Hi everyone! I'm Jen from Red Parka Diaries. I'm a blogger and illustrator from Tasmania, Australia, and have been self-employed now for almost four years. My business, Red Parka Designs, has gone from a little side project to my main source of income during that time but it has not been easy, I assure you! I thought I'd write a few points here about what I've learned along the way that might help anyone else out there who has started, or wants to start, their own creative business.
1. Start Now!
Many people think they need to wait for the right time to start their own business. That they need to have saved lots of money, or have investments, or have a huge amount of qualifications and expertise. WRONG. You can start right now! And you should. Because the very best lessons in life (and business) are the ones you learn while doing things, not thinking or reading about them. Even if you have a full time job and a family to manage, there's always someway you can start. Perhaps you could dedicate two lunch breaks a week to mapping out your business in a local cafe. You could find an hour after everyone has gone to bed to make some products. Or perhaps you could get up earlier than everyone else a couple of days a week. Basically, all I'm saying is if you want to do it, then find a way, no matter how small. You'll never get there without starting first! I dreamed about my business for ages before I actually started. Take my advice and start NOW!
2. Believe anything is possible
People say things like "I wish I could work for myself", "I wish I could do what you do" or "I'd love to be self-employed" all the time. And I usually answer that you can! It's not easy, it's not glamourous and it's not all sleeping in and drawing in cafes all day (despite what people think!) but it is something anyone can do. The biggest thing holding people back in my experience is believing it's impossible, that it's a fantasy to think you can earn a living whilst doing what you love. But if you want to succeed you must believe! If you don't believe in your own ideas why should anyone else?
3. Work hard
I know this sounds obvious, but if you want success you have to work for it. It doesn't matter how brilliant you are at photography, or designing websites, or making soap, you still need to work ridiculously hard, at least at first, for your business to work. If you have an amazing service or product, that's fabulous, but you won't have a business until people start paying you for it. And that's the hard bit. Although, if you enjoy what you do and you're passionate about it, it won't always seem like work! Sure, there's always going to be boring bits (bookkeeping - the bane of my life!) but although I work 10 - 12 hour days, 6 -7 days a week sometimes, it's not hard because I LOVE what I do. Even if you're not in a position to dedicate yourself to your business full time like me, you can still make the most of whatever you do have. And if you really believe in what you're doing, you'll find time, even if it means sacrificing something else (your nightly TV fix or your Sunday morning sleep ins).
4. Write an elevator pitch
If you're new to this concept, an elevator pitch is basically how you answer the question "so what do you do" in less than a minute. It's important because you meet people all the time and have less than a minute to make an impression. This one took me forever to do. For ages I would answer with something like, "well, I draw things and, um, write a blog and (look down and shuffle feet) sometimes go to the market to sell things and... you know...". No. I don't think they did. They certainly didn't know I am a freelance designer and children's illustrator with my own stationary line, or that I write for a community of artists about living creatively. My advice to you is work out your elevator pitch so you are prepared when you next get asked that question. And don't undersell yourself! Without showing off, of course, you want people to be impressed and interested. Then they might ask you for more information or your business card, instead of politely saying, 'that's nice' as you watch another potential opportunity go by.
5. Talk to your customers
They know what they like. And if they like it, there will be plenty more who like it as well. Even if you only have three customers, talk to them, value them, and ask them which product they like best and why. Ask them how they found you. Your customers are your best source of information regarding what works and what doesn't. Don't be shy. Get to know them. Not only are they a great source of knowledge for you, they are also your best marketing technique as nothing beats positive word-of-mouth advertising.
6. Find your tribe
The internet allows us to connect in so many ways now - it's truly wonderful! One of the best things you can do for your business is build a community of like-minded people around you. This is not the time to think about your competitors, but rather to think of them as your team.... you are all in this together and can help each other grow and achieve greater success. For example, I follow a couple of hundred illustrators from all around the world on Twitter and it's fabulous! We check out each other's work, share tips and advice, help promote each other. Don't make the mistake of thinking you need to stand alone - we are stronger together! Get online and find your tribe! You can start with me - I'd love to meet you!
I hope this was helpful and inspired you to keep on following that dream! I write a lot more about such things over at Red Parka Diaries and I'd love to join your tribe! You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Etsy - let's help each other along the road to creative business success and a happy fulfilling life! Jen x