6 Simple Steps to Starting a Creative Business
I started my business a little over a month ago. Before that, I'd always worked for someone else—always been an employee. First of all, there's nothing wrong with that. My family has always been successful and happy working for companies, so I never really considered starting my own business until about a year ago.
The True Entrepreneur
I've heard quite a few business owners talk about being “unemployable.” They say they've always known they're an entrepreneur at heart—that it's in their blood. They know it because they couldn't possibly work for someone else and that's what makes them a “true entrepreneur.” Sometimes they even go so far as to call others “fake entrepreneurs”—people like freelancers and those holding down a job while they figure things out.
First of all, good for them that they've found that kind of clarity in their journey and that their path is so clear. That's amazing. However, I think it's nonsense to say that the only way you can start a business and be a “true entrepreneur” is if you have no other option. I didn't start my business because I was unemployable—I was actually great at my job.
Keep believing, keep hustling, and prove them wrong.
I started my business because I wasn't fulfilled working for someone else. We didn't want the same things and I felt restricted. I wanted the freedom and flexibility to decide my own destiny. I looked at my bosses and honestly asked myself, “If they can do it, why not me?” Now about a month after officially starting my business, I can say it's a bright, beautiful world out here—positively brimming with possibility.
Make a plan & go for it
There seems to be this mystical quality about entrepreneurs—like in order to start a business, they must have it all figured out, right? Well, that's just not true. Absolutely no one has it all figured out. There will always be some kind of leap to be made for anything extraordinary. Every single place I've worked, there were struggles, victories, and more lessons learned than I can count.
To start a business, you don't need special entrepreneur genes. You need to want it badly enough, believe you can do it, make a plan, and go for it. As for the plan, I'll share the 6 steps I followed to start my creative business with some questions to get you started. I also created a business-starting checklist for my awesome subscribers, which you can snag too by signing up.
1. Define your business.
It's essential to specifically define your business and your goals for it. Otherwise it's impossible to set your course for success and know whether or not you're on the right track. These questions will get you started.
- What will you be doing and selling? Products or services? Will you be selling through established retailers or directly to consumers? Will you be consulting one-on-one or creating eCourses for many?
- Who is your target audience? I'm talking dream customers here.
- Where will you sell to them and/or work with them? In person? Online? Little bit of both?
- How will you work with them? What is your creative process?
Take my business for example. I'm a logo and brand designer who helps passionate, creative entrepreneurs sort through the chaos in their heads to create a beautiful, cohesive brand that feels right for them while working wonders for their business.
I love meeting in person when my clients are local, but I work with creatives from all over and keep the process personal regardless of proximity. I begin every single project with brand discovery (aka lots and lots of questions). Discovery determines the brand strategy, which informs design, which equals a beautiful brand that works. Meanwhile, my deliverables are completely digital.
2. Name that baby.
Your business will be your new baby. You wouldn't send a baby out into the world without a name, would you? I went with Melissa Yeager Designs for my own business. It's specific enough to tell people what I do, but broad enough that it gives me room to grow. Naming your business is an exciting, challenging part of the business-starting process. It's not easy, but once you've done it you'll feel proud and super legit.
3. Make it legal.
When you're ready, it's important to make your biz official—legally that is. You'll need to choose a legal entity (I chose LLC) and you can pay to have it set up. In case anything bad happens, this will shield your personal finances and assets. I used LegalZoom for establishing my LLC, and they were great. They set me up with an EIN (Employer Identification Number), a registered agent (you need a designated lawyer to process any legal paperwork that might come your way in the future), all the necessary paperwork, and a handy dandy checklist to make sure I got everything done.
4. Open a separate biz bank account.
It can take a bit of time to get your legal paperwork back, but once you do you'll be able to set up a bank account for your business. Why do you need one? While it's not 100% necessary if you're a one-boss show, keeping personal and business expenses separate makes everything so much easier. In the event that someone ever comes after your business (or you get audited), your personal accounts are safe since they're completely separate. Not to mention, you can order spiffy checks and it's super magical the first time you receive a check that's made out to your new business.
5. Invest in branding.
Once you've defined your business, named it and got yourself established, it's time to focus on your branding. Why invest in branding? High quality branding helps your business stand out and builds credibility. This will draw your dream customers in and let them know that you're the real deal—that they can trust you.
The right branding will give your business a face that you can be proud of, empowering you to sell your magic with confidence and without feeling gross about it. When you're ready to bring your new business to life with beautiful branding, drop me a line. I'd absolutely love to work with you!
6. Set up systems.
Systems are wonderful for saving you time and brain power so you're not reinventing the wheel constantly. This is where starting a business gets really nerdy and fun. I absolutely love systems, and will be giving you a whole post dedicated to my favorites with recommendations that won't break the bank. Stay tuned for those. In the meantime, here are a few areas where systems can be an absolute lifesaver.
Billing: How will people pay you and when? What payment methods do you accept—check, credit card, PayPal?
Contracts: Does your line of work require contracts? Hint: if you're in the business of one-on-one creative consulting, the answer is heck yes. If so, make sure you have a contract template. Better yet, can you use an eSignature app? If you can save clients the hassle of printing, signing, and scanning/mailing you won't lose momentum and you'll get paid that much quicker.
Online accounting & tracking expenses: Keeping track of your expenses, miles, and income as you go makes it that much easier come tax time. Besides the classic spreadsheet, there are also lots of apps out there that can make this process easy peasy.
Project Management: Have you tried to manage several projects at once over email? What a nightmare. Well thank goodness, there are quite a few apps that can make your workflow so much dreamier and more organized.
Marketing: How are you marketing your services and/or products? Magazine or web ads? Social media? Which social media platforms will best reach your dream clients? What will you post and how often? With so many platforms out there, it's important to target the ones that will be best for your business . There are even apps out there to help you organize and schedule future posts.
With these 6 steps down, you'll be ready to start selling your magic and dazzling the world with what you've got to offer. Don't forget to sign up to get access to my business starter checklist and other exclusive goodies.
Remember, you can absolutely do this if you set your mind to it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Make a plan and make it happen. As for anyone out there that thinks you don't have what it takes, use that as more fuel to drive you forward. Keep believing, keep hustling, and prove them wrong.