How to survive the business side of the creative industry?
When you are a creative artist you most probably already had the idea (if you’re not doing it already) of wanting to make a living out of your passion – perhaps offer your creative services and create your personal brand or set up a creative business like MicroCreatives, or sell a product that you created yourself. But what if you are not really confident on your commercial skills? As much as you are good at production, you think you’re also as bad at selling or the whole business side.
UK-based graphic designer and illustrator Alexander Singleton, also the founder and editor of The Design Range, has also gone through the same phase. He has some tips on how to survive the business side of the creative industry when you have minimal business skills. Alexander assures that when it comes to business, it’s okay to not be perfect. When the going gets tough and you think you’ve failed after trying, pick yourself (and your business idea) up and start over. It will do you good if you think the business aspect of your brand is more of a learning experience or an experiment where you try something new and learn along the way what works and what doesn’t work.
Here are a few pieces of advice that Alexander Singleton has shared on working on building your creative output into a solid, selling brand.
You are Not “Bad at Business”
First of all, it isn’t good to shut yourself down without trying, or without knowing exactly what you can do. What could work is for you to work on the next thing on the list when the task at hand proves to be ‘impossible’ to accomplish. Don’t beat yourself up on something that you can go back to when you’ve learnt more or when you’re in a better position.
Distinguish Skills vs. Knowledge
It might be true that almost everything can be learned but that takes a lot of time. The best thing to do is to know the difference between acquiring skills and knowing or learning about something to improve knowledge. Divide the things you’re simply not good at, from the things you don’t know yet.
Reflect on Your Strengths and Weaknesses
While it isn’t a good idea to easily give up, it is also good to know what you’re struggling with or weak at. A way to realize your strengths and weaknesses is by looking at yourself objectively. Just think about yourself and make a mental list of the things you know you can do impeccably, and things you are having trouble with. Work around your weaknesses by using one of your strengths to complete what needs to be done. For example, if you’re bad at initial meetings but really good at planning and streamlining processes, then work that to your advantage by making the client fill out a comprehensive project brief or questionnaire and email it back to you, so you can avoid having the initial meeting altogether.
Establish a Business System
At first you may just be winging the first client contracts, but it is important that you have a systematic way of doing your business. Have a clear process so you can make sure that you didn’t miss any important details or requirements. Some of the essential steps in the creative business process include introducing yourself and your business to the client and explaining your work and work process (this includes showing your portfolio), asking for a project brief or sending them a questionnaire to be filled out, giving an estimated cost and project assessment (including revisions process), and contract signing.
There’s always the option of outsourcing your business processes to the experts that specialize in them. It’s better to focus your time and energy on the creative aspect of your business and pay somebody else to do the business side. It will also give you a peace of mind knowing that you let an expert deal with the things that you don’t have much understanding on, or just don’t want to do. What’s good about outsourcing is that almost any business or creative process can be outsourced now, through firms like MicroSourcing, one of the leading BPO firms in the Philippines, or through its creative outsourcing arm, MicroCreatives, which handles design, development, animation, and creative writing.