Turning Your Creative Talent Into A Successful Business: The How-To For creative people, being an entrepreneur is always possible. However, it's a big task that goes beyond doing what you're naturally good at. You need to put the right systems in place to tackle all the various aspects.
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In the entrepreneurial world, some sectors tend to be taken more seriously than others. Those of us on creative paths often face doubt when we talk about going on our own, mainly because creative capabilities aren't considered such lucrative prospects as technical or financial ones.
The problem stems from academically focused education systems. As someone who was never academic at school, it felt like my career options were limited. I chose hairdressing, immediately loved it, and progressed well. Despite that, no one ever suggested setting up my own salon might be a good idea.
When I finally took that leap, I still had a lot of limiting beliefs. And I realized that it would be a steep learning curve to put the other elements in place to support my talent, and thus build a profitable business.
I make a point of telling creative people that being an entrepreneur is always possible. However, it's a big task that goes beyond doing what you're naturally good at. You need to put the right systems in place to tackle all the various aspects. Concentrating on these five areas will help establish strong foundations to grow:
1. Mindset Now, working on one's mindset might not sound tangible, but it's actually the most crucial step. Attitude determines our success or failure. As Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't– you're right."
Thankfully, it's very much in your control to shift your mindset at any age and any stage of your business journey. One of the most important offshoots is accountability. Know that you are ultimately accountable for everything that happens in your business. When things go wrong, don't pass blame; consider your role in the situation. What could you have done better? What does it mean for your actions moving forward?
Another big mindset block is fear. Running your own business doesn't mean you'll be a pro at everything. It does mean doing things that scare you. Public speaking, pitching, finance management, and human resources (HR) are all things business owners are afraid of. But as soon as I started pushing myself outside my comfort zone, I saw significant growth.
Hiring a coach can also have huge benefits in the beginning. Whether it's a mindset coach, life coach, business coach, or even a fitness coach, people that challenge your limits will help you develop a strong mental attitude.
2. Confidence and communication When we communicate well, we connect with others, a fundamental skill as a leader. But you can't effectively communicate unless you understand your personality and find your voice. Being confident means understanding your unique abilities, and believing you have what it takes to succeed in certain situations. Once you get comfortable with who you are and what you want to achieve, you will interact with others in a more confident, healthier way.
Confidence also allows you to set boundaries, know your limits, and learn to say no. Especially in the early days, it's easy to spread yourself too thinly, falling into the people-pleasing trap. When you put boundaries in place, you will feel more in control.
If you're building a team, you also need to understand other people's communication styles to develop the most productive relationships. Thomas Erikson's book, Surrounded by Idiots, taught me a lot about how different personality traits influence connection and conflict, as well as how to avoid common misunderstandings that can cause problems within an organization.
3. Finances and profit Following your passion is a wonderful thing; however, the financial responsibilities can come as a shock. A lot of entrepreneurs like to focus on turnover, but the big numbers might mask issues affecting your operational performance. While revenue indicates your business's overall health, profit provides a more accurate picture of how well things are being run. Think about how much profit you want to make, and work back from there, making any necessary adjustments.
You'll also want to invest some profits back into the company. Experts have different views on what percentage is preferable, from around 20% to 70%. I found it helped to go towards the higher end, and then spend on plugging the gaps. Many new businesses try and do everything themselves to save money. However, I realized early on what I was good at, and where I needed to outsource, which enabled me to scale quicker.
Your personal finances need to be in order as a small business owner. Create a spreadsheet, and be realistic about your expenses. Include some nice-to-haves, then set yourself a budget. Don't forget to pay yourself a regular salary, factoring in increases as you grow. And make sure you've got enough savings for at least six months in case the unexpected happens.
4. Upskilling Constantly developing your skills allows you to keep up with industry trends and meet changing expectations. I believe in a 360-approach, which means developing everything from our mental health and well-being, to practical skills and education.
We can also learn a lot from other people. Take advice from as many other founders as possible, either directly, or by reading books and listening to podcasts. There are so many resources available for everything you need, many of them free. Think how much could change in a year if you committed 15-30 minutes to learning every day. Be honest about your weaknesses as an individual and as a business- and then, upskill in those areas.
Upskilling your employees is equally critical. We can achieve so much more when we invest in other people's growth, and support employees to realize their potential. Look at what each individual really needs, and what's holding them back. Offering employees mental health support or personal development coaching at certain times could be just as important as sending them on the next professional training course. It's incredibly powerful when companies take a holistic perspective that genuinely empowers people to excel.
5. Marketing Unless customers know who you are, you won't increase sales. Teach yourself the fundamentals of marketing, and explore different ways to promote what you do. Some things you can do yourself; others will benefit from professional help.
Also, remember, marketing is a lot more than social media. There are multiple options to market yourself depending on your budget, target audience, and offering. The aim is to create memorable interactions, and there are plenty of cost-effective ways to connect.
Be your own best advocate, and put yourself forward for as many opportunities as possible. Whether it's industry-related or community-related, look for collaborations, give your time, speak at events, be seen in the media, and get your name out as much as possible. This enables you to stand out from the crowd, and be positioned as a leader in your field.
Lastly, don't forget the importance of data. Keep a comprehensive database of current customers, potential customers, ideal clients, and collaborators– this is invaluable for establishing an ongoing dialogue, and converting sales.