Essentials for creative businesses


Creative businesses are unique and require a different approach than manufacturing, accounting or consulting. You need skills from both sides of the brain to run a creative business. You can create the most wonderful works of art or performance but if no one knows about it you’ll never sell it. On the flip side, if you design an incredibly boring product, market it with all of the latest tools and buy ad time during the Super bowl, you’ll end up with a mediocre product and will struggle to keep your audience interested.

If you really want to score big you’ll need two things: reason and passion. One of my favorite authors, Kahlil Gibran wrote a very memorable chapter in his book, The Prophet. It was so powerful I made it the basis of this post. Let me share a part of it:

“Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.”

I have an eclectic background. I spent years studying chemistry and math. I also studied religion and theater. I eventually found a way to allow those parts to work together and have been far more successful since.

Let’s tackle passion first. You’ll need to feed it if you hope to be successful. Here’s what I suggest:

    1. Inspiration is key
    Where does your style come from? What feeds that inspiration? There is a powerful Ted Talk by Elizabeth Gilbert who talks about inspiration from various sources and the value in tapping in to them. Particularly for writers, acknowledging the inspiration and working with it is crucial. Find your inspirational triggers and devote time to feed them.
    2. Practice
    Bruce lee said, “ I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Your art needs to be refined. Your supporters and audience will support you if they like and believe in what you do. Seth Godin makes a point in his latest book, The Icarus Deception, that the process is simply that you create, show your audience, and refine. If that doesn’t work, find a different audience. If that doesn’t work, then make better art. Brilliant perspective from Mr. Godin.
    3. Outlets
    Metaphorically you have to have a stage to practice, to perform, and to display your work. The importance of practice and inspiration meet here. When given outlets you will be able to practice more easily and feed your inspiration. So find the right pen, scissors, coffee shop, Meetup, group or club to get into and work on what you do.
    4. Latitude and freedom
    One challenge I’ve encountered through the years is being too structured. I focused on story maps and conflict/resolution patterns and tried to write the most realistic dialogue I could. Problem was I started off so structured I killed the creative part of what I did. To define is to limit and creativity doesn’t always work well in a box. Let your creativity go where it needs to.

Now to the other side of the coin, reason. How you structure your business will make or break its launch. It all starts with the simple question, what are you trying to improve? The follow up question is, for whom? These starting points will hopefully help you avoid running out of finances, legal trouble, or the inability to deliver your product.

    1. Understand your target market
    You need to know your audience so you can sell to them. Who are they, what do they do, how do they do it, when do they do what they do, what are their values/ethics? This is the foundation of all other aspects of business.
    2. How much is it going to cost to start?
    Can you self-fund? Do you need loans? Put together what you need then plan on it taking longer and costing more because it usually does.
    3. Marketing
    You can’t say “everyone is my market” because you will need the marketing budget of Coca Cola to accomplish that. Limited marketing budget means selective, targeted focus. Also, by understanding number one and number two you’ll be better suited to reach your marketing goals with the budget you have!
    4. Experts
    Small business owners wear many hats but they can’t be experts in everything. Should you be an LLC or start off as a Sole Proprietorship? Ask your CPA. Should you trademark or copyright something? Ask the IP attorney. Every business situation is unique and the owner needs to run things by the experts. Professional service providers, county offices, you name it because if a base has to be covered you should ask the experts.
    5. Resources
    a. SBDCs Provide educational programs and no-cost consulting
    b. SBA Small Business Administration has several resources on their site
    c. Chambers of commerce
    d. Communities and meetups

By using your understanding of target market, cost, professional service providers, and resources you should be able to develop a strategy to do what you do as a business. And if you’re not strong in some of those areas, do as they say, “partner to your weakness!”

There is something that ties both the reason and passion together just like the corpus callosum that connects the left and right brain. The thing that ties all of this together is commitment. Commit to certain times of the day/week/month to your activities. Commit to doing the things that will renew your energy and keep you going. Commit to meeting new people and organizations and trying new things. Those new people may be key to your new success.

Commit to yourself because you have a good idea and a good business. That’s how you make it happen.

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Guest bloggers for the TDS Business Blog.

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