START UPS FOR CREATIVES #1: HOW TO SET UP YOUR BUSINESS
Welcome to the first post in my new ‘Start Ups for Creatives’ blog series! I am beyond thrilled to launch this three-part blog post series with you – it’s been a long time coming and I thought it would be a really nice follow up from my post a few weeks ago where I shared my tips for working a day job whilst having a passion on the side. Some of you may or may not know I have been on my own side hustle slash passion project journey since I launched this blog two years ago so before I continue, I think it’s important to share how I finally made the move from working a full time day job in a boring office to launching my creative agency and finally working for myself #girlboss. A few months after I started this blog, I decided to quit my full time job and pursue the life of a freelancer. Yup! Talk about cray cray. It’s been a wild ride and one I haven’t been completely happy about until now; mostly because I fell into a few freelance roles which required me to work in-house a couple of days a week. At first, I loved it. I was freelancing three days a week and that left me two days a week to work on this blog. Eventually however it started to feel like I had slipped back into the 9 to 5 routine and helping someone else make money – aka death to creativity and not what I had planned!
Late last year I decided to make my freelancing work a little more official; I decided to call it a business, I gave it a name (Your Creative Start) and got it registered, I launched a website, a blog and an Instagram account, and I started to pitch for new business. As luck would have it, and I credit the powers of manifesting, I was let go from my latest in-house freelancing gig due to budgeting restrictions. Whilst I was initially bummed, I saw this as an opportunity to force myself into growing the agency instead of working for someone else in-house. Needless to say I have recently signed a new client and I have more exciting projects in the pipeline. What amazes me is what happens when one door closes and a new one opens; but you have to do the work and hustle for success. And I mean really, really hustle. With this in mind, I have created this ‘Start Ups for Creatives’ blog post series for creatives, bloggers and freelancers who:
1. Are thinking about leaving their day job to pursue their passion full time 2. Have already left their day job and need some tips to grow their business 3. Already have a thriving business but is looking for inspiration and motivation to keep working at it
If this sounds like you, you’re in the right place! For the first post in this series I am going to share my tips on how to set up a business and what you need to have in place when you leave your day job to pursue your passion full time. Read on to find out!
REDEFINING PROFESSIONAL Being your own boss means you can redefine what you see as being professional and start making your own rules. You get to decide your hours, where you want to work from, how much you want to work and what you get to wear. Sound appealing? It better! But in the roles we have created for ourselves, we still need to have a set of standards. They will be different for everyone. So what does professional look like to you? Take 30 minutes to brainstorm and write down on a piece of paper what being professional looks like to you. Read what you’ve written down and make edits if you feel it’s necessary. Stick this on a wall near your workspace so you can look at it every single day. I bet some of it will stay the same and some of it will change over time! To help you, this is what being professional looks like to me.
- My hours are usually 8am to 5pm; I always have to exercise in the morning and switch off and be present when Jason comes home from his work.
- I like working from a few different co-working spaces on the Sunshine Coast as it’s such a great opportunity to meet other likeminded people. But I really like working from home; I like being in my own space and I have all the tools I need to get my job done – wifi, printer, computer, phone etc.
- In terms of how much I want to work, I am very fluid. Sometimes I’ll work Sunday afternoon and have a slow start on Tuesday morning. Sometimes I’ll dedicate an entire day to this blog and the next day, I’ll dedicate solely to Your Creative Start. I often find myself slumping in the afternoons so this is when I get outdoors and do my admin stuff, such as visiting the post office, picking up groceries for dinner and meetings with clients.
- I also have a rule where I ‘get ready’ for the day; I don’t work in my pj’s. I shower after training, get dressed, do my hair, throw on some light make-up and then I feel ready and professional for the day, even if no one sees me! I also love being able to wear sandals in summer and sneakers in winter – it’s my style and if a client doesn’t want to work with me because of it, that’s their loss.
- Professionalism to me is also how I represent my myself, my business and how I perform my tasks – I always get back to emails and enquiries within 24 hours, I never miss a deadline, I give clients full transparency, I am never late to meetings, and I hustle hard to make my clients happy, and most importantly, me.
