides support, so you can ask questions and get help as you go along. There are a lot of course out there, so I suggest before getting caught up in the marketing hype, to really look at what areas of your business you need help with and then seek out courses that provide the best support and learning you need.
When I first started up my Etsy store back in 2007, I also started a blog. I had never heard of the term ‘content marketing’ but I thought blogging to blog would help me share my work, connect with other creatives and give me and my business a voice online to help get my name out and for people to get to know me. I am so glad I did because it really was the cornerstone for getting myself known, social media was in its baby days them and so blogging was a big way to connect. As social media grew I began to wonder if blogging was dying, comments began to drop and the community that once existed around it seemed to move towards things like facebook, twitter and Instagram.
But I soon discovered that blogging is not dead, it has just changed and evolved. Where once short posts worked, now people wanted longer in-depth posts where they can really learn something, not just get a quick update. And there are other ways to create content too to connect with people, show your knowledge and get your name out. And these are using video or audio. It could be by having a youtube channel, having blogs or audio embedded as extra into your blog posts or by hosting a podcast.
Which ever way you choose to go, pick a way that is comfortable for you and you feel you can commit to, so as you can be consistent, and something you feel your audience will enjoy. If your audience commutes they may like audio best, if they are readers they may prefer to read a blog post, or if they like face to face connection, video may be better received. You can always grow and do all of them, but start with what you know you can commit to.
Then utilize that content to create social media snippets, pull out quotes and short takeaways to share on your social media platforms, so one piece of content can generate many touch points with your audience.
MANAGE YOUR FINANCES
As creatives, it can be easy to just want to get on with the creative side of our business, but tracking numbers and bookkeeping are important. Number help us see what is and isn’t working in our business and easily see where our money goes. If you want to avoid tax time stress and want to be able to send off invoices quickly to get paid and get back to creative work, it really helps to have good accounting tools. Tools like QuickBooks invoicing can make it so much easier to send and track invoices. I also use Wave to track numbers. As someone who just kept folders of hand tracked numbers, and receipts, moving to accounting services, really makes the whole thing a lot less stressful and far easier to maintain.
Automation is popping up everywhere. My husband used to work in a mine as an electrician, and part of his job was helping set up automation. As technology improves the more tasks can be done by machines, particularly laborious repetitive and time-consuming jobs that take up time that could be better used, using our creative minds which computers don’t have. Utilizing automation in your business can make a big difference in saving you time and increasing your reach. It allows you to be more visible and stops you wasting time on repetitive tasks.
This can include automated emails, for delivering freebies or letting people know when you are not in the office. It can automate sending out social media updates so you can batch them up and spend less time messing about on social media. And automation can be used in your workflows to streamline the way you work and automate the tasks that are done again and again.
I started using Tailwind to automate Pinterest, and have already seen huge traffic growth by using it. I use Later to schedule Instagram, Recurpost for twitter and Hootsuite for facebook. For email, I use Active Campaign. There is also Zapier and IFTTT for connecting tools and automating actions to happen when an event occurs.
BUSINESS BUDDIES AND COMMUNITY
It is no fun going at it alone as a business owner. Having business buddies, a mastermind or being part of like-minded communities can really help spur you on and have people to help you’re out and bounce around ideas with. Creating valuable friendships, connections and relationships.
This can be found in free communities such as Facebook groups, slack communities, forums and twitter chats.
You can also meet people offline by attending live events, conferences and meetups.
Or you can join paid communities, which are usually in the form of a membership site which has a leader who will provide some training, but the community is a huge aspect. there are also paid masterminds, where you are with a small group of driven business owners supporting one another and the leader provides extra guidance and support.
When you join a paid community over a free one, you will find you get a lot more accountability and support, and because all the people in there are paying, they are all serious about their business and so you are surrounded by driven people who really build you up and care about you, and being smaller groups, you get to know each other well and know each. others businesses you can better help one another along.
This year I joined a mastermind hosted by Visibility Expert, Michelle Lewis. It’s a small group of passionate women, who want to make a difference and grow our businesses and get more visible. We are looking out for more lovely ladies to join us, so if it interests you, you can learn more here.
Or you could also always team up with some business buddies and form your own mastermind or meet up events.
DIVERSIFYING YOUR INCOME
If you want to scale your business and spend less time trading time for money and be able to reach more people, adding extra income streams can really help you do this.
This could include creating digital products, physical products, licencing, courses, membership sites, group programs, workshops or live events, affiliate marketing, sponsorship, shows or exhibitions, writing a book.
It is best not to overwhelm yourself but slowly work on and add extra streams that fit with what you want to do, your business and what your audience wants, so you can scale and have more to offer.
GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST
I started an email list in 2010, as it seemed a good idea to connect with all my past customers and blog readers and let them know I was now moving into fulltime freelance work and was available. I would send out a pretty email once a month, which I spent far too much time designing, so as things got busier the emails dropped off. I always noticed that sending emails to a lot of attention, but it wasn’t until this year I learned just how important and powerful they are in marketing, growing your audience and nurturing them. So take the time to grow and nurture your email list, because social media changes all the time, but your list is yours, and they are the people who want to hear from you.
WORK ON YOUR MINDSET
Finally, this year I learned just how important it is to work on your mindset if you want a blossoming creative business. You need a mindset for growth. You need to feel positive about yourself and your abilities. The more confident you feel and the more you believe in yourself and you’re worth the easier it is to grow as a person and a business. It is important to take care of yourself and rest when needed, so you don’t burn out. Working on the areas you struggle in and pushing past fears will make a big difference in your business.
Let me know what you learned this year about growing your business and anything that made a big difference in allowing your creative business to blossom.