What You Really Need to Start a Creative Business
Whether you’re bored at your current job or just want to turn a creative hobby into something more, starting a side hustle or business can be a little intimidating (or a lot). There are so many entry points into the whole (solo)preneur world whether it’s selling your art on Etsy, offering your services as a Virtual Assistant, or freelancing as a designer. Depending on the avenue you pursue you don’t need a whole lot to start a creative business, even if you don’t have the money to invest a lot of up front costs. Today I want to go over the essentials to start out and share my own experiences so far.
A Skill or Service
First things first, you need either a skill or service or product that you want to base your business on. You need to have something to offer others in order to start a creative business. The best way to decide what to focus on at the beginning is to go with something that you are good at and is already in your skill set. This way you can get started quickly and from there you can always adjust and pivot as time goes on and your skill sets change.
For me I’m a graphic designer by trade so I started there while I worked on my hand lettering and calligraphy skills so I could incorporate them into my services over time.
For the most part an online presence is a must when starting a business. And it’s so easy to create one in today’s world. Basically there’s not a whole lot of reasons why you shouldn’t have one when you start a creative business.
It does not have to be perfect at the beginning.
But it does need to make it easy for customers to find you, know what you do, and contact you. I have a lot more details here on what exactly you should include on your business’s website so be sure to check that out for more details!
Getting the Word Out: Marketing
This is a biggie! If you have no way to get the word out that you have started or are going to start a creative business then you can’t expect people to randomly find you. There is way too much clutter out there and our attention spans are so short that you can’t rely on publishing your site and waiting for people to show up, you have to find better ways to bring them to you. Lucky for you, there are a ton of ways you can go down to get your business out to the world and the thing is you need to use multiple avenues. In the beginning, you can’t be afraid to talk yourself up to your friends & family, let them know about your new adventure. They might even be your biggest advocates and you never know where that could lead.
Here’s a few other recommendations to try out and see what fits with your business:
- Facebook + Facebook groups
- Email List
In a lot of instances this will most likely correspond with your website since you need a way for your customers to “shop” and buy your products or services. There are a lot of ways to set this up, here are just a few:
- Etsy: built in audience and low costs to start up your shop
- Invoicing software (I use Wave and PayPal, you can see more about them here)
- Shopify: ecommerce platform
With running your “shop” one of the keys to success is to keep your costs low to start (unless you’re rolling in the dough and have no risks to worry about!) One way to do this if you plan to sell physical products is to start off using drop shipping. This means you create the design and have another company print/create the physical product and ship it to your customers as you make sales. This is a great way to not have to worry about inventory. But it can eat into your profits since you pay a higher cost per item, however until you know what will sell it’s a safe way to test out ideas and designs. I currently use Printed Mint and PrintsWell, but there are others depending on the products you are looking to sell.
This should probably be higher on the list but you really need to infuse your business with personality. I’ve mentioned this before, but people want to work with someone and buy from someone they feel good about. Let’s be real there are probably a ton of others selling similar products and services as you which means there are a lot of choices out there. Therefore your customers need a reason to pick you.
And don’t worry, you don’t need to attract every single person out there you just need to attract enough to keep the business running.
So if you infuse it with personality that works with your ideal customer then you’re doing it right and people will show up.
Tracking & Management
The final thing I consider essential to start a creative business is a way to track your finances and content. If you’re planning to make money then you need to track it so you can do your taxes and everything correctly (this is a whole post in itself on small business finances & working with real experts). But at a minimum make sure you track all your expenses and income, it will make life easier if you do it as you go. Wave is a great way to do this for free and bonus you can use it to create invoices and get paid! As far as tracking the business I use Trello (referral link) and couldn’t recommend it anymore than I have plus it’s also free! You can learn more about these two tools plus other great business tools here and here.
Ok so that pretty much sums up what I believe you need to start a creative business. From there you can tweak as you go and pivot when you’re ready. And of course once you’re ready there are so many additional things you will need and can add to your business to run smoothly and increase productivity over time.