Even after traveling around the world and back again, I am someone that would much rather have the task done, then enjoy the (sometimes arduous / sometimes glorious) journey. The thing with starting and owning your own creative business is that it’s never really done. It’s ALL journey, all the time. Can’t escape it! SO I put together these tips for things that I purchased in my first year of business that I really did not need. Some of them may be valuable in the future but the truth is there are so many things that new business owners are told they NEED TO BUY. I’m here to tell you that those things are not necessary for success. Instead, invest in your style and your voice (we can end this post here, but if you want to revel in my financial mistakes with me, please continue…)
Buying a client management system before I had clients:
Systems like Dubsado and Honeybooks are so amazing for keeping clients and projects on track and organized. That being said, they are worthless if you have nothing to organize. I took Dubsado up on a birthday deal they were having and saved a ton of money on their full price yearly membership, but in reality, it took me more than a year to have enough clients that needed such a powerful tracking system. This goes back to me wanting a mature business in the first month.
Spending money on advertising:
When I first started out, bless my heart, I got a call from The Knot asking if I wanted to advertise on their site. They made a good case and if I wanted to stay in the wedding industry and already had a few clients, it would have been a good match. Instead I had one client who was a friend I was doing a favor for with no income in sight and I committed to 12 months of advertising on their site, at the cost of about $84 dollars A MONTH. This was before I even knew if I wanted to offer custom wedding stationery regularly… which I did not - My bad!
Investing in too many Business Courses:
Let me first say, what a gift it is to be able to look up how to do literally anything online, including starting a creative business. And what creative isn’t taking advantage of the huge opportunity to set up a passive income stream by creating things like e-books or online classes.
But holy shit! Next thing you know you have 50 classes sitting in your inbox (hello bundle co). If I did a class a week it would take me about a YEAR to get through all that information. If there is a teacher you value that is offering information on a topic you need to learn more about to grow your business or deepen your knowledge of your field, then by all means go for it! It was helpful for me to cap my course purchases to only one per quarter, and only if the last course purchased was completed. After all, buying the information doesn’t mean you know it! Remember, there are also fantastic membership sites like Skillshare that have hundreds of amazing teachers who offer classes on every aspect of your creative business from design skills like photoshop to accounting. The first two months are free to sign up with my link and you can grab so much information in two months you may not even have to subscribe. If nothing else it’s a great place to start. You can get to know a teacher you like, and look into what else they offer or who their peers are.
INSTEAD, INVEST IN FREE RESOURCES…
Open an Instagram business account!
Instead of spending money on advertising, I would suggest taking some time to find your style and voice. Opening a Instagram business account will allow you to gain insight on what is marketable and allow you to experiment on what you enjoy doing and how to best offer this. What you post can act as your portfolio, is FREE advertising, and it will also let people know who you are. Don’t be afraid to show yourself, why you love to do what you do, and talk about things that are going on in your life that are showing up in your work (think recent travels, your dog, what is inspiring you?). It’s okay to get personal on Instagram as a creative business owner. People are on social media to connect! If you just sell me stuff or give me a picture of the cat you drew, that’s nice but unless you’re my daughter, I have no reason to stick with you. I want to know the why - the story behind it all!
This is SUPER DUPER important if you are thinking of putting on creative workshops like in person calligraphy or beginner watercolor workshops. I want to know who I am investing in, who am I going to be teaching me, what will the space look like etc. when I sign up for a course. Jenna Rainey has a great blog post on hashtags (as of August 2019) and often speaks about Instagram so don’t be afraid to peek around her blog for some resources.
if you do feel like you need some help keeping you on track, skillshare is a great resource with hundreds of teachers offering courses in everything from photoshop to accounting for your business… it’s also free the first two months (hell yes!)
… and TAKE YOUR TIME
Wow does it take time for a business to build. You may also be part of an industry, like a wedding stationery business, that has seasons. Brides normally get married from May - October which dictates when they would need their custom wedding invitations sent out by. This long turn-around time causes a delay in clients as the window to capture quality leads (that are not looking for a cheap last minute fix) is relatively small and word of mouth is slow to spread. Trust the process and know that you will get better with every hour you dedicate to your craft and your creative business WILL thrive if you continue to put your energy into it.