GIVE YOUR BUSINESS A NAME In order to be, look and feel professional, giving your business a name is very important. Many of you will already have a name in mind that you love. However, some of you will really struggle finding a name you love. To help you find a name consider having a solo (or team) brainstorm session and answer the following questions:
1. What is your business about? 2. What are some of the words you use in your industry? 3. What are some descriptive words relating to your business?
Start putting some of these words together or invent your own. Your business name can either reflect what you do or be something totally random. However, at the very least make sure your business name is searchable, unique and meaningful to you. Once you have decided on a name, you need to check it’s available online and on your desired social media channels. Use GoDaddy.com to see if your chosen business name is available to create a website - and always use .com in your URL. Then check your business name on various social media platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. Your business name must be the same as your website URL and social handles, this makes your business more memorable for customers.
BRANDING When you’re your own boss, branding is essential. The good thing here it that you don’t need to have a lot of money to create a great brand; especially when you start out, you might not be in a financial position to pay thousands of dollars for branding. So what do you do when you can’t afford branding? In the first instance, the most important thing you need is a logo. Ask a graphic designer friend (or a friend of a friend because everyone knows a graphic designer) to design a logo for you in exchange for something you can do to help them out. Or download a free font online (DaFont.com has some great ones) and use this as the logo for your brand. Or find a likeminded graphic designer on Fiverr.com who can design you a brand that fits within your budget - here you can get a logo designed for as little as $5! My biggest advice when it comes to branding (after getting a logo) is to have a website from day one – it’s your most important employee. Even if it’s initially a landing page, a website is vital so you can share your services and so potential clients can find out about your business and contact you. However, some websites can be expensive so here are three options to choose from depending on your budget:
$ Create a landing page that has only the essential information such as your logo, a short About section, contact details and links to your social media platforms.
$$ Pay for a WordPress theme and design your own website. ThemeForest.com is excellent! You should be able to find a great theme for $100 to $200 - anything less and you'll find the theme is quite limited in what you can do. Also, depending on your skills, building a website from a theme may take a few days. But you'll skill up along the way and that's important too.
$$$ Pay a web developer and graphic designer to build your website. The easiest but also the most expensive route.
PERSONAL BRANDING Whilst we’re on the topic of branding, I thought it would be worth talking about personal branding. Yes! It’s actually a real thing. So what is a personal brand? It’s a promise on how you'll deliver work and what people can expect from you. In other words, it’s who you are and lets people (aka dream clients) know what you’re all about and what they can expect from you. Think you don’t need a personal brand? Well, think again. A personal brand uses who you are as a person to sell what you do, and you need to be able to master blending who you are with what you do in order to attract dream clients (more on that next). It’s the way you present yourself, your personality, your business, your website, your social media, and your newsletter - consistently. Having a really great personal brand is about being yourself 100% of the time so your dream clients know what to expect.
WORKING WITH DREAM CLIENTS Speaking of dream clients, I cannot tell you how many agencies I’ve worked at who don't carefully or strategically choose their client base, and instead choose to take whatever work they can get their hands on (the main driver of this is because they need the money). Whilst I understand it’s important to put bread on the table and pay your staff (of course), what’s even more important is choosing the right clients for you and your staff. Great clients = happy staff. I would prefer having a business with fewer great clients with a really happy little team of two or three people, than have a business with lots of bad clients with a really unhappy team and high staff turnover. I have found over the last couple of years that the more selective I am, the dreamier my clients get and as a result, I seem to attract even more dreamier clients.
CREATE A BEAUTIFUL AND FUNCTIONAL WORKSPACE It’s not alllllll work and no play when you start working for yourself because there is one really important part of the process you get to own, design and create to suit your personal brand – your workspace, woo hoo! I have to admit; this was one of my most memorable days when I started working for myself. I went to Ikea, Bunnings and Officeworks to stock up on furniture, stationery and supplies. I bought a new desk, a chair, a printer and a stapler, pens, paper and of course, a hole puncher, because everyone needs one of those right? To ensure your workspace is what you want it to be - beautiful and functional - make sure you choose the right colour palette. Invest in great lighting and get a great chair. And add lots of greenery. For even more tips on how to create the perfect workspace, make sure you check out this blog post I wrote last year.
So that's it for the first post in my 'Start Ups for Creatives' blog series. What did you think? Did you learn anything new? Next week I'll be taking a look at how to manage your day to day, including money and budgeting, organisation and productivity, managing clients, networking and more. Which you can read here!