5 Things You Need to Know If You Want to Be a Creative Entrepreneur

If you’re dissatisfied with your current full-time gig, looking to freelance instead, or perhaps craft a creative business that’s entirely your own, there are a number of ways to get started. For those of you considering these paths, we salute you. The creative life is a noble one, but it is not without challenges. Here are five things you must know if you’re thinking about taking the plunge.

1) It is not easy.
Though the opportunity to live your passion is absolutely a gift, creative entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. If you are easily discouraged by endless piles of work, no prescribed path or rule books, zero guarantee of success, multiple and varied tasks that always seem to lead to more tasks, and generally feeling your way through the dark with little direction, the creative entrepreneurship way of life will probably weed you out quickly. But, if you are also deeply passionate about what you’re doing and see a real need for it, that can be enough to power you through the hurdles.

2) Freelancing and late nights are your friends.
Particularly when starting out, most creatives have more than one revenue stream. There’s no rule that says you have to quit your 9-5 day job and strike out on your own immediately—and as we’ll get to in number three, that’s actually how many entrepreneurial ideas fail. Whether or not an idea succeeds or fails lies just as much in the execution of the idea as the conception of the idea itself. It’s unlikely that an exceptional idea pulled off unintelligently will ever see the light of day, and, by contrast, an idea that is smartly built out with patience can soar.

3) Be smart about your finances.
Perhaps the single biggest mistake creative entrepreneurs make is quitting that steady day job and going into loads of personal debt trying to get a new venture off the ground. Start small. Spend a few after-work extra hours investigating leads and working on projects in the field you want to be working in—whether that’s design, marketing, public relations, nonprofit work, programming, what have you. Once you’ve had some smaller successes, keep building from there. Though things would likely move along faster if you could just quit your job and start from scratch, unless you’ve received some sort of grant or funding, it isn’t the most fiscally intelligent choice. Also, it’s not necessary—plenty of entrepreneurs have started their own ventures while working full-time elsewhere.  

4) Work on your idea every day.
This is a personal favorite of mine, and it really works. Any time I’m working on a large creative project, I make an effort to work on it every day, even if it’s just for five minutes. That counts! Better yet, it programs your brain to get into the routine and habit of working on that project, so instead of being overwhelmed by a huge pile of work, you’re training yourself to chip away at it, bit by bit. Some days you might work on it for an hour or two hours, and some days it might just be that five minutes. Either way, you’re keeping your brain open to creativity and inspiration, instead of aimlessly waiting for when it strikes.

5) Work begets work.
If you’re not yet working in your chosen field but you’re taking those smaller steps to freelance or work in the area of your true passion, even one small project can be the bedrock atop which everything else grows. When a client is looking to hire a writer, designer, programmer, etc, they want demonstrated proof that you can deliver solid work. So once you’ve done a few projects, add them to your LinkedIn profile and start building out your own professional website. Referrals are incredibly effective for securing new work, so if your last client was happy with what you created, ask if they’d be willing to recommend you elsewhere or if they know of anyone who could benefit from your skills.

And when it gets hard, keep going! We’ll be here to supply you with inspiration and the stories of creatives just like you.

Cover image courtesy of Rachael Gorjestani.

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