Hey, creativepreneur friend!
There are lots of things I wish I knew when I was figuring out how to start my business. For example, I spent tons of money on shit I didn't actually need. I changed my services like every two minutes, and wasted too much time running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to chase every bit of knowledge I came across. I wanted to set my business off into the stratosphere immediately. Instead, I spent tens of thousands of dollars on trial and error first.
There are no shortcuts to success, but if you can start off lean and focus on the important shit, you'll still be in business a year (because your first year is one of the hardest) from now and you’ll be on your way to being a successful creative entrepreneur.
Here are the tips I wish someone would have told back-in-the-day me.
1. Just get started. You can do this. But you gotta stop thinking all the time and focus on your own lane.
2. You need a website and a domain. You want a home base online that people can come to, where you can start banking some SEO juice and gain a following. Get started FAST and easy with Squarespace. Want to spend less? Buy a domain, install Wordpress and use a free theme, if you must – just get started.
3. Show your face! AND your work. You don’t have to break the bank on a photographer at first, but you need to find a way to SHOW potential clients who you are and what you do. Don’t hide behind a cartoon or a photo of your cat – we want to see YOU. As for your work, if they can’t see it, they won’t buy it – determine a way to make what you do easily visible.
4. Screw the business cards. If you don't plan on going out to trade shows or events until you start getting some work in the door, skip the business cards and other stationery. I found direct mail to be expensive and a waste of time.
5. Work from home. I know – you’ve seen the online “cool kids” and they all brag about their co-working spaces. Fuck that. You don't need to spend money on renting a space. Have client meetings at clean spot in your home or find a local coffee shop. (Hint: You might need a business license even if you're working from home, though, so check with your city.)
6. Do not pass GO without a contract or a letter of agreement. When you get your first client, you still need to write out a contract. I can't tell you how many problems this will solve when you get to working on a project and scope-creep rears its ugly head.
7. A blog is a must, but only if you commit to doing it regularly. If you're gonna blog on Wednesday the 4th and then three months later you blog again, well then you need to fucking forget it. That will do more damage than not having a blog in the first place. People will wonder if you are a flake and untrustworthy. This is one of the best (and practically free!) things you can do to invest in your business, but it's worth jack shit if you don't keep up with it.
8. A newsletter is uber important. Like really. But get a Mailchimp account, because that's free up to 2,000 subscribers. Why you should build an email list.
9. No guru knows it all. And they are a liar if they claim to. You can take all sorts of courses and read all sorts of books, but until you get real intimate with your business, no one can really be super helpful to you.
10. What services should I offer? Well, if you answered everything you're gonna end up bitter and tired. Niche down to 3-4 things you would genuinely LOVE to provide for your clients, and then work on selling JUST ONE until you’ve got the hang of it. Then expand from there.
You can do this, and I believe in you. You're awesome and you do have something unique and special to share. Don't doubt yourself (at least not more than 2% of the time) when you are first starting out. Take your time and make sure the business decisions you make feel right in your gut.