So you’re ready to take your creative pursuits to the next level? Congrats! 🎉 I know that can be a scary step to take, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a few things you can do to make that transition smoother and easier to navigate. Ready to get started?
If you’re a right-brained creative, the left-brain side of business may not make sense right away. That’s okay! Most creatives struggle with some aspects of business. Once it’s laid out into a roadmap and you can see the path, it gets easier, though. So, let’s translate some of those left-brain steps that you need to take to uplevel into a creative business!
10 things to keep in mind when transitioning from creative hobby to creative business
These are some of the first things you should think about as you start the metamorphosis into a creative business. Whether you’re running an art business or photography business, are doing design freelancing, or making creative products to sell, these principles are universal. Let’s jump in!
1 | Know your goals before starting your creative business
First things first: why do you want to turn your creative hobby into a business? Sure, you may already be selling some of your products or services, but does that mean you need to turn it into a full-blown business? This may seem like exactly the opposite of what I should be telling you but go with me. After all, running a business is hard work and for some creatives, the process is what they love, not the administrative side of business. You may be perfectly happy just selling a few things here and there and having some spending money! If that’s you, then cheers: you’re free. If someone has been telling you that your creativity needs to become A Thing, this is your permission (so to speak) to not do that if it’s not YOUR Thing. Creating for the sake of creating is just as honorable as making a living from it.
On the other hand, if you really are ready to quit your day job or make more of your spare time and turn this into a ‘real’ business… kudos! That’s fantastic. I firmly believe that if more people were passionate about what they did for a living and created beautiful things, the world would be a better place, so I want to help you get there. Now is the time to figure out what motivates you in your creative business, then. It doesn’t have to be money for the sake of money – that isn’t the driver for many creatives.
Maybe it’s so that you can donate a portion of your profits to a good cause (we donate 30% of our profits here at The CE L.A.B., so I’m on board with that!). Or it could simply be so that you don’t have to hate your job anymore! Whatever the reason, it’s a great idea to write out your motivation and paste it to a wall somewhere that you’ll see it every day. Keeping that goal in mind will help sustain you when things get tough and you wonder why you’re doing this. 😉
2 | Establish brand guidelines for your creative business
If you’ve been operating as a hobby/side-hustle, chances are that you haven’t created a consistent, cohesive brand yet. That’s okay – you’re not alone! However, as you transition into a creative business, this is going to become a necessity. Without a solid brand, you’ll have a much harder time standing out from the crowd.
To establish brand guidelines, you’ll want to define things like:
- Your brand typography (maximum of 3 different fonts)
- Your brand colors (check out coolors.co for inspiration)
- Your brand voice (are you stolid and professional or warm and quirky?)
- Your brand imagery (what feelings do you want to evoke with the images that represent your brand?)
This is just a starting place, but if you establish at least these basics, your creative business will be off to a better start.
3 | Find community with other creative entrepreneurs
Do you have a support network? Specifically a support network of other business folks? Friends and family are great, but unless they understand the day-to-day life of an entrepreneur, it can be hard for them to really empathize and come alongside you when things get rough or to celebrate the little wins in your business. After all, it can be hard to explain why ranking in the top 8 for a particular search query is a big deal if someone isn’t in the entrepreneurial world, right?
Another big component of being part of a creative entrepreneur community is the opportunity to learn from other entrepreneurs. Exchanging ideas, brainstorming, seeing what’s working for other creative entrepreneurs – all of this can be invaluable for your business success.
If you’re not part of an entrepreneurial community, I’d like to invite you to join me and the CE L.A.B. community over at THE LAB for Creative Entrepreneurs! It’s a great community full of supportive creative entrepreneurs like you. ❤️
4 | Understand your own productivity style
This may sound odd, but we all have our own productivity style. Personally, I’m a bit messy and can seem disorganized, while I know other creative entrepreneurs who have a very systemized approach to productivity. There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about productivity, so before you start consuming that content and end up feeling bad because you can’t keep up with it – find your own productivity style!
It’s okay to not stick with a productivity system; you need to experiment with what works for YOU. I’ve tried everything from bullet journals and to-do lists to specific planners, but in the end, I found that a combination of Habitica (a slightly nerdy gamification of to-do lists, which also provides accountability), ClickUp (for business and team projects), and my own customizable discbound notebook planner system (to track my Top 3 tasks each day) has worked best for me. Don’t be afraid to test things out and see what works best for you and your business!
5 | Create a creative business action plan
You need a roadmap for your business to follow. Sure, the GPS directions may change as your destination adjusts and your roadmap compensates for roadblocks, but if you have some guidelines, you’ll have something to aim for. Based on the goals you set for your business, create your first quarterly plan to get you closer to achieving those goals. Break down your goals into manageable chunks and decide what goals (or pieces of goals) you can achieve this quarter. Give yourself due dates and hit the ground running! 🏃
6 | Know who your ideal client is
Do you know who you’re selling to? When you’re at the hobby level, it tends to be whoever finds out about your work, but you may not have been intentional about figuring out who that is. As you transition to your creative business stage, you need to know your target market because this will affect your branding, your marketing, and so many other aspects of your business.
Take a look at who’s bought from you so far and extrapolate from there. What’s their age? Are they men, women, or both? Where do they work? What are their interests? Dig deep here! The more you know about your ideal customer, the better you’ll be able to reach them.
7 | Have a marketing plan laid out
Without marketing, it’s going to be difficult for people to find out about you. And if they don’t know your business exists, how can they buy from you? Part of your action plan should include marketing tasks. This includes social media, local marketing (if applicable), content marketing, email marketing, and whatever other types of marketing are appropriate for your type of creative business.
Being a creative entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you need to be a marketing expert, but you should at least have a basic grasp of current marketing practices. Hop onto Google and Pinterest and check out some of the articles you find there. I have some marketing-related Pinterest boards (social media, email, content, general marketing) that might be helpful, too. 👍
8 | Get systems in place for your creative business
Business systems are crucial, especially for creative entrepreneurs. It’s easy to get caught up in the creative side of things and waste more time than you need to on the administrative side of things. I’ve had coaching calls with so many creative entrepreneurs who just haven’t been able to visualize how creating solid business systems could free them up to pursue even greater business success. Setting up these business systems does require some work up front, but I promise: it’s 100% worth it in the end! Taking a few hours now could save you days worth of time later on.
If you want to learn more about business systems for creative entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes! I talked about streamlining your business systems on a coaching call with Anni on Episode 6 of the Sparking Growth Podcast, and the first half of Episode 9 of the Sparking Growth Podcast also covered business systems for Mariah, a web designer. 🎧
9 | Get help in your creative business when you need it
We all need help at one point or another. Maybe you’re stuck with where to go next with your business or maybe you just need another pair of hands! It can be hard to ask for help sometimes, though, so I want to encourage you: don’t be afraid to make that ask. Most folks are more than happy to help if they can. If you need that extra pair of hands, ask for recommendations for a virtual assistant. If you need to update your business strategy, grab some entrepreneurial friends and have a mutually beneficial brainstorming session!
Sometimes you need long-term help, too. If you need someone to keep you accountable, to help you create an actionable roadmap for your specific creative business, and to give you the boost you need to reach the next level of business, you may be ready for a coach or business strategist. This isn’t something you need to do right away, by any means, though! When you’re just starting out in business, hiring a creative business coach or creative business strategist may be too overwhelming. However, once you’re at the point where you’re ready for that next level but aren’t sure how to get there, this can be a great step.
Pro tip: we offer both group strategy and accountability programs as well as one-on-one coaching here at The Creative Entrepreneurs L.A.B.! If you’re interested in learning more, check out our coaching page.
10 | Don’t procrastinate – take action!
This is the most important part: stop planning and start doing! If you don’t eventually step back from the drawing board and put your plans into action, you’ll never have a real business. If you need it, get an accountability partner. Whatever it takes, just make it happen, though!
If you get your branding and action plan in place, get your systems set up, and just get out there and do it, you’ll be farther ahead than many other creative entrepreneurs. It doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking, either – you can ease into it! And if you need help, The CE L.A.B. community is here to support you.
Leave a comment with your thoughts on transitioning to a creative business! Here are a few ideas:
What’s been holding you back from making the transition? We’d love to give you tips and encouragement to get you there!
What was your biggest takeaway from this article?
Share your best tip for running a creative business with your fellow creative entrepreneurs!