How to Start a Creative Business from Scratch

July 23, 2019
James

I can't say that I saw myself not going to work for a studio or corporate America when I graduated from college, but through a few great mentors and friends, I found myself creating something for myself. I was working for a wedding videography company when a friend talked me up to a couple they knew who was getting married. I filmed their wedding for $350. Out of that, I was able to create a business of my own on the side while I worked my 9-5 as an admissions counselor.  Looking back, there are so many things I wish I knew.

Thinking about launching a business, especially if it's your first time, can be really daunting. There are a lot of things to consider: the risk, personal bandwidth, and well-being - but done right it can give you so much freedom and fulfillment.

1. Observe and plan

I own two video-focused videos and work with a lot of creators. The one thing that nearly every creator quickly realizes is that there are a TON of other creatives trying to do the same thing. The creative space is incredibly crowded. Videographers, photographers, graphic designers, animators - we are a dime a dozen.

Do your research and look at what others are doing. Find a Niche that needs your services and focus your efforts there. Talk to other people in your field and ask for advice. It may seem daunting, but there are so many people who are willing to share their experience and might even be willing to pass on extra work that doesn't fit their brand or price point.

2. Make it legitimate

It may be tempting just to run headlong into making money, but don't forget that the government wants their cut. (Yay, taxes...) But for real - Research your state and city's rules for businesses. Talk to a CPA or attorney to get the most accurate advice on business structure, filing requirements etc.  You'll to register your business with the state, get a sales tax license, and don't forget about business insurance!

Are you starting your business with other partners? Get a lawyer to draft up a partnership agreement and don't even consider skipping this step. This agreement needs to outline responsibilities, profit sharing, and the process for partners to exit the business. I've watched several other creatives walk through business partnership exits and the ones without a formal partnership agreement were much more difficult and expensive for everyone.

3. Create your brand

You want to create a brand that is memorable and representative of who you are and what you do. You'll need a logo, website, and some business cards. Bonus tip, don't create a [email protected] email address. Create a GSuite account that gives you all the features of Gmail with your domain name.

If you have the funds hire a professional to do your branding. If not, start with a basic website builder like SquareSpace. Create your visual assets for social media and email with Canva.

4. Create Content

If you don't have a portfolio, start creating! You need to be able to show your potential clients your passion, work, and abilities. In a super saturated market, you can legitimize your business with showing your actual work. You don't have to be perfect, but you need to be able to show something to people who might be interested in hiring you. If you do already have a portfolio of work, it might be worth digging into your past content and either posting or revamping it to meet your current abilities.

5. Build Community

Being a creator without a community of other creators is one of the most lonely places to be. For me, I found a local coworking space in Austin that gave me a place to connect with others.  I also connected with a local meetup group for media creators. If you're going to be successful, you're going to need people in your corner. People who can encourage you when you're stressed out or someone to give you real feedback on your work. Share your goals and ask people to hold you accountable. You don't have to do it by yourself.  To start, join our Facebook Community of fellow creators!

6. Build your business

Start our with writing down your ideal companies, clients, and the agencies that you'd love to work with. Then email them, call them, or if you're feeling really bold, bring them doughnuts.

Figure out your pricing - figure out the costs of doing business, how much you need to make your business sustainable, and what your goals are. Consider that creative businesses can be incredibly seasonal, and plan to save for those seasons. A good starting place is to look at your first three months and figure out how much money you need to earn, and how many hours you can put in to make this dream happen. And don't forget to save for retirement!

For me, I built my first wedding videography business while I worked a full-time job, and it was really challenging. I worked on building my creative business in the evenings and then filmed weddings on the weekends. I spent 8 months building that business and saving as much of the business income as possible toward reaching my "quit-my-day-job" number.

Conclusion:

Starting a business can be one of the most stressful but exciting things you can do with your career. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time planning out my future goals and spending all my time focused on reaching those specific goals. Go find community - I can't stress that enough. Having people who understand you and your goals will help you reach those goals faster.

 

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