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5 Steps to Build a Creative Business from Scratch

February 17, 2014
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/231560

Any economist will tell you that the creative sector is a leading component of worldwide economic growth, employment and trade. Over the last decade, there has been a significant shift from individuals choosing to work in traditional vocations such as health care to investing in the creative sector.

Operating a business where your intellectual capital is your golden ticket requires a calculated approach that differs from the stock standard business model. Here are five steps to establish a creative business from scratch:

Observe. A pitfall of the boom in the creative sector is that thousands of designers/writers/directors are entering the workplace at the same time you are. There is a solid chance that your skill will be instantly diluted once you join the industry. Graphic designers, for example, are a dime a dozen, and if you do your research you’ll see that becoming an interactive media designer -- someone who can do graphics in addition to sound, animation and digital effects, is a more valuable skill set.

Seek out professionals in your industry and note what they are doing, how they’re doing it and most importantly, what you can offer that is different. What does this industry need right now? What is unique about my approach that’s seldom done? These are good starting points.

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Brand. Now that you’ve put your original spin on a creative role, it’s time to set up your brand. Branding is a group of ideas and approaches behind your work that must be cemented tangibly through a website and social media presence. Setting up a website can be incredibly cheap, and the beauty of this industry is that you can barter your services in exchange for others, like trading an article for a personalized logo.

Once you’ve got a card, logo, business email -- ideally one that matches your website -- and of course, a web page, start building your social media channels. Begin with LinkedIn and enter as much information as possible. Choose one other platform (I suggest Twitter as it takes the longest to build up) and enter your information and start adding color.

Produce. By color, I mean content. You’d never invite friends over for dinner only to present them with an empty table. Why would you encourage someone to explore your brand when you’ve got no work to show them? Social media participants are fickle; if a person is directed to a ‘Website Under Construction,’ chances are they won’t head back a second time.

In a saturated market, nothing will legitimize your business better than your actual work. Make sure you’ve got a few posts under your belt. I personally had 100 published articles before I felt comfortable promoting my website. Digging into your archives and revamping old work is also a simple way to produce content on your website without having to begin new projects. This third step is probably the most important and time consuming.

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Plan. You’ve defined your brand and hopefully snuck in a lucrative loophole in your chosen industry. Now is the time to plan. Start by writing down a list of desirable companies, agencies and clients you’d like to work with that are in line with your offering. As a writer I keep a list of publications and editors I’ll target who are likely to respond to my style.

Then map out the dollars and cents; dictate how much you need to earn in your first three months to keep afloat, and how many hours you’ll have to put into your business to make this happen. It's a good idea to plan for a creative slump by having an alternate and consistent stream of income or investing in a savings ‘nest egg.’

Connect. Start within your own personal connections on Facebook and your email contacts to find like-minded creatives who may be able to assist you or be interested in your business. A simple announcement via a status update and email directing your friends and acquaintances to your new business will lay the foundations of your following.

Going over the industry contacts you’ve discovered in your observation phase, start to reach out to professionals who are at a similar stage to you in their career. These newbies are more likely to respond to your emails, and if you extend an olive branch there’s a chance you could share information.

When you’ve achieved a decent-sized social media presence supported by a solid website, target the industry heavyweights, but only if you are absolutely confident that you’ve got something substantial to bring to the table.

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