Just starting out, or starting something new? A new beginning can happen at any point in our lives and careers. Now there is so much information out there for creative starters, it can be mind boggling to take it all in. Although I’ve been in business since 1999, I don’t claim to be an expert. I feel that, like yoga, business is something we practice. Every day we approach our work with new eyes, new information and new skills as things change and grow, yet there are some very strong guiding principles we can set at a new beginning. As I said, there’s a lot of information out there, but when my niece, who is graduating soon, asked me recently for advice for creative entrepreneurs, I gave her a few basics that helped me. Of course, I wrote them in a blog so I’m sharing that here!
It’s Not Sexy But…
This is not the sexiest of information, but it will be a lot less sexy down the road if you don’t pay attention to the basics. My advice for setting up the foundation of a business is to hire professionals when and where possible! Find a great designer to help you with a logo, brand and web site, and a lawyer to do a legal search for your name and register your DBA. Services such as Legal Zoom are great if you know exactly what you want, but a lawyer or accountant can offer more advice on how to set up the business properly. Again, I’m not an expert here and others may have different opinions on this. Bottom line — hire a professional to lay the groundwork.
As for the name of your company, if you are a service, don’t be shy about using your own name. I began with a company name, and finally changed to my own name two years ago. It was a game changer. More people knew me by my name than the company name. And although I liked being able to use a company name when someone asked “Who are you with?” it was more authentic to just be myself and own that. Oh yes, and hire a professional to set you up on an accounting system and keep track of everything as it comes in, or goes out on a regular basis. Trust me, it’s a lot less time consuming than waiting until the last minute to do it.
A narrow focus on a particular industry is great because it helps you find people and groups where you can network. I was lucky to already be known within the special events industry. But you are probably part of more groups than you know. And, as you begin to visualize your ideal client (see number 3) this will help you discover where they are on- and off-line. Then join all the Facebook Groups, offline groups and associations you can afford to join both in terms of money and time. Volunteer, join committees and host meetings. As they say at The Rising Tide Society, an educational community for entrepreneurs: “It’s about community, not competition.” Getting involved is networking on steroids, and you will also be learning a lot in the process.
The Three Marketing Essentials
Have a blog on your website. I know that sounds so 2015, but truly, a blog is part of the formula for building your audience. An audience is key. An audience is made up of people who want to hear what you have to say and more than likely will also want what you are selling.
Of course we all know that social media is super important for building an audience. But note: it will be different than how you did it in college or as a private individual. You are now representing yourself as a company and have to step back and decide who is your ideal client and how to attract that person. Determine the voice you want to take (fun, authoritative, hip … it will depend on your product, service, audience, etc. ), what you post, and what information you will pass along. You will also want to connect to the influencers in your market — liking and commenting on their posts and in general paying attention to what they say and how they say it.
Business cards. I still believe in them, especially if you create one that people remember. Since you will find you won’t hand out as many as we did in the past, splurge a little on them. I love cards that use the old-fashioned letter press process. You see this a lot on wedding invitations these days. The letters are pressed into a textural paper. It feels good in your hands, it looks quality. It’s designed to impress.
And fourth … I know I said three but under promise, over deliver, right?! … check out Gary Vaynerchuk’s books (and his videos) for so much info on … why blogging works (Crush It!), the new way to do business (The Thank You Economy) and telling your story in a noisy world on social media tips (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook).
Your life as you knew it before becoming a creative entrepreneur is about to change! Getting work done in a productive and positive manner is very important to your personal wellness as well as that of your business. A happy entrepreneur is a successful entrepreneur. As you might imagine, there are a lot of resources out there who can help you be happy, productive and consequently, successful. Several that I like are Michael Hyatt and Tim Ferris (author of the 4-Hour work Week),
And, I know how we all love our organization apps, but personally I really get a lot out of a journal type of organizer that helps you map out your dreams and goals. Here are two I love and use (although #truth … mine never look as artistic as these do when I work in them … but it’s fun trying!) …
One Last Thing
Saying yes is powerful. Say yes to opportunity and possibilities. Say yes to standing for something. Jason Fried writes in the New York Times best seller, Rework: “Standing for something isn’t about writing it down. It’s about believing it and living it.”
Having a strong foundation and knowing what you say “yes” to will help when the time comes to say “no.” Saying no is OK! Say no to clients that aren’t right for you, to people who zap your energy and to all those who ask you to do things for free to “get your name out there.” On that last one, there are some times when it’s good to donate your time, name and product but not all of them will be right for you. Weigh each one carefully.
“No” is not a little word at all. It is a huge part of the puzzle. For it will actually free you to say yes to the right things, and that is true power for the creative entrepreneur!
What are some of the things you wish you had known when you were starting out? Leave them in the comments to help our creative “starters” out.