We will always look back on parts of our lives and say, “I wish I knew then what I know now…” so here are 10 insights that I wish I knew during my first creative business. I, like so many, mimicked what I saw, took a few pictures, wrote some sales copy, and then sat back and hoped for success. Silly me, but how else was I supposed to know?!
10 things I wish I knew…
Thing no. 1: Hobbyists don’t make good livings
If this is the job you want to be in full time switch your head to business owner. Hobbyists don’t sit on the sidelines and profit big numbers. Because when business decisions and customer service knock on a hobbyist’s door they tend to not answer or take it too personally.
Thing no. 2: You have to wear a business hat
Wear a business hat! Know where you excel and ask for help where you do not. But be willing to be a business and get a handle on the following: money, marketing and promotion, time management, organization, team management, goal setting, product development, networking, balance, and brand culture.
Thing no. 3: Going full time is not about selling more
If you sold just 5 more items per day you won’t magical land in full time status. Selling product is one carrier of your brand, there are more! Build your big picture–what do you want your creative business to bring to your life? What does your big picture cost and how much do you need to gross to make that happen? (Don’t know what gross means? Put on your business hat and learn!)
Thing no. 4: Success is a state of mind
Know like you know like you know that you are a successful creative business and then do something every single day to prove to yourself your success. What single thing will have the biggest impact on your business and on your big picture today? Do that thing first thing in the morning. Forget your email, forget your shipments–put your progressive business first.
Thing no. 5: You must continue to learn
Be determined to be the absolute best at what you do. Forget about being “unique”, or “different” and focus in on being a valuable expert. What piece of your business do you want to totally rock at? Now go rock at it! Don’t just declare, “I am the best…” Actions are much louder than words.
Thing no. 6: Don’t assume sales equal profit
Sure you had 10 sales today and you are feeling on fire! But (sorry) if your average sale is $32 and so today you grossed $320 but your daily overhead costs are $300 you just made $20. Know your numbers and know when you are actually profiting each month!
Thing no. 7: There is no value in free
Stop trading your quality and value away, please. For example, lets say you are in year 5 of your creative business and to date you have set up shop at 30 craft or art fairs. If at each craft fair you casually traded with 3 other artists–that is 90 pieces of product or service gone. If your average price point is $32 you just gave away $2,800. I don’t know about you but I would rather have the $2,800.
Thing no. 8: Systems will save your life
Write you entire process down, step by step. Create systems behind the scenes before you ever try and sell your process. Build a system for promotion, budgeting, taxes, product development, packaging, etc. Write out your brand culture and core values. Remember, you are wearing a business hat now.
Thing no. 9: Brand is not about how it looks
Think of your creative brand as a storybook and your business name, tagline, and overall look is just the cover. What will your customer’s find inside? What is your brand’s story and brand culture? You get to write it!
Thing no. 10: Appeal to less and you’ll learn more
Know your value, only offer the highest quality, and appeal to a small niche. You will never run out of customers, I promise you this. But when you get narrow with your market you tell your ideal customer you are specifically for them. How narrow can you get?
Bonus thing: Never assume it’s your customer’s fault
This is a huge part of wearing your business hat and building those handy systems–it’s never your customer’s fault. It’s not your customer’s fault for slow traffic, it’s not your customer’s fault for poor product, and it’s not your customer’s fault for shopping elsewhere. Take total responsibility for how awesome your business is because it will speak volumes! This includes your failures and your successes